• A bombshell was dropped on the campaign when Time Magazine published a photo of Justin Trudeau from 2001 dressed as Aladdin wearing “brownface” make-up. Subsequent images and video of Trudeau in blackface released the next day added more fuel to the fire. Trudeau immediately apologized, but was harshly condemned by Andrew Scheer. In a powerful statement, Jagmeet Singh spoke directly to Canadians who felt hurt by the PM’s actions. 
  • While many polls since the news broke show the Conservatives ahead of the Liberals nationally, it is too early to know how it will impact the campaign and the results on election day as Trudeau looks to rebuild his image  (see greater detail on recent polling trends below).
  • As the campaign found its footing in week two, the main party leaders continued their pitch to voters on the top battleground issue of affordability, seeking to lower the cost of living for target demographics:



  • The Liberals sought to get their campaign back on track after the “blackface” revelations by promising to combat gun violence by:
    • Banning all military-style assault rifles, including the AR-15;
    • Working with the provinces and territories to give municipalities the ability to further restrict — or ban — handguns; and
    • Protecting the rights of law-abiding hunters and pledging not to bring back the long-gun registry.
  • The Liberals responded to last week’s “Universal Tax Cut” announcement by the Conservatives with a new middle-class tax cut that would make the first $15,000 earned tax free. The Liberals stressed that this measure has a greater benefit to those earning under $125k – and unlike the Conservative tax cut provides no benefit to those earning over $250k.
  • The past week Liberals also promised to cut cell phone bills by 25 per cent over two years. If companies were unable to meet this target, the Liberals promised to open the market up to more competition. The Liberals are hoping to outflank the NDP, who promised last week to cap prices for cell phone plans and internet services by introducing a telecom consumers’ bill of rights which would require affordable unlimited data plans.
  • On Monday the Liberals promised a host of health care measures, including implementing Universal Pharmacare, making it easier to find a family doctor, implementing national standards for mental health care, and increasing access to home care. The Liberals budgeted $6 billion over four years for these measures – a relatively modest sum that indicates little faith the provinces will sign-on to pharmacare, which could explain why Justin Trudeau spent much of his press conference attacking Doug Ford’s policies.
  • The Liberals unveiled their parental leave policy to boost the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) by 15 per cent for children under the age of one. The Liberals also promised to make maternity and parental benefits tax-free and extended parental benefits to adoptive parents. 
  • Courting the seniors vote after carrying this demographic in 2015, the Liberals announced they will increase Old Age Security by an extra ten per cent once a senior turns 75, and will boost the Canada Pension Plan survivor’s benefit by 25 per cent.



  • The Conservatives also focussed on families by pledging to make it easier to save for higher education. Under the Conservative plan, the government’s contribution to an RESP will rise from 20 per cent to 30 per cent, boosting the maximum annual Canada Education Savings Grant from $500 to $750.
  • The Conservatives made a play for progressive votes by vowing to eliminate “corporate welfare,” pledging to clawback $1.5 billion in support to industry as a way to partially fund their campaign promises.
  • The Conservatives promised they would invest $1.5 billion in its first term to purchase MRI machines and CT machines to replace aging equipment and add machines across the country.
  • Conservatives announced changes they would bring to Canada’s mortgage system, promising to make it more affordable for first-time home buyers. Andrew Scheer pledged to fix the mortgage stress test, increase amortization periods on insured mortgages to 30 years for first-time homebuyers, launch an inquiry into money laundering in the real estate sector, and make surplus federal real estate available for development to increase the supply of housing.


  • The NDP announced a federally-funded dental plan for Canadians with a household income under $70,000. The plan would begin in January 2020 and cover a number of preventative and restorative procedures ranging from cleanings, fluoride treatments, X-rays, filings, crowns, root canals and treatment for gum diseases, as well as the cost of dentures and braces for non-cosmetic purposes. 


Notable Quotes

“I shared the moments that I recollected, but I recognize that it is something absolutely unacceptable to do. And I appreciate calling it makeup, but it was blackface, and that is just not right. It is something that people who live with the kind of discrimination that far too many people do because of the color of their skin or their history or their origins or their language or their religion face on a regular basis, and I didn’t see that from the layers of privilege that I have. And for that I am deeply sorry, and I apologize.”

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau


“Seeing this image today, the kids that see this image, the people who see this image, are going to think about all the times in their life that they were made fun of, that they were hurt, that they were hit, that they were insulted, that they were made to feel less because of who they are.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh


“I was extremely shocked and disappointed when I learned of Justin Trudeau’s actions this evening. Wearing brown face is an act of open mockery and racism. What Canadians saw this evening is someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity and someone who’s not fit to govern this country.”

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer


“It was deeply shocking the photo itself when I saw it I felt physically ill, it is shameful that the event ever occurred and that it was in a photo. I watched the Prime Minister’s apology and I was pleased to see that he apologized and that he showed real contrition. That he didn’t know then what he was doing was racist. I still find that troubling since he was a grown man and a school teacher, how could he not know that it was racist.”

Green Leader Elizabeth May


Polling Update

CBC’s Poll Tracker and now show the Conservatives leading the Liberals nationally, but still give the Liberals more seats when accounting for regional differences – a result that could produce a minority parliament.  In the last election, the polls only started to break dramatically in late September/early October as voters tuned in around the debates and parties gained or lost momentum. 

Campaign Research looked under the hood at how committed the support is for each party – finding that Conservative voters are much more committed than Liberal supporters. This could spell trouble for the Liberals if their softer voter support switches parties or decides to stay home on Election Day. 

CBC Poll Analyst Eric Grenier published a list of the 60 ridings that will decide the election.

Innovative Research did a cluster analysis of voter values in the 188 ridings that could change hands. It shows the Liberals losing support among left-wing voters and those struggling to achieve the Canadian dream. This public poll also included regionals. For Quebec (pre-election between August 30-Sept 5), they had the Liberals at 34 per cent, Conservatives 20 per cent, Bloc Québécois, 21 per cent, Greens 11 per cent, NDP at nine per cent and PPC at four per cent — indicating a big drop for the NDP from 2015 where they garnered 25 per cent of the Quebec vote.

Nanos Research has begun publishing daily national polls on CTV in addition to their regional breakdowns for subscribers. For the weekly preferred Prime Minister numbers (Sept 17-20), Justin Trudeau had the edge, but lost his big lead to Andrew Scheer who is picking up undecided voters – a trend that we will be watching closely in the wake of the blackface revelations.

Abacus Data looked at the fallout of the blackface/brownface photos of Trudeau to see how it could impact Canadians’ voting intentions. Among the findings, it’s notable that the issue potentially persuaded 12 per cent of those who were aware of the story from voting Liberal.