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The Home Stretch

Here we are on October 15th, a grand total of six days to go before Election Day and we know what Canadians will have chosen for their Parliament to look like. And after three quarters of a campaign where the polls barely moved, finally things have started to break loose, changing the game in this campaign. With the rise of the New Democrats across the country and the Bloc Quebecois in Quebec, not only has the math of this campaign changed seriously, so have the potential outcomes.

The big thing to watch this week is to see where the different leaders are campaigning, where they are focusing their time and what they are saying. Today is a stark example of this and the state of the election right now. Just check out where certain leaders are this morning:

Folks, these images say a lot. While Liberal Justin Trudeau is in Fredericton, a seat that should be relatively safe for the Red team if things were going as planned, New Democrat Jagmeet Singh is in Toronto-Danforth, going after a seat that was swept up in the Trudeau wave of 2015. To see Mr. Trudeau in Atlantic Canada with less than a week to go is not a good sign for his team for sure. Yes, the odds of them holding all 32 seats in the Maritimes were very low to begin with, but rallying in urban and friendly seats like Fredericton and Halifax six days out from the vote? That’s a bad sign, as those were not among the seats that many people thought would be in danger in this campaign. If things were going well at this point of the campaign, you’d expect to see Trudeau parked in Quebec or British Columbia, where he had the chances to grow and protect a majority. Instead he’s in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, trying to save seats that shouldn’t, in theory, have been at risk in this campaign.

As for the Orange team, seeing Singh in Toronto-Danforth and blitzing through the GTA at this point of the campaign is a good and welcomed sign. If this campaign had gone the way that many thought it would, you would have expected to see Singh in ridings the NDP currently holds, trying to save those seats. Instead the NDP is on the offensive in Toronto, Brampton and heading to Hudson, QC tomorrow. All of these areas are spots where the NDP are in a position to win seats and make gains, which will be extremely important in this campaign.

As for what we look for in what others are saying, you need to look no further than looking at the various parties and candidate’s social media feeds to get an idea about their approaches and how they are feeling about things. These messages are very telling, in many ways:

For the Conservatives, it’s a throw back to the Harper days and fearmongering about coalitions and the boogeymen that hide in them. And then Conservative MP Garnett Genius pulls a very odd comment out of the bag, trying to scare voters about the prospect of a Foreign Affairs Minister Jagmeet Singh. In an email blast from his later, he also said “Can you imagine Foreign Affairs Minister Jagmeet Singh on a trade mission to the United States?” Hmmm, I wonder what about that would be so awful and scary about that? Quite the dog whistle you’re blowing their sir.

As for the Liberals, they are trying to scare progressive to rally around them to stop the big, scary Tories. And how are they trying to do that? By being big and scary all themselves. That Tweet from Liberal candidate Sandra Pupatello tells it all, as it is misleading and wrong as it is insulting. But this is the approach from Team Trudeau, having gone from “Hope and Hard Work” to “Fear, Fear, Fear”.

And while the Red and Blue Teams are on that message, the New Democrats are staying positive and upbeat. They are talking about their promises, standing up for people and just being happy. Basically, while the others are trying to scare people to vote against something, the Orange team are inviting people to vote for something. It’s a stark contrast for sure, but one that is proving to be very effective so far in this campaign. Being that people have seemed to be attracted to that positive approach, it’s possible that the negativity coming from the other parties will help to drive more people towards Mr. Singh and crew. But we’ll see how this goes. These last six days will feel like an eternity but we’re in the home stretch. After five weeks of hard work, it’s now time to see who can drive this home and deliver. The stakes are high and we’ll see who will rise to this occasion, but at this point, it seems that October 21st will only be the start of more and more interesting days to come.


Talking Party Platforms & #Elxn43 with Bill Carroll

This afternoon I had the chance to join Bill Carroll on “The Bill Carroll Show” with Jason Lietaer and Gabriela Gonzales. We talked about the release of the NDP and Conservative election platforms, the potential election discussion around the Thanksgiving dinner table and more. You can listen to the audio below. Enjoy!

What You Need to Know – Week 5 of #Elxn43

The newest episode of “What You Need to Know” is recorded and now up. Every Friday during the campaign we’ll be releasing a new episode where we’ll talk about the events of the week and give perspectives from across the partisan spectrum

In this episode Geoff Turner, Neil Brodie and I talk about the two Federal Leaders Commission Debates, who won and lost, the starting of voting at advanced polls this weekend and look ahead to the final week of the campaign. You can download and subscribe to “What You Need to Know” everywhere you can get your finest podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Spotify. You can also listen below. Enjoy!

The Morning After: #DebatDesChefs

Last night marked the fourth and final debate of the 43rd General Election, with the French Leaders Commission Debate in Gatineau. it was the last chance to see all the six leaders together, to hear about their views and probably most importantly, for them to leave a lasting impression on the electorate. Moderator Patrice Roy of Radio-Canada oversaw a lively debate which flowed a lot better than the English one on Monday, something that I hope the Leaders Debate Commission considers for the next series of debates in the next election.

But despite a better format, this debate didn’t seem to do much that should move the needle for anyone. While there were some big moments, this debate lacked any knock out punches or clear winners to speak of. So if your glass is half-full, no one fell on their faces last night but if your glass is half-empty, no one managed to run away from the pack on the night.

Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau were the target for most of the attacks on the night, which with the current state of affairs made a lot of sense. With the Bloc rising in Quebec and the Liberals their main competition there at this point, it stood to reason that the others would be aiming their comments in their direction. Both took hard shots on a few different issues but mostly coming away in the same condition that they entered.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh gave a performance similar to the one he gave during the TVA debate last week. He stuck to his points and scored a few memorable lines against Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Blanchet while working in his solid French. After three increasingly strong debate performances, last nights performance gave him what he needed. He did nothing last night to kneecap his own momentum and in Quebec, he leaned hard on his progressive values. To have a leader have four solid debates with no significant mess ups is something you rarely see in our politics, so Mr. Singh has managed to do something that not many leaders in our history have. The last week of this campaign will show us if those performances and his rising polls numbers will results in more seats for the Orange team.

People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier had his best debate so far, which really wasn’t hard to do given that the only other debate that he was in was an unmitigated disaster. Thursday night he struck out in his own direction as he worked in his first language. He looked more confident and calmer, which while better, won’t undo the damage he did to himself on Monday night.

Both Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and Green leader Elizabeth May struggled to keep up to the other four years as they worked in their weaker language. They both had moments that will make them feel alright about the evening, but both also had moments where you could tell they were not confident while operating in French. Scheer repeated the same mistake he committed on Monday, where he went after Mr. Trudeau with attacks that didn’t feel befitting of someone who wants to be Prime Minister and were frankly just very angry. And the thing about seeing Mr. Scheer angry in this campaign is that it comes off as a kind of anger that comes off as kind of unsettling. For some reason it really doesn’t resonate and is something that I think the Blue team will look back on and see as a negative factor for them in the end.

While no leader had a terrible evening, none of them had a great one either. While the previous debates might have started to change the polls, Thursday’s performance isn’t likely to do the same. This debate likely didn’t hurt any of the leaders, but it didn’t help them much either. At this point in the race, I suspect that all of the leaders left the stage feeling alright about their performances and where it left them for the final 10 days of this campaign.

The Final Showdown

Here we are at Day 30 of the 40 day 43rd General Election and tonight we’ll see the last big showdown of this campaign, the French language Leaders Debate. While the audience tonight will be different, as will the stakes, there’s still a lot that can come from this last encounter in Gatineau. But going into tonight, there is a big story out from the Journal de Montreal that will surely play a big role in the debate tonight:

With Quebec’s Bill 21 a big part of the debate in this campaign and the Bloc Quebecois rising in the polls as they try to ride the coattails of François Legault’s CAQ government, this story has the potential to cause some interesting problems for Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet. 4 Bloc candidates were found by the Journal de Montreal to have shared anti-Islam content on their social media and some of it is quite ugly. One shared a video saying that “Islam is a disease”, another said that the Muslim community has lower IQ’s and another share messages supportive of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Needless to say, these views are ugly, racist and the kind of crap that can really hurt a party that claims to be progressive and such. But it’s not the first such incident for the Bloc, as on late Monday TVA News found another Bloc candidate doing this kind of thing, sharing a propaganda video from the far-right group “La Meute”. She denied there was anything wrong with that, saying that this was only just the Conservatives taking shots at the Bloc and nothing more. Well with the news out this morning, it looks like there is a lot more to see here than just one party trying to stir things up.

And I think we should expect that story and many others to be aimed at the Bloc leader, as they rise in the polls and are now a threat to all of the other parties. That will be a big change in the dynamic tonight, as will how the other parties’ approach Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. The wildcard in this debate could very well be NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. The Orange team has started to rise in the polls as Singh’s personal approval numbers continue to rise faster. Momentum is starting to build behind Singh and tonight while he probably won’t be the main target of people on the stage, he will draw some fire. The question will be how he is able to affect the other parties on that stage and if he is able to land some more blows and continue his assent. He’s had three good debates so far, getting stronger each time. Tonight needs to be the capper for him, and with the extra attention to be paid to Blanchet, he is in a good position to do that.

The final interesting thing to watch tonight will be Maxime Bernier and what he does. He was a bit all over the map Monday and night was far from disciplined, but that didn’t shock anyone. But tonight he’ll be operating in his first language and that will make a striking contrast between him and Mr. Scheer, who really struggled in the last French debate on TVA. Scheer already took a big hit coming out of Monday night and the question is if Bernier will be able to make things even worse for them. Furthermore, it will be interesting to see who Bernier spends more time going after; Scheer, Trudeau or Blanchet? Who he spends more time on will give us a good indication of how he feels things are going for him and his team.

Tonight will be the last time we get all of these leaders in one place, for better or worse. Over the first three quarters of this campaign it’s been very static and it’s only been over the past couple of days that things have started to move. Will that continue after tonight or will it fall back into the pattern we’ve seen for a month? It’s hard to say but tonight will have some say in what comes in the last 10 days of this race.