Page 8 of 9

The Long Goodbye

Having had the chance to work in politics, you get to know some politicians very well. You also get to see that anyone can serve as a politician, as there are so many different ways to be one. You have some that love to focus on debate, others that are policy geeks, some that love to simply serve their constituents back home sight unseen and others that love to bask in the glow of the bright lights. The point being that there is a space where all MPs can shine, can find their way and a part of the job they love.

But even when finding that spot (which not all MPs find honestly), it can be a hard life. You have the very long hours, the travel from long distances, the stress that can come from the attention and of course the stress that it can create for families. Steve Paikin wrote a very good book on this very topic a while back, and for all the adulation that can come from being elected, there can be a big downside for many.

It’s for that reason, having lived and worked in that environment for close to a decade, when I hear that an MP has decided to step away for family reasons or because they’re ready to go, I take that at face value. Sure, we could speculate all day long about the “real reason” behind their decision but I have found that most of the time when that reason is cited, it’s for real. And normally after that person steps away from political life and you see them again outside the Ottawa bubble in their private lives, they seem much happier and relaxed. In short, it validates and further proves that they meant it when they walked away.

Sometimes though it’s hard to say what is going on, and a great example of this poked it’s head up today in the House of Commons by doing something very simple and rare for this person; showing up for work. Liberal MP Nicola Di Iorio (Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel) rose in the House of Commons shortly after 10 am today as the Chamber came to order to make a point of order. This act by itself would not normally make anyone bat an eye except for a simple fact; he told everyone he was going to resign before now.

You see it all started back in April, 2018, when Mr. Di Iorio announced that he would be resigning, sighting family reasons. He said that he had achieved what he wanted in politics and was ready to leave. He even got a nice farewell tweet from the PM. It was expected that he would resign over the summer. All normal and above board, no problem so far.

But then the summer came and went and there was no resignation. In September he puts out a statement on Facebook saying that he’s reconsidering. Then House of Commons returned in mid-September and people started to notice that Mr. Di Iorio hadn’t return himself. This went on until November and people started to wonder “what is going on here?”. Liberal MPs were getting asked in the press if they knew what was going on, to which most said they had no idea. One MP is even quoted in the media saying “I thought he had quit”. Didn’t we all think that, didn’t we all.

Then news breaks from the CBC that Mr. Di Iorio has issues with the Liberal nomination process and wants to have influence on who his successor might be. For someone who’s walking away, you have to wonder why. But in the same interview he gave us another nugget; he told CBC what he had been up to. He told us the Prime Minister had given him a special task, to work on the issue of road safety. Finally, this story seemed to reach its end when shortly later he announced that he would resign his seat effect January 22, 2019 (ensuring no by-election could be held to replace him by the way). So after all that bad press and worse optics for the government, this seemed to headed to it’s conclusion.

Then a funny thing happened, or should I say, didn’t happen. January 22nd came and went without a resignation from Mr. Di Iorio. More days went by and people started to rightly ask “what’s going on?” again, and new life was breathed into this story. Then this morning came, and Mr. Di Iorio rose to spoke. At first, many were surprised to see him there. Many thought that surely, this was now the time that he was going to resign, giving what would make his second “final speech” to the House has he stepped away. But to assume the normal here would be obviously not understand Mr. Di Iorio’s pattern of conduct as an MP.

He rose in the Chamber to go after the New Democrats and specifically MP Nathan Cullen for daring to point all of this history I’ve laid about above. He said that the NDP was simply trying to “tarnish his reputation” and that he deserved credit for supposedly being the first MP to drive an electric car. But of all the eye-rolling comments he made in his rambling statement (which the Speaker had to interrupt to keep him “on topic”) there was one thing he didn’t say: I resign. After all of that, he still hasn’t resigned.

At this point you really have to wonder what is going on here with Mr. Di Iorio, because this has moved far outside the normal resignation that we’ve seen over time. If his reasons were as simple as the normal and respected ones I mentioned at the start, this pattern of behaviour doesn’t match that. In fact, the more that he says on this topic that doesn’t revolve around an actual resignation just raises more questions. Worse it looks bad, not just on Mr. Di Iorio himself, but on his party. I can’t help but feel sympathy for those Liberal backbenchers who are doing good work because right now Mr. Di Iorio is making himself into an essay attack ad from an opposition party and a talking point that they will have to defend their party against.

If Mr. Di Iorio was being honest and upfront with his party, his constituents and Canadians when he announced back in April that he was going to resign, then he owes it to everyone to finally take a final decision. Thankfully this afternoon that decision finally came with his actual resignation, announced by the Speaker of the House of Commons. This had gone on far too long and for him to have continued to do what he had been doing for months would have been an insult to the public. The fact is that people will now continue to ask questions and question his sincerity in this regard, and that’s not the work of any other MP or party. That’s all his own doing, and by letting this drag on so long, he’s just added more and more tarnish to his own name.

Episode 2 of the Magpie Brûlé Podcast is now Live

With the return of the House of Commons coming tomorrow, I’m happy to say that Episode 2 of the Magpie Brûlé podcast is now up and live. In this episode, I discuss the return of the House of Commons this week, I have an in-depth take on the weeks events regarding the NDP and I look ahead to probably the most important by-election we’ve seen in a long time in Canadian politics. You can listen it to the episode here or you can now download it on iTunes, just search for “Magpie Brûlé”.

Budgeting for the Fall

Next week the House of Commons will return for the final five months of sitting before this fall’s election. As MPs come back to take their seats they will be coming back to some big changes, none smaller than where those seats themselves will be. MPs will be starting to use the new “temporary” chamber located in the West Block, where our elected members will be debating and voting for the next decade at least while the Centre Block is being renovated.

As for the Senate, they will be enjoying their new space in the former Government Conference Centre (aka the former Ottawa Train Station) and taking a big step into the present at the same time. As soon as all the bugs are worked out, the proceedings taking place Red Chamber will now be televised. Forty-two years after Canadians from coast to coast to coast were able to watch the action taking place in the House of Commons, we will finally be able to do the same with the Senate.

Given the events that have happened since they last convened before the Holidays, it will be very interesting to follow the happenings that will take place under the new glass dome of the Commons. There are story lines for all the parties in the House as we enter the session, but what will be most interesting to follow is a certain big event that will come in the first half of this session. That event is the presentation of the Federal Budget.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will table his budget at some point this spring, a budget that will lay the groundwork for not only what the Liberals plan to run on but will set the baseline for what the opposition parties will eventually put on the table. This budget will offer the government a big chance to set the direction they will go in 2019, whether if it’s a change of course or doubling-down on the path they’ve already set.

One piece of information that came out in the news today does offer an interesting potential wrinkle into what might happen. It came out today that the federal government only ran a $2.2 billion deficit in November, which is down from a $9.5 billion deficit that they ran in the same month last year. That’s an interesting turn of events given that Minister Morneau’s most recent fall update projected that this year’s deficit was going to be bigger than the last.

Being $7.3 billion ahead of your deficit number compared to the same time last year is an interesting place to find yourself in, especially in an election year. You do have to wonder how they got to this point but today its hard to say exactly what. But it if this trend continues, it could make the last budget before the 2019 election more interesting.

This offers the Liberals opportunities and some flexibility to maneuver either left or right, depending on where they want to go. Which way will they go? Will they use that extra capacity to increase spending in areas of interest, or take on a new policy initiative that will undercut a proposal or idea from the NDP to their left? Could that be money for the start of a pharma care program, for more child care spaces, to create more affordable housing, for more transit or for rural broadband? It could be any or all of those to some degree and would undercut the NDP’s chances of competing in the Fall in the process.

Or will they use that extra capacity to simply reduce the deficit, and undercut the Conservative attacks on the government for their years of deficit spending? Getting ahead of reducing the deficit and getting closer to budget balance could help to reinforce the Liberals economic credentials with Red Tory/Blue Liberal swing voters, while also helping to undercut the Conservative argument that the Liberals have no intention of ever balancing a budget again. They could take more space on the centre/centre-right of the spectrum and either undercut part of the Conservative message or force them further to the right.

Or will they use that space to do a bit of both? Invest a bit more here, lower the deficit a bit more there, and speak to all sides of the spectrum. That could be a way to hedge their bets but also could be a good approach given the relative strength or weakness of the opposition parties when. If Maxime Berner is eating away at the Conservative vote or the NDP vote isn’t rebounding by budget time, maybe the Liberals won’t feel the need to adjust too hard in one direction or the other.

Regardless of the choice they eventually make, the Liberals should be glad because they are in a position to actually have choices at their disposal thanks to this turn of events. If those figures showed that the deficit was on the same track or even a worse one than last year, that would take a lot of off the table for the government and leave them with fewer options, ones that would be less palatable and with greater political costs. We’ll see how it all plays out when the time comes but Budget 2019 will be the first big card to be played in this year’s election. It will have a lot to say about what the next nine months will look like and tonight it seems that the government has been dealt a better hand than they might have expected.

In Defence of Tom

Tonight a story is making the rounds about comments made by former NDP Leader Tom Mulcair that more NDP MPs will not be running than have already said won’t. The comments from Tom are strong and needless to say, there are many in NDP circles who are not too happy to hear them. Frankly, many of those same people haven’t been happy to hear to much of what he’s had to say since he left the House of Commons this summer. Some have pointed out that former NDP leaders have traditionally stayed quiet about the current leadership when stepping aside, and that this is just wrong on Tom’s part.

Well, tonight I want to take this up and come to the defence of Tom Mulcair in this moment. Tom’s a good leader and doesn’t need me to defend him, but I feel compelled to do so because of the circumstances that we find ourselves in today. For starters, I would point out that while most former NDP leaders have stayed away from attacking current leaders or staying out of leadership races all together, Tom’s not the first to break that tradition. Remember back during the race to replace Jack Layton, no less that Ed Broadbent went public with is criticisms of Tom in the weeks before the vote. He told people to look at who was supporting Tom, noting that most people who had been in the caucus before 2011 were supporting someone else, as a kind of backhanded comment. Later Ed defended those comments by saying that he had a “responsibility” to raise his concerns and that they were no personal vendetta against Tom. So let’s keep our history in perspective here.

Now when it comes to Tom, I will openly confess that I didn’t want to see him tossed as leader. He had my support to comeback and put in the work to do better next time. Yes, the campaign that was run in 2015 was not the best but I believe that he deserved another chance to run, just as Ontario NDP (and now Official Opposition Leader) Andrea Horwath did. I had the chance to work in the caucus under all of the years of Tom’s leadership and he’s someone who I enjoyed working with and while I disagreed with him on some thing, I found there was space to voice that and try to move the debate.

But when it comes to what I saw over the years of Tom’s leadership, one thing was very clear; some members and supporters never accepted his win as leader or accepted him as leader. Some people always looked at him with a suspicious eye, said he wasn’t a real New Democrat and never gave him the chances they had given other leaders. To me that was sadly ironic because policy wise, Tom didn’t take the NDP in any direction other than the one that Jack Layton took us. In fact, the platform that the NDP ran on in 2015 was very similar to 2011, and similar again to 2008; many of the principles were the same and the things that people attacked Tom for (the promise of balanced budgets as one example) were also there in Jack’s previous platforms. At the end of the day, even though after the leadership race Ed buried the hatchet and did what he could to help Tom and the team going forward, Ed’s attacks on Tom left a mark, one that never left.

We also have to remember the full arc of the Mulcair story within the NDP, starting with his by-election win in Outremont. When it came to building the party in Quebec, it was people like Tom and Françoise Boivin who did a lot of the heavy lifting in those pre-2011 years. While Jack got and deserved a lot of the credit for 2011, he wasn’t shy to put the spotlight on others like Tom who deserved it for their hard work to make that happen.

So you can just imagine how it must be for him, a proud person who made a career out of doing things that no one said he could, to not only be dispatched like he was, like no other leader in Canadian history had, but then be forced to watch that decade of hard work to build a beachhead in Quebec for the NDP start to crumble and be on the verge of disappearing if things happen the way public commentary believes it will.

That isn’t easy to sit back and watch silently and I know that because he’s not the only one feeling that way. There are many of us, former and current MPs, former staff like myself, some current staff who are still there, volunteers, donors, people who have sacrificed and poured themselves into this party trying to form government and make a better country, watching it all slip away. So yes, that’s very hard for Tom to stay quiet and rightfully so.

Now while some are pointing to Tom saying he’s being vindictive and trying to settle scores, I see this a different way. What I see is someone who is watching from a distance as something he built falters. I see someone who cares deeply about the institution, the party and those involved in it and watching it all start to go under the waves. I see someone who can’t stay quiet, in the hope that by speaking up it will shake something loose and help right the ship. And let’s be clear, the NDP ship needs some righting right now.

Some will say that Tom shouldn’t say anything now, should wait until the by-election in Burnaby is done before point this out and that’s a fair comment. But to that I would only retort that maybe there isn’t enough time to wait to say it. 9 times out of 10 I would agree with the “wait until after” approach, but from everything I’m seeing, this is that one time to speak up.

So in defence of Tom, maybe this isn’t someone throwing knives at their successor but instead maybe this is Tom channelling his inner Ed Broadbent, feeling the responsibility to speak up now. That’s how I see it, as someone who voted for both Tom Mulcair and Jagmeet Singh in leadership races and worked in both of their caucuses. I want to see Jagmeet be his best. I’m hoping that Jagmeet grows, improves and becomes the leader that we all hope he can be. And I just don’t believe that can happen if we ignore what we see.

Magpie Brûlé Podcast Launches

With a cold, snowy weekend coming down on us here in Eastern Ontario, today made a great chance to make some headway on the second part of this project called “Magpie Brûlé”: the podcast. Yes I’m happy to say that the first episode of the first season of the Magpie Brûlé Podcast is done, in the metaphorical can and ready. If you’d like to visit the podcasts site you can find it at http://magpiebrule.libsyn.com/. And soon the podcasts will be available on iTunes and other services as we get them set up and running.

For the first episode, I discuss the week that’s was in Canadian politics, the current state of play in the Canadian political scene as we start 2019 and a story about a different approach being floated by an East Coast MLA. If you’d like to check it out, you can listen to it below here. Enjoy.

Off and Running in Burnaby

Election years always bring a fair bit of excitement, as everyone starts to ramp up their campaigns, raise funds, nominate candidates and draw up platforms to run on. But in 2019 we have a bit of business to take care of before we get to that point. Earlier in January we saw the government call three by-elections in Outremont, York-Simcoe and Burnaby South, with another one to be called in Nanaimo-Ladysmith in a few weeks.

While each by-election called as importance all its own, it’s the race in Burnaby South that’s topped the list in that regard for one big reason: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is trying to win his way into the House of Commons and as I wrote about last night, there is a lot riding on this race. With the stakes being what they are, you would expect more attention and more energy to be around this race, and we’ve gotten some of that so far.

But on top of the usual, we’ve also seen a series of events that have been quite the thing to watch from a distance. “What’s happened so far?” you might ask. Well here is a short list of what’s happened so far:

  • The NDP Leader spends a few months calling on the government to call the by-elections, accusing the Prime Minister of denying these ridings representation
  • The Prime Minister finally calls the by-elections on January 9th, later than expected, but not before getting his wrists slapped in editorials about his delaying.
  • Maxime Bernier named his first every candidate, who will run in the by-election, but the media soon discovered that she has said many intolerant things before about the LGBT community, gender fluidity and other topics.
  • The Liberal candidate goes after Singh for not being from Burnaby
  • The Conservative candidate, a lawyer, attacks Singh for being the “wrong kind of lawyer”, a defense lawyer. The Conservative candidate tried to back track saying defense lawyers are good people, play an important role, but then tries to still say that there is something insidious about Singh being a defense lawyer. Singh replies by saying he should go back to law school.
  • Jagmeet Singh has a notably bad interview on CTV’s Question Period, which sets out a series of commentary from across the board that ranged from “that was rough” to “Gah!!! What the hell?!?!?!”
  • Mainstreet released their first poll of the by-election campaign period for the riding, showing Singh with a good lead, the Liberals 2nd, and Bernier’s People Party getting to 9% at the expense of the Conservatives

Until yesterday, the only party who seemed to be having a good campaign in Burnaby was the Greens, and that was only because they aren’t running a candidate. No one has gotten off to a clean start, but no one was wounded to the point that they couldn’t hope to catch up, especially with the extra couple of weeks the Prime Minister tagged onto this by-election. But oh, then came yesterday, did it ever. So, what’s happened in the last 36 hours or so? Well….

  • The Star reported that on social media, Liberal candidate Karen Wang suggested that as the only Chinese candidate, she could beat Jagmeet Singh, who she noted is of “Indian descent.”
  • Later in the day, Wang resigned as Liberal candidate, apologizing for her comments
  • After that, news came out that Wang had previous approached the Conservatives about running for them before seeking the Liberal nomination and was actually rejected by the party
  • Then a story came out that members of the local Liberal riding association warned the national party with concerns they had about Wang as a potential candidate
  • Wang goes to the media, saying that she wants to take back her resignation, saying that she still wanted to be the Liberal candidate and that she wasn’t a racist
  • The Liberal Party said “no backsies”, said that she would not be their candidate and informed everyone that Elections Canada had already accepted her resignation
  • According again to the Star, Wang may now seek an independent candidacy
  • Then finally at the end of the day Wang held a press conference, claiming that a campaign volunteer was responsible for the post in question, but ultimately she took ultimate responsibility for it.

Wow…. That’s a lot, isn’t it. Round and round and round we go. What to say about all of this? Well, for starters it really changes the state of play, regardless if Karen Wang decides to try to run as an independent or not. We’ll have to see if the Liberals decide to field another candidate, but they have until February 4th to decide that; given the view of many that the Liberals don’t want to see Mr. Singh lose this race, they might all of a sudden discover the virtue in “Leaders Courtesy”.

For Singh and the New Democrats, this week is ending a lot better than it started; they have some wind in their sails, with either a new main opponent or no Liberal replacement, and the Conservatives getting a decent share of vote eaten up by the People’s Party. If you’re on Team “Love & Courage”, you take this and keep on keeping on, get to those doors and making the best of this chance.

For those who are seeing conspiracies everywhere in all of this or believe that some parties are playing 3D chess while the rest play checkers, I would suggest that they pump their breaks a bit. The events of the past 36 hours are far from being planned or welcomed by the government in my opinion. Yes, it’s pretty clear the Liberals want Mr. Singh to win, but they didn’t concoct all this to try to help him over the finish line. You wouldn’t open yourself up to accusations of using that kind of language or using those kinds of tactics, accusations that are so counter to your brand and the same kind of thing you accuse others of doing, in some Machiavellian plan to try to “own the dippers”. The risks of it backfiring on you are too great, and that risk is nowhere near worth whatever reward would come from it.

If I have learned anything while working in politics and running campaigns, I can point to one very simple rule: Don’t credit to strategic genius something that can most easily be credited to human error, vanity or simply screwing up. And in my view, that’s exactly what we have here, a rather spectacular example of just that; someone doing something that they didn’t think through or thought they could do without getting caught, then getting caught. We’ll see how the next couple of weeks of this by-election go but something tells me that because of this energetic burst of action over the past two days, this race may have come a lot closer to being decided. Jagmeet Singh hasn’t won it yet and still has a lot of work to do, but tonight as I write this, the question of “if” he wins seems to be much closer to be settled in the positive for the NDP than it was when the race was called. Events have intervened this week, as they tend to do during campaigns. Will more of them come before February 25th and voting day in Burnaby? Time will tell but one thing we can say for sure is that this by-election hasn’t been a boring one so far.

The State of Play

2018 was a year that was one for the record books, and one that I think many people were happy to put behind us, hoping for a better year ahead in 2019. But so far if the first two weeks of this year are to be any indication, 2019 is going to be a rough ride all its own. We can look at everything we’re dealing with at home and there is a lot of understandable angst. We look to our South and watch the Trump presidency with less and less shock, but more and more worry. Then we look to our East and we see the slow-motion fiasco known as Brexit that is rolling out and everything happening in Europe.

All over we are seeing the democratic pillars that have helped to get us to where we are today over the past 70 years being eroded and shaken. Whether we like it or not, this is the political environment that we find ourselves in as we go into an important Federal election in 2019. When you add to that the provincial elections coming in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island, along with the minority governments in British Columbia and New Brunswick, this year promises to be a memorable one.

So with all of that in mind, I think it’s good that we take a baseline of where we start this year, the “State of Play” as it currently is. We’ll come back at regular intervals to see where everyone stands, as things are bound to happen if recent history is any indication. So let’s kick this off, starting with the government:

Liberals: Now into year four of their majority mandate, if you’re the Prime Minister you have to be comfortable with where you sit. Yes, there are many challenges and problems out there that the Liberals are facing (some of their own making, others totally beyond their control) but we can objectively say that things could be much worse. They can count some wins in their column, despite long odds and difficult situations. If you had told any of the three major leaders in 2015 that they would have to re-negotiate NAFTA with Donald Trump, I dare to think that any of them could have done any better than this government has.

There is no doubt though that the general mood of the people is not as happy as it was in 2015, among some people who voted Liberal last time and among others who never would have. We’ve gotten a good taste of this phenomena this past week, as we’ve seen the Prime Minister doing town hall meetings, being greeted by protestors on both ends of the political spectrum. Under normal circumstances that might worry a governing party, but to date the Opposition parties haven’t been able to harness that sentiment on either side. So right now it seems like the Liberal Party has found its familiar spot in the “not too hot, not too cold” middle of Canadian politics. In the current climate is that an advantage? Only time will tell but I can safely say that the other parties would happily be in the position the Liberals sit in today.

Conservatives: Watching the Conservative Party in the age of Trump and Brexit is nothing short of fascinating. That would be fascinating enough to watch by itself, but when you add the “Life after Harper” aspect, it becomes that much more so. Say what you will about Stephen Harper and his policies, the biggest part of his legacy was leaving a united Conservative party behind him. That unity somehow managed to survive the leadership candidacies of Kellie Leitch and Brad Trost, both of which could have easily blown open old fault lines from the early 2000’s and undone all that work. And that unity survived another 15 months or so until Maxima Bernier left (more on that a bit later).

In the months since Bernier created his new party, we’ve seen the Conservatives’ tone and language change. We’ve seen lines of attack used that would make you think that the party hadn’t learned anything from the “barbaric practices tip line” episode from the last election. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has been spending his time attacking the UN and tweeting about how he supported Brexit before it was cool. These are things that are pretty far from the mainstream and are not typically the route to government in this country. At this point it seems that Scheer and crew are trying to “out Mad Max” Max Bernier. Will that work? Is that where people are at? It’s hard to say but you can’t help but wonder where this approach will lead in the end.

New Democrats: It has not been an easy three years to be orange and coming into 2019, the party is on the media’s lips, but mostly for all the wrong reasons. Fundraising is down, by-election results have been rough and some MPs have decided to take their leave and not run again. Also Leader Jagmeet Singh has spent the first 15 months of his leadership without a seat in the House of Commons. If your glass is half-empty, there is a whole lot to focus on.

Really, most of the NDP’s current situation does begin and end with Singh. After running a great leadership campaign and winning, we haven’t seen what happened there translate to the party so far. It has not been easy to change that when you’re the third party and poll after poll shows that your supporters like many things that the current government is doing. They even like the Prime Minister himself, which takes away the emotional motivator for NDP supports that they had before when it came to facing Stephen Harper. It’s a hard box to be stuck in.

In the end, we’ll know more about the New Democrats situation because the by-election in Burnaby South is now on. With a win Jagmeet Singh takes his seat in House of Commons and continues to build towards the next election. With a loss, it’s hard to say what happens, but the best way to not have to worry about that is simply to win. Now with the events of the past two days, with a Mainstreet riding poll showing Singh with a good lead and the Liberal candidate resigning due to inappropriate comments she made on social media, he sits in a better position. But none of that guarantees anything and at the end of the day, this is all in the NDP’s hands. For the next month nothing matters but knocking on doors and pulling the vote; they can deal with the rest afterwards.

Bloc Quebecois: It’s kind of amazing to think of where the BQ has gone in the past 25 years. Many people of greater stature than I have said many times “this will be the Bloc’s last election….the Bloc is surely done”. Yet here we find ourselves heading into another Federal Election with the Bloc there, ready to be on the ballot. But could those people be right this time?

It’s hard to say that they are entering this pre-election period in a good spot. Most of this parliament for the Bloc has really been taken up with the drama of their break up and reunion. Now It looks like former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister Yves-François Blanchet will lead them into the next campaign once their current leadership campaign is over. Their fundraising is not great, but that has normally been the case. The biggest question going into this campaign is “where do they really fit into the conversation in 2019?”. This is an even bigger question now that we have the addition of Maxime Bernier’s party into the mix. Between recent history and crowded ballots in the province, it’s hard to say what might happen with the vote splits. So with all that in mind the Bloc isn’t done yet, but you have to wonder how much longer that will be true for.

Greens: When looking at the Greens, the big question that comes to mind is pretty straightforward: How much of their provincial breakthroughs will carry to the federal scene? In the past few years, the Greens have made up ground and different levels. They have won seats in four provincial legislatures, have clout in the new minority government in New Brunswick and hold the balance of power in British Columbia. And now, according to polling, they are in position to win government in Prince Edward Island. In each province where they have won seats, they have done it their own way and took advantage of unique circumstances. On PEI, the troubles facing the islands PC’s has helped, in New Brunswick, the collapse of the NB NDP has aided them. In BC and Ontario, a lot of it seems to come down to the individuals themselves who have won.

But with all of that, the sole Green to ever be elected federally remains Elizabeth May. Might this change in 2019? It’s hard to say but you have to ask yourself when it comes to the Greens “If not now, when?”. It can be argued the Green brand has never been as well-known or viewed as positively in Canadian history, but it remains to be seen if that provincial success will bleed over to the federal side. If we look at public domain polling, it doesn’t seem to be happening yet. A good test of this will come this fall from PEI, when Islanders will vote twice in October, in provincial and federal elections. It will be something to watch.

People’s Party: Okay, we now get to the end of the list, to what seems to be the wildest of wild cards. Maxime Bernier’s decision to strike out on his own is one of the most watched political moves coming out of 2018, one that has the potential to have an outsized impact on what happens this year. Will the People’s Party be the next Reform Party, or will it be the next Forces et Démocratie? By the end of this campaign, we’ll have a much better idea.

So far we can safely say that this party has already managed to do more than other recent newly created parties. The fact that Bernier and his team have managed to organize 338 riding associations and raise a fair amount of money to date, all of which is no small feat. It shows some ability and strength for the new party, but will it amount to anything more than that? Will it have any effect on the outcomes of the election? They may not win many seats, if any beyond Bernier’s own, but if they draw between 5-10% of the vote away from Scheer’s Conservatives, that changes the electoral map. And remember, in the province of Quebec alone in 2015, nine people were elected with 30% of the vote or less, with a half dozen others elected by only a couple percent more. That was due to many 4-way splits that we saw in the province. Imagine what that might look like with a 5th party with resources on the ballot? And outside of Quebec, how many more pitched 3 and 4-way races might we see?

But finally with the call of by-elections this month, we have a few test cases for what the People’s Party might be able to do. In the riding poll for Burnaby South released by Mainstreet this week, the PPC candidate polled in at 9%, which is far ahead of the 1.5-3% we’ve been seeing them at in national polls. We can guess where most of that vote in Burnaby would be coming from, which might explain why it seems that Mad Max has taken up residence inside Andrew Scheer’s head. Since Bernier bolted and started his party, we’ve seen a marked shift further to the right by the Conservatives, taking up the topics that Bernier has been parroting for a while now, almost as if they are trying to prove their conservative cred. While we hear all the time that the Conservatives need the NDP to do better to have a chance to form government, the Conservatives will have no shot at government if Max and his crew have success, no matter how mild.