A LOOK AT THE “BIG SIX”
By Kirk Winter
With a fall election guaranteed by law, it is once again time to look at the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Quebecois, the Green Party of Canada and the People’s Party to see who is truly ready to fight the 2019 federal election and emerge victorious.
The Liberal Party of Canada – Justin Trudeau
The Liberals currently command a majority government in Ottawa by controlling 177 of 338 seats. Prime Minister Trudeau can count on strong support in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and parts of Ontario. Areas outside of those three regions look pretty bleak for Liberal candidates.
1. Trudeau himself remains popular with important voting blocs like Francophones, college- educated women and social progressives
2. Trudeau compares favourably to President Trump, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and plans to use those three individuals as examples of what Canadians will get if they vote for the Conservatives
3. The anger over the SNC-Lavalin affair which peaked in the spring appears to have dissipated leaving the Liberals’ position in polling largely unchanged
1. Trudeau will be campaigning for votes on the political centre-left in a lane already occupied by the NDP, BQ and the Greens. Progressives splitting their votes four ways could really hurt the Liberals
2. Liberal insiders expect to lose close to every seat west of Thunder Bay that they currently occupy, making the chances of remaining in power even harder
3. Trudeau is not a skilled negative campaigner, and dislikes that role immensely. Party strategists are telling the Prime Minister that success will only come by pummeling Conservative Andrew Scheer day in and day out
The Conservative Party of Canada – Andrew Scheer
Scheer and the Conservatives are currently the Loyal Opposition in Ottawa controlling 97 of 338 seats. Their strongholds include western Canada and rural Ontario. Conservatives must win seats in Atlantic Canada, and break the Liberal stranglehold on Toronto.
1. The party has paid off the 2015 election debt in full, and its war chest is bursting at the seams
2. There have been no lack of quality candidates stepping forward for the Conservatives, many of whom have extensive municipal or provincial experience
3. The party believes that it has put together a comprehensive platform that should make it more electable which has been rolled out one plank at a time
1. Andrew Scheer, the leader, remains a “riddle wrapped in an enigma” to many Canadian voters. Is he the “Red Tory” that some have made him out to be or is he still the social conservative of 15 years ago when he held positions on abortion and same-sex marriage that were beyond what was generally accepted in mainstream Canadian politics?
2. Will the defection of Maxime Bernier and his formation of the People’s Party of Canada give some libertarian voters a place to park their vote particularly in Quebec, where Bernier has taken a very strong anti-immigration stand? This seems to be gaining some traction politically. Scheer needs every seat he can win in Quebec if he hopes to form the next government
3. Will the lack of a Conservative plan to deal directly with climate change be the political issue pollsters say it will be? The document laying out Tory policy on this issue was widely panned by environmentalists, progressives and some traditional Conservative supporters like the Globe and Mail and the National Post.
The New Democratic Party – Jagmeet Singh
Singh and his NDP caucus are the third largest group of parliamentarians in Ottawa, holding 40 of 338 seats. They have a sprinkling of seats right across Canada in every region, but it is a significantly reduced force, dropping from 103 seats won by the party in 2011. Singh is competing directly with Trudeau for votes, and it will be interesting to see how many disaffected Liberals stay home, or vote NDP, benefitting Singh and his party.
1. The NDP believes that the election of Singh, a visible minority, will make the party very attractive to New Canadian voters concentrated in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver
2. Singh is a very personable and engaging campaigner. He will put a very positive face on NDP policy and platform
3. NDP pollsters believe that Canadians may be comfortable with a minority Liberal government on election day, and that could possibly allow the NDP to hold the balance of power
1. Singh’s election as leader left divisions within NDP ranks as some felt that more established NDP candidates than Singh deserved a better look than they received
2. Singh’s ethnicity may be an issue to some rural and francophone voters, costing the NDP support in areas where they often do well
3. NDP organizers fear they may be badly outspent by both the Liberals and Conservatives, affecting their ability to get out their message
Bloc Quebecois – Yves Francois Blanchet
The separatist Bloc controls only 10 seats in the current parliament. They are a much-reduced force than they were in the 1990, when they reached their high water mark of 54 members elected. Bloc loyalists fear that, with the emergence of the Peoples Party in Quebec. voters in that province will have too many choices, affecting Bloc support
1. A committed, but aging, voting base delivering some of the safest seats for Bloc incumbents each election
2. A platform that sets them aside from all the other parties. As the only party that campaigns to dissolve Canada, no one questions or is unaware of what they stand for
3. They only field candidates in one province, allowing them to concentrate their funding and manpower in only 78 ridings
1. Support for separatism in Quebec is typically tied to tough economic times, and currently the Canadian economy is quite healthy
2. Prime Minister Trudeau is personally popular in Quebec and, if anything, his support for SNC-Lavalin is viewed favorably by many in the province affecting Bloc support
3. People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier’s restrictive immigration platform will appeal to many separatist Bloc voters who favour “old stock” Quebecers over New Canadians
The Green Party of Canada – Elizabeth May
The Greens currently hold three seats in parliament, and fervently hope that 2019 will be the year they break through politically, becoming a force to be reckoned with in Ottawa. The Greens are strong in British Columbia and have pockets of support in university towns right across Canada.
1. Elizabeth May is an active and able campaigner
2. The Green focus on the environment will ensure that issue remains front and centre in this campaign
3. Many Liberals say their second choice in voter preference are the Greens
1. The party is chronically underfunded, and local candidates are often hamstrung in running effective grassroots campaigns
2. Many voters are surprised when they read the entire Green platform and discover economic policies that seem at odds with their environmental bent
3. The Green Party is fearful that, with the arrival of the Peoples Party to the political scene, televised debates may limit the number of parties allowed to participate to perhaps only the Liberals, Conservatives and NDP in the English language debate, and the “Big Three” plus the Bloc in the French language debate.
People’s Party of Canada – Maxime Bernier
The People’s Party of Canada was formed when disaffected Conservative Maxime Bernier left the Conservative Party after losing the leadership campaign to Andrew Scheer. The party is a curious combination of social conservatism, libertarianism and anti-immigration sentiment that almost seems to be a left over from the old Reform Party days. Bernier has a base of support in Quebec, and his ideas seem to be getting a fair hearing in many small town meetings, particularly in western Canada.
1. Bernier is an attractive, fluently bilingual leader with cabinet experience in the Harper government
2. Angry Quebec Conservatives who backed Bernier’s bid for the party leadership now have a place to park their votes
3. The People’s Party ideologically have their political lane to themselves, and could become a political home for many disaffected individuals on the political right who currently feel they have none
1. Bernier will have to participate in all the televised political debates to make up for his party’s miniscule campaign budget. If he is denied that stage, it could be a mortal blow for his nascent party
2. The party has already found that some media outlets have refused to run their anti-immigration advertisements, making it difficult to get their message out
3. Supporters fear that lack of party scrutiny has allowed some individuals to run in 2019 whose “skeletons” may embarrass the party on almost a daily basis once the election is called and media begins to investigate these individuals
Current polling by 338.com, released on August 29, predicts a Liberal minority government fueled by a collapse of NDP party support with the Liberals holding 155 seats, the Conservatives 145 seats, the NDP 16 seats, the BQ 12 seats, the Greens 5 and the People’s Party 1.
Ladies and gentleman, start your engines. The starter’s flag on Election 2019 is about to drop.