Here Comes the Canadian Federal Election!

October 14, 2019 at 12:58 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s Thanksgiving here in Canada; the growing season is shorter, so Thanksgiving here is about a month earlier than the U.S. But it’s also just a week until the Federal election. For the past five weeks, Canada’s mainstream political parties have been trying to convince the electorate they have the Midas touch.

On September 11, 2019 (yes, September 11), the governing Liberals led by Justin Trudeau called a federal election for October 21, 2019. That’s right, after a campaign of about six weeks, less time than it takes to organize one of those bloated TV debates in the U.S., Canada will select a new government. Less like the Games of Thrones-esque brutality of the U.S. election period, the Canadian version has more of a Confederacy of Dunces feel to it.

Trudeau’s Liberals swept to power in 2015 promising a new vision for Canada of openness and hope. I obviously didn’t vote for the Liberals, but I was struck by the initial contrast to the previous government. The day after the election, Trudeau appeased at a Metro stop in his riding in Montreal, shaking hands and posing for selfies with morning commuters (his security team looked truly panicked). You could never imagine that happening with the previous Prime minister Stephen Harper, who made sure every event was carefully scripted and controlled. Of course, the image was not the reality.

Environmentally disastrous pipelines were approved. Cronyism appeared. and so on. My favourite was Trudeau in apparent frustration pushing through the House of Commons and telling an opposition member to “get the fuck out of the way.” The climax was the SNC Lavalin scandal, where the government had interfered in an inquiry to help a Canadian company embroiled in a bribery scandal. Had this story broken now, the Liberals would have been sunk, but it happened earlier this year, and memory being what it is, the damage has begun to fade. The Liberals  chose to run a “Stay the course” strategy along with fear-mongering (with some justification ) the opposition Conservatives who led for much of the race, but have faded in the final stretch.

But then for the Conservatives a miracle happened.

Time magazine ran a picture of Trudeau from his time when he taught at a private school in Vancouver: It’s apparently an end of year party based around the theme of Arabian Nights, and Trudeau is dressed as Aladdin in…brownface. The glee among Trudeau’s opponents was palpable; the dismay among his supporters equally so. And then it got worse: Despite Trudeau’s unqualified apology acknowledging the action as racist, more photos emerged (some courtesy of the Conservative Party). Currently, the Conservatives are trying to spread doubt about Trudeau’s departure from the school with hints he was fired or left amid allegations of sexual impropriety (for the record neither seem to be true)

But then for the Liberals a miracle happened. No one seemed to care enough (or perhaps the Conservatives frightened them more) to change their vote.

Given the various Liberal scandals, the Conservative Party appeared likely to form at least a minority government. The election was their’s to lose, and they have wasted no time in seizing that opportunity. In September, a speech by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer began going the rounds on social media: In 2005, Scheer gave a speech in parliament decrying same-sex marriage, making the analogy that calling same-sex marriage a marriage was like calling a dog’s tail an extra leg. Scheer waited eight days to address this matter before unconvincingly stating that his government would not change the law, and allowing this supporters to say it was a long time ago and many Liberals didn’t support it either. It then turned out that while Scheer only “real” job as an insurance salesperson, of which he boasted about his real world connections, wasn’t true either – Scheer had never completed all of the courses. Lastly, while Scheer has lambasted then Governor-General Michelle Jean for having dual citizenship, it turned out he too had dual citizenship with the U.S. Scheer could only mumble that he was in the process of renouncing it.

Canada’s social democratic party has traditionally come in third, but according to polls at the start of the campaign the NDP were in fourth place in single digits. There have been those who argued that the NDP’s current lack of popularity is due to racism because NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is Sikh. It’s possible, but Singh was largely invisible leader before the election and many people might not even be aware he was the leader. On one of his rare public appearances last month, he vociferously argued an NDP government would never support a Conservative Government, the argument usually made by NDP leaders in the final weeks of the campaign when it’s clear they aren’t going to win.

But then for the NDP, a miracle happened.

The personal scandals for the other two leaders has allowed Singh to emerge as a more credible candidate. Whatever you think of the NDP’s politics, it was difficult not to be moved by Singh’s comments about Trudeau’s brownface incidents. Last week, a reporter asked Singh about his proposal to deal with problems of drinking water in Indigenous communities. Singh asked the reporter if he would be asking the same question if it had been Toronto or Calgary had had the problem. The reporter declined to answer. As a result, Singh’s popularity has risen and the  NDP’s with it. Bad news for the Liberals.

The Green Party of course compete with the NDP to be the conscience of Parliament. They may not win, but the hope is to expand a little. The Greens though shot themselves in the foot when one of their candidates announced he was for Quebec separation, and the national party initially arguing that was cool, because it didn’t fall under their platform anyway.  Leader Elizabeth May did got off the best line in the recent debate when she told Conservative Andrew Scheer he wasn’t going to be Prime Minister. “You’re wrong about that” replied Scheer, only to have May shoot back, “I’ll take that bet.”

I’m not going to mention the Bloc Quebecois, the Quebec separatist party because no one knows who the leader is and no one really cares.

I am mildly curious about the People’s Party of Canada. Led by Maxime Bernier, who was almost the Conservative leader. The PPC still appears like any new party: There is a bit of a cult around the leader (and Bernier’s twitter tirades against  a teenage Swedish girl don’t help) and also when you’re on the fringe you tend to attract the fringe. A week or so back, a PPC candidate tired of being accused of being a racist or a Nazi  on the campaign trail wrote to Bernier asking  Bernier to “please do more to help us disassociate from far-right groups that really have no place in our society.” He was removed as a candidate as a result. Ironically, there’s a whole section on freedom of speech in the PPC program which apparently doesn’t apply to the party itself. On my way to work, I see signs for the PPC where the words “True Conservative” is larger than the name of the party. Huh. Mad Max may keep his seat, but the party will likely be wiped out.

Thrilling? Not so much. I’m predicting a Liberal minority after which Trudeau will make a victory speech conceding that his party has lost trust of Canadians, and he will hard to rebuild it. (A version of this could be his concession speech). If Trudeau wins he’ll then pretty much work with whoever the new Conservative leader is (Conservatives are already sharpening their knives in the event Scheer loses) to enforce austerity etc.

It all shakes out in a week

1 Comment

  1. Here Comes the Canadian Federal Election! – AWSM said,

    […] Here Comes the Canadian Federal Election! […]

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