Canada Scholarship

Canada: Canada before the elections: Will Trudeau’s plan work?

On September 20, Canadians will re-elect their Parliament two years earlier than usual. The minority government of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hopes to win an outright majority in a snap election, but recent opinion polls suggest a tougher race.

When Justin Trudeau was sworn in as the second youngest prime minister in Canadian history in 2015, a breath of fresh air suddenly blew in Canada after nine years of conservative government under Stephen Harper. His poll ratings were high, he was popular in the world and brought hope beyond Canada’s borders. In the 2019 elections, Trudeau and the Liberal Party were able to defend the position of prime minister, despite some crises within his government – but this time, without an absolute majority.

A few weeks ago, Trudeau announced that he would seek early elections. Trudeau’s clear goal was and remains to help the liberal minority government win an outright majority in the Canadian House of Commons. Good poll numbers for his Liberal Party during the Corona pandemic have given him courage.

Trudeau’s liberals remained in power in Ottawa for six years. However, out of the 338 seats in the Canadian Parliament, the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) holds only 155 seats (a majority government needs 170 seats), so it needs the cooperation of another party to govern effectively. Unlike Germany, minority governments are very common in Canada and coalition governments are the exception rather than the rule.

Progress in the polls has faded

While the opposition was still divided and weak in the summer and the Conservatives in particular (the second most powerful force in Canada) were having a hard time reaching out to the media against the omnipresent government during the pandemic, Trudeau felt his chance.

His corona policy helped him above all else. In 2020, the Liberals acknowledged more than 10 percent of the GDP assistance program for Canadians who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, providing direct financial assistance to 9 million Canadians. The relatively high vaccination rate in Canada is also due to Trudeau. Nearly three-quarters of Canadians have now been vaccinated at least once, putting Canada first in the G7 comparison. The high vaccination rate also highlights favorably compared to the USA, Canada’s southern neighbor.

Despite these successes, there are doubts among liberals about whether the two-year election was the right decision. The majority in polls, which was still comfortable in the summer, dwindled significantly in September.

Conservatives are catching up

Conservatives are now on par with liberals in most opinion polls. In some opinion polls, even the most likely Conservative candidate Erin O’Toole is leading with the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC). Aside from the Liberals, the Conservatives are the only other party that has actually appointed a Prime Minister. They were last in power from 2006 to 2015.

Thus, O’Toole has realistic chances of coming to power as Prime Minister of a minority government. The former RCAF soldier and lawyer was largely unknown to most Canadians at the start of the year. He was only elected Conservative leader in August 2020 and was initially not particularly popular within his party. Earlier this year, a Tory commentator said O’Toole was a “loser” who would hurt the Conservatives and cost them votes in the next election.

Meanwhile, O’Toole has successfully increased her profile and expanded her platform. Although he won the power struggle within the party with classic conservative stances, over the summer he switched to a platform that was too moderate for conservatives. At first he spoke of “returning Canada,”true blue(The real conservative) and the defeat of the ‘radical left’ is what he now prefers to advertise rather than his simple mantra: ‘I have a plan’.

Classic electoral circles are transforming

In addition to his tone, conservative attitudes shifted strongly toward the center over the summer. To the astonishment of his opponents, O’Toole dismissed what had until recently been a very important issue, Canada’s gun laws, by withdrawing his proposal to repeal a law banning certain fast-fired firearms. Other demands he advocates include a quota for union members on company boards, union support in principle, and a fixed price for climate-damaging emissions. Of particular note is the last point, as last year his party submitted a proposal to add the sentence “Climate change is real (Climate change is real)” Refusal.

However, his moderate course could play into the hands of his opponent, Trudeau. Because while O’Toole tries to convince centrist liberal voters of his moderate course, he could lose important votes on the strictly conservative side.

The conservative right-wing Canadian People’s Party led by former foreign minister Maxime Bernier could cost it victory if it manages to persuade some conservative voters in the disputed territories.

The result is uncertain

But the position of prime minister is no longer as secure as it was in 2015. The six years in government have not only cemented his reputation. Several scandals, such as the Aga Khan affair with the billionaire prince and the SNC-Lavalin scandal over the company’s public interference in a criminal case, have damaged his public image and undermined public confidence in his leadership.

Nor does it help that the liberals have so far failed to formulate a compelling reason for early elections. Trudeau recently said in a televised debate that it is about giving voters a voice in Corona politics.

However, the timing of the election amid a new wave of Covid cases is casting doubt on that. Many voters do not understand the timing of elections during this crisis situation. In addition, the Liberals always succeeded in getting their laws passed with the help of the New Democratic Party – so there was a working minority government.

Another factor that could hurt Trudeau is the New Democratic Party, with its charismatic lead candidate, Jagmeet Singh. The SPD succeeds in stealing votes from the liberals, especially on the left wing. However, Trudeau must win this at any cost if he is to keep the Canadian capital like Toronto.

It is therefore questionable whether Justin Trudeau will succeed in achieving an absolute majority or even significantly increasing the current number of seats.

Benjamin K. Haines is an intern in the Washington regional office.

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