Well, we made it folks. We have hit the final election in the series. It has been a long 36 days and we have covered a lot of elections and I want to thank all of you for following along.
After gaining the second most seats in the history of the Liberal Party and returning his party to relevance in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would bring in several changes to the Canadian landscape over the next four years. Some of the most notable included the legalization of marijuana and the implementation of a carbon tax. An independent academically edited study would look at the 353 promises made by Trudeau’s government in its first mandate and found that it kept 92 per cent of its pledges, at least partially.
One pledge that was not kept was the commitment to make 2015 the last election that used first-past-the-post. After a special committee was formed to look at it, which recommended a proportional electoral system be introduced after a national referendum. In the end, Trudeau dropped support for electoral reform, stating quote:
“It is because I felt it was not in the best interests of our country and of our future.”
He would add that it would give too much power to extremist and activist voices and create, quote:
“Instability and uncertainty dividing the country.”
The parties in the House of Commons, apart from the Green and the Liberals, would go through leadership changes as well.
For the first time since 1993, the Bloc Quebecois would not be led by Gilles Duceppe in an election. He would be succeeded by Yves-Francois Blanchet. The NDP were no longer led by Thomas Mulcair, who had resigned, and Jagmeet Singh would take over as leader. The Conservatives went through a leadership convention as well following the resignation of Stephen Harper. On May 27, 2017, in an astounding 13 rounds, Andrew Scheer would emerge as the new leader of the party. In the final round, against Maxime Bernier, who was considered the frontrunner, Scheer would take 50.95 per cent of the vote to the 49.05 per cent by Bernier. A year and a half after losing the leadership race, Bernier would leave the Conservative Party and form the far right-wing People’s Party of Canada.
Initial polls would show a very close election with the Liberal and Conservatives sitting neck-and-neck, and the NDP and Greens vying for third place.
The Liberals would focus their campaign on eliminating subsidies for fossil fuel businesses, balancing the budget in 21 years, supporting the Trans-Mountain Pipeline, cutting corporate income taxes to 7.5 per cent for zero-emission products, planting two billion trees by 2029, banning single use plastics and protecting 25 per cent of Canada’s land and water by 2025. They would also pledge to increase healthcare funding by three per cent per year, raising the minimum wage and increasing the number of new immigrants in Canada from 310,000 to 350,000 by 2021.
The Conservatives would run on a campaign that would privatize the Trans Mountain Pipeline, eliminate subsidies for fossil fuel businesses, balance the budget in five years, banning dumping raw sewage into waterways, withdrawing from the United Nations Compact on Migration, increasing healthcare funding by three per cent and preventing American residents from applying for asylum or seeking refugee status in Canada.
As for the NDP, it would increase funding to the CBC, remove interest from federal student loans, oppose all pipeline construction, protect 30 per cent of Canada’s land and water by 2030, ban non-renewable electricity sources by 2030, build 500,000 social housing units, raise the minimum wage and to abolish the Canadian Senate.
A total of six leaders’ debates would be held, although two would be cancelled, and for the first time in Canadian history, two of the debates would feature six party leaders. The first debate was held on Sept. 12, and featured Scheer, Singh and May. The second debate was cancelled, while the third debate on Oct. 2 featured Trudeau, Scheer, Singh and Blanchet. The only debates to feature all six candidates were the French and English debates hosted by the Leaders’ Debates Commission.
During one debate, Trudeau would again link Scheer with Ford, to which Scheer responded, quote:
“You seem to be oddly obsessed with provincial politics. There is a vacancy for the Ontario Liberal leadership. If you’re so focused on Ontario politics, go and run for the leadership of that party.”
Trudeau would also be attacked by May, who chastised him for not doing enough with his majority. She would state quote:
Scheer would also attack Bernier in an attempt to distance the People’s Party from the Conservatives, accusing Bernier of quote:
“Making your policy based on trying to get likes and retweets from the darkest parts of Twitter.”
On the topic of a woman’s reproductive rights, the men on stage tended to talk over May until finally Singh stated, quote:
“A man has no position on a woman’s right to choose.”
May would respond, quote:
“How about a woman’s right to speak in a debate? It’s been really interesting for most of this campaign to hear a lot of men arguing about what a woman’s rights should be.”
As the campaign began on Sept. 11, Trudeau was dealing with the SNC-Lavalin issue, in which the Ethics Commissioner found that Trudeau had improperly influenced former Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene in an ongoing criminal case against the company. The scandal had come to light in February of 2019 but remained a major issue at the start of the campaign for the Liberals.
Several Liberal candidates would be in hot water in the media after the writ was dropped when it was found they had made posts on social media, one made comments that were deemed anti-Semitic, and another was found questioning the involvement of Osama Bin Laden in 9/11.
The biggest news story of the campaign was easily the revelation that came to light on Sept. 18, 2019, in a photo published in Time Magazine. The photo showed Trudeau when he was a teacher at West Point Grey Academy in 2001 in brownface makeup. Trudeau immediately apologized for the photo and stated he had also worn similar makeup in high school. The next day, an earlier instance in the early 1990s showed Trudeau in blackface. He would again apologize and state he was not that person anymore. The public was mixed over the photos, with some stating they were offended and would not vote for him, while others, including minority community groups, defending him. Trudeau would also speak privately on the phone with Jagmeet Singh on Sept. 24, to apologize privately for the brownface.
Trudeau would say of the matter, quote:
“I shouldn’t have done that. I should have known better, and I didn’t. I’m really sorry. It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time but now I recognize it was something racist to do.”
In the days following the scandal, polls found the majority of Canadians were either not bothered by the scandal or had accepted Trudeau’s apology.
On Oct. 13, a security threat against Trudeau would result in one event starting 90 minutes later and Trudeau would have to wear a bulletproof vest while being surrounded by armed security. His wife, who was supposed to introduce him, did not appear on stage. Both Scheer and Singh expressed concern over the threat and the RCMP would remain with Trudeau at events for several days.
For the Conservatives, there were worries over the linking of Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who was deeply unpopular in the province, with the federal Conservatives. As a result of this, Scheer would distance himself as much as possible from him and did not campaign with the premier through Ontario. The Liberals would capitalize on the popularity of Ford by linking him with Scheer throughout their own campaign.
As with the Liberals, several Conservative candidates were dropped during the campaign over social media posts that were seen as anti-LGBTQ, discriminatory against Muslims and anti-abortion.
Scheer also had difficulty during the campaign over a video in 2005 in which he spoke against same-sex marriage. Scheer would not give a response to questions related to the video, and if he did, he stated it was Trudeau trying to create a wedge issue. When Trudeau apologized over the blackface photos, Scheer was asked again if he would apologize for the video, but he did not. During an interview on a popular Quebec talk show, he was asked about the video, and he chose not to answer. He would eventually say that he supports the law and rights of Canadians but would not walk in Pride parades. This would cost him support in several areas of the country as a result. The NDP also announced that due to his comments, they would not support the Conservatives in the event of a minority government.
When asked if he believed being gay was a sin, Scheer responded, quote:
Scheer would have to deal with another issue on Sept. 28, when the Globe and Mail found that there was no record of Scheer ever having a licence to work as an insurance agent, which he had claimed he had worked as in the past. Scheer would respond that he did receive accreditation but that he left the insurance office before the licensing process had finished. In response to this, the Insurance Brokers Association of Saskatchewan stated that Scheer completed only one of four required courses that were required to become a broker.
A third issue for Scheer would hit only days later on Oct. 3 when it was found that he had dual Canadian and American citizenship. His father was American, which gave Scheer American citizenship. Scheer would state he had begun the process of renouncing his American citizenship in August, had not voted in a US election but had filed US tax returns. He also stated he had registered for the draft under the US Selective Service System. Asked why he did not disclose his dual citizenship, Scheer stated he was never asked about it.
Scheer would state quote:
“Everyone who knows me, or knows my family, knows that my father was born in the United States, and I’ve been open with that.”
For the NDP, the biggest issue among voters appeared to be the fact that Singh was Sikh and wore a turban. Jonathan Richardson, who was a former federal NDP executive member for Atlantic Canada, would state that several potential NDP candidates were hesitant to run in New Brunswick because of the turban. Several voters in Verner, Ontario stated they would not vote for a leader who wore a turban. On Oct. 2, one man told Singh to cut off his turban so he would look more Canadian. In response, Singh stated, quote:
“Canadians look like all sorts of people. That’s the beauty of Canada.”
The man would state quote:
“In Rome, you do as the Romans do.”
To which Singh stated, quote:
“This is Canada. You can do whatever you like.”
Many Canadians and news pundits praised Singh for how he handled the situation. Singh would shake hands with the man and the man would state at the end of the exchange, quote:
“Take care. I hope you win.”
The new party on the landscape, the People’s Party, would deal with accusations of using dog-whistle politics after four members of its party were found to have been using racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric. While they were removed from the party, another problem appeared when a photo of Bernier and members of an anti-immigration group appeared online. Bernier stated that he was unaware of their views, but many questioned this and believed he was aware of who was attending his rallies. On Sept. 23, several news organizations reported that one of the founding members of the party was a White nationalist and two others had been members of anti-immigration groups. Another volunteer for the party was reported to be a former neo-Nazi leader in the United States. The individual was removed from the party when this was discovered. On Sept. 2, Bernier called climate activist Greta Thunberg mentally unstable on Twitter. He would state a few days later he was criticizing her role as a quote:
“Spokesperson for climate alarmism.”
The election would prove to be one of the nastiest in years, with several candidates’ signs defaced, slurs yelled at other candidates and in the most high-profile case, the campaign office of Liberal MP Catherine McKenna had a word I won’t repeat on this podcast written across her face on a large poster. The Ottawa Police would investigate the incident as a hate crime. McKenna would say of the incident, quote:
In a poll done a week before the election, if only men voted it would be a huge Conservative majority, but if only women voted it would be a massive Liberal majority. For working class Canadians, their support fell to the Conservatives.
In the Oct. 21 election, the Liberals would win but would lose 20 seats to fall to 157, resulting in a minority government. The Liberals also picked up 33.12 per cent of the vote, which is the lowest vote share for a party that formed a single-party minority government. The Conservatives would have 34 per cent of the vote, making this the second time in Canadian history that the governing party formed a government after receiving less than 35 per cent of the national vote. The previous time that happened was in 1867.
The Conservatives would win 26 more seats, finishing with 121. Scheer would claim that this gave the party the strongest majority in Canadian history, but in terms of ratios based on previous Parliament seat counts, it did not sit in the top five of strongest opposition parties. The seats it did win was the most ever won by an Opposition Party in Canadian history.
The Bloc Quebecois rebounded heavily with a gain of 22 seats, finishing with 32 seats, allowing it to become the third party in the House of Commons for the first time in 11 years.
The NDP did not do as well, losing 15 seats and finishing with 24. This was the worst election result for the party since 2004.
The Green Party in contrast had its best election, picking up another seat and finishing with three seats, the most it had ever received. The party also received more than one million votes for the first time in its history. The party also elected its first MP outside of British Columbia.
As for the People’s Party, they would not win a single seat despite running in 315 ridings. The party would only receive 1.62 per cent of the vote, well back of the Green Party, which had 6.55 per cent of the vote. Bernier would lose the seat he had held since 2008. In his riding, the Rhinoceros Party had actually put in a candidate with the same name as Bernier resulting in two Maxime Bernier’s running in the riding. The riding was won by a Conservative candidate.
The Liberals would mostly be shut out of the Canadian West. While the party did win 11 seats in British Columbia, they did not win a single seat in Alberta or Saskatchewan. Ralph Goodale, an MP from Saskatchewan for 26 years, would lose his riding in an upset. The party would win four seats in Manitoba, along with 79 in Ontario and 35 in Quebec. The Conservatives would take 33 of 34 seats in Alberta, all the seats in Saskatchewan and 17 seats in British Columbia. In Ontario and Quebec, the party did poorly with only 46 seats, including 10 in Quebec. The poor showing in Quebec is likely due to the poor performance of Scheer in the French debates where he was heavily outmatched by his French speaking opponents.
This election would set a record for the most women elected to federal seats in an election with 98. The Green Party elected the highest percentage of women with two of its three MPs being female.
The election of Trudeau to a second mandate would spark separatist talk in Alberta and the Wexit Alberta party applied for federal political party status on Nov. 4, only a few weeks after the election. On Nov. 6, the interest in secession from Canada in both Alberta and Saskatchewan reached 33 and 27 per cent respectively. The Wexit Alberta Party would eventually change its name to the Maverick Party before the next election, in which it would run 29 candidates.
Information from Macleans, CBC, Global News, CTV, Wikipedia, Ottawa Citizen, Edmonton Journal, Vancouver Province