September 10, 2021
Last night was the only English-language debate of Election 44. Find the National Post’s full recap here. What follows are First Reading’s highlights from the Wednesday French-language debate (or “debat des chefs,” as they call it).
“I’m sorry Mr. Trudeau, but this is an undesired election,” was how moderator Patrice Roy opened the debate.
While Trudeau’s use of English is defined by its halting pace and frequent use of “uh,” he often comes off as much more expressive in French. This was particularly notable when he yelled at Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet that he was a “proud Quebecer, has always been a Quebecer and will always be a Quebecer.”
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) September 9, 2021
Everyone accused everyone else of using magic. Journalist Hélène Buzetti accused the Tory leader of trying to employ “O’Toole magic” in promising to balance the budget in 10 years despite dramatically raising spending. She also accused NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh of economic magic in his plan to adequately raise government revenues by taxing the rich. (Trudeau also said that all the other leaders are leaning on “magic thinking” in their climate plans).
Since this election will almost certainly end in a hung parliament, Blanchet provided his price to prop up a minority government: A significant increase in health transfers to Quebec.
Despite initially being denied accreditation to the leaders’ debates, Rebel Media was allowed in at the 11th hour thanks to a federal court ruling. In a Q and A session with Trudeau, a Rebel reporter asked him why he had denied their accreditation as journalists (despite the fact that the rejection was made by an independent debate commission that had nothing to do with Trudeau). Trudeau’s response, which has since been viewed on social media more than a million times, was to essentially call them jerks.
Quebec Premier François Legault openly endorsed a Conservative government on Thursday, albeit a minority one. Legault’s basic pitch was that the Liberals, NDP and Green Party are all meddlesome actors who would be “dangerous” to Quebec autonomy. Needless to say, it’s very, very rare when a Quebec premier endorses the Conservative Party. The closest we’ve come in recent history was 1988, when it was rumoured that Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa favoured Brian Mulroney over his fellow Liberal John Turner.
It’s been said that the Conservative election strategy in 2021 has been to enthusiastically abandon any pretence towards fiscal responsibility. A new projection by the Parliamentary Budget Officer lays out just how true this is. If elected, a Conservative government would rack up a deficit of $168 billion in its first year. For context, the highest deficit ever incurred by Stephen Harper topped out at only $55.6 billion – and that was during the worst year of the Great Recession. It’s also noticeably higher than the $157 billion deficit that the Liberals intend to rack up in their first year.
The National Post has assembled an extremely readable guide to the major parties’ promises on key issues such as housing, taxes and vaccine mandates. Or, you could decide who to vote for by looking at who has the most lawn signs and Facebook ads. Whichever.
This week, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh trumpeted his party’s promise to usher in a $20 minimum wage for federally regulated workers. Awkwardly, this announcement was disseminated in large part by NDP campaign workers who are definitely not making $20/hour. An entry-level job with the party will only get you $18.08.
Every time the Americans have a general election, it always seems to descend into an anarchic mess of recounts, late results and malfunctioning voting machines. Anyways, here’sElections Canada explaining why they still use hand-counted paper ballots.
For the rest of Election 44, the National Post will be sharing insights from Polly, an artificial intelligence engine developed at the University of Ottawa that was the only pollster to correctly predict the results of the 2019 election.
It’s kind of gotten overshadowed by Election 44’s mass-exodus of Liberal voters going to the Conservatives, but the NDP are actually having one of their best campaigns ever. Only three times in the party’s 60-year history have they secured more than 40 seats – and Polly is projecting that the fourth time is likely to arrive on Sept. 20. This would be a coup for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, whose performance in the last election was to oversee a near-50 per cent collapse in his party’s share of the House of Commons.
LET’S POLL …
Justin Trudeau is the weakest and most out-of-touch party leader, according to a new Leger poll. What’s more, when respondents were asked what had surprised them most about Election 44, 30 per cent said it was seeing how Trudeau “seems out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Canadians.” The poll is great news for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who entered Election 44 as a virtual unknown ranking at the bottom of likability polls. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, has consistently polled as the most-liked and trusted candidate for prime minister – even as four fifths of the country repeatedly pledge to avoid voting for his party.
Thursday night’s English-language federal leaders’ debate explicitly pledged to avoid any questions on foreign policy. This meant no questions about the debacle in Afghanistan, and no questions about Canadian citizens being held as hostages in Chinese jails. Sabrina Maddeaux says this was great news for the Liberals, for whom international issues have not been a strong file.
Whoever wins, Canada has already set upon a course of spending way beyond its means, notes Kelly McParland. That’s nothing new for the Liberals, but McParland does note that it’s not tremendously conservative when Team Blue has the most high-spending platform of anybody.
John Ivison notes that the NDP seems to be doing a very good job of avoiding the exodus of support that usually hits them in the closing days of an election campaign. In any number of prior federal elections, the NDP racked up massive support midway through a campaign, only to see it dissolve as those voters went to the Liberals in order to stave off a feared Conservative victory. This time around, the exodus is tempered by the fact that plenty of lefties really, really don’t like the Liberals.
Despite having the exact same platform as last election, the People’s Party of Canada is set to blow past the vote share of the Bloc Québécois, and it’s currently polling higher than anything ever achieved in the history of the Green Party of Canada. Writing for The Line, Matt Gurney surmises that a lot of this is due to anger at COVID-19 mandates – and advises mainstream politicians and public health advocates to take notice.