LOUIS COOPER. It’s Monday, October 21 and Canadians are going to the polls and they are “highly likely” to elect a minority government.Oct 21, 2019
The most recent poll, commissioned by Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC, has the Conservatives, led by Andrew Scheer, at 31.7%. the Liberals, led by PrimeMinister, Justin Trudeau, are at 30.8%, the New Democratic Party, led by Jagmeet Singh is sitting at 8.5%.
The two main parties are virtually neck and neck, but there is a sense the country doesn’t care who will govern them. With daily media – social and mainstream – doses of Donald Trump from south of the border, it is possible Canadians have become weary of politics.The on-going coverage of the tug-of-war over Brexit is, I suspect, also having a dampening affect on all things political.
The “big” issues in Canada seem unresolvable: climate change and the country’s ability to produce and export oil and gas, has become a lightening rod in some provinces – Alberta, which produces oil and gas and British Columbia, which has the ports to send it overseas. The issue of building pipelines to send Alberta’s oil and gas to refineries in the United States also seems to be stalled, with multiple court challenges in both country’s.
Media coverage of Justin Trudeau’s so-called “blackface”, when he was a student and later a teacher at a private school in British Columbia, surfaced and sank within days and has not been heard about since.
The news Andrew Scheer has dual citizenship – with the United States, through his American-born father – did raise some eyebrows, but it, too, has slipped below people’s radar, despite some headlines along the lines of “an American Prime Minister?” For a time, the Toronto-born Scheer was speaker of the House of Commons in Ottawa and knows his way around the politics of the chamber.
The New Democratic Party’s leader, Jagmeet Singh, is the Canadian-born son of Indian parents and is a lawyer by profession.
The NDP is often regarded as the party of the workers and usually does well in the areas known as “union towns” – mostly where vehicles are built.
Looking at the CBC’s poll numbers, it’s going to be tough to predict tonight which party will be “top dog” in a coalition. There’s a sense, among pundits, that the top three probably will have to work together – in some fashion.
The last federal election in Canada was in 2015 in which Stephen Harper’s Conservatives lost heavily to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
In the intervening four years, Trudeau seems to have worked hard at getting women into his cabinet – despite the misstep over two women cabinet ministers, related to the SNG-Lavalin affair. Even that story seems to have faded from the media in this campaign.
However, complaints of sexual harassment in the RCMP – the Mounties – and Canada’s Armed Forces, increased in those four years, leaving a bitter taste in many people’s mouths.
Trudeau has made all the right noises about the country’s indigenous popular with apologies for past, historical, treatment. So why is there this seeming indifference to politics and politicians?
On the Island in Atlantic Canada where I live, in a city of some 14,000 people, not one candidate has shown up at my front door. Election signs on front lawns seem fewer – candidates need the house owner’s permission to put up the signs.
What happened in the intervening four years between federal elections? More children turned 18 and were able to vote. But, unlike Australia where voting is compulsory, Canadians need to be stirred into voting. And if they are working – and a great many are – and they have money in their pocket – and a great many do – why vote to maybe change all of that?
Discussions about a national health scheme – the provinces and territories administer their own health systems with some federal money – are just that: discussions.
Even though this arrangement allows for wide differences in the provincial health care treatment waiting lists – little has changed.
Another potential stumbling block is the perceived treatment of veterans. The previous Conservative government cut deeply into funding for veteran’s benefits and offices where they could get help. The Liberals re-opened most of the offices and help is easier and mostly faster to obtain.
The care and treatment of seniors is also a potential stumbling block on the federal level, as Canada’s population ages. Old Age Pensions are low – there have been campaign promises in this election, to increase them – and medical services often seem to burden provincial health systems.
As a long-time network television producer in Australia, Canada, the US and England, it seems as if Monday’s election night coverage will be an edge of the seat show.
My own view is Canada will get a Liberal minority government with both the Conservatives and the NDP forming part of the coalition – it will be good for the country.
Louis Cooper is a retired journalist and network television news producer, having lived and worked in four countries and worked for Australian newspapers and networks in Canada, the US and the UK.