On a hot Sunday in August 2015, Governor General David Johnston dissolved Parliament at the request of Prime Minister Harper. Thus, the 41st Parliament concluded and Canada was thrust into a 78 day campaign, much of which will be fought over the summer months. It is the longest campaign in modern history and certainly has the potential to be a close race. It is an odd affair so far, quiet and mainly reserved. The suburbs of Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver await the deluge of signs jockeying for position on prominent corners. In the meantime, social media and television are ablaze with attack ads.
This campaign is not about the decided voter. It isn't about keeping the base happy. It is about the undecided, meandering, and regular Canadian. All three parties will spend millions chasing this voter (if, in the end, this voter can be bothered to vote at all).
Notably (in an otherwise lacklustre week), there was a national Leader's debate hosted by Maclean's Magazine. All of the leaders did very well and there was no clear winner. Elizabeth May was strong in the debate challenging both the Conservative Leader and the NDP Leader on policy. It is unfortunate she isn't the leader of a more established and mainstream party. If she was, she could win.
Stephen Harper succinctly defended attacks from all sides and looked like an experienced fighter taking body blows, skillfully coming back for more. Tom Mulcair pitched his position on energy projects and pipelines, which has been hotly debated in the media since his appearance (because his position is confusing). His unrelenting focus on the environment and changes the Conservatives made to the environmental review process for major projects will make the dialogue interesting over the next number of months. Mr. Mulcair was hesitant to outright support pipeline projects in any part of Canada. The Conservatives and Liberal leaders were more positive on these projects on the whole.
The Leader's debate illustrated energy and economic development will certainly make the campaign relevant for the regular people of Canada. Everyone needs a job. Everyone needs energy to heat their homes, operate their cars, and fishing boats. However, none of the four party leaders were able to articulate a coherent jobs or economic growth plan. The NDP clearly indicated they would raise the federal minimum wage to $15.00 per hour (although this only applies to a small percentage of workers in Canada). The NDP also indicated they would raise corporate taxes (although the amount was unclear). The Conservative Leader championed his record on signing trade deals with nearly 40 new countries and quoted job creation numbers since the recession of 2008-9. The Liberal Leader called for cooperation between the federal government and provincial premiers for a better economic union in Canada.
No one discussed how the tool and die maker from Burlington, ON was going to continue to compete in the global marketplace when Canada's manufacturing base pulls up shop for Mexico. A recent CBC report should shock and horrify every Canada politician and policy maker responsible for industrial and economic policy. Ask the people of St. Thomas, ON and ex-employees of a large truck manufacturer. Who does the oil sands worker from Halifax vote for? Who does the retail worker from Brampton, ON vote for? Who does the government worker in Ottawa vote for?
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