Pandemic federal election campaign produces little enthusiasm for any party

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Ottawa – angry campaign Justin Trudeau’s decision to call a federal election amid the COVID-19 pandemic is ending amid anger over the conservative premier’s handling of the health crisis.

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It appears that the first wave of discontent dashed Trudeau’s hopes for a liberal majority and even jeopardized his chances of ousting another minority.

The second wave may still save him.

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When Trudeau barred his minority government on August 15, he tried to frame the ballot question as, “Who are you who want to end the fight against COVID-19 and give the country a strong, Want to lead to greener, more inclusive reform? “

Canada, he argued, is at a pivotal moment in history and gives Canadians a chance to decide how they want to proceed, and under whose leadership.

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Instead, the campaign quickly became a referendum on Trudeau, with opposition leaders relentlessly emphasizing his “selfish” choice to put his personal quest for a majority ahead of national interests in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

The weak leadership the Liberals had in campaigning, as well as Canadians’ general satisfaction with the Trudeau government’s handling of the crisis and the country’s direction, evaporated almost immediately.

“I think many of us misread where we were going, what an optimistic country was in terms of vaccines and everything, and we just misunderstood what was actually a grumpy, anxious, tired What happened was a voter who had no real desire to have an election,” says David Coletto, chief executive officer of Abacus Data.

The fact that Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, fell into the hands of the Taliban on the day Trudeau called the election – leaving thousands of Canadians and Afghans who had helped a Canadian military mission stranded in the country – only added to the anger at his timing.

As Liberal support declined, Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives picked up some momentum.

Largely unknown before the campaign, O’Toole shrugged off the “true blue” image and policies he devised during last year’s leadership race to woo his party’s large swath of social conservatives, Instead, he presented himself to Canadians as a moderate centrist. To disenchant liberal voters.

The strategy seemed to work, at least initially. Liberal efforts on issues such as abortion, private health care and compulsory vaccinations for federal workers did not last O’Toole.

Jagmeet Singh is urging progressives to vote with their hearts out, arguing that electing more New Democrats is the best way to force a minority government to focus on issues the NDP champions, such as the ultrarich or Taxing Universal Pharmacare.


Meanwhile, Jagmeet Singh of the New Democrats was able to capitalize on his position as the most popular federal leader and the apparent collapse of the troubled Green Party to spur the NDP as well.

By mid-campaign, however, the Liberals had rebounded a bit, the Conservatives and the NDP had stalled and the two main parties were caught in a virtual tie, with neither within reach of the majority.

And that’s pretty much where things are still heading into Monday’s vote, suggesting that the 2021 election results are about to look a lot like what emerged in 2019.

Beyond the timing of the election call, Colleto says his polling shows there is no real pivot point during the campaign, no major issue or mistake that permanently registered with those grumpy Canadians.

O’Toole found no apparent bump in the virtual backing of Quebec Premier Francois Legault.

He suffered a bit of a setback after reversing his platform’s promise to repeal the liberals’ ban on assault-style firearms.

Bloc Québécois’s listless campaign got some wind in its sails after leader Yves-François Blanchett asked a question asked by the moderator of last week’s English-language debate, claiming that Quebecers are racist.

Trudeau received little boost for standing up for the abusive demonstrators, mainly opposing vaccination and public health restrictions, as they became more aggressive and even attacked a campaign stop with gravel. They pelted stones at him and his party.

More generally, Colleto says, they are events that could change the trajectory of elections. But this time, they were more like brief blips.

Coletto thinks this is because people have largely turned away from the campaign, only making up their mind shortly before they cast their ballots, whether by mail, in advance elections or at local polling stations on Mondays. Feather.

“It seems like people, once they tuned in at least enough they felt they could make a choice where they were in 2019, for the most part,” he said.

The only party to show any sustained momentum in the latter part of the campaign appears to be Maxim Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, which has adopted an anti-vaccination, anti-mask fringe.

The PPC is unlikely to win any seats, but it may have enough support from the Conservatives to rob them of victory in a close-riding tussle – hence the end of O’Toole’s campaign warning center voters that A vote for unnamed minor parties is a vote for Trudeau.

Trudeau is similarly warning progressive voters away from the NDP and Greens, arguing that the only way to stop a Conservative government is to vote for Liberals.

Meanwhile, Singh is urging progressives to vote with their hearts out, arguing that electing more New Democrats is the best way to force a minority government to focus on issues the NDP champions, such as Taxing Ultrarich or Universal Pharmacare.

It is not certain that anything can move the needle in the final days of the campaign.

But Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s semi-apology Wednesday at least re-opened the federal campaign in his final days over Trudeau’s favorite ballot question for how he has handled the raging fourth wave of COVID-19 in his province. has started from.

And it has thrown O’Toole back into the limelight, along with his hesitation about vaccine passports and mandates, as well as his previous praise for Kenny’s handling of the pandemic.

Alberta and neighboring Saskatchewan have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and their health systems are now being overwhelmed by the highest rate of COVID-19 cases. This week both Kenny and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe imposed late public health sanctions, including evidence of vaccination policies they have long opposed.

“What is happening in Saskatchewan and Alberta may signal to voters what the prime minister is actually saying, which is this is a high-stakes election and the choice you make will have consequences, it will be life and death. can cause it,” Colletto says.

“And maybe people get a little more attention and think more closely about their choices, on the contrary they discipline liberals for doing something they didn’t want.”

This could potentially give the People’s Party a late campaign boost, Colletto says, leaving Bernier as the sole bearer of the anti-sanction torch.

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