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Politics Canadian federal election guide: What you need to know before Oct. 21

Photo illustration by The Globe and Mail (images: The Canadian Press)

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The campaign in pictures

Verner, Ont., Sept. 17: A woman takes her photo with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh as he visits the International Plowing Match. Mr. Singh took a turn on the tractor, taking part an annual tradition that attracts politicians of all stripes to the Northern Ontario town. At this match, Ontario Premier Doug Ford got a few boos, which he blamed on Mr. Singh's Ontario counterpart and former boss, Andrea Horwath. She denied the accusation.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

St. Peter's Bay, PEI, Sept. 17: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau campaigns at a barn belonging to Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay. Earlier in the day, he made a campaign stop in St. John's.

John Morris/Reuters

Winnipeg, Sept. 17: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer speaks at a campaign event. Mr. Scheer and Mr. Trudeau have been in a game of one-upmanship in promises to Canadian families this week. Mr. Scheer says a Conservative government would help parents save up to send their children to college or university by increasing the amount of money the federal government contributes.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Daily tracking poll

Nanos Research, in partnership with The Globe and Mail and CTV, has been tracking Canadians’ preferences for federal parties and leaders in a nightly survey. Learn more here about how the survey is being conducted and what voters are being asked.

Read the full methodology: tgam.ca/election-polls

The leaders

Justin Trudeau, Liberals

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Four years ago, Justin Trudeau presented himself as a youthful optimist with a message of progressive change, and ended nine years of Conservative government. It’s not a strategy that will work twice: His main opponents are younger than he is, First Nations and environmentalists have impugned his progressive credentials because he supports the Trans Mountain pipeline extension, and the SNC-Lavalin affair (more on that later) has tarnished his image and divided the Liberal ranks. But with an economy that’s generally healthier than how he found it, despite large deficits, Mr. Trudeau can still craft a message of stability and prosperity for the “middle class” voters he courted last time. And as the world grapples with what Parliament has officially named a climate emergency, he is also trying to persuade Canadians that the Liberal carbon-pricing framework is a more credible path to a sustainable future than the Conservatives’ plan.

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Andrew Scheer, Conservatives

Michael Bell/The Canadian Press

When the Conservatives, chastened by Stephen Harper’s defeat, chose Mr. Scheer as leader, he was at first dismissed as “Harper lite” and a “Nowhere Man” whose political beliefs were hard to pin down. Since then, he’s found some powerful wedge issues to hammer – such as carbon pricing and a law to boost federal oversight of natural-resource projects, both of which he wants to scrap. But eliciting clear answers on, for instance, Conservative policy on abortion or his personal views on LGBTQ issues has been more difficult. Mr. Scheer has also had to speak out against racist and anti-immigrant groups seen to be supporting the Conservative cause, and to deflect questions about his aide’s past ties to the far-right Rebel Media and his own links to oil-industry lobby groups. Mr. Scheer’s hope is that Canadians either agree with him or are more fed up with Mr. Trudeau than they are afraid of a Conservative restoration.

Jagmeet Singh, NDP

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

In the 2015 election, Mr. Trudeau managed a left flanking manoeuvre on the New Democrats, who had moved more to the centre under then-leader Tom Mulcair. The party replaced him with Jagmeet Singh, a young and dapper Sikh politician from the Ontario NDP, hoping he could bring federal New Democrats back to their progressive roots. Since then, he’s had only a few months to face off against Mr. Trudeau in the House of Commons, where he didn’t have a seat until a by-election earlier this year. He’s argued that an NDP “New Deal for People” is a better plan than the Liberals’ for creating jobs and reducing economic inequality. He’s also said his NDP won’t “prop up” Mr. Scheer if the party gets the balance of power, which some surprised New Democrats interpreted as a concession that he doesn’t expect to win. “I’m running to become prime minister,” Mr. Singh later clarified.

Elizabeth May, Greens

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

When Elizabeth May took the leadership of the Greens in 2006, it was a party with no seats and little hope of breaking through into the House of Commons. But amid increasingly dire warnings from scientists about climate change, and small but significant victories by her provincial Green counterparts in Atlantic Canada and Ontario, Ms. May has seen historically high polling numbers ahead of the 2019 election. Now, she hopes to sell Canadians on an aggressive plan to phase out fossil-fuel use by the middle of this century and make more inroads into the legislature. She’s also said she’s disillusioned in Mr. Trudeau’s leadership on the environment and that, in this election, she’s not afraid of pulling votes away from the Greens’ traditional Liberal allies.

Yves-François Blanchet, Bloc Québécois

Blair Gable/The Globe and Mail

Since the NDP and Liberals all but wiped it out in the past two elections, the federal separatist bloc has been a shadow of its past self, with too few seats even for official party status. The Bloc has cycled through eight acting or permanent leaders since 2011, the latest of which is Yves-François Blanchet, who got the job this past January when no other candidates contested him for it. Unlike most of his predecessors, Mr. Blanchet, a former Quebec cabinet minister with the Parti Québécois, won’t be able to count on strong support from his provincial counterparts, who were decimated in the election that brought Premier François Legault’s CAQ to power last year.

Maxime Bernier, People’s Party

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

From disgraced former cabinet minister to Conservative leadership hopeful to fringe-party candidate, Maxime Bernier has had a tumultuous political life since the 2015 election. After he narrowly lost the Tories’ top job to Mr. Scheer in 2017, he denounced the new leader as too centrist and quit to create a hard-right libertarian faction, the People’s Party. His anti-immigration message and climate-change denialism have invited comparisons to U.S. President Donald Trump. Mr. Bernier’s party, however, generally polls at 1 or 2 per cent.

The issues

Climate and taxes

Climate change caused by human-made greenhouse gas emissions is an urgent threat to Canadians’ security, economy and society, not just in the near future, but now. Wildfire seasons are getting longer and more devastating; rising sea levels threaten to overwhelm the infrastructure of coastal cities; and scientists warn of a global refugee crisis caused by ecological, agricultural and social collapse. All the major parties agree climate change is a problem, but disagree about how to combat it. The Liberals introduced a nationwide carbon-pricing regime, but have struggled to get provinces to co-operate and will likely fall short of Canada’s commitments in the Paris accords. Mr. Scheer, backed by premiers who’ve had the federal tax imposed on them, wants to eliminate the carbon tax and instead use tax incentives to target large emitters, but his plan doesn’t promise to reach the Paris goals at all. The NDP plan would keep the Liberal tax but have industrial emitters pay more, while the Greens’ plan is to apply a consistent price for all emitters, pay Canadians annual carbon dividends and keep raising the price until a full transition to renewable energy is complete.

Climate policy primer: Where the four main parties stand

What is carbon pricing anyway? Learn the basics with our video primer.


Climate change and the oil patch

Fossil fuels may be the biggest culprits in climate change, but they’re also Alberta’s biggest industry, and the Canadian energy sector is reluctant to give them up – in fact, it’s been pressing for more pipeline capacity to bring oil to global markets. To win Alberta’s support for the carbon-pricing plan in 2016, the Trudeau government promised to go ahead with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from Alberta to B.C., going so far as to buy the system outright from Kinder Morgan when First Nations and the B.C. government opposed it. After years of legal battles over its environmental approval, the project currently has the green light again from the Trudeau Liberals, but its uncertain future and environmental costs have made it polarizing issue. The Conservatives want to push ahead with the pipeline expansion, while the NDP and Greens want to stop it.

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Legend

National parks

Existing pipeline

Parks

Expansion pipeline

Terminal

Indigenous lands

Pump station

Edmonton

0

80

KM

Jasper

National

Park

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

ALBERTA

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

Kamloops

Kelowna

Westridge

Van.

Sumas

Burnaby

Ferndale

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

Anacortes

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE

AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA;

OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC NEWS; KINDER MORGAN

Legend

0

80

KM

Existing pipeline

ALBERTA

Expansion pipeline

Edmonton

Indigenous lands

National parks

Parks

Jasper

National

Park

Terminal

Pump station

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Kamloops

Kelowna

Westridge

Vancouver

Sumas

Burnaby

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

Ferndale

Pacific

Ocean

Anacortes

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU;

NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA; OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC

NEWS; KINDER MORGAN

Legend

Edmonton

Existing pipeline

Expansion pipeline

16

ALBERTA

Indigenous lands

Jasper

National

Park

National parks

Parks

2

Terminal

Pump station

97

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

1

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Kamloops

Vancouver

Island

Kelowna

Westridge

Sumas

Vancouver

Burnaby

Pacific

Ocean

Ferndale

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

0

80

Anacortes

KM

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA; OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC NEWS; KINDER MORGAN


Jobs and the economy

Expect to hear candidates talking a lot about “the middle class” in this election, especially the Liberals, whose 2015 victory hinged on promises of lower taxes and economic opportunity for middle-income families. Alberta saw some lean years under the Liberals’ watch, but heading into the election the economy has been doing well: Unemployment hit historic lows over the summer, and although it rose again in August, there are nearly a million more employed Canadians now than in 2015. Asked by The Globe this summer to grade the Liberals’ performance on the economy, more than two dozen of Canada’s top CEOs gave an A- on labour and skills and a B- on innovation, but a D+ on tax policy, which they argued was too Byzantine and hindered competitiveness. The opposition hopes to convince Canadians that things could be better if they were elected, with Mr. Scheer pledging public-spending cuts and Mr. Singh promising 300,000 new jobs as part of his party’s climate-change infrastructure plan.


Health care

Canadians spend more per capita on prescription drugs than almost any country in the world, but an advisory council created by the Trudeau government has a proposed solution for that: universal, single-payer pharmacare. Mr. Trudeau has supported the council’s plan, which would cost governments $15.3-billion when it is fully implemented in 2027, but getting the provinces on board will be a challenge. Mr. Scheer has questioned whether pharmacare would cost too much and whether the Liberals could be trusted to implement such a plan, while the NDP is trying to persuade Canadians that its own universal pharmacare plan would be better-run, would begin sooner (in 2020) and give less influence to insurers and pharmaceutical companies.

How would universal pharmacare help the millions of Canadians who are uninsured or underinsured for their drug costs? Globe health reporter Kelly Grant explains.


SNC-Lavalin

Some of the star cabinet ministers who came into office with Mr. Trudeau will be conspicuously absent from the Liberal hustings this time around. The reason? The SNC-Lavalin affair, which pitted former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould against her boss, his staff and top public servants over whether to intervene in a Quebec construction company’s fraud and bribery case. In August, a report from the Ethics Commissioner concluded that Mr. Trudeau breached the Conflict of Interest Act in his efforts to put pressure on Ms. Wilson-Raybould in favour of a deferred prosecution, but she refused to overrule the prosecutors who didn’t want a deal. Ms. Wilson-Raybould and a minister who quit cabinet in solidarity with her, Jane Philpott, are running for re-election as Independents. As opposition leaders have challenged his moral authority to lead, Mr. Trudeau has defended his actions, saying he was protecting jobs.

Watch Mr. Trudeau's Aug. 14 response after the release of the Ethics Commissioner's report. The Canadian Press

The debates

Toronto, Sept. 12: Ms. May, Mr. Scheer and Mr. Singh take part in the Maclean's/Citytv leaders' debate. An empty mic stand was left for Mr. Trudeau, who was invited but did not attend.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

There are two official leaders’ debates, one in English on Oct. 7 and one in French on Oct. 10. Both are organized by an independent body, the Leaders’ Debate Commission, and will be held in the Ottawa area. The Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green and Bloc leaders have confirmed they’ll be there, and Mr. Bernier of the People’s Party has been invited too.

Mr. Trudeau has also agreed to attend a TVA-hosted debate with the other leaders on Oct. 2. He skipped another non-commission debate held by Maclean’s magazine and Citytv on Sept. 12, and will also miss the Munk Centre foreign-policy debate on Oct. 1.

The digital spin, and how to watch out for it

Amr Alfiky/The Associated Press

In the years since Canada’s most recent federal election, Western countries have been waking up to the dangers of digital disinformation. Russian cyber-meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential race, the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the rise of organized fake-news factories have put Elections Canada on guard. New federal transparency laws passed last year have compelled big tech companies to clean up their acts, and Google has banned political ads outright. If hackers do compromise the election, there’s a whole new team of Canadian bureaucrats whose job is to warn you about that.

But even with all the new safeguards, it’s up to voters to be skeptical of the political messages they see on social media. Fortunately, The Globe and Mail has tools to help you with that. This summer, the newspaper took over stewardship of the Facebook Political Ad Collector, a crowdsourcing program started by U.S.-based non-profit ProPublica. If you want to help, just install this browser extension for Chrome or Firefox and it will collect ads in a database. The Globe will use this information for editorial purposes only, and it won’t collect identifiable information about you. If you have questions, e-mail politicalads@globeandmail.com to learn more.

How do I get ready to vote?

A man casts his vote at a polling station in Montreal on Oct. 19, 2015, in the last federal election.

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

  • Am I registered? Canadian citizens who are 18 or older are eligible to vote. If this is your first time voting federally, then congratulations! Check here to register with Elections Canada in advance, or sign up in person at your polling place or returning office. If you’ve voted before or paid federal taxes, chances are Elections Canada already has you on their list. But riding boundaries are subject to change, so you should double-check which one you’re registered in, especially if you’ve moved recently.
  • When and where do I vote? If you’re registered, you’ll get a card in the mail with the address of your polling place and the dates of advance polls. When you go to vote, be sure to bring identification to prove who you are. Here are the kinds of ID that Elections Canada accepts.
  • When do we know who wins? This fall, 338 federal seats are up for grabs, and to form a majority government, a party needs 170 or more of them. At dissolution, the Liberals have 177, the Conservatives 95, the NDP 39, the Bloc Québécois 10 and the Greens 2. The first polls in Atlantic Canada will close at around 7 p.m. (ET), then proceed east to west throughout the evening. But depending on how close the results are, there may not be a final decision until late at night or the following morning. Check back at globeandmail.com and follow The Globe’s journalists on Twitter to see the results come in.

More reading

Explainers

Climate policy: Where the four main parties stand

Regional roundups

From Trois-Rivières to the Laurentians, Quebec’s election battle lines are drawn

‘The Alberta economy needs to be a ballot question for you’: Conservative MP Michelle Rempel’s message to Canada

Comment from Campbell Clark

Trudeau glosses over shortcomings at his own peril

The 2019 election campaign shapes up to be a culture war, a fight over who thinks like you

Comment from John Ibbitson

The ambition of the Greens’ election platform

With Parliament, the Ethics Commissioner and now the RCMP frustrated, Wilson-Raybould and Philpott must speak their truth

Trudeau or Scheer? Who can best protect Canada from the chaos awaiting the world in 2020

More comment

Denise Balkissoon: Trudeau is rich, Scheer isn’t poor – and the truly broke don’t have a say in politics

Sean Speer: I underestimated what Trump’s ‘forgotten’ workers can do politically. Canadian politicians shouldn’t make the same mistake

Justin Ling: The Liberal government’s vision for your privacy seems to be quite private, itself

Gary Mason: The Greens’ election chances are being torpedoed – by the Greens

Adam Pankratz: To the Green Party of Canada: Get serious

Bryan Giesbrecht: Why the RCMP should proceed: Not even Justin Trudeau is above the law

Brad Wheeler: The Conservatives’ new anthem serves its purpose, but that doesn’t mean it will move the needle

Andrew Steele: Trudeau’s future hinges on known unknowns

Globe and Mail editorials

Why the Liberals want a shorter election and fewer debates


Compiled by Globe staff

With reports from Michelle Zilio, Marieke Walsh, Bill Curry, Robert Fife, Kristy Kirkup, Shawn McCarthy, Evan Annett and The Canadian Press

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