Party: Liberal Party
Leader: Justin Trudeau, 49. Mr. Trudeau has been Leader since 2013. In 2015, he led the Liberals to a majority government, but they were reduced to a minority in the 2019 election.
Current standings: 155
2019 election: Mr. Trudeau encountered challenges in the 2019 campaign, including international reaction over a revelation that he wore racist makeup, often referred to as blackface, on more than one occasion. He was ultimately able to retain enough seats to govern with a strong minority in the House of Commons, including a robust showing in Ontario, where the Liberals won 79 of 121 seats.
- Mr. Trudeau has called an election as Canada enters a fourth wave of the pandemic, with much of the eligible population vaccinated but experts worried about the potential effects of the more infectious Delta variant.
- The Liberal government has not been without controversy. It continues to face criticism over how it has handled sexual misconduct in the military. As well, Mr. Trudeau faced a political firestorm over the decision to award a now-cancelled contribution agreement to the WE Charity when his family had connections to the organization. And opposition parties voted in June to declare the government in contempt of Parliament for not providing unredacted documents to the House that could explain why two scientists were removed from the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
- Mr. Trudeau will come under fire from the Conservatives about the magnitude of spending that has taken place under his leadership, especially since the pandemic.
- To secure a majority government, the Liberals will look to make gains in Quebec. In the 2019 election, the Bloc Québécois won 32 of 78 available seats in the province while the Liberals won 35, the Conservatives 10 and the NDP one.
- A major policy focus for the election campaign will be the Liberal pledge on national child care. While the Liberals have promised to follow through on this for decades, the party has recently used the pandemic to emphasize the importance of the issue. Mr. Trudeau has now inked child-care agreements with Quebec, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and Yukon.
- The Liberals will also focus on how they spent billions to help Canadians during the pandemic – and how they plan to boost the economy after. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is expected to play a significant role in the campaign.
– Kristy Kirkup
Party: Conservative Party
Leader: Erin O’Toole, 48. The former veterans affairs minister under Stephen Harper won the Conservative leadership in August, 2020, on his second try for the job.
Current standings: 119 seats
2019 election: Under former leader Andrew Scheer, the Conservatives gained 26 seats and won the popular vote, 34.3 per cent to 33.1 per cent for the Liberals under Justin Trudeau. It wasn’t enough to save Mr. Scheer, however. He stepped down as leader two months after the vote – though he remains an MP.
- This is Mr. O’Toole first campaign as Conservative Leader, and he will be facing the much-more experienced and well-known Mr. Trudeau, who has been through two national election campaigns as Liberal Leader.
- Mr. O’Toole has to hold together the disparate factions of the Conservative Party, including social conservatives, while also making a play for moderate voters. That difficulty came into play at the party’s March convention. Mr. O’Toole urged delegates to acknowledge the reality of climate change only to have them vote against adding green-friendly statements to their policy book, including the statement that “climate change is real.”
- The Conservative Leader will have to counter the billions of dollars in commitments that the Liberals have made before the election call, including reaching child-care deals with a majority of provinces.
- In March, Mr. O’Toole released a five-point Recovery Plan of promises that he will likely pitch on the campaign trail. It includes recovering a million jobs lost during the pandemic within a year, enacting a new anti-corruption law to “clean up the mess in Ottawa” and a Canadian Mental Health Action Plan.
- Look for Mr. O’Toole to move to the centre and emphasize his moderate political views, including his environmental commitment to price carbon and his pro-choice position.
- Mr. O’Toole will also focus on his roots in Ontario, hoping to appeal to voters in the province where he needs to win seats if he wants to replace Mr. Trudeau as prime minister.
– Ian Bailey
Party: Bloc Québécois
Leader: Yves-François Blanchet, 56. A former Quebec environment minister, Mr. Blanchet was acclaimed as Bloc Québécois Leader in January, 2019.
Current standings: 32 seats
2019 election: Mr. Blanchet led a moribund Bloc to a revival, tripling its seats in the Commons. The witty and articulate Bloc Leader mauled Conservative counterpart Andrew Scheer in the first French-language debate and needled Justin Trudeau over Quebec’s restrictions on religious symbols – and his party nearly wiped the NDP off Quebec’s electoral map.
- The Bloc’s basic challenge is always relevance. Mr. Blanchet has to convince Quebeckers to vote for the party even though it can’t form government. That also means convincing potential Bloc voters who dislike Justin Trudeau that he is best placed to prevent the Liberal Leader from getting his way.
- There appears to be an Ottawa-Quebec détente that makes it harder for the Bloc to run on discord between the two capitals. Quebec Premier François Legault thanked Mr. Trudeau effusively for a $6-billion agreement on child care funding, and Mr. Trudeau gave approval to Quebec’s unilateral move to amend the Constitution to declare the province a nation. It is harder for Mr. Blanchet to run on discord with Ottawa if Mr. Legault, Quebec’s most popular politician, is content.
- There is no shot Mr. Blanchet will need more than a good wedge: opening a divide between things Quebec wants and what federalist politicians are willing to promise. In 2019, he made hay with Mr. Trudeau’s refusal to rule out a court challenge to Quebec’s Bill 21, which banned some public servants from wearing religious symbols.
- Mr. Blanchet has to attack Mr. Trudeau, but often, he is running against the Conservatives. The Liberals and the Bloc are the two most popular parties in Quebec, but there aren’t too many voters swinging between Justin Trudeau and the sovereigntists. The Bloc’s revival in 2019 came from cutting off the Tories – attacking Mr. Scheer’s views on abortion – and winning over the NDP vote. Mr. Blanchet has to ensure Erin O’Toole’s Tories don’t come back to life in Quebec.
- The Bloc will want to mount a strong ground game in a summer election when it might be hard to get voters to the polls. The polls suggest the Bloc is a strong second in the province, but vote splits can have a big impact on the results. For the moment, the Bloc lacks a galvanizing issue that could help get anti-Trudeau voters to the polls, so organization would be the next best thing.
– Campbell Clark
Party: New Democratic Party
Leader: Jagmeet Singh, 42. A former NDP member of the Ontario Legislature, Mr. Singh won the federal NDP leadership in 2017.
Current standings: 24 seats
2019 election: The NDP lost 15 seats in Mr. Singh’s first campaign as Leader, with the party falling to fourth place in the House. It was the party’s worst result since 2004. The NDP continued its slide in Quebec, winning a single seat among 75 – a long way from the 59 Jack Layton’s party won in 2011 and the 16 Tom Mulcair’s NDP captured in 2015.
- Polls have shown the NDP sitting at around 20-per-cent support, above the 16 per cent in the 2019 election, but Mr. Singh now has to follow through on his promise to hold the seats his party has already as well as gaining more.
- Mr. Singh’s progressive NDP is running against a Liberal Leader who is also considered progressive. The Liberals have a platform that features many social programs, including national child care, that the NDP has also championed.
- The NDP is popular among young voters, but they traditionally don’t show up to the polls in droves. Mr. Singh’s challenge here is twofold: Get young voters excited about the NDP, and then persuade them to go out and vote.
- Ahead of the election call, Mr. Singh released Ready for Better, a document of the party’s top priorities, including free mental-health care, a national dental-care program, climate-change proposals and a tax on the ultra wealthy, which would help pay for the NDP’s other promises.
- The NDP is using social-media platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat to reach younger voters. A recent TikTok that Mr. Singh posted about young people voting has garnered five million views.
- As well, the party will be spending more money in this campaign, thanks to steady fundraising. It will shell out more just on advertising than it did for its entire campaign in 2019.
- Mr. Singh’s personal popularity is strong, polls show, so expect him to be front and centre in the party’s quest for votes. In fact, Mr. Singh has been travelling the country for weeks already making campaign-style announcements.
– Menaka Raman-Wilms
Party: Green Party
Leader: Annamie Paul, 48. Ms. Paul won the race to succeed long-time leader Elizabeth May in October.
Current standings: 2 seats
2019 election: The Greens picked up a third seat in Fredericton, their highest count ever. But Ms. May and her party didn’t achieve the breakthrough that seemed possible at the outset of the campaign, and once again sent only a small rump of MPs to Ottawa.
- The Greens’ obvious challenge is convincing voters to put their faith in a party so clearly riven by internal distrust and differences. Their 2019 caucus addition, Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin, crossed the floor to the Liberals in June. Members of the party’s federal council made abortive attempts to oust Ms. Paul, levelling accusations she had an “autocratic” attitude that Ms. Paul called sexist and racist.
- The Greens have declared themselves strapped for cash, laid off staff just before an election, and withheld central-party funds that Ms. Paul wanted for her riding campaign in Toronto Centre. The Green campaign looks set to operate more like a string of independents running in different ridings.
- In addition to embarking on a leader’s tour with tight resources and a divided party, Ms. Paul will have to campaign extensively in Toronto Centre, a Liberal-held riding where she has lost twice before, knowing that her threatened leadership is virtually doomed if she doesn’t win a seat in Parliament.
- Ms. Paul must pound away at policy messages, particularly on climate change, to try to turn the focus away from the internecine warfare inside her own organization.
- The party always has to pick winnable spots, and once again will want to focus especially on Vancouver Island – if the Greens can actually come together on a national strategy.
- The biggest hope still rests on the platform that helped Elizabeth May gain a foothold in election campaigns: the leaders’ debates. For a brief window, the debates put Greens are on equal terms with other parties. If Ms. Paul can make a mark – or leave a mark on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau –it could have an impact on the party’s fortunes.
– Campbell Clark
COMPILED BY GLOBE STAFF
The Globe and Mail, August 15, 2021