Major federal party leaders wrapped up their last day of campaigning in the key battleground province of British Columbia on Sunday, as voters prepare to cast their ballots after a deeply divisive election.
The Liberals and Conservatives still appear deadlocked in support according to polling by Nanos Research released Sunday, the 40th day of a political race that has produced no clear front-runner.
Among the biggest developments in this 43rd general election campaign, where Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was forced to confront a history of wearing racist makeup, and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was discovered to have kept quiet about holding American citizenship, were the resurgence of support in polls for both the New Democratic Party under Leader Jagmeet Singh and the separatist Bloc Québécois under chief Yves-François Blanchet.
Speaking to supporters in Port Moody, B.C., Mr. Trudeau called on voters to unite behind the Liberals, particularly in his home province of Quebec, by raising the spectre of separatism should the Bloc Québécois have a large haul of seats. The gains in support for the Bloc threaten the opportunities in Quebec for their political rivals.
Mr. Scheer issued a similar warning about the rise of the Bloc while campaigning in Vancouver, suggesting a vote for the Bloc is nothing short of a vote for a referendum on separation.
Mr. Scheer’s Conservatives have used considerable energy during their campaign to try to woo voters in Quebec, but polling data from Nanos Research suggested the Tories still trail the Liberals and the Bloc in the province.
Mr. Trudeau is seeking a second mandate after his party secured a sweeping majority in the 2015 election – a feat made possible, in large part, because the party picked up 40 seats in Quebec last time.
“Canadians need to come together,” Mr. Trudeau said. “I am a proud grandson of B.C., but I’m also a son of Quebec and we are going to fight hard together to focus on the big fight that we all have against climate change and building a better future for everyone.”
Speaking to reporters during a campaign stop in Laval, Que., the Bloc’s Mr. Blanchet accused Mr. Trudeau of misleading voters regarding his party. He said separatism wasn’t a priority for his party, nor was a referendum on the matter imminent.
“I told my own people yesterday night that they have to understand this is not our mandate this time. I am absolutely certain that Mr. Trudeau knows it and that he is purposely lying to the Canadians,” Mr. Blanchet told reporters.
Mr. Singh also targeted the Bloc on Sunday, articulating the differences between New Democrats and the party whose rise could threaten the political fate of many of his Quebec MPs.
The NDP currently has 14 seats in Quebec. “I say to Quebeckers if you want somebody who’s going to fight climate crisis it can’t be the Bloc because they’re not going to be able to work with the rest of Canada,” he said.
Mr. Singh also raised the prospect of an election outcome that results in a minority government and said Canadians shouldn’t be afraid of this.
Mr. Singh said Liberals “do not deserve a majority … because they’ve let you down,” and that Conservatives are not the option, either. He pointed to British Columbia where an NDP minority government led by John Horgan has functioned since 2017 with the support of the Green Party.
“I want to be the prime minister of Canada because I believe New Democrats will make life better for Canadians, we’re going to fight the climate crisis like we want to win it, but Premier Horgan pointed out that minorities are a good thing – yes they are,” Mr. Singh said.
Mr. Singh had a significantly lighter campaign schedule than his opponents on the final day of the election campaign ahead of the vote Monday. The NDP was instead focusing on getting the vote out, rather than holding more events, party staff said.
Mr. Scheer’s campaign stops Sunday included stumping for the Conservative candidate in the Vancouver Granville riding held by former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, the central figure in the SNC-Lavalin affair that played out this year. Ejected from the Liberal caucus, Ms. Wilson-Raybould is running as an independent.
Mr. Scheer told reporters on Sunday he has considerable respect for Ms. Wilson-Raybould, but he is still hoping to send as many Conservative MPs to Parliament as possible.
Mr. Scheer reiterated his message in Vancouver on Sunday warning against an election outcome that leads to an NDP-Liberal coalition, which he said Canadians cannot afford.
He urged Canadians to give his Conservative Party a majority mandate instead.
Mr. Scheer also made it clear the political battleground in British Columbia will be critical to achieving this goal.
“B.C. will make the difference this election campaign,” Mr. Scheer said during a brief stop at a campaign office of candidate Gabrielle Loren in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.
In a tight race, the get-out-the-vote effort will make a difference. James Smith, spokesperson for the NDP, said on election day volunteers will drive supporters to the polls if necessary. He said volunteers will canvas houses, asking supporters if they’ve voted and offering rides to polling stations with additional support from volunteers making calls to supporters. He said volunteers will also text supporters reminding them to vote.
The NDP also has a “triple your vote” initiative where people are encouraged to bring three friends to the polls, Mr. Smith said.
Liberal campaign spokesperson Cameron Ahmad said the party is continuing its effort to make sure voters know where to cast their ballots. That effort includes going door to door to talk with voters and driving people with mobility challenges and seniors to the polling stations.
Mr. Trudeau stopped at a mix of Liberal and NDP-held ridings across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island on Sunday, targeting seats his party hopes to gain or maintain. He spent the day reiterating the Liberal pitch to voters that Canadians need to elect a progressive government, not a progressive opposition.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May stumped in Vancouver on Sunday, where she made an announcement about electoral reform before campaigning on Vancouver Island and her own riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.
People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier wrapped up his campaign in his Quebec riding of Beauce.
The daily tracking survey from Nanos Research on Sunday had the Conservatives at 32.5 per cent and the Liberals at 31.7 per cent. The New Democrats were at 20.8 per cent, the Greens at 6 per cent, the Bloc Québécois at 7.2 per cent and the People’s Party at 1.5 per cent.
The poll was sponsored by The Globe and Mail and CTV, with a total of 739 Canadians surveyed on Oct. 20. It has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked: “If a federal election were held today, could you please rank your top two current local voting preferences?” A report on the results, questions and methodology for this and all surveys can be found at tgam.ca/election-polls.
STEVEN CHASE, JANICE DICKSON, KRISTY KIRKUP AND MICHELLE ZILIO
The Globe and Mail, October 20, 2019