An Exciting Finish in Canada’s Election

lunes, 28 de octubre de 2019

Mary Anastasia O’Grady


As Canadians head to a federal election on Monday, polls have Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the Liberal Party and Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer in a dead heat.

Mr. Scheer has turned out to be a more serious contender than many, including many conservatives, expected. But Mr. Trudeau’s biggest headaches are on his left, where Jagmeet Singh, the personally engaging candidate of the New Democratic Party, and Bloc Quebecois candidate Yves-François Blanchet threaten to siphon off progressive votes from the Liberals. This has greatly increased Mr. Scheer’s chances of winning a minority government.

Voter surveys say the race is too close to call. As Darrell Bricker of the polling company Ipsos put on Oct. 15, the multiparty jockeying “points to an Election Night which could be full of surprises and close calls.”

Some meaningful number of Canadians appear ready to punish Mr. Trudeau for his performance since taking office in 2015. A carbon tax that wasn’t supposed to hurt a bit has harmed consumers in key provinces. Liberals promised fiscal discipline but Mr. Trudeau finishes four years with a C$20 billion deficit. The ruling party now counsels Canada not to expect a balanced budget until at least 2040.

The prime minister’s authenticity deficit is his bigger problem. The self-described champion of women and minorities took a hit when photos emerged last month showing that in years past, more than once, he darkened his face at costume parties.

Mr. Trudeau has apologized profusely and by most accounts Canadians don’t brand him a racist. For good measure he got President Obama to endorse him last week.

Yet his credibility is damaged. It also has been tarnished by an ethics commissioner’s report that the prime minister’s office inappropriately pressured the attorney general to cut a deal with the Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to avoid a potential criminal conviction concerning a Libyan government contract awarded to the company. When the attorney general resisted, she was demoted.

The biggest beneficiary of the public’s crumpling faith in their prime minister’s character has been Mr. Singh. When the photos from Mr. Trudeau’s past emerged, the NDP leader produced a video recalling his own struggles to overcome racism and reaching out to minorities who have felt marginalized in Canada. The performance won praise for sincerity across the political spectrum and left Mr. Trudeau looking like a sanctimonious phony.

Yet while Mr. Singh scores well on the likability scale, he comes up short on the policy front. The NDP’s hard-left agenda doesn’t have wide appeal in Canada, and Mr. Singh isn’t winning converts to his ideas. He is merely picking up disaffected Liberals. Something similar has happened in Quebec where the French-nationalist Bloc is gaining seats at Mr. Trudeau’s expense.
Conservatives have also been gaining ground since Mr. Trudeau’s claims of moral superiority were broadsided, but for different reasons.

There’s a lot not to like about Mr. Scheer’s brand of conservatism-lite, but as National Post columnist Terence Corcoran observed on Oct. 9, he’s the only candidate who speaks sensibly about “the three important issues of debt, climate and class warfare.” The message may resonate with independents, many of whom are in immigrant communities, in the equivalent of U.S. battleground states. These are the suburbs of Vancouver and Toronto and the province of Quebec.

As the Journal’s Paul Vieira reported last week, in the Toronto area Mr. Trudeau’s race troubles are “taking a back seat to the financial strains,” with housing prices “up 46% over the last five years and a new carbon tax raising the cost of” commutes.

The Conservative Party rejected a nativist platform when it chose Mr. Scheer as party leader over Quebec politician Maxime Bernier. Now the party is using its pro-immigrant credentials to boost the effectiveness of its low-tax, pro-energy economic message.

Earlier this month Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who was minister for multiculturalism and citizenship under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, campaigned for candidates in immigrant-flush ridings in the Toronto suburbs. On Oct. 5, the Toronto Star reported that his weekend schedule would take him to a Coptic Church, an Iraqi Chaldean Christian service, synagogues, a Sikh gurdwara, a Hindu mandir, a mosque and a Gujarati festival. All this followed by “dim sum with the Chinese-Canadian community in Richmond Hill on Sunday.”

Rumors are flying that if Mr. Scheer wins only a minority government, Mr. Trudeau plans to ask Canada’s governor general for the right to form a government with the NDP. Mr. Scheer argues that would go against “modern convention in Canadian politics.”

Ironically, the Liberals’ threat to try an end run if they lose may have boosted Mr. Scheer’s odds-though still long-of winning a majority government by energizing Conservatives. With turnout the deciding factor, that could make all the difference.

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