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Reporter Debrief: Liberal Party Seeks Majority In Upcoming Canadian Election

Gavin St. Ours
Next Monday, Sept. 20, Canadians will go to the polls in a snap election called last month by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Next Monday, Sept. 20, Canadians will go to the polls in a snap election called last month by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau’s Liberal party is governing with the most seats in Parliament, but it does not have an outright majority. Trudeau is seeking to change that, but the polls are close, with no party appearing likely to take a clear majority.

VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with CBC Montreal reporter Verity Stevenson who has been covering the campaign. Their interview is below and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Henry Epp: Can you first tell us a bit more about why this election was called and what the reaction has been to Trudeau’s decision to call it?

Verity Stevenson: Yeah, so the reaction has been quite mixed. Trudeau called the election in mid-August, and I think that there was sort of this hope from the Liberals that they would be able to use the pandemic context. We've seen a lot of provincial governments that have been able to secure a majority during the pandemic sort of riding on their management of the pandemic locally and so on, so the Liberals were hoping for that. But the opposition parties were saying, you know, it's in Trudeau self-interest.

So, yeah, there was sort of a sense that the Liberals had a chance at a majority government going into the election, because the Liberals were polling really well. But I think that the act of calling it backfired a little bit because cases were starting to go up again in this fourth wave.

And so, there was a bit of a public opinion switch around that. Now, it's really, really close, but it isn't looking like Trudeau would be able to get a majority at this point. But we'll see because things are heating up a little bit. There's one week left.

And what are the main issues that are motivating voters of the various parties?

The Liberals are really going to be riding on how they managed the pandemic so far.

"I think the consensus among all of the leaders is that, you know, the relationship with the U.S. is really important."
Verity Stevenson, reporter for CBC News in Montreal

But ... the Conservative leader Erin O'Toole — he's really looking to sell voters on a post-pandemic recovery. He's selling himself as the person who's going to be able to bring the economy back after the pandemic and sort of saying that Trudeau isn't doing that enough.

More from VPR: Most Of Us Can't Go Between Vt. And Canada Right Now. But This Trucker Can

And then you have the New Democrat Party, that is selling a platform that is much more about social justice, including promises like a universal pharmacare program, universal income, and more police accountability, defunding of police and so on.

The Green Party is also focusing on those issues, but with a focus on climate change, which, surprisingly, hasn't been a huge part of the election so far.

And Quebec has a more complicated picture than some other provinces with another party in the mix: the Bloc Québécois, which promotes Quebec sovereignty. So, what is the race looking like in Quebec?

Yeah, so Bloc Québécois really campaigned on promoting Quebec interests in Parliament, and it hadn't been doing as well as last election until there was a question in the English debate, which typically doesn't really affect Quebec voters. But this time, the moderator asked about these laws in Quebec, that she called discriminatory.

Since then, there's sort of been this idea that there was Quebec bashing during the debate, and that has sort of galvanized voters to want to vote for the bloc a little bit more. And so, they're doing a little bit better than they were, and that could take some votes away from the Liberals or the Conservatives.

Are there any implications here, in terms of relations with the U.S.? You know, we're coming off a year where the border was closed? Is there any particular party that might have a different relationship with the country?

I don't think so. I think that there hasn't been that much discussion about it. I think the consensus among all of the leaders is that, you know, the relationship with the U.S. is really important. Canadians really want the border to be open, in the sense that they want to be able to visit the U.S. as well.

More from VPR: Canada Reopens To Travelers, But With U.S. Still Closed, Border Town Roads, Businesses Remain Quiet

But I don't think that any leader is suggesting that that should be pushed more — that Canada should argue in a forceful way with the U.S. about that. But trade is an important thing, and I think that that’s something that all the leaders agree on.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Henry Epp @TheHenryEpp.

Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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