The Morning Brief – 08.19.21

By Bruce Carson

NATIONAL ISSUES

First Week of the Federal Election Campaign

We are now well into the first full week of campaigning and the first section seems to have come to an end; questioning the fact that we are having an election at all.

The opposition parties seem to have moved on.

On Sunday during the media avail after being granted dissolution, Justin Trudeau stressed that it was now time for Canadians to have their say on the next 17 months, 17 years and beyond regarding the future direction of the country.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t asked whether Canadians should be heard if the Liberal Party was 10 points behind in the polls, rather than 10 points ahead; a valid question which voters will answer on September 20.

Another question that was asked three times but predictably received no answer was whether Trudeau would resign should he not receive a majority of seats from the electorate. That is a question which will begin to hang in the air should the polls tighten as we move through the writ period.

The time between now and September 20 will hopefully identify a number of issues and the result on September 20 provide a clear path forward.

Important dates have already been set and they will provide leaders with opportunities to express their views and have them challenged; leaders’ debate in French is scheduled for September 8 and the debate in English will take place on September 9.

Both dates are sufficiently distant from voting day so that major gaffes made by leaders should be fixable.

Other dates of significance are advance polls open September 10-13 and the last date for mail in ballots is September 14.

While The Morning Brief will have more to say about the debates in the coming days, for now there will be two new participants, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and Green Party leader Annamie Paul.

Both will be improvements over their immediate predecessors and will be able to contribute on all issues in both official languages. Hopefully, they are both spending considerable time in debate prep now.

It has been said that usually the issues which dominate a campaign at the beginning may not be the issues that dominate discussions in the lead up to decision day. There are also the unknown factors or issues that may insert themselves into the campaign and throw all of the leaders/parties off script.

Before getting into the issues, the campaign has benefitted from the fact that Trudeau made no secret of his dissatisfaction dealing with a minority parliament. In speeches he was critical, particularly of the Conservatives for delaying or attempting to block legislation unnecessarily causing great angst in the PMO and cabinet table.

Liberal House Leader Rodriguez actually had to work with the opposition, as is the norm in a minority parliament. What isn’t the norm in this situation is for the government to find such a willing dance partner in the NDP, agreeing to basically support in one form or another, government legislation. And then reject the dance partner and go to the people having not lost a confidence vote and with its record spending budget passed.

So it was not a surprise, with this advance notice, when the election was called that both the Conservatives and the NDP had policy platforms ready. The NDP revealed its platform just before the election call and the Conservatives did the same on Monday.

Usually parties wait until close to voting day, after they have concluded their policy announcements before unveiling the entire platform. Costing, the missing part is to be supplied by the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

To date, two issues have dominated the election discussion; vaccines and the fallout from Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban.

It will be interesting to see if both are issues in one month’s time.

Mandatory vaccinations for federal public servants, those employed in federally regulated businesses, Crown Corporations and those travelling by train or plane was the dictate by Prime Minister Trudeau last Friday. He said there would be consequences for failure to comply but no one was able to define them. The NDP jumped on board but wanted this implemented by Labour Day.

The Conservative Party while making it clear it supports vaccinations talked about accommodation for those who refused vaccinations.

Then the unions weighed in with their views on mandatory vaccinations and the need for reasonable accommodation for those refusing vaccines.

Yesterday, Trudeau said only those who could show a medical exemption would be excused from the mandatory requirement.

What was to be a wedge issue between the Liberals and Conservatives seems to have morphed into a situation of mandatory, and if not mandatory then what are the appropriate accommodations?

Keep in mind that this is issue is far from settled and could very well be the subject of continuous back and forth among the leaders for days to come.

The second issue at present falls squarely into the lap of the Trudeau government and that is its handling of the situation in Afghanistan, failing to bring to safety those who helped and supported Canadian troops in a timely fashion.

This situation goes to the inability of this government to keep its promises as well as trust and competency.

While the early fall of Kabul and the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan seems to have caught the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries including Canada by surprise, Canada’s obligation to help those who helped Canadian troops should not have been a surprise; this obligation has been known for years.

The longer this discussion about Afghanistan and the Taliban drags on the worse it will be for the Trudeau Liberals, as in this case, Trudeau has no one to blame for his slow reaction, but himself.

If this failure is added to Canada’s failure to bring home the two Michaels, held illegally by China for almost 1000 days, credence is given to Derek Burney’s recent argument about Canada’s lack of a credible foreign policy.

With release of the party platforms a dialogue has been established regarding a number of matters including different approaches to childcare; funding agreements with the provinces or a refundable tax credit.

And given the inflation numbers announced yesterday, affordability may become an overarching issue.

Next week The Morning Brief will update the issues and review the platforms and on September 2, deal with the issues which should dominate the leaders’ debates.

To Come

August 20

  • Retail sales numbers for June to be released

August 31

  • GDP numbers for June and for Q2 to be released

September 8

  • Leaders’ debate in French

September 9

  • Leaders’ debate in English

September 10

  • Job numbers for August to be released

September 15

  • CPI numbers for August to be released

The Morning Brief returns on Thursday, August 26th.