The Morning Brief – 08.26.21

By Bruce Carson


Seeking a ballot question amid tightening polls, the Liberals look to move on after a turbulent second week.

We are now well into the second week of the federal election and Justin Trudeau, who initiated the election call has yet to offer anything to voters that could not have been accomplished without dissolution.

There are few new ideas, no big ideas, but ones that build incrementally on what has gone before.

In fact, the argument that has gained traction, mainly because it is quite possibly true is, that having called the election, it is serving as a distraction regarding the task of governing, particularly the task of getting those who helped Canadian forces, during the Afghan war, out of Afghanistan.

Canadians are getting one story of complete helplessness from those Afghan citizens who are here or those left behind and the story told daily by Trudeau and various ministers reporting on what is happening on the ground in Afghanistan.

One only has to watch the interviews with Retired General Rick Hillier last Friday on Power and Politics and on Monday with Evan Solomon to feel the full thrust of frustration regarding what is happening now in Afghanistan and Canada’s role.

Kevin Newman is not wrong when writing about the situation saying with regard to Canada’s efforts stating “Canada is slow, risk-adverse and selfish.”

While Afghanistan and Canada’s relationship with China and the illegal detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig may not be the factors that decide where Canadians cast their ballots, they are illustrative of a government and singularly, the prime minister, putting political interests and gain ahead of thoughtful, engaged government.

During CTV’s Question Period last Sunday, the theme was picked up that this was not a Seinfeld election about nothing; it is actually an election about everything.

The Globe’s Campbell Clark picked up on this in a column where he describes the election as “shaping up to be shapeless.” He wrote “it is an amorphous mass, its shape undefined, its substance or sentence unknown.”

He lists the issues in the “campaign about everything” as national child care, long term care, income support, green industries, climate change, boosting the economy and plans from political parties to create a million jobs.

The 2021 election is the antithesis of the 1988 general election when Canadians knew the subject was free trade with the United States; yes or no. It was the issue which dominated speeches and the leaders’ debates. It was the sole focus of all those involved.

By way of contrast to 1988, as the Liberals have been unable to set a frame around this election, it is wide open to the opposition parties to establish the frame and ballot question.

Jaime Watt in his Sunday piece in the Toronto Star wrote about this not being a backward looking election that seeks to relitigate the past, “Canadians are focussed on what’s ahead.” He refers to “the frame of an aspirational election” which would appeal to Canadians.

The contrast between regurgitating the past and seeking to move positively into the future can be seen with the Freeland/Trudeau tweet claiming that Conservative leader O’Toole did not support publicly funded health care and NDP leader Singh at the Cowessess First Nation with Chief Delorme. Singh commits help but also committed to addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Report’s Calls to Action.

Singh looking to the future used a phase which has become common for him “I am not Justin Trudeau” as he responded to the question as to why he should be trusted on Indigenous issues.

Watt concluded his article by noting that a slight majority of Canadians want a new governing party and support for Singh may be the decisive factor in the outcome of the election.

The ability to frame the election and issues is also open to Conservative leader O’Toole who has offered a substantive policy platform which sets it apart from the governing Liberals at the present time.

The main focus of the platform is job creation, housing and ending the pandemic.

The elements are a wage subsidy tax credit for capital investment up to $100,000, loans up to $200,000 for small and medium sized companies in hospitality and tourism as well as a “job surge” program.

Other than the approach to fighting climate change, one of the main distinguishing factors between Liberals and Conservatives is their approach to child care. Simply put both the NDP and Liberals are offering $10 per day daycare and early learning while funding the creation of more spaces.

The Conservatives propose that the child care expense deduction be converted to a refundable tax credit up to 75% of child care costs and paid out during the year.

Again, the Liberal childcare program did not need a federal election for its approval or implementation, but gambling all for a majority, the Liberals could lose the program, if not re-elected on September 20.

The point in all of this discussion about developing a frame for this election emphasizes the need to put forward a positive, forward looking alternative. This election might actually be about trust and authenticity and electing someone who Canadians believe will keep their promises.

Critics of the Trudeau government are not wrong when they say that it is slow to act, and slow to implement whatever promises it makes. The government has fallen into the trap of believing that promises of large sums of money to deal with the issue, means the issue has been dealt with and resolved. If the Liberals want a majority they will have to convince Canadians that they have changed their ways.

The door is wide open for an authentic, trusted, capable leader to walk through. This election unlike some others is without an overarching issue and could provide an opportunity for Canadians to focus on trusted leadership both domestically and on the world stage where it has been sadly lacking.

The door is wide open! Or as the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson, Pam Palmater wrote in the past few days as “trust is waning anything can happen in this election.

To Come

August 31
  • GDP numbers for June and 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
September 20
  • General election

The Morning Brief returns on Friday, September 3 to preview the upcoming leaders’ debates.

– BC