FEDERAL ELECTION

Federal election campaigns could get ugly

Political Science professor says there’s two races – to form government, and for second-place opposition

It might get ugly.

Expect to see politicians resorting to desperate measures which, if not dedicated to win Canadian hearts, will certainly aim to clinch the title bout win at the ballot boxes on Oct. 21, when the federal election will be held.

Dr. Stewart Prest, a lecturer of political science at Simon Fraser University, with Canadian politics and democratic institutions among his areas of expertise, indicates these next weeks might well be a nail-biter for political die-hards.

“This feels like it’s a pretty close race, where no party has an obvious path to a clear majority,” he told the Now-Leader after Prime Minister Trudeau asked Governor General Julie Payette to dissolve Parliament, officially launching 40 days of election campaigning.

“They’re all flawed parties, they all have their own challenges and goals coming into the election so I think that it’s going to be in some ways a little bit of a fragmented election as well. It seems like different parts of the country are having very different conversations, often about the same topic, so it’s going to be a little fragmented, a little disjointed and it could get a bit ugly as well because the stakes are fairly high for all four major parties.”

The Liberals are trying to hold on for a second majority, Prest noted, while the Conservatives are looking to defeat them, “and now the Greens are looking to make a breakthrough and meanwhile the NDP seem like they’re holding on for dear life right now, they’re trying to right the ship after sort of a rocky start to the campaign, so they’re neck-and-neck in the polls – two dead heats.

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Dr. Stewart Prest, SFU political science professor. (Submitted photo)

“The Liberals are perhaps a little bit of a front-runner at this point, but it is very slight,” he noted. “Back to the beginning of 2019, it seemed like the Liberals were headed for a not close but comfortable majority. I think it would have been smaller than the result in 2015, but then SNC-Lavalin came along and it was just day after day, two months straight of bad news stories. And I think that really took a toll in the polls. So now they’re coming out of that nose-dive a bit, and have reached a new level plane, but there’s a possibility that the story could come back with any new revelation.”

Many Canadians tend to vote against a politician or political party, rather than for one.

“I think we see that to some extent,” Prest noted. Like in 2015, when the Harper government had been around for a decade “and there was a clear sense that change was in the air, and a clear majority of Canadians were looking for a change. I’m not sure they coalesced around the same party, but the Liberals came out on top. In this election I think there’s some of that, and the Liberals are certainly trying to re-create that same sort of feeling around the Conservatives.”

So far, 25 candidates will be vying for your vote in Surrey but the filing deadline for candidates is 21 days before election day at 2 p.m. local time. Surrey’s five ridings are represented by Liberal MPs and each incumbent is seeking re-election.

READ ALSO: Surrey has 25 MP candidates as election campaign launches

Dr. Cara Camcastle is an SFU political science professor with expertise in Canadian politics, party ideologies and policies, and election analysis. She says one feature that sets this election apart from most is that “there’s not a clear leader at this time in any of the parties.”

“There seems to be two races here, going on,” she noted. “One is the Conservatives and the Liberals, for first place, and then the other is the third place, the NDP and the Greens.”

Does Camcastle expect this election campaign will present more acrimony than most? “It’s possible. Acrimonius? Isn’t it always?”

This time around, she said, “There’s a lot of momentum for change, and open to change, open to something new and different, I think, in this election. Last election there was a lot of enthusiasm. Now there’s a lot of criticism from the electorate.”

What are her students saying?

“It’s mixed. The Liberals still have a base of support among the young people,” she said. “They feel that the Liberals are in their corner, some of them.”

Environmental stewardship is also important to many, “and the Greens of course have an advantage there.”

She expects the Green Party will win seats. “The NDP are having a lot of difficulty right now.”

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Dr. Cara Camcastle, SFU political science professor. (Submitted photo)

As for Trudeau not showing up to a nationally televised leader’s debate straight out of the gate, Camcastle said “it’s actually an interesting strategy on his part. It could actually be deliberate.

“They’re competing with him for the same voters,” she said of the leaders of the Conservatives, NDP and Green Party, who did participate. “He’d like them to fight among themselves a bit more, and that’s what they were doing.”

She doesn’t think the optics of a prime minister not showing up to participate in a national leaders debate will cause Trudeau much grief as it was on the second day of the campaign and will likely soon be forgotten.

Meantime, a report from the BC Federation of Students indicates that this election will mark the first time in 40 years that the largest demographic of voters will be young Canadians, namely, Millennials.

“The message to political parties, the media, and the pundits is this – young Canadians can’t be ignored,” says federation chairwoman Tanysha Klassen. “We’re growing in numbers and our turnout at the polls is getting stronger. The pathway to electoral success now rests more heavily on the youth vote.”

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Tanysha Klassen, chairwoman of BC Federation of Students. (Submitted photo)

She says the reasons for increasing political engagement among this group is “clear and obvious.”

“Our job prospects are tenuous, housing and education costs are through the roof, and the planet is burning. We don’t have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines. We’re being politicized by the conditions of our time.”

The federation represents more than 170,000 students at 14 universities and colleges in B.C. It expects to launch a campaign to encourage young British Columbians to vote in this election.

One issue dear to most Canadians is how government spends our money.

According to Dr. Penny Bryden, a political historian at the University of Victoria, nothing provokes the wrath of Canadian voters more than the reckless spending of tax dollars.

“In Canada, we get outraged about misspent money more than anything else,” she said.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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