Canada trending conservative
On August 15, a writ was dropped and Canada’s 44th election officially began. Election day is set for September 20, and it will be the third time in six years that Canadians have headed to the polls for a federal election.
With only 36 days total to campaign, candidates have been busy on the campaign trail.
In the Regina-Wascana riding (university area) there are four candidates: the incumbent, Conservative Michael Kram; Liberal Sean Eachern; NDP Erin Hidelbaugh, and the People’s Party candidate Mario Milanovski. The Green Party had yet to name a candidate at press time.
University of Regina Professor Howard Leeson spoke to the Carillon via phone call to talk about the upcoming election. Leeson specializes in Canadian politics, Canadian foreign policy, Canadian federalism, and the Constitution.
Leeson believes that heading into this election the Liberal Government was looking to capitalize on how they handled the pandemic and keeping the country afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said, “it seems, I’m sure, in the Prime Minister’s eyes that this was probably a time to see whether or not people in Canada would support them. So, I think that was the stage for it.”
Leeson explained that opposition parties like the NDP were ready for an election because they still have the same leader (Jagmeet Singh) from the previous election, whereas the Green Party – whose long-time leader Elizabeth May stepped down after the most recent election – has had a fair amount of turmoil, including one of their three MPs, Jennica Atwin, crossing the floor to the Liberals, and apparent internal divisions over the election of Annamie Paul as leader. The Conservatives also have a new leader, Erin O’Toole, who is going into his first election.
According to Leeson, students should be looking at a few different key issues when they show up to the voting booth this fall. The first of which, he said, “you want to make sure that there’s going to be access to institutions given COVID and everything else. So that would mean that the current outbreak, the fourth wave that we’re starting into, is managed properly, that the students are kept safe at universities with in-person classes where possible.” Leeson expanded on this by saying students want to look for a government that will support post-secondary institutions on a provincial level by giving them money or in other ways.
Another area which Leeson feels students need to pay attention to is which, if any, parties are offering some kind of relief on student debt. He added, “universities, as you know, have been existing more and more on foreign student tuition, very large tuition, which doesn’t seem to be possible now. So, there could be budget crunches for universities like the University of Regina. So, what would each of the federal parties look at in terms of specific help for students.”
Lastly, Leeson said students should look for a government that will provide a lot of opportunities for them once they graduate, especially coming out of a pandemic.
As far as who Leeson sees taking the lead this election, he believes polling data indicates it will be the Conservative Party. He concluded, “it looks to me as if the Liberals have more or less lost the lead that they had going in the general lead and the beneficiary of that loss has been largely the Conservative Party.”
Leeson continued to break down how the polling data points to a Conservative win by saying, “if you look at the regional polling data, you’ve got the Liberals, for example, used to have, at one point, a 30-point lead in Atlantic Canada and that has completely evaporated and they’re now tied. So, you’ve got 32 seats that used to be dominated by the Liberal Party.” Then, in Quebec the Bloc is beginning to wane and the beneficiary, according to Leeson, is the Conservative Party and not the NDP.
In Ontario, Leeson sees a similar trend, where the Liberals are polling significantly worse than before. He said, “In Ontario, the liberals used to have a 14 to 15 point advantage and that’s down to four and moving in the direction of the Conservative Party.”
Last federal election, Saskatchewan was dominated by the Conservatives. When asked about how the election will pan out in Saskatchewan, Leeson said, “I’m from a generation who remembers when it used to be quite a competitive system here even 20 or 25 years ago and it certainly has become a one-party dominant system now across the prairies, with Conservatives dominating.” He continued that there may be a few individual MPs from different parties elected, like Buckley Belanger, a former member of the Saskatchewan NDP who is running as a Liberal in the North.
Leeson sees a “conservativization” trend in Canada over a long period of time and thinks it will be a while before there is any kind of radical political movement. He sees the same trend with new immigrants in Canada, and stated, “I think many of the new immigrant groups that are coming in from outside tend to be socially conservative in one way or another. Some of them will be economically radical, but socially conservative.”
He feels this way because Canada has its problems, like pockets of poverty, but generally speaking has been a relatively wealthy country with good employment, and a large middle-class. Generally, countries like that tend to be more conservative, according to Leeson.
However, Leeson said, “if you look at, again, at some of the longer-term trends, we’ve got a concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, and a shrinking of the middle class, which might impact things. Children can’t expect to own a home like their parents did, or they are not getting full-time long-term employment the way their parents did.” He said the worsening outlook for young people “might radicalize some people in the future, but not right now.”
Overall, Leeson feels like this election will not be the most important one in our lifetime and it will be more of a regular cycle election. Either way, he thinks it will be interesting to see if there will be a new face in parliament and the changing of leaders in different parties.