[00:00:00] Jordan Heath-Rawlings: It’s officially summer COVID case counts, and most of the country are in steep decline. Things are relaxing finally. So naturally it’s time to start getting ready for an election.
News Clip: Canadians have come to expect the same thing from this liberal government, constant scandals and ethical breaches. And that liberal insiders will always get the inside track.
News Clip 2: So where are the liberals? No. Where recycling old announcements and expecting First Nations to investigate genocide themselves.
News Clip 3: There they go again. Mr. Speaker personal attacks on well-respected individuals. They keep doing that. Why? Because they want to hide their failure.
News Clip 4: But remember opposite, want to play politics. We are taking this virus seriously and we have put in place a cautious approach-
News Clip 5: if they don’t want to help, they should get out of the way. And this will let us help. Canadians.
[00:01:00] Jordan Heath-Rawlings: There were a few times during the course of this pandemic, when it appeared that the liberal minority government might fall. But with a pandemic, raging and lockdowns in place across much of Canada cooler heads prevailed.
But now with the country closing in on 80% of eligible adults with at least one shot and two dose summers on the table from coast to coast. Now Ottawa seems poised to send Canadians to the polls in the next few months. So when is this likely to happen? Why, how will the next federal election be fought? Where do the parties stand after 16 months of a pandemic? And I don’t know if I am speaking for you or just for myself, but do I have to, can we just have a few nice months first, please?
[00:02:00] I’m Jordan Heath-Rawlings. This is The Big Story. Cormac Mac Sweeney is a man who may get a brief vacation, uh, in the coming while, but is probably going to be back on the election beat. He’s our guy on parliament hill. He also works with CityNews and Rogers Radio. Hey Cormac.
Cormac Mac Sweeney: Hey, how’s it going?
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: It’s going okay though. I have to say I am less than enthused, about being sent directly to the polls after a pandemic.
Cormac Mac Sweeney: At least you’ll have a haircut for the moment.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: True enough. Um, so let’s start with this then. How likely is it as, as parliament wraps up its sitting, how likely is it that we get an election call soon?
Cormac Mac Sweeney: So nothing is 100% in politics. It’s not official until it’s official. But with that being said, I think Canadians should be preparing themselves for not only a two dose summer, but a two dose election campaign possibly late in the summer, early in the [00:03:00] fall, because. Basically right now, all the signs are pointing to an election on the horizon. I guess the question is exactly when we get that election.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: What are the signs? You’ve been doing this for a while, what do you look for when trying to figure out what’s coming?
Cormac Mac Sweeney: Well, I mean, there are plenty of signs. I mean, one thing to look at are, um, there were some key pieces of legislation that the government made it clear that it needed to wrap up before the spring sitting of parliament. One of those bills, the budget bill is pretty obvious that it did need to before the end of the sitting, but the others didn’t have to necessarily definitely get passed before the end of this sitting. But it seems like they just wanted to get that passed before a possible election.
Uh, there was also a lot. Talk earlier in the year about a possible June election. And all of that talk at the time was around the vaccination rates. Then all of a sudden we had a bunch of delivery disruptions. There were concerns around the AstraZeneca shot in the Johnson and Johnson and shot. And so those deliveries [00:04:00] didn’t quite live up to the expectations. Meaning a Trudeau spring never really happened. Um, so. If it is tied to vaccinations, then look at this summer, most Canadians should be fully vaccinated by August. And if that’s the case, then maybe we could potentially expect something to come around then.
Um, election prep is underway by the parties everyone’s fundraising. Right now, the conservatives have actually purchased a room at the Westin hotel in Ottawa, and they’ve been running some news conferences out of this room. Um, and it’s not tied to parliament hill. So it’s tied to the party, not the caucus. And that’s likely in, in anticipation of a potential low travel style campaign.
Um, all parties taking very clear, stands on some hot button issues. Uh, the conservatives have used that hotel in, in that hotel room and news conferences there to even release. Platform [00:05:00] positions like they’ve announced their environmental plan and some key pillars of what will likely be an election campaign and the prime minister as well, appointing senators just this week to fill some Senate vacancies. And some of the choices are quite interesting. Uh, you know, appointing the first black woman to serve as mayor in Ontario. Uh, the mayor of Cornwall to, uh, Bernadette Clementa to, to, to serve in the Senate, but as well, Uh, a major labor leader, uh, Hassan Yousef, who’s been with the Canadian labor Congress, uh, for the last seven years. He’s been leading that, uh, which is obviously a, uh, a little bit of a hint towards a New Democrat supporters.
But the biggest sign for me, uh, is that in the house of commons last week, they set aside an evening to give MPs, not seeking reelection, a chance to give farewell speeches in the house of commons. The big question is why would you do that if you weren’t going to be heading to an election before the fall sitting of Parliament?
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: That makes sense. And [00:06:00] that’s a lot of reasons. That’s a pretty lengthy list. Um, why don’t we start with one of the first things you mentioned, which is that the liberals have been passing some bills before the ending of the sitting. Are those bills, maybe just sketch out a couple of them that kind of illustrate what they’re trying to do here and how they’re trying to use this last sitting as prep for an election campaign.
Cormac Mac Sweeney: Well, uh, you know, they made it pretty clear. They had four bills they had to pass before the spring sitting was over. One, as I said before is pretty obvious the budget bill right now in that budget bill, there is an extension to emergency benefits that otherwise would expire at the end of June. And if they wanted to extend those in until, um, I think it’s mid to late September, late September, the other bills that they wanted to pass a net zero emissions by 2050, that’s a goal for, for the liberal government as a part of their environmental plan. Uh, they wanted to [00:07:00] set that in law to try to bind a future government to that goal of net zero emissions.
There was also a ban, uh, a bill to ban conversion therapy. And for those who might not be familiar, conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change another person’s sexuality and, and its targets people in the LGBTQ community. Uh, to try and turn them straight. It’s a practice that has been widely denounced. Um, but you know, there, there was a vote on this because the liberal government had brought in a bill to essentially ban it. It’s not a complete ban, but it would essentially ban it because, uh, you wouldn’t be allowed to do it to anybody who is. Under the age of 18, uh, you wouldn’t be able to profit from it. You wouldn’t be able to advertise those services. Basically it boils down to have two consenting adults want to have a conversation. They can have that conversation, but, uh, nobody can profit. Nobody can really try and sell this as a service.
Um, and then also there were changes to the broadcast [00:08:00] act, uh, that would allow for more regulation over tech giants, like YouTube and Netflix. It was a controversial bill because the conservatives tried to claim that, uh, or there were attempts to try and. Uh, regulate regular YouTube or, uh, you know, other social media users. Uh, the government said that that wasn’t what they were aiming for. They were trying to go after the tech giants, not the individual users, so controversial bill, but those, uh, have all now passed. And, uh, the government, uh, has gotten their key legislation passed before a potential.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Who wants this election? Is this all the parties that are ready to go to the polls? Is this the parties who aren’t in power? Uh, or is this the liberals who are hoping to grab a majority this time?
Cormac Mac Sweeney: Well, let’s look at, uh, let’s look at the success rate of income and governments who have held elections through this pandemic. Several provinces have actually seen pandemic elections. Everyone has favoured the incumbent government. So if you’re a liberal looking at this, you say, why wouldn’t I want to go to an [00:09:00] election when we see the record of governments that have tested this out, it has been pretty successful. Also at the moment, uh, you know, the polling has shown that the liberals are in fairly good position. They, they have, I think it’s something like five or six points ahead of the conservatives, uh, nationwide. There’s a bit of a bump up for the NDP, but that’s mainly seems to be regional around the Prairies. And there are some polls that have been showing the Canadians are a little bit more open to the possibility of an election.
I think one recently from Nanos research, uh, that appeared in the Globe and Mail said that it was something around 44, 45% of Canadians are open to an election a little bit later when Canadians are fully vaccinated. And every political party, the prime minister of the opposition leaders, they all say they don’t want an election right now, but the prep is-
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Don’t they always say that?
Cormac Mac Sweeney: They do always say that they’re, their arms are always tied. There were strong armed into an election that that often happens unless. You know, an election that comes because of the [00:10:00] set election date, uh, that, uh, most governments try to look at it now, but, uh, nonetheless they all say they don’t want an election. And yet we’re seeing a lot of political leaders and a lot of Canadians close to half of Canadians who are saying that they’re more open to it now, uh, than they were much earlier in this pandemic.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: So if you’re the opposition or the NDP and the liberals have a lead in the polls, uh, to your point, the precedent has been set for pandemic elections, tending to favour the incumbents. Do we know what they’re planning to run on in terms of criticizing the liberals. I mean, I think if I had asked you this question five months ago, the, the delayed vaccine roll out would have been a huge failure. And now by the time we’re getting to an election, as you say, most of the country will be double vaxxed and that’s less of an issue. So w what is the, where is this government vulnerable, I guess is a better [00:11:00] question.
Cormac Mac Sweeney: I think the government’s record in this pandemic will be an issue. There’s no escaping that the conservatives have criticized the liberals for not getting vaccines into Canada as soon as possible. And, and they think that, uh, you know, we should have gotten more shots into people’s arms earlier to avoid a third wave. They’ve been quite critical of, of the liberals on this. Uh, whether that, you know, is still the right position to take, if let’s say there’s an election campaign late in the, in August into September, let’s say, will Canadians still be feeling like that would gain a lot of traction? I mean, there will be a lot of internal polling with the parties to see what those issues may be.
But I think there will be criticisms of what the government did and, and the government will have to answer to, um, you know, any blips that they had during their pandemic response. Uh, the conservatives as well will be trying to frame this election around the economic recovery and framing themselves as the proper stewards of the purse strings, uh, [00:12:00] moving forward. Uh, we heard that in, uh, in the final caucus speech from conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, um, he framed this and, and gave us a bit of an idea of what his. Plan will be sort of, you know, raising these trial balloons to see what’s going to stick in terms of the messaging.
But he started saying that, you know, there are two choices for Canadians. There’s the conservatives or the coalition of the liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois and Greens. And he says, all those other parties just want to spend other people’s money, like crazy. We’re going to be responsible. We’re the party that’s going to help businesses recover, uh, following the pandemic and try and stave off worse inflation in our country, so that that’s going to be a big line from the conservatives. And it’s always been one from the conservatives as far back as I can remember.
Um, but, uh, you know, the, the pandemic response has also raised a lot of issues that will become a big point of debate moving forward. Uh, the NDP has pushed really hard to try and [00:13:00] get some sort of permanent paid sick leave program, which of course the pandemic exposed a lot of problems. Provinces, who are responsible for paid sick leave, didn’t have programs in place. And it left a lot of people who were working, uh, you know, let’s say part-time or in jobs where they just did not have access to paid sick, leave that left a lot of people stuck as a result. And so as much as there is. Provincial responsibility here that the NDP says there should be federal responsibility and there should be some sort of national paid sick leave program that is permanent and in place. So they’ll be pushing for something like that.
Also childcare is going to be a huge issue.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Right.
Cormac Mac Sweeney: Uh, it was in the budget. The federal government has promised it, the Trudeau liberals say they want to bring in this massive childcare program to significantly reduce the costs for parents. And if this pandemic has shown parents anything it’s that if they don’t have childcare, the whole household is going insane.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Yes.
Cormac Mac Sweeney: I think, you know, myself, [00:14:00] yourself, uh, most parents have, have dealt with a lot of issues, uh, being stuck at home with their kids, trying to juggle work. Uh, and childcare all in one. And so the liberals are pushing for that. The NDP has been pushing for a childcare program for a long time. Uh, so that’s going to be a battle on that side that the conservatives will be taking a different approach. They think that, uh, there should be more choice for parents and, and it shouldn’t be a top down approach from the federal government when it comes to childcare and where people send their kids and how much they spend and all of that should be a choice for parents. So, so they’re taking a very different approach on this. That will be a divisive topic in some ways, uh, that will definitely be raised.
But there are plenty of other issues moving forward, gun violence, uh, hate speech and racism, uh, Indigenous reconciliation. These are all huge topics that have been in the news as well, recently that I think will definitely play on the campaign trail, especially as Canadians start to feel a little bit better, uh, after they’ve been vaccinated and their summers are a little bit [00:15:00] back to normal.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: The last time we went down this road, I think we had the same conversation with you back in 2019, when the liberals sent Canadians to the polls, there were questions about how Justin Trudeau in particular would deal with scandals, whether those were procedural scandals, like SNC-Lavalin, or, uh, the emerging black face photos that soon showed up. And the question was kind of always. How much of Canadian’s opinion will be decided by the actual policies the liberals put in place and how much will be controlled by attacks over scandals. And I know there’s at least one new scandal out there, uh, since then, just in terms of sexual assault in the Canadian armed forces. I guess the question I always have with this is how much will this matter compared to how much it’s going to be talked about?
Cormac Mac Sweeney: Well, I think you can definitely expect a lot of talk about the military misconduct issue, uh, that [00:16:00] the liberal government is going to have to answer to a lot of questions, both from Canadians, as well as, uh, you know, their political opponents as to why things got to the point where they’re at now, where, you know, after years and years and years of a spotlight on military misconduct, even things that were raised before the Trudeau government even took power. This, this, you know, goes back to the Harper government and even decades before that in the nineties, um, when, uh, there were. Big spotlights put on by publications, like Maclean’s which in the nineties had a big exposé about sexual misconduct in the military, there were promises then that things would be done that they never got done.
Then, you know, uh, in, during the Harper years, Maclean’s did another issue talking about that and, uh, and still. You know, there, there are definitely criticisms that during the Harper era, not enough was done. And that recommendations to deal with this, to create an independent oversight body, to deal with these types of complaints. Uh, there was no action and the [00:17:00] same, the same criticism is being given to the Trudeau government where they’re not acting on this. So that’s, that’s going to be a big issue for sure.
Um, but there will be other issues. Uh, you know, the conservatives have, have talked about the WE scandal quite a bit and the government will face that on the campaign trail. Uh, they’ve tried to tie the WE scandal to, uh, the Trudeau government giving contracts to buddies, to the liberal party of the liberals argue, you know, the conservatives do the same thing with, uh, some previous members of their party who are running firms and MPs, uh, offices spending money on them. So there’s a back and forth there, but nonetheless. Um, I, I think you’re, you can expect a lot of this talk.
Whether it matters a lot to Canadians or not a lot of the things exposed by the pandemic will probably, uh, take, take a big spotlight out of this because they’re the things that matter to people’s day-to-day lives. So, um, I, I think what the, the opposition is trying to do by raising all of this is building distrust in the government. And so whether or not it is [00:18:00] the issue that a voter goes to the polls, Uh, and decides their vote on, uh, is not the reason why some of the opposition parties might be doing this by raising these issues there. They’re trying to build this distrust, make you second guess whether you would support the government or not, and then try and beat them on the more, um, I guess, positive, uh, uh, Uh, platform issues, uh, such as what the, you know, what the economic recovery is going to look like, how healthcare is going to be transformed, whether or not we have dental care childcare, these issues.
So we’ll see how it all plays out. Um, but the ultimate poll as to whether these issues matter or not as the one on election day and look. The last election we saw, uh, the prime minister of our country go through a black face scandal, and yet still came out as the prime minister of our country. So it’s, it’s going to be interesting to see how these play out and how the opposition parties use the last election campaign as an example, and then try and [00:19:00] shift their messaging and their tactics, uh, based on what they’ve seen.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings:: Yeah. And to be clear, I don’t think either of us are saying that these aren’t big issues, just that. They tend to be raised by the opposition. And, uh, unfortunately maybe depending on how you see it, tend not to get the focus from the average voter. So the last thing that I want to ask you is I’m not going to ask you to predict the election or anything like that. But what do you think it’ll look like? Like how it will it actually happen? You know, should we expect lower voter turnout? Should we expect changes to the way we vote and vote by mail? Has that been discussed? Like what will actually happen when the election is called?
Cormac Mac Sweeney: Yeah, so, uh, elections, there was an election bill that was put forward that never ended up passing. It got delayed and, uh, it was trying to sort of, uh, give Elections Canada more options for running, uh, an election through a pandemic, giving them more options when it comes to mail-in ballots, things like that. [00:20:00] Uh, we’re not at the point of online voting or anything like that, but nonetheless, uh, there were going to be more options, more safety protocols, uh, different setups, uh, but, uh, Elections Canada has said it is fully prepared without that law being passed, it is fully prepared to run a safe election through a pandemic. If it actually happens.
Now, what the process is moving forward on this. Um, you know, first we, we only have an interim governor general right now, the chief justice of the Supreme court. So. I think we can expect the federal government to appoint a new governor general after Julie Payette, uh, left amid the, uh, workplace harassment, uh, controversy.
But one of the key factors for me in terms of looking at when we see this election call is going to be the vaccination rate. Uh, we’re not going to see. Liberals rushed to the polls at a time when, you know, maybe only 40% or 50% of Canadians have been, uh, double [00:21:00] vaccinated. Uh, we still have to wait to see whether the US border reopens, whether we see international borders reopened. Um, you know, I can definitely see, see a scenario where in late August, when most of the country is, is fully vaccinated, um, and people are feeling good that we could see a potential election call. And then, uh, you know, people don’t pay as much attention to the start of the campaign because they’re just enjoying their summers.
And then, and then, uh, you know, look at the fall, kids are back in school, people are heading back to work. Life is returning to normal. People might be feeling good again. Uh, you know, I wouldn’t be surprised if the liberals try to strike when people are feeling really optimistic. And for the first half of the campaign, maybe not really paying attention to what the opposition leaders are going to say. That’s going to be a big challenge as well for the opposition leaders, trying to get some oxygen through this election campaign. If it is over the summer, when a lot of people are just not going to be paying attention to the news, because they want to try and enjoy the summer they, [00:22:00] they missed out on last year.
So, um, Just to wrap this all up. It’s not clear when it’s going to be called. It’s not clear how this election will look in terms of how, uh, elections Canada will handle all of this. But I can say that all signs right now are pointing to the fact that Canadians should be preparing themselves for an election in the months ahead.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Thanks, Cormac. I hope you get some vacation before you’re back on the trail.
Cormac Mac Sweeney: I’ll try.
Jordan Heath-Rawlings: Cormac Mac Sweeney, CityNews, Rogers Radio, and for us on parliament hill. That was The Big Story, for more head to thebigstorypodcast.ca, you can type in Cormac in the search bar at the bottom if you want the rest of his episodes. You can also find us on Twitter at @TheBigStoryFPN, you can find Cormac on Twitter too, it’s @CMacOnTheHill. And of course we are in all your podcast players in Apple, in Google, in Stitcher, in Spotify, [00:23:00] and like it or not, yes, we will cover the heck out of the of the next federal election.
Thanks for listening. I’m Jordan Heath-Rawlings, we’ll talk tomorrow.
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