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Canada: FIRST READING: The Conservatives’ enthusiastic abandonment of conservatism

Liberal climate plan likely least costly, most effective, says economist assessing main parties' proposals

  Liberal climate plan likely least costly, most effective, says economist assessing main parties' proposals Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says it can be frustrating for him to say that processes are being followed when dealing with sexual harassment claims in Canada's institutions.

Throughout Election 44 we are publishing this special daily edition of First Reading, our politics newsletter, to keep you posted on the ins and outs (and way outs) of the campaign. To get an early version sent direct to your inbox every weekday at 6 p.m. ET, sign up here.

Justin Trudeau et al. that are talking to each other: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left to right, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole take part in the federal election English-language Leaders debate in Gatineau, Que., on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. © Provided by National Post Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left to right, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole take part in the federal election English-language Leaders debate in Gatineau, Que., on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.

DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS

Last night was the only English-language debate of Election 44. Find the National Post’s full recap here. What follows are First Reading’s highlights from the Wednesday French-language debate (or “debat des chefs,” as they call it).

Conservative lead growing slightly as Liberal, NDP election campaigns hit wall: poll

  Conservative lead growing slightly as Liberal, NDP election campaigns hit wall: poll Katie Price's fiancé Carl Woods has taken to Instagram to refute any allegations that he was responsible for assaulting the former glamour model, saying "I have never and never would do anything to hurt Katie".

I’m sorry Mr. Trudeau, but this is an undesired election ,” was how moderator Patrice Roy opened the debate .

While Trudeau’s use of English is defined by its halting pace and frequent use of “uh,” he often comes off as much more expressive in French. This was particularly notable when he yelled at Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet  that he was a “ proud Quebecer, has always been a Quebecer and will always be a Quebecer .”

Everyone accused everyone else of using magic . Journalist Hélène Buzetti accused the Tory leader of trying to employ “ O’Toole magic ” in promising to balance the budget in 10 years despite dramatically raising spending. She also accused NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh of economic magic in his plan to adequately raise government revenues by taxing the rich. (Trudeau also said that all the other leaders are leaning on “magic thinking” in their climate plans).

The West Block — Episode 44, Season 10

  The West Block — Episode 44, Season 10 Watch the full episode of The West Block with host Mercedes Stephenson – Sept. 12, 2021.Episode 44, Season 10

Since this election will almost certainly end in a hung parliament, Blanchet provided his price to prop up a minority government : A significant increase in health transfers to Quebec.

Despite initially being denied accreditation to the leaders’ debates, Rebel Media was allowed in at the 11 th hour thanks to a federal court ruling. In a Q and A session with Trudeau, a Rebel reporter asked him why he had denied their accreditation as journalists (despite the fact that the rejection was made by an independent debate commission that had nothing to do with Trudeau). Trudeau’s response, which has since been viewed on social media more than a million times, was to essentially call them jerks .

a screen shot of Justin Trudeau in a suit and tie:  Automated translators may not always be able to fully grasp the nuances of Canadian politics. In this image, a Redditor captured Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau apparently expressing his fear of Quebecers due to their “totally Tiki Beach.” Automated translators may not always be able to fully grasp the nuances of Canadian politics. In this image, a Redditor captured Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau apparently expressing his fear of Quebecers due to their “totally Tiki Beach.”

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Quebec Premier François Legault openly endorsed a Conservative government on Thursday , albeit a minority one. Legault’s basic pitch was that the Liberals, NDP and Green Party are all meddlesome actors who would be “dangerous” to Quebec autonomy. Needless to say, it’s very, very rare when a Quebec premier endorses the Conservative Party. The closest we’ve come in recent history was 1988, when it was rumoured that Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa favoured Brian Mulroney over his fellow Liberal John Turner.

Canada election: Tight race expected for South Okanagan-West Kootenay

  Canada election: Tight race expected for South Okanagan-West Kootenay Political observers say the projected tight race between the NDP and the Conservatives will be one of the most interesting to watch in British Columbia. The candidates NDP incumbent Richard Cannings narrowly defeated the Conservative challenger, Helena Konanz, by less than 800 votes in 2019. Cannings, a longtime Penticton resident and renowned biologist, is seeking a third term, having first been elected in 2015. He said he enjoys being the "voice of science" in Parliament and isn't ready to step away from federal politics. "That’s why I am running again.

It’s been said that the Conservative election strategy in 2021 has been to enthusiastically abandon any pretence towards fiscal responsibility. A new projection by the Parliamentary Budget Officer lays out just how true this is . If elected, a Conservative government would rack up a deficit of $168 billion in its first year . For context, the highest deficit ever incurred by Stephen Harper topped out at only $55.6 billion – and that was during the worst year of the Great Recession. It’s also noticeably higher than the $157 billion deficit that the Liberals intend to rack up in their first year.

The National Post has assembled an extremely readable guide to the major parties’ promises on key issues such as housing, taxes and vaccine mandates . Or, you could decide who to vote for by looking at who has the most lawn signs and Facebook ads. Whichever.

This week, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh trumpeted his party’s promise to usher in a $20 minimum wage for federally regulated workers . Awkwardly, this announcement was disseminated in large part by NDP campaign workers who are definitely not making $20/hour . An entry-level job with the party will only get you $18.08 .

Too close to call: Quebec ridings to watch on election night

  Too close to call: Quebec ridings to watch on election night Until late last week, polls were indicating the federal election results in this campaign in Quebec would look very similar to the last, in which the Liberals won 35 seats, the Bloc Québécois 32, the Conservatives 10 and the NDP just one. But then Premier François Legault suggested a Conservative minority led by Erin O’Toole would be the best outcome for Quebec . And then the English leaders’ debate stirred controversy, with questions directed at Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet asking why he supports “discriminatory” Quebec laws like Bills 21 and 96, fanning the flames of outrage among many . Suddenly, the outlook for Quebec became much less clear.

Every time the Americans have a general election, it always seems to descend into an anarchic mess of recounts, late results and malfunctioning voting machines. Anyways, here’s Elections Canada explaining why they still use hand-counted paper ballots .

ELECTION INSIGHTS

For the rest of Election 44, the National Post will be sharing insights from Polly, an artificial intelligence engine developed at the University of Ottawa that was the only pollster to correctly predict the results of the 2019 election.

It’s kind of gotten overshadowed by Election 44’s mass-exodus of Liberal voters going to the Conservatives, but the NDP are actually having one of their best campaigns ever . Only three times in the party’s 60-year history have they secured more than 40 seats – and Polly is projecting that the fourth time is likely to arrive on Sept. 20 . This would be a coup for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, whose performance in the last election was to oversee a near-50 per cent collapse in his party’s share of the House of Commons.

chart, line chart:  Polly’s modelling of voter intentions broken down by expected seat counts. The NDP has stayed steady while the Liberals and Conservatives have been feverishly jousting for supremacy. Polly’s modelling of voter intentions broken down by expected seat counts. The NDP has stayed steady while the Liberals and Conservatives have been feverishly jousting for supremacy.

LET’S POLL …

Justin Trudeau is the weakest and most out-of-touch party leader , according to a new Leger poll . What’s more, when respondents were asked what had surprised them most about Election 44, 30 per cent said it was seeing how Trudeau “seems out of touch with the concerns of ordinary Canadians.” The poll is great news for Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who entered Election 44 as a virtual unknown ranking at the bottom of likability polls. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, has consistently polled as the most-liked and trusted candidate for prime minister – even as four fifths of the country repeatedly pledge to avoid voting for his party.

Conrad Black: There is only one rational choice in this election

  Conrad Black: There is only one rational choice in this election As Canada drags itself to the end of one of the most boring and superfluous federal election campaigns in its history, it is time to evaluate the merits of the different parties. The Greens are so extreme in their proposed remedies to imprecise environmental problems that a vote for that party is not rational. The Bloc Québécois is a Quebec separatist party and the independence of Quebec is an arguable political option for that province, but as the separatists would be the first to tell us, it is an issue to be decided by voters in a Quebec election and not a federal one. The raison d’être of this party is to be disruptive and well-publicized.

SOLID TAKES

Thursday night’s English-language federal leaders’ debate explicitly pledged to avoid any questions on foreign policy . This meant no questions about the debacle in Afghanistan, and no questions about Canadian citizens being held as hostages in Chinese jails. Sabrina Maddeaux says this was great news for the Liberals , for whom international issues have not been a strong file.

Sophie Gregoire, Justin Trudeau wearing costumes:  Pic unrelated. © REUTERS/Adnan Abidi Pic unrelated.

Whoever wins, Canada has already set upon a course of spending way beyond its means , notes Kelly McParland. That’s nothing new for the Liberals, but McParland does note that it’s not tremendously conservative when Team Blue has the most high-spending platform of anybody.

John Ivison notes that the NDP seems to be doing a very good job of avoiding the exodus of support that usually hits them in the closing days of an election campaign . In any number of prior federal elections, the NDP racked up massive support midway through a campaign, only to see it dissolve as those voters went to the Liberals in order to stave off a feared Conservative victory. This time around, the exodus is tempered by the fact that plenty of lefties really, really don’t like the Liberals.

Despite having the exact same platform as last election, the People’s Party of Canada is set to blow past the vote share of the Bloc Québécois, and it’s currently polling higher than anything ever achieved in the history of the Green Party of Canada . Writing for The Line , Matt Gurney surmises that a lot of this is due to anger at COVID-19 mandates – and advises mainstream politicians and public health advocates to take notice.

Get all of these insights and more into your inbox every weekday at 6 p.m. ET by signing up for the First Reading newsletter here.

From now until the bitter end of Election 44, the National Post is publishing a special daily edition of First Reading, our politics newsletter, to keep you posted on the ins and outs (and way outs) of the campaign. All curated by the National Post’s own Tristin Hopper and published Monday to Friday at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m. Sign up here.

The campaign that was, and the campaign that could have been .
In a note last week for investors and clients, ScotiaBank described this federal election as a "vote about everything and nothing." That is not an unfair summation. Though initially framed in stark terms by Justin Trudeau himself, the campaign was not seized with Socratic or fierce debates about the lessons of the last year and a half or the challenges of the untold future — even if all those things are implicitly on the ballot.

See also