All areas where the Liberals are particularly weak at the moment. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick
The face-to-face showdown between Justin Trudeau and Pierre Poilievre is set to resume in just over a month’s time, and Canadians have spent the summer getting a preview of the issues that will top the agenda.
These past few weeks have felt more like a pre-election period than the routine barbecue circuit we are accustomed to during the sunny summer season. Between a cabinet shuffle, campaign style ads, rallies and a constant drip of news relating to the Canadian economy, there has been no shortage of headlines generated by both party leaders.
Poilievre’s meteoric rise in the polls means that the Liberals would be crazy to call an election in the current climate, and the earliest Canadians could foreseeably head to the polls would be next spring after the federal budget is tabled. But the more likely scenario – due to the Liberal-NDP supply and confidence agreement – is Trudeau running out the clock on his government in hopes of a more forgiving economic climate.
With these factors at play, what should Canadians expect as politicians head back to Ottawa and gear up for a busy fall session of parliament?
Housing, housing, housing. It’s the topic du jour, and Conservatives have found themselves a winning issue as Canadians find themselves not only shut out of home ownership, but increasingly unable to find affordable rental options. Poilievre has been quick to put forward policy ideas, including requiring high-density builds near transit stops and linking future infrastructure dollars to the ability of cities to get homes built. The goal here is to strong arm municipalities who often get tied up in NIMBY debates to get moving, and cut through the red tape that is at the heart of building delays.
Trudeau meanwhile will continue to tout his government’s tax free savings account introduced in the last budget. It will likely fall on deaf ears given this week’s report from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. that shows housing starts fell 10 per cent in July, compared to the month before. Bottom line: whether Trudeau thinks housing is a federal priority or not, homes aren’t getting built and voters are looking for somewhere to park their anger.
Immigration is another issue that has been slowly simmering over the summer, and threatens to boil over come the fall. The Trudeau government has been arguing that record numbers of newcomers are needed to keep Canada’s economy running, but questions are starting to be raised about whether there is a sufficient supply of housing, or the social services needed to match the growth in our population. So far, the Conservatives have been tight-lipped on whether they would stick to the current immigration targets if they were elected, but this is a debate that will likely start to take shape in the coming weeks.
Foreign interference in Canada’s electoral system remains a problem for Trudeau. With news this week that his Minister of Environment is headed to Beijing in a bid to force international cooperation on climate change, the Trudeau government still has not launched a public inquiry or found someone willing to head up the process after the David Johnston debacle. An interim report on the matter was meant to be turned over to the government in October, and with this deadline fast approaching, it’s difficult to see how the government actually gets concrete solutions on the table ahead of the next federal election. Given the high stakes, expect the opposition to continue to fight on the matter.
They say there is never a dull moment in politics, and Canadians can expect fireworks as the Conservatives grow restless to head to the polls, and Trudeau searches for the magic answer to his problems. As the two leaders contend for the hearts and minds of the voting public, there will be no shortage of theatrics.
Josie Sabatino is a Senior Consultant at Summa Strategies, focused on providing strategic insight and helping clients meet their objectives in an ever changing and complex political and regulatory environment. Prior to joining Summa, Josie spent nearly a decade in political communications and most recently served as the Director of Communications to the Hon. Erin O’Toole, former Leader of the Official Opposition.