Trudeau requested the dissolution of parliament Wednesday in a meeting with Governor General Julie Payette, Queen Elizabeth II’s representative in Canada, marking the formal start of campaigning.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began the Canadian election campaign on Wednesday, with opinion polls showing his Liberal group locked in tight competition with the opposition Conservative Party ahead of the October 21 election.
Trudeau requested the dissolution of parliament Wednesday in a meeting with Governor General Julie Payette, representative of Queen Elizabeth II in Canada, marking the start of a formal campaign.
None of the two main parties currently voting high enough – both are 30% north – to win a majority of 338 seats up for grabs, which means the next Parliament can be more fragmented than it is today. Liberals entered the election with 177 seats, compared with 95 for the Conservatives. The majority needs a victory of at least 170 seats.
The results will determine whether Trudeau, 47, can strengthen one of the country’s most left-leaning agendas in at least one generation – progressive on social issues, willing to run a deficit to address income inequalities, firmly on climate change and truly internationalist and the era of populism. This is a record that encouraged former US Vice President A. Joe Biden to praise Trudeau as one of the last bearers of the standard of liberalism.
“Are we going to return to policies that failed in the past, or will we continue to move forward? That’s the choice. Obviously, and that’s important, “Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.
But despite Trudeau’s focus on income distribution, the country has struggled to create wealth during his tenure. Labor productivity and the acquisition of real wages continue to hover around weak historical levels, making the economy increasingly dependent on immigration to produce growth.
In the eyes of the business community, Trudeau has not yet paid serious attention to fixing the long-standing challenges of Canadian competitiveness. However, polls show the slope of his left-wing is popular and Trudeau has forged comfortable leadership over Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, 40, on important questions about economic management, giving him a critical advantage in his bid to be re-elected.
“Trudeau has no regrets about shifting what has traditionally been a Canadian centric party to the left,” said Andre Albinati, principal at the Earnscliffe Strategy Group and former adviser to Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin.
Although polls show the two main parties are neck and neck, the campaign is important. The 2015 race that brought Liberals to power also began tightly, with observers speculating the most likely outcome was a minority government, before Trudeau advanced.
While the main differences exist between Canada’s two main political parties, they are largely in line with major macroeconomic policies, and default when the chip goes down to “first economic” pragmatism.
That said, one problem where there are real differences is about how to develop the country’s vast oil reserves. The Conservative Party described itself as a champion in the oil sector and promised to remove the more stringent environmental regulations brought by Trudeau.
Meanwhile, Liberals are trying to bargain on a large scale for resources – becoming more pro-environment and supporting indigenous peoples’ concerns to win “social licenses” for development. That approach has found little success so far.
A Liberal minority government supported by other left-leaning parties is a worrying prospect for many business leaders because it will be hostile to the country’s energy sector.
This election should be a cakewalk for Trudeau. Canadians almost never remove a majority government from power after just one period. Scheer is largely unknown, in stark contrast to the prime minister’s celebrity. And on some key economic metrics – especially employment – the economy has been going very well.
But Trudeau’s popularity has declined over the past two years, and since February, his party has lost its lead in the polls. His diminishing wealth reflects missteps on the world stage – including an embarrassing state visit to India – and a domestic scandal involving SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., a construction company headquartered in his hometown in Montreal.
The SNC controversy has become the biggest thorn in Trudeau’s side. He and his staff were accused of pressuring the former attorney general to order prosecutors to settle corruption cases that began with the work of engineering firms in Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi. Trudeau said he had done nothing wrong and was just trying to protect his job, but the scandal caused him to lose two well-known cabinet ministers – both women.
The Canadian ethics commissioner decided last month that Trudeau violated the conflict of interest law by interfering in the case. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, meanwhile, have been looking for possible obstacles to justice in this matter, although their efforts have been hampered by the government’s refusal to lift cabinet secrecy for witnesses, the Globe and Mail reported Wednesday.
The story has reignited criticism of the Liberal Party, which is too comfortable with big business, and this case has taken its toll on Trudeau’s progressive credentials. That is the main obstacle for someone whose key to success is whether he can rally left-leaning voters, as he did in 2015.
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