Election 2015 – A marathon campaign comes down to a sprint for the finish

The past weekend saw families gather for Thanksgiving dinner, or to watch fall football and baseball games – and inevitably talk about the election. Shared views of family and friends have played a role in past elections—particularly assisting undecided voters to make up their minds and we expect that this will be no different this time around.

All policy is now released. Party operatives will be shifting their resources to the get-out-the-vote effort. Arguably the least visible aspect of campaigning, behind-the-scenes staff will be preparing to mobilize voters in key ridings. In the 2011 election, 22 ridings were decided by two percentage points or less—so a major push to deliver voters to the polls can be the difference between a win and a loss.

Many polls show a two way race emerging between the Liberal and Conservative parties, with the NDP starting to lag in national polls. However, regional polls tell a different story and show that NDP is still very competitive in key jurisdictions like British Columbia and Quebec. While the NDP campaign may have lost some momentum, it is too early to count them out as we know that popular support does not always translate into seats. What has largely been a three way race for most of the campaign is shaping up to be a photo finish on October 19th.

The Ballet box question is the economy – or is it?

With 12 countries on board and nearly 40 per cent of the world’s GDP, the signed TPP agreement was significant for a number of reasons beyond its international relations. At home, the agreement gave party leaders another point to further differentiate themselves from one another. It also addressed a key economic pillar on the government agenda with a fairly muted reaction from stated opponents (i.e. dairy farmers) who came on board after a manageable change and compensation program. But, by mid-week, Harper already shifted away from Monday’s landmark deal and returned to wedge issues that continue to be featured throughout the campaign. He floated the idea of a niqab ban for those in public service as a trial balloon—and the continued focus on the niqab has been unexpected for a campaign that was supposed to focus on the economy and foreign affairs.

Opposition parties, for the most part, have given the trade deal a fairly wide berth. Mulcair expressed his opposition, which returned him closer to his party’s roots—but, it might also have been responsible for levelling off the NDP numbers. Otherwise, he made announcements on arts and culture funding, universal drug coverage and defence policy.

Despite pressure from the media, Trudeau held fast on his ‘wait-and-see’ approach to the deal—instead he stuck to his party platform and trumpeting support for the middle class. The Liberals have also been stepping up their attacks on Mulcair, pointing out past statements on pipelines, trade and health care.

Big Science gets big recognition

There was an important announcement this past week that didn’t have anything to do with the campaign, but still caught everyone’s attention, including the leaders. The Canadian scientific community was delighted when Arthur McDonald, a professor emeritus at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., was announced as the co-winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics. Congratulations were issued from the parties, and for a moment in the campaign, politicians were reminded that some of the best research in the world is done right here in Canada by Canadian researchers. Dr. McDonald was inundated with media requests, and didn’t miss the chance to make the point that Canada needs a balanced approach to science and research and that Big Science plays an important role in creating innovation and needs to be properly supported. Let’s hope our leaders were listening!