With less than two months before Canadians go to the polls, there are some worrying signs for the federal NDP.
For example, as of Thursday afternoon, the NDP had a total of only 148 candidates in place, which represents fewer than half of the total ridings in the country — an ominous sign for an ostensibly national party. Meanwhile, recent polls have the NDP in a distant third place, well behind two main parties, and only slightly ahead of the somewhat surging Green Party.
This could all bode very well for the Liberals. As polls show the Liberals and Conservatives neck and neck, stealing four or five points from the NDP would go a long way. Certainly, the Liberal victory in the last election was due in large part to winning over progressive voters from the NDP.
WATCH (Aug. 29, 2019): Conservative government will not reopen bills on ‘divisive social issues’: Scheer
But of course, this isn’t 2015, when the Liberals could run on an aspirational sort of platform. There’s much for progressives to dislike about their broken promises and their record. The Liberals now have a record to defend.
There is, however, one 2015 message that can be repackaged for 2019: only the Liberals can stop the Conservatives.
If anyone was wondering why the Liberals made such a show of calling attention to Andrew Scheer’s 2005 speech in the House of Commons during the same-sex marriage debate, it’s all a part of this strategy of trying to win over reluctant progressive voters.
There’s nothing the Liberals can say — or nothing credible, anyway — that could justify why they walked away from electoral reform, an issue that was key in winning over many progressive voters. The Liberal spin about the SNC-Lavalin scandal is transparently weak to all but the most hardened Liberal partisans.
The message is very simple, not to mention very cynical: you can have us, warts and all, or you can have Andrew Scheer.
The fact that Scheer opposed same-sex marriage in 2005 was not exactly a major revelation, and the video reminder of that fact likely had very little impact on anyone already planning to vote either Liberal or Conservative. It wasn’t aimed at them, anyway.
If, ultimately, some Canadians are convinced that Scheer isn’t as enthusiastically supportive of same-sex marriage as they might like, then so be it.
WATCH Aug. 30, 2019: Liberals push Harper, abortion, same-sex marriage hot buttons
But it’s an absurd proposition to suggest that there’s any sort of “hidden agenda” here or that the 2005 same-sex marriage debate is relevant in 2019.
The Canadian public is now overwhelmingly supportive of same-sex marriage rights in a way that was certainly not the case 15 years ago. Perhaps many opponents or skeptics (which, let’s not forget, included many Liberals) needed to see first-hand that the sky wasn’t going to fall. Either way, opposition to same-sex marriage has eroded considerably.
Moreover, the Conservative Party of Canada has officially embraced support of marriage equality in its party platform. If there was any lingering doubt, Andrew Scheer this week made it clear that he supports Canada’s marriage law and that he would defend those rights.
Even if one were to argue that this is “reluctant” support on Scheer’s part (as Trudeau has), what difference does it make? Scheer has vowed to support a position that his party supports and that the vast majority of Canadians support. If this troubles Scheer or keeps him up at night, why should the rest of us care?
It’s not unlike cannabis legalization, something that Scheer — much more recently — vocally opposed. Scheer has made it clear, though, that the Conservatives will not undo legalization. It’s very clearly reluctant support, but the Liberals are not trotting out old videos or claiming that legalization is in jeopardy. We should judge governments on what they do, not on our speculation of what lies deep in their heart of hearts.
WATCH (Aug. 29, 2019): Tories lead, NDP trails in election candidate count
The fact is, it would be political suicide for the Conservatives to revisit same-sex marriage (or abortion, for that matter). Any social conservatives hoping otherwise are going to be, yet again, sorely disappointed.
The Conservatives certainly have policies that they intend on implementing and Liberal policies they intend on undoing. Canadians can assess those and vote accordingly.
But same-sex marriage is a settled issue. Canadians support it and we’ve moved on — those who haven’t are free to stew in their own resentment. There’s no reason at all, though, why it should be an election issue in 2019. Hopefully, even progressive voters will be able to see through the Liberal’s cynical tactics.