With the federal election set for Oct. 21, the pressure is on for the main parties to distinguish themselves to voters.
Throughout the federal campaign, The West Block‘s strategy panel will be weighing in on the inner workings behind the scenes of the campaign and providing insight into what is driving each party as they fight it out to the finish line.
Host Mercedes Stephenson asked each of the three strategists what their leader’s biggest shortcomings are — and how they can overcome those.
Anne McGrath, a strategist with the NDP, said that party’s leader is facing the challenge of being a relative newcomer on the federal political scene: Jagmeet Singh only won the NDP leadership in October 2017 but didn’t win a seat in the House of Commons until February 2019.
“I think he’s going to be really presenting himself to Canadians,” McGrath said of the key challenge for Singh.
“I think in some ways that provides the opportunity for people to look at him and say, he’s much more than I thought.”
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That’s not unlike the challenge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced in the 2015 campaign, where his party started the election in third-place and lagging in the polls, only to surge to majority government after a record 78-day campaign.
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In that election, Trudeau was criticized by the Conservatives as “just not ready” but won praise for his performance in the federal debates.
That led to the Liberals building their push for victory around the slogan “ready.”
This time around, the challenge for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer will be convincing voters that Trudeau’s record doesn’t warrant a second term by focusing on what they argue is a lack of support for the middle class and policies too focused on helping powerful friends like SNC-Lavalin.
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“We need to contrast that and show that we’re going to be here to help people,” said Conservative strategist Fred DeLorey.
As for the Liberals, defending their record will be paramount.
While they may have what is traditionally referred to as the incumbency advantage, that won’t last long once the campaign gets underway, said Liberal strategist Richard Mahoney.
“There is an advantage of incumbency but the election campaign itself kind of evens it all out,” Mahoney said.
“What Mr. Trudeau’s going to be doing during the campaign is not only defending the attacks from the other folks but also putting forward a program of how we can build on some of the progress that he’s made.”
The official leaders’ debates are scheduled for Oct. 7 in English and Oct. 10 in French.
Trudeau, Scheer and Singh will be taking part in those debates alongside Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet.
All three strategists are connected to the federal war rooms of the parties in question.
They’ll be back next week to weigh in again on how the parties are doing.