The West Block – Episode 7, Season 9

Watch the full broadcast of The West Block from Sunday, October 20, 2019 with Mercedes Stephenson.


Episode 7, Season 9

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Host: Mercedes Stephenson

Guests: Darrell Bricker, Bob Fife

Strategist Panel: Fred DeLorey, Anne McGrath, Richard Mahoney

Location: Toronto

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh: “We’ve never seen a rally like this in Brampton.”

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer: “Brampton has been short-changed under the Liberal federal government, and we’re going to address that and fix that.”

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau: “It’s great to be back in Whitby, and thank you for coming out.”

Mercedes Stephenson: Whitby, Ontario, it’s one of the 55 voter rich ridings in the greater Toronto area where party leaders have been relentlessly campaigning throughout the election, critical for an electoral win. Peter Graeffe teaches politics at McMaster University.

Peter Graeffe, McMaster University: “I mean, I think the Liberals have the most at stake. They won in those areas in 2015, and so if they are to be re-elected, they have to hold onto them.”

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Ryan Turnbull, Liberal Candidate—Ontario: “I’m the Liberal candidate for Whitby. I think Whitby is a key riding. It’s a key riding because it often tells the story of the election. In many cases whoever wins Whitby is reflective of who forms our Canadian government.”

Mercedes Stephenson: This riding was a Conservative stronghold until 2015. Jim Flaherty, the late Conservative finance minister, represented this area, and his widow, Christine Elliot, currently sits in the provincial cabinet as a Conservative.

Now, Conservative candidate Todd McCarthy is running to make this riding blue again.

Todd McCarthy, Conservative Candidate—Ontario: “Christine Elliot and Jim Flaherty are very much revered. Their legacy is very much part of this local campaign and I want to build on that legacy.”

Myer Siemiatycki, Ryerson University: “You can’t become prime minister if you don’t do well in the greater Toronto area.”

Mercedes Stephenson: Myer Siemiatycki from Ryerson University says Toronto, and the 905 region, is a political wildcard.

Myer Siemiatycki, Ryerson University: “In 2011, the GTA went Conservative and that put prime minister Harper over the top. In 2015, it went solidly, solidly Liberal and elected Justin Trudeau. It’s volatile. It’s unpredictable.”

Mercedes Stephenson: On the end of the GTA, in Burlington, Liberal candidate and cabinet minister Karina Gould knows this volatility very well. A win for her is not a sure thing.

Karina Gould, Liberal candidate–Burlington: “In 2015, I only won in Burlington by 2,400 votes, right? Like this community has always been, you know, 40 per cent Conservative, 40 per cent Liberal, and it’s that, you know, 2-3,000 votes that makes the difference. And so in 2015, I won because Progressives came together to get rid of Stephen Harper, that’s the only way I’m going to win again.”

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Mercedes Stephenson: But with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh having deep roots in Brampton to the north and the polarization the Premier Doug Ford has brought to the province, predicting the outcome in some of these GTA ridings is a guessing game. And what will happen here tomorrow, may determine who holds the balance of power in Canada’s next government.

Good morning from Toronto. It’s Sunday, October 20th. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and this is The West Block, the final one before voters head to the polls.

As campaigns wind down at midnight tonight, we’re looking at numbers that show a likely minority government to be elected, but will it be Liberal or Conservative and what role were the NDP, Greens and Bloc parties play in who leads the country?

Joining me now to discuss the polls and the standout moments in the election campaign and how this is all potentially going to play out tomorrow night: Darrell Bricker from Ipsos Public Affairs and Bob Fife, who is the Ottawa bureau chief for the Globe and Mail.

Darrell, you know you have the magic numbers. You’re tracking public opinion and sentiment. What is your prediction for tomorrow night? It seems like everyone is expecting a minority at this point.

Darrell Bricker, Ipsos Public Affairs CEO: Yeah, it’s a real nail-bitter, and this is one of those election campaigns in which the top line numbers don’t necessarily tell you what’s going on, and what’s happening in the regions is incredibly important. But what’s happening with turnout is especially important and that’s the hardest thing for any pollster to measure. So we’re biting our nails and trying to figure this one out. It’s very, very tight.

Mercedes Stephenson: Is there a concern, and there has been in the past elections that when you look at polls, you don’t always really have a sense of what people are going to do. Sometimes they tell a pollster one thing and they do something else. How accurate do you think these numbers are?

Darrell Bricker, Ipsos Public Affairs CEO: So we’re doing a pretty good job in saying how individual people are going to be able to vote and what the issues are that are driving the campaign, but that very precise element which relates to who actually is going to vote, is an incredibly hard thing to predict, so if there’s going to be a problem with the polls on Monday, it’ll probably be related to that.

Mercedes Stephenson: Bob, you have broken the standout stories that drove the campaign, including SNC-Lavalin which the Tories and the NDP brought up over and over again. You’re a veteran of elections. When you look at how this campaign is played out, what stands out to you?

Bob Fife, Globe and Mail Ottawa Bureau Chief: Well what stands out is a lot of character assassination, a lot of dirty, mean politics and very little substance that’s going to have an impact on people’s lives. And I think for most voters, it’s been a kind of a turnoff this election campaign and may even account for why we saw such a high voter turnout of about 4.5 million people in the advanced polls. I wonder if people were saying I’m going to vote now and then I’m just going to turn off the TV and I’ll find out Monday night who is going to win. It hasn’t been a very edifying election campaign. It’s been one of the worst ones that I’ve covered.

Mercedes Stephenson: What do you think is driving that? Where is this coming from that instead of talking about issues and visions for the country, it’s been all about attacks on leaders?

Bob Fife, Globe and Mail Ottawa Bureau Chief: Well, you know, it sort of started actually with the Liberals, who because they were in a dead heat with the Conservatives right from the get-go, they began in that first week of the campaign, if we recall, going very, very hard after Conservative candidates trying to embarrass them, force resignations, and Mr. Scheer finally said, look, I’m not going to force anybody to resign anymore. If they apologize, we’re going to move on. And then blackface happened and Trudeau actually said well I need to be forgiven, let’s move on. But then the Conservatives have been doing a lot of dirty stuff, too. So, you know, it’s because they’re in a very tight race that they think negative politics works, and some pollsters say it does work. But it doesn’t seem to have worked here because what we’re seeing is that the numbers of the Conservatives and the Liberals keep going down because of this sort of negative campaigning that we’ve seen.  I think it’s just not edifying for people.

Mercedes Stephenson: Darrell, obviously you look at these numbers. We’ve seen them move a little bit as Bob said and then they’d seem to shift back. Why do parties continue down the path of negative politics and not talking about issues, if it seems like it’s not working? They must believe on some level that it sticks.

Darrell Bricker, Ipsos Public Affairs CEO: Well it is interesting, you know, the parties have dropped a lot of policy during the course of this campaign, but none of it seems to be affecting the numbers. The personal attacks seem to make the parties feel like they’re making more things happen. But the truth is all of the movement in this election campaign has not been among the two major parties. Both have come down kind of in lockstep. Where all the movement has taken place is with the rise of the Bloc Quebecois and with the rise of the NDP under Jagmeet Singh.

Mercedes Stephenson: And you see the Liberals trying to respond to that by saying a vote for the NDP, is a vote for Andrew Scheer. The Conservatives worried about the Bloc Quebecois. When you have a chance to see how this all plays out tomorrow night, what do you expect the next steps are if there’s a Liberal minority and if there’s a Conservative minority?

Darrell Bricker, Ipsos Public Affairs CEO: Well it depends, first of all, on how big the win is. So if one party wins by a considerable number of seats and also surprises and wins by a considerable amount of popular vote, even if they don’t get to 170, they’re going to have a pretty compelling case to make about their right to form the government. The difficulty, of course, is that what we’ve divided into now are basically a Conservative camp and a Progressive camp. And the Progressive camp happens to be bigger than the Conservative camp. So even if the Conservatives finish a fair amount ahead, there’s going to be probably a fairly vigorous discussion about who gets the right to form the government. I’m not optimistic about this taking place in an easy way on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as we go forward.

Mercedes Stephenson: Bob, how do you see this unfolding?

Bob Fife, Globe and Mail Ottawa Bureau Chief: Well, Mercedes, my sense is that it’s going to be a Liberal minority, and if it is a Liberal minority, there are two things that are going to happen. I think even if Mr. Scheer strengthens his seat numbers, I think he’s going to have serious leadership problems. We already saw even before the campaign began, supporters of Peter MacKay were talking about what they would do to replace Mr. Scheer because there will be an automatic leadership review in 2020. And the other issue is, you know, how about Mr. Trudeau? Because, you know, it’s very rare that someone who wins a majority government in the first term does not get another term. It happened to his father in 1972. We’ll see whether Mr. Trudeau has the leadership abilities to be able to run a minority government because we certainly know that there are people behind him sitting in the front benches, but right him like Chrystia Freeland and Catherine MacKinnon that might want to have his job.

Mercedes Stephenson: Bob, how do you feel that Trudeau and Scheer performed on the campaign trail?

Bob Fife, Globe and Mail Ottawa Bureau Chief: Well I think both of them did not perform very well. I mean, what you saw right from the get-go, the Liberals got hit with some important stuff. I mean, the RCMP wanting to investigate or at least to have access to cabinet documents and to examine witnesses the Trudeau government refused the RCMP to do. We have the blackface controversy. With Mr. Scheer, we had the whole issue of his dual citizenship and his bogus broker insurance license which he doesn’t have. None of these leaders, I thought, performed very well. Mr. Trudeau was all talking points all the time as you know, Mercedes, because you were out there trying to get him to answer some questions which he wouldn’t answer. And Mr. Scheer, also I did not think—he came across far too weak of a leader on many of the key issues. So my view is that the two frontrunners did not perform very well. The winner in this election campaign, even though he will not form government, is Jagmeet Singh because he clearly has—everybody had written him off—he’s come across as a pretty decent guy. He’s come across as somebody that I think people can identify with, and at the end of the day, they’re probably not going to win their 44 seats back, but I think the NDP will probably be pretty happy with Jagmeet Singh. Elizabeth May, I think she’s underperformed and I probably can’t imagine her staying on as Green leader for much longer.

Mercedes Stephenson: Darrell, we just have a couple seconds left, but I want to ask you key areas you’re going to be looking at tomorrow night. As the results roll in for the election, it’s going to tell us who will form the next government.

Darrell Bricker, Ipsos Public Affairs CEO: Well number one is going to be Quebec. The last time around, the Liberals surprised in the province of Quebec and did better than the polls were showing. Right now we’re showing the Bloc Quebecois really surging ahead, which to me is one of the big stories of the campaign and what that’s going to mean for the future. So if they do as well as the polls are showing then the Liberals are going to have to do really, really well in the 905, probably sweep it in order to form the minority that Bob was talking about. Right now, we’re showing it very, very close. So those are the two things I’m going to be watching, and then after that, we’re all going to have to wait for British Columbia and particularly Vancouver Island to see who could potentially form this next government.

Mercedes Stephenson: Truly a nail-biter. We will be watching very closely here on Global News tomorrow night on Decision Canada. Thank you very much Bob and Darrell for joining us today.

Bob Fife, Globe and Mail Ottawa Bureau Chief: Thanks, Mercedes.

Darrell Bricker, Ipsos Public Affairs CEO: Thanks, Mercedes.

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Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. Party leaders have sprinted through the final moments of the campaign, seizing on these critical days to try to convince voters to cast their ballot in favour of their party. But they’ve also tried to use scare tactics to tell voters not to vote for the opposition, the threat of everything from a significant rise in the GST to the cancellation of the Trans Mountain pipeline or billions of dollars in cuts. Do any of the scare tactics work and convince anyone to change their vote?

Joining me now to discuss the strategies as we head into the last 24 hour dash before people cast their votes: Richard Mahoney for the Liberals; Fred DeLorey for the Conservatives and Anne McGrath for the NDP.

Lots of misinformation on the campaign trail this week, from the Liberals claiming that the Tories are going to put guns in the streets to the Conservatives claiming that the Liberals are going to form a coalition with the NDP and raise the GST. There’s no suggestion in any of the parties platforms that these are situations that could remotely take place, but does it stick this close to the election in terms of scaring people. Fred?

Fred DeLorey, Conservative Strategist: Well I think it’s important for Canadians to understand what voting Liberal and NDP means. Right now, the Liberals are running record deficits, billions of billions of overspending, and if they make a deal with the NDP to prop them up, it’s going to be billions and billions more and there’s not enough money in the treasury. So the only way for them to afford this is to raise taxes and that includes the GST, and if that’s not the plan they’re going to do, if they’re not going to be raising taxes—

Mercedes Stephenson: But that’s your interpretation.

Fred DeLorey, Conservative Strategist: Well the alternative is they’re going to be cutting transfers to the provinces like they did in the ‘90s which will have a huge impact on health and education.

Richard Mahoney, Liberal Strategist: I think what’s happening here, though, on things like this mad GST claim that they’ve made, is obviously it’s the last days, it’s a very close election. Everybody’s trying to get, you know, those last minute people to change their votes. But really, what Mr. Scheer is doing, and he’s been doing it the whole campaign, he plays more to his base, a base that doesn’t like Justin Trudeau very much, obviously, in order to motivate them to come out as opposed to trying to appeal to that wider swatch of Canadians who are trying to make their minds up and looking for a leader who brings people together. Mr. Scheer has run a campaign and we’ll see on election night whether it works, where he constantly motivates the Conservative base rather than trying to say, how am I going to knit a country together and an economic plan together that’s going to work for people. So we’ll see how that goes, but I don’t think it’s going to work.

Mercedes Stephenson: The NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said that he won’t support a Conservative government. Why do you think it is that the idea of a coalition is a dirty word or scary to people in Canada?

Anne McGrath, NDP Strategist: Well, first of all, I think that there’s a lot of speculation and mythical thinking. I think truth is having a very bad moment right now, and I think that sometimes these things, I think, do appeal to the most committed partisans, whether there’s any basis, in fact, at all, and maybe some other places in social media that they might resonate with people who maybe don’t have all the information. But I do think that for the NDP and Jagmeet Singh, the key is not to get down in the mud on these things and to stay as relentlessly optimistic and hopeful as they have been during this entire campaign, and I think that’s why the NDP is having a good moment right now.

Mercedes Stephenson: But, Anne has Singh tied his hands by saying in the past that he wouldn’t support the Conservatives? He kind of scoffed at the Conservatives on the campaign trail last week. Does that put him in a position where he’s now lost his power if there’s a Conservative minority?

Anne McGrath, NDP Strategist: He’s sticking to his principles, you know? I mean, I don’t think anybody ever thought that we would have much common ground with the Conservatives. Certainly our voters are not looking for us to do anything significant with the Conservatives, and he has said that he is open to all sorts of other alternatives and working with other parties, but he has also been very clear that he is running to be prime minister. We’re running to be a government, and whatever shape Parliament takes, you know, whether it’s a minority or, you know, any other kind of arrangements or a majority, we will work with other parties to get the things that we have identified as the urgent priorities that Canadians need in areas like pharmacare, housing, climate change.

Mercedes Stephenson: Fred, if the Conservatives win, they don’t seem to have a natural ally. You haven’t had a party like in the other cases with the Liberals come forward and say they would consider allying and supporting with them. Do you think that that turns voters off choosing the Conservatives tomorrow?

Fred DeLorey, Conservative Strategist: Well, I think if you look at the history of this country, some of the most successful governments we’ve had were Conservative minority governments, and most recently the ones we just had. We don’t have natural allies, it’s true, and we have to work piece by piece each legislation with the other parties, and we’ve proven very capable of doing that and that could work out very well for Canadians.

Mercedes Stephenson: Richard, if the Liberals get in tomorrow—and a lot of people are speculating it could be a Conservative minority—it could be a Liberal minority, no matter what it looks like a minority. Let’s say Justin Trudeau doesn’t get that many seats. Now he still is the prime minister by convention, which means he has the first chance to form government. Are the Liberals in conversations right now with the NDP or with the Greens to try to figure out a situation where they could get together and we could see a situation where’s there’s NDP or Green cabinet ministers in a Liberal minority government and it becomes coalition?

Richard Mahoney, Liberal Strategist: No, there’s no discussions going on and I don’t think there will be and we’ll see what Canadians deliver up on Monday night. If they do have a minority then I think all the parties are going to have to figure what kind of, you know, how they win the support and confidence of the House and able to govern. So we’ll see what happens, but it does look—I think you’re right—it looks like it’s going to be a close one and quite possibly a minority government.

Mercedes Stephenson: Fred, does Andrew Scheer survive this if he doesn’t manage to come up with at least a minority tomorrow?

Fred DeLorey, Conservative Strategist: Well look, it’s very rare to take down a one-term government. So for Mr. Scheer, if he can bring Trudeau down to a minority government even, I think that’s a huge success for Mr. Scheer and he should stay on, and I would encourage him to do so. And at the same time, though, I do think, you know, what I’m hearing from the campaign is that we’re feeling very good and that the Conservatives should win the most seats tomorrow night.

Mercedes Stephenson: Anne, I think Mr. Singh probably has the perhaps most successful out of the leaders versus what he was expected to get at the beginning of the campaign and what he’s getting at the end of the campaign. If his support which has been rising translates into votes, what does he need to do come Monday night to get the NDP a seat at the table and to establish himself as a leader?

Anne McGrath, NDP Strategist: Well let’s just look at the story of this campaign, Mercedes. I mean, we went into this campaign with the Liberals knocking on the edge of a majority government, with the Conservatives feel very confident and aggressive in their ability to knock that off and replace them, with the Green Party showing signs of promise—real signs of promise, with the Bloc being sort of nowhere on anybody’s radar, and with the NDP being perceived as dead in the water. And none of that is what has happened. The Liberals are not knocking on the edge of a majority. They’re desperately trying to cling to the possibility, I think, of a minority government right now. The Conservatives look like they’re looking for a minority government. The numbers for both those parties have come down significantly since the beginning of the campaign. The Bloc is having a resurgence, the Green Party looks like it has been fizzling out in many ways and the NDP has had a very good campaign and is looking like it’s going to be playing a very significant role in whatever happens as a result of the election on Monday night. So it’s a very, very interesting story that this campaign has delivered for us and we’ll see what the result is.

Mercedes Stephenson: Richard, does Justin Trudeau survive if he doesn’t come out of this with at least a minority tomorrow, it would be only the third time in Canadian history that a government that came in with a majority mandate was defeated after a first term, if that happens?

Richard Mahoney, Liberal Strategist: Yeah, I don’t think that will happen, but of course, yes, I think he will survive. I think Mr. Trudeau is a politician with a lot of gifts. He has faced attack and it’s been a tough campaign for him. He’s faced attack from all sides. You have people like Mr. Scheer this week saying he’s going to form a majority government.  I don’t think that’s going to happen. You know, if I had to make a prediction, I do think it’s much closer than maybe many people would like. But if I had to make a prediction, I would say this, I think the Liberals are going to win the most seats on Monday night and I think Mr. Trudeau will then have to figure out whether it’s a majority/minority, how he actually puts together a government. But no, I think Mr. Trudeau is a leader with lots of political gifts and I suspect we’ll see on Monday night and Tuesday what follows, but I suspect he will be forming a government and implementing his agenda in the best way he can.

Mercedes Stephenson: How does the resurgence of the Bloc change all this when MPs come back to Parliament and they’re really back on the radar for the first time in many, many years in federal politics?

Richard Mahoney, Liberal Strategist: It’s a big change. I’ll start on that one. I mean, I think that we were talking majority/minority. One of the reasons why a majority is going to be very difficult for any party is because of the resurgence of the Bloc in Quebec. It seems to me like they have almost got a mandate from people to say whatever people think in Quebec about Bill 21, Quebecers are united that the rest of the country doesn’t get to tell them how to roll with that thing. And so that is going to make for a divided Parliament. It is going to make the next prime minister’s job, Prime Minister Trudeau, I would hope, job a lot more difficult because he is going to be facing that.

Mercedes Stephenson: Okay. We have to wrap it up there. I’m sure we’ll be keeping a close eye on this tomorrow night as we find out who will be the next Government of Canada. Thank you so much to our strats for joining us throughout the election.

[All Strategists respond: Thank you.]
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Mercedes Stephenson: Still to come, a few lighter moments from the election campaign trail that you might have missed this past week.


Mercedes Stephenson: Welcome back. Well tomorrow, very exciting, the big day. It’s Election Day, and tomorrow night here on Global, we will have a special for you: Decision Canada. Starting at 7pm eastern, we’ll bring you all of the latest results. You can watch it on Global Television, listen to it on your local news talk radio stations or you can stream it online. We leave you now with a few of the lighter moments from the campaign trail in case you missed them. For The West Block, I’m Mercedes Stephenson.

Mike Le Couteur, @mikelecouteur: “Just—sorry, I’ll just finish my question as it was partially interrupted. Um, are you not misleading people by saying that—?” [Crowd boos]

NDP Party Leader Jagmeet Singh: “We don’t respect Conservatives now.”

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau: “Pulled out of school to eat s’mores? Man, it’s too bad elections only come once every four years, eh?”

NDP Party Leader Jagmeet Singh: “Ryan, I’ve got long hair like you, Ryan. It’s this long. It’s down this long like that. Yeah, I love long hair. It’s so cool.”

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer: “Order! Order! That’s the former speaker coming out of me.”