Canada’s 2021 election: Here’s your last minute voter’s guide

Click to play video: 'Canada election: Which issues are top-of-mind for Canadians?'
Canada election: Which issues are top-of-mind for Canadians?
Canada election: Which issues are top-of-mind for Canadians? – Sep 15, 2021

Canadians are girding to hit the polls in an historic election taking place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still undecided about which federal party for whom you should cast your vote? Here’s everything you need to know before the 2021 federal election on Sept. 20.

Why was an election called?

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau formally launched his campaign on Aug. 15 after asking Governor General Mary May Simon to dissolve Parliament. With the request’s approval, the federal vote was now set.

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Opposition leaders have since scrutinized Trudeau’s decision, accusing him of trying to secure a majority for his party and questioning why an election was being called in the midst of a pandemic.

In response, Trudeau repeatedly defended his decision and pointed to the election as a necessity for Canadians to choose how they “want to end” the COVID-19 pandemic with the government they choose.

At dissolution, the Liberal’s minority government controlled 155 seats and to rely on opposition parties in order to push legislation through Parliament. In order for the winning party gain a majority government, they will need to win at least one seat more than half of the 338 ridings spread throughout Canada — in this case, 170 seats.

Who are the big players?

This guide will look at five major political parties in Canada — the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Quebecois.

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The Conservatives are led by Erin O’Toole, the Greens by Annamie Paul, the NDP by Jagmeet Singh and the Bloc by Yves-Francois Blanchet.

Here’s a breakdown of what each major party has pledged in this election:

While most of the parties have made pledges in all of these large bucket issues, many of them differ vastly in terms of what they’re promising.

Here’s a breakdown of where parties differ in their approaches to the main voter issues.

Health care

The promises from parties’ on health care are expected to be front and centre in this election, especially as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to push cases higher in many places across Canada.

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Leaders are split on how they’re going to tackle some pretty big issues — ranging from the implementation of vaccine passports to access to abortions and medical assistance in dying.

Almost all parties are in support of a national proof of vaccination system, though the Liberals are doubling down on their previous promise to enforce mandatory vaccinations for all federal workers.

The Conservatives on the other hand say they would like tougher restrictions and COVID-19 testing at Canadian borders.

The NDP promised to include pharmacare in the health-care system, while the Greens said they would do the same and include universal dental care.

Abortion access became a hotly debated topic at the onset of the election campaign as well.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 hospitalizations cost health care system upwards of $1B'
COVID-19 hospitalizations cost health care system upwards of $1B

The Liberals laid out several promises in their party platform that focused on improving access to the service, which were in stark contrast to an early platform promise from the Conservatives to guarantee doctors’ conscience rights, and allow them to refuse performing abortions or helping an individual get one.

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O’Toole later backtracked on that promise after facing flak from opposition leaders.

A full list of health care promises from all parties is available here.

Indigenous Issues

With the recent discovery of hundreds of burial sites at residential schools across Canada, several federal parties made it a priority to push for reconciliation in their platforms.

The Bloc, Greens and NDP promised to recognize Indigenous languages as official languages, though the Conservative and Liberal promises on the subject were vague.

Click to play video: 'Federal parties missing the mark on Indigenous mental health, addictions'
Federal parties missing the mark on Indigenous mental health, addictions

The NDP and Greens pledged to implement all calls to actions by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), while the Conservatives said they would implement specific ones should they get elected.

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The Liberals did not specifically make any further promises to implement calls from the TRC, but instead pointed out in their platform that they had previously completed 80 per cent of the TRC’s calls to action since being elected to government in 2015.

A full list of promises on Indigenous Issues is available here.


With several sectors of the Canadian economy having been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, federal leaders made a wide variety of pledges to bring jobs back to pre-pandemic levels.

The NDP and Liberals promised to create over a million new jobs, while the Conservatives touted a new Jobs Surge Plan to restart the economy.

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The parties, however, were split on their approach of handling some COVID-era programs and policies.

The Liberals promised to extend the Canada Recovery Hiring Benefit (CRHB) and boost the tourism industry with a temporary wage and rent support. The Bloc said they would suspend the CRHB until it was needed again.

The Conservatives said they would double the current Canada Workers Benefit and increase lending for small- and medium-sized businesses.

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Is there a ‘just transition’ away from fossil fuels?

The NDP had and Bloc had also made pledges to either expand access to or reform the employment insurance programs across the country.

The NDP had and Bloc have also made pledges to either expand access to or reform employment insurance programs across the country. The Conservatives on the other hand said they would launch a “Super EI” program, while the Liberals promised to extend current benefits past their original expiration date.

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A full list of promises on Canada’s economy is available here.

Affordability, Taxes and Housing

Federal leaders made many promises to address affordability issues for many Canadians.

To address the hot real estate market, the NDP promised to introduce a foreign buyers tax and create 500,000 new housing units across the country.

The Greens and Liberals said they would create more affordable housing, while the Conservatives said they would build a million new homes.

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Are provinces hurting their economy by not introducing a vaccine passport?

The Bloc, on the other hand, said they would combat the housing crisis with property reform and help support social housing.

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When it came to addressing student debt, the NDP promised to forgive up to $20,000 worth of debt while the Liberals promised to eliminate federal interest on loans. The Green Party pledged to make post-secondary education flat-out free for all Canadians.

The NDP and Liberals promised to end “renovictions,” while the Greens said they would declare a moratorium on evictions.

A full list of promises from the federal parties on affordability is available here.

Child care

Federal parties found themselves mostly divided on how they could address affordable child care across the country.

Both the NDP and Liberals pledged to implement a $10-a-day universal childcare program while the Green Party promised universal access to affordable early learning and child care.

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Click to play video: 'How could federal candidates’ childcare plans affect your family?'
How could federal candidates’ childcare plans affect your family?

The Conservatives pledged to scrap the Liberals’ childcare program and turn it into a refundable tax credit.

A full list of child care promises can be viewed here.

Climate Change

Promises on how to address the issue of climate change varied vastly from party to party — especially with the emissions reduction targets they set.

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The Conservatives pledged to reduce emissions by 30 per cent of 2005 levels, the Liberals by 45 per cent, the NDP by 50 per cent and the Greens by 60 per cent — all by 2030.

The Bloc did not give a specific emissions reduction target, but said that they would change the net-zero emissions law to include specific reduction targets.

Click to play video: 'Canada election: How does each party’s plan to tackle the climate crisis stack up?'
Canada election: How does each party’s plan to tackle the climate crisis stack up?

When it came to how Canada would approach the oil and gas industry, the Liberals said they would require those companies to reduce emissions.

The Bloc and NDP said they would end subsidies for fossil fuel companies, while the Greens promised to cut assistance to oil and gas and end the building of new pipeline, fracking and gas exploration projects.

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The Tories, on the other hand, promised to double down on their support for the industry, with further support for the Keystone XL pipeline and allowing the export of Canadian oil from the west coast again.

A complete list of promises from the federal parties on climate change can be looked at here.

If you need a more in-depth look into what leaders have promised before and during the campaign trail, here’s Global News’ Promise Tracker — a complete list of promises made during the 2021 election campaign.

Who is leading in the polls?

According to the most recent polling done for Global News, published on Sept. 13, the Liberals and Conservatives were in a dead heat in the last week of the election campaign.

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Ipsos polling found that the Liberals and Conservatives would be tied at 32 per cent of the vote.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau sharpens swipes at O’Toole as tight election race nears end'
Trudeau sharpens swipes at O’Toole as tight election race nears end

Another 31 per cent indicated they would vote for the NDP, seven per cent with the Bloc Quebecois, four per cent with the Green Party and three per cent with the PPC.

Support for the Conservatives had fallen three points since the last polling, while the Liberals’ support remained the same.

Ipsos CEO of Public Affairs Darrell Bricker previously told Global News that the dip in Conservatives’ support was potentially due the more aggressive Liberal campaign seen in the last week.

How the Canadian election works. Here's what you need to know come election day

Canadian citizens who are at least 18 years or older as of election day are eligible to cast their vote to choose their local member of parliament. Some, including permanent residents and temporary visa holders, however, are ineligible to vote in federal elections.

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There are several ways you can cast your vote, though the advance polling and mail-in options are now closed. Advance polls were held until Sept. 13, and the last day for mail-in applications to be applied for was on Sept. 14.

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Some voters harassing Elections Canada staff

In some cases, a person could assign an individual to vouch for them if they are unable to vote on election day. The person would have to declare their identity and address in writing, while their voucher — who is also assigned to the same polling station as them — must prove their identity as well.

At the time of voting, eligible Canadians must have proof of their address and identity — including a piece of photo ID issued by either the federal, provincial or local government in Canada.

Driver’s licences or provincial health cards are also considered valid pieces of ID to bring to your local polling booth.

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Voter information cards, which were delivered by mail, include the date, time and address of the local polling booth. The Elections Canada website can also be used to find information specific to polls in local ridings.

Still unsure about local ridings, candidates, and results come election day? Global News has its own detailed list of ridings and results here, which will be updated throughout the day.

Polls will be open for a period of 12 hours on Sept. 20, though the specific hours would vary across Canada’s time zones.

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One-on-one with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau

Here are the Election Day Voting Hours, broken up by time zone.

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Newfoundland: 8.30 a.m. – 8.30 p.m.
Atlantic: 8.30 a.m. – 8.30 p.m.
Eastern: 9.30 a.m. – 9.30 p.m.
Central: 8.30 a.m. – 8.30 p.m.
Mountain (and Saskatchewan in the 2015 election): 7.30 a.m. – 7.30 p.m.
Pacific: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Some electoral districts like Labrador, Gaspésie–Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Kenora, Thunder Bay–Rainy River, Kootenay–Columbia and Nunavut span more than one time zone, however. In these instances, the local returning officer, who has the consent of the Chief Electoral Officer, would be able to decide one local voting time for the entire riding.

Now that you’re in front of your ballot, how are you going to fill it out without spoiling your vote?

The ballot is a card has that includes a list of all of the candidates’ names in your riding, with a white circle beside each of their names as well as the name of the political party they’re a part of.

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Make sure you only fill in one white circle for the candidate of your choosing. Writing anything else, including signing your name on the ballot, will annul the vote.

If you make any mistakes on your card, however, you can ask for a new ballot with which to make your vote from the Deputy Returning Officer (DRO), who should be present at the voting station.

The DRO is also able to answer any questions pertaining to the ballot or vote, though it’s illegal for them to influence your vote in any way — including telling you who to vote for.

with files from Twinkle Ghosh, Rachel Gilmore and The Canadian Press

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