ON the campaign trail: The week that was (August 16-20)

Every Friday, TVO.org rounds up the federal-election news that matters to Ontarians
By Daniel Kitts - Published on Aug 20, 2021
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau makes a campaign stop in Markham on August 17 with federal candidates Paul Chiang and Chrystia Freeland. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

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Every Friday, TVO.org will review the highlights of the past week in the campaign, focusing on issues relevant to Ontario voters as they decide whom to support at the ballot box.

And every Monday, we’ll publish a primer breaking down what to watch for as the week unfolds.


Here’s what happened this week.

Campaign keywords

These were the most important topics on the campaign trail:

Afghanistan: In response to the Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said his government was making every effort to get Afghans who worked with the Canadian Armed Forces during its mission there out of the country. (Before the campaign started, he had promised  to take in 20,000 Afghan refugees in the coming months.) Conservative leader Erin O’Toole matched Trudeau’s 20,000 refugee commitment and stated that, as prime minister, he would not recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government — a commitment Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh subsequently made. Green Party leader Annamie Paul said that Parliament should be recalled for an emergency debate on the situation — which, according to constitutional experts, is not possible during an election.

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Mandatory: Trudeau took a hard line against any federal public servants who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19, saying “there will be consequences” for workers who refuse to get their shots without a legitimate medical reason. O’Toole said that no one should be forced to take a vaccine and that there should instead be a rapid-testing regimen for unvaccinated federal workers. Singh expressed support for a federal vaccine mandate including disciplinary action for workers who fail to get immunized but said Trudeau is moving too slowly to get one in place and is being too vague about what consequences unvaccinated employees will face. Paul said the government needs to more clearly detail how exactly the mandate would work.

Platform: In 2019, the Conservatives waited until mere days before the vote to release their election platform. This year, though, they got out of the gate early, releasing a 162-page document on the first full day of the campaign. Some of the party’s major promises include increasing federal health-care-funding transfers to the provinces; introducing a GST “holiday” that would see the federal portion of the tax waived on retail purchases this December to help spur consumer spending; and scrapping the Liberals’ $30-billion child-care plan and replacing it with a refundable tax credit for parents. 

Pro-choice: On Thursday, Conservative leader O’Toole declared, "I'm pro-choice, and I'm a pro-choice leader, period.” But the Liberals weren’t buying it. "Under Erin O'Toole's watch, 81 Conservative MPs voted to reopen the abortion debate. That's the majority of his caucus," tweeted Liberal cabinet minister Maryam Monsef, who also pointed to the Conservative platform promise to protect the "conscience rights" of health-care professionals who object to some procedures. O’Toole responded by saying he is trying to strike “an appropriate and fair balance” between different rights.

Safety: Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault assured Canadians on Wednesday that, even though Elections Canada is not obligating poll workers to get vaccinated, the election will be safe. "These are the same Canadians that you meet every day at the grocery store. The difference is that the polls are a controlled environment where safety measures can be applied more rigorously," he said. And voters also have the option to cast their ballots by mail.

Leader sightings

Here’s where the major party leaders were spotted in Ontario this week:

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made stops in Cobourg, Markham, and Barrie.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole started the campaign in Ottawa, before leaving for Toronto and Richmond Hill.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s stops included Toronto and Brampton.

Green Party leader Annamie Paul spent all week in Toronto, where she is focusing on being elected as MP for the riding of Toronto Centre.

Where things stand

At last check, polling aggregator 338 Canada is projecting that, if the election were held now, in Ontario the Liberals would win 69.6 seats, the Conservatives 35.4, the NDP 16, and the Green party zero. Nationally, the Liberals would win a minority government of 158 seats, the Conservatives would form the official opposition with 117 seats, the NDP would come in third with 35 seats, the Bloc Québécois would win 25 seats, and the Green party would win two seats. (A party needs 170 seats for a majority.)

The election simulator Too Close to Call finds the Liberals would currently win 79 seats in Ontario, the Conservatives 34, the NDP 8, and the Greens zero. Nationally, it is projecting a Liberal majority government of 178 seats; the Conservatives would end up with 107, the NDP with 29, and the Green party with two.

More election coverage on TVO.org

Your federal-election questions — answered

How does mail-in voting work? What role does the Governor General play? And why are we having an election during a pandemic? Marsha McLeod rounds up expert answers to these questions, and more.

Why Michael Coteau wants to trade provincial prominence for the federal backbench

Whether the Ontario Liberals win or lose the next provincial election, Michael Coteau would have been a leading voice in the party’s caucus. But he’s leaving Queen’s Park to run federally in Don Valley East, where his reward for winning would quite possibly be years on the backbenches in Ottawa. Why is he making the move? John Michael McGrath interviewed Coteau to find out.  

Are the federal leaders ever going to answer our questions?

Steve Paikin expresses frustration at the often evasive answers Trudeau, O’Toole, and Singh provided on the campaign trail this week. But while Paikin takes the political leaders to task, he also says some of the fault lies with the ways reporters are asking questions.

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