ON the campaign trail: The week that was (August 23-27)

Every Friday, TVO.org rounds up the federal-election news that matters to Ontarians
By Daniel Kitts - Published on Aug 27, 2021
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh chats with home owners Sydney Sullivan and Ronan Bergina during a news conference on affordable housing in Burnaby, B.C., on August 18, 2021. (Paul Chiasson/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.

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Here’s what happened this week.

Campaign key words

These were the most important topics on the campaign trail:

Affordability: Making life a little less expensive was a priority on the campaign trail this week. The Liberals released a housing strategy promising to tackle skyrocketing house prices, and said they would increase guaranteed income supplement (GIS) payments by $500 a year for eligible seniors; the Conservatives said they would force “gig economy” companies, such as ride-hailing service Uber, to make contributions to a new, portable Employee Savings Account every time they pay their workers; the NDP said it will “cap fees” on cellphone and internet bills and introduce measures to help families lower their mortgage payments, in addition to other promises already made on the housing file; Green Party Leader Annamie Paul spoke about her party’s housing program, which includes a promise to build 100,000 new affordable units.

A man filming in The Agenda studio

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TVO.org has also been preoccupied with issues of affordability and what the parties plan do about them. Columnist John Michael McGrath looks at the election debate over child care and analyzes the Liberal housing plan (while sharing how he thinks it could be better); diversity and inclusion reporter Ashley Okwuosa reports on how finding affordable housing can be especially challenging for people new to Canada; and Hamilton-Niagara reporter Justin Chandler looks into whether the idea of basic income will get its due during the campaign.

Afghanistan: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was left answering questions about Canada’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan after the military was forced to abandon its rescue mission this week. With U.S. soldiers beginning to pull out of Kabul airport, Canada’s armed forces felt they could no longer evacuate people safely. The last Canadian plane carrying refugees left Wednesday. The following day, a bomb outside the airport killed 79 Afghans and 13 U.S. soldiers. No Canadian troops were harmed. Trudeau said the end of the airlift does not mean the end of the government’s efforts. “We will ensure that in the coming months and years we bring over 20,000 Afghans to their new homes in Canada,” he said. In all, Canadian planes were able to evacuate 3,700 Canadians, permanent residents, and Afghans. The government announced Friday it had also managed to get an additional 500 people out on a U.S. plane. It is unclear how many more were left behind.

Brothers: Afghan-born cabinet minister and Liberal candidate for Peterborough-Kawartha Maryam Monsef raised eyebrows when she referred to the Taliban as “our brothers” during a press conference Wednesday. She later told reporters it was a Muslim “cultural reference” and still considered the Taliban terrorists. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole called her choice of words “unacceptable,” adding “Canadians deserve a government that will always stand up for our values.” However, others argued Monsef was just using language she thought would be most effective in convincing the Taliban to let refugees leave. “[I’m] humbly suggesting that a woman who is a *refugee from Afghanistan* might understand the consequences of what's unfolding there better than you do,” Toronto Star reporter Sara Mojtehedzadeh wrote on Twitter.

Health Care: O’Toole has promised to boost the annual growth rate of the Canada Health Transfer to the provinces to at least six per cent from its current rate, but he also faced charges this week from the Liberals that he supports for-profit, private health care. They pointed to a statement he made last year in support of the government of Saskatchewan’s decision to allow a clinic to charge patients up to $950 for an MRI scan. “If Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario, or Quebec want to innovate to provide better health care, I support that,” O’Toole said in response to the Liberal attack. Meanwhile, Singh said the NDP would end for-profit long-term care in Canada, following some disastrous COVID-19 outbreaks in for-profit facilities last year. “We know the evidence is clear — when it’s public, when it’s not for profit, there are better outcomes, people are better off (and) we save lives,” he said.

Vaccine passports: On Friday, Trudeau promised a $1 billion fund to help provinces create COVID-19 vaccine passport systems. "It keeps people safe. It encourages everyone to do the right thing. It keeps our businesses open and it keeps our economy rebuilding," he said of vaccine passports. Provinces such as B.C. and Quebec have already created their own systems, but others, such as Alberta and Ontario, have so far said they have no plans to do so. Asked if a Conservative government would also help fund vaccine passports, O'Toole said the development of these programs should be left to the provinces to figure out.

Leader sightings

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

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau attended events in Hamilton, and Mississauga, and is scheduled appear in Bolton later in the afternoon Friday.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole made stops in Ottawa (twice), Brantford, and Hamilton.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made appearances in Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Amherstburg, Kenora, and Thunder Bay.

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.

More election coverage on TVO.org

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Where things stand

At last check, the Mainstreet Research/iPolitics election simulator is predicting, if an election were held today, in Ontario the Liberals would win 67 seats, the Conservatives 42, the NDP 12, and the Green party zero. Nationally, the Liberals would form a minority government with 145 seats, the Conservatives would form the official opposition with 138 seats, the NDP would come in third with 32 seats, the Bloc Bloc Québécois would win 22 seats, and the Green party would win one seat. (A party needs 170 seats for a majority.)

Meanwhile, polling aggregator 338 Canada is projecting that in Ontario the Liberals would win 56.3 seats, the Conservatives 50.4 seats, the NDP 14.3, and the Green party zero. (While it is not possible to win partial seats, 338 Canada uses decimal points in its projections in part to reflect uncertainty around exactly how many seats each party will win.) Nationally, the Liberals would win a minority government of 141.2 seats, the Conservatives would form the official opposition with 133.4 seats, the NDP would come in third with 36.3 seats, the Bloc Québécois would win 25.2 seats, and the Green party would win 1.5 seats.

Your election distraction

Already feeling a little exhausted by the partisan attacks, the conflicting campaign promises and the avalanche of polls? If so, let us take your mind off the federal election for at least a few minutes with an election of our own: Our roadside-attraction showdown. All summer, TVO.org has been telling the stories behind some of the province’s most interesting tourist landmarks – and soon, readers will be asked to vote for their favourite. Here is the latest entry:

Roadside-attraction showdown: The Big Apple

This week, by popular demand, eastern Ontario reporter Marsha McLeod took a look at the Colborne’s Big Apple.

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