ON the campaign trail: The week that was (August 30-September 3)

Every Friday, TVO.org rounds up the federal-election news that matters to Ontarians
By Daniel Kitts - Published on Sep 03, 2021
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole speaks to the media on Tuesday, August 31, 2021 in Ottawa. (Frank Gunn/CP)



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 on Tuesday, 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:

Debate: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet faced off in a French-language leaders’ debate on Quebec network TVA Thursday. Flashpoints included Trudeau’s decision to call the election, vaccine mandates, health care, child care, climate change, and gun control. I could at this point link to all sorts of analysis on whether any leader “won” or “lost” the debate, but journalists and even political strategists are notoriously bad at knowing what effect debates will have on voters. As former campaign manager David Herle said on his podcast Friday, “no one knows sh-t about sh-t” when it comes to debates. (True story: During the 2014 Ontario election, a colleague of mine was told by a former high-ranking Liberal staffer that, after a very uneven performance by Kathleen Wynne in the leaders’ debate, any chance of the Liberals winning a majority was out the window. About two weeks later, Wynne cruised to a comfortable majority). There are two more leaders’ debates scheduled for next week, one in French and one in English.

A man filming in The Agenda studio

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Guns: Erin O’Toole promised during Thursday’s French-language debate to keep the current federal assault-style firearm ban in place – which is odd, since the Conservative platform published a few weeks ago promised to scrap it. The ban prohibits about 1,500 firearm models – including the popular and controversial AR-15 – from being used, sold, or imported. O’Toole has repeatedly criticized the ban, but told reporters Friday “We will maintain the ban on assault weapons.”

Fully-costed: The Liberals became the first party to release a fully costed platform in the 2021 campaign on Wednesday. “None of the other parties have shown their numbers, have shared their costings beyond a few projections that rely on magical thinking,” Justin Trudeau said. The platform promises to spend an additional $78 billion over five years, and includes a commitment to implement a minimum 15-per-cent tax on people in the highest income bracket so that deductions and credits can’t reduce their tax obligations below that level.

Mental health: The Liberals, Conservatives and NDP have all made promises to bolster mental health care. This week the Liberals promised $4.5 billion over five years for mental health supports. Erin O’Toole has said that the Conservatives’ promise to send the provinces an extra $60 billion over the next 10 years for health care should allow “an additional million Canadians to receive mental health treatment every year” – although he adds it will be up to the provinces on how to spend the money. Jagmeet Singh has promised the NDP will bring in free mental health care and fight for universal pharmacare.

Anti-vaxxers: Justin Trudeau continued to be followed on the campaign trail by aggressive protesters, many of them angry at public health restrictions and Trudeau’s push for vaccine mandates. In Sudbury on Tuesday, Trudeau condemned the protesters – and criticized Erin O’Toole’s position that getting vaccinated is a personal choice. “[O’Toole]’s talking about personal choice,” he said. “What about my choice to keep my kids safe? What about our choices to make sure we’re getting through this pandemic as quickly as we can? That’s the choice we’ve all made.”

Sexual harassment: The Liberals repeatedly faced questions over allowing Raj Saini to run for re-election in Kitchener Centre despite allegations of inappropriate behaviour throughout his six years as an MP. Sources with knowledge of the claims described to CBC News four different cases where Saini allegedly made unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate comments towards young female staff. Saini denies the allegations, and Justin Trudeau said the party takes complaints seriously and that "there have been rigorous processes undertaken" in Saini's case. However, the Conservatives have asked the clerk of the House of Commons to determine whether the review of the allegations against Saini were properly conducted.

Leader sightings

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

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau attended events in Kanata, Toronto, and Mississauga.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole made stops in King City, Markham, and Ottawa (twice).

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made an appearance in Ottawa.

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

The housing crisis: Not just a southern Ontario problem anymore

Fast-rising prices in the south are driving would-be homebuyers farther north — and that has experts calling for action from the next federal government.

Canada needs more clean energy. Paying for it should be an election issue

It’s normally a matter for the provinces. But each party has included climate planks in their platforms — so they should be talking about energy planning during the campaign, John Michael McGrath argues.

‘Use your voice’: A teen climate activist on fighting for change

TVO.org speaks with 14-year-old Sophia Mathur about the federal election, her lawsuit against the province, and what you can do to help the planet

Do strategic-voting campaigns actually work?

The labour movement has gradually shifted from partnerships with the NDP to anti-Conservative strategic voting — but success is far from certain, Larry Savage argues.

‘A crisis of unparalleled magnitude’: How environmental concerns did — and didn’t — shape the 1988 election

Acid rain. PCBs. Cleaning up the Great Lakes. In ’88, the major parties were talking about protecting the environment. But critics said they'd never walk the walk.

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 68 seats, the Conservatives 45, the NDP eight, and the Green party zero. Nationally, the simulator is showing an incredibly tight race: The Conservatives are projected to win 144 seats, the Liberals 143, the NDP 28, the Bloc Québécois 21, and the Green party with two. (A party needs 170 seats for a majority.)

Meanwhile, polling aggregator 338 Canada is projecting that in Ontario the Liberals would win 56.8 seats, the Conservatives 49.9 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 Conservatives would win a minority government of 142.3 seats, the Liberals would form the official opposition with 129.1 seats, the NDP would come in third with 38.3 seats, the Bloc Québécois would win 27 seats, and the Green party would win 1.1 seats.

Your election distraction

If you need a little something to take your mind of the polls, promises, and partisanship of the federal campaign, we invite you to take part in an election of a different kind: Our roadside-attraction showdown. Vote for your favourite here. Our two finalists are:  

Chesley’s Big Bruce

This big bull represents the region’s history of farming livestock — and stands as a tribute to the legacy of one man, Nathaniel Basen writes.

Kenora’s Husky the Muskie

The muskie may be the second-biggest fish in Ontario — but it’s the first-biggest fish in this northwestern city, Charnel Anderson writes.  

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