The 2019 Canadian Election: A Primer

Aditya Khan
7 min readOct 6, 2019
The main candidates except for Maxime Bernier. (Source: Macleans)

The 2019 Canadian Election is turning out to be a doozy. The Conservatives and the Liberals are neck and neck in the polls. The third-party race is as close as ever, with the Green Party constantly gaining ground on the NDP. And finally, the People’s Party of Canada is making waves, with their well-known libertarian leader, Maxime Bernier. While the election campaign being formally underway, the election is still weeks away. Nonetheless, there have already been scandals galore and potshots plenty, whether it be from the Liberals or even the Conservatives. So, this is a perfect time to get introduced to the parties.

Liberal Party of Canada

Leader: Justin Trudeau

This election is a referendum on Trudeau. (Source: The Brampton Guardian)

The incumbents they may be, but they have certainly faced some tough questions in the leadup to this year’s election. Justin Trudeau’s prime minister-ship has been a very polarizing one. A large number of Canadians, especially from western Canada and the rural areas, have been vehemently opposed to Trudeau’s leadership, finding him to be completely ineffective in his leadership. On the other side are the youth and the urban Canadians, who find Trudeau to be a charismatic prime minister who has boosted Canada’s image on the global stage. Whichever side voters fall on, they will no doubt have been shaken by the scandals that Trudeau has been a part of. After the SNC Lavalin scandal, it seemed that tensions had died down slightly. But now, weeks before the election, issues for the Liberals are popping up left and right, in the form of Trudeau’s (repeated, mind you) blackface pictures resurfacing, and a slew of broken promises.

For a large number of Canadians, the large number of broken Liberal promises are rather disconcerting. The Liberals have not come anywhere close to balancing the budget, have backtracked completely on electoral reform, and have noticeably fallen short of promises to the indigenous people. Notably on climate change, which has been a hallmark issue of the Canadian Left and the Liberals in general, they have fallen short as well. A report released in August by the Climate Action Network said Canada’s climate change plan was among the worst of the G7 nations. The big thing is, even with all of these issues, the Liberals are still very much in the running, and in some polls, in the lead.

Key Strategy: For the Liberals, they have to simply hope that they don’t face any more issues or scandals in the leadup to the election. Otherwise, if the Liberals can snap up the youth vote majority, they will be a significant threat.

Conservative Party of Canada

Leader: Andrew Scheer

The safe choice? Most likely. Boring? Yeah, probably. This is Scheer’s election to lose. (Source: National Post)

The Conservatives have correctly identified the main strategy in this election: make the 2019 election a referendum on Trudeau. However, in their attempts to double down on Trudeau’s failures, there is a real chance that they have downplayed any interesting features of the Conservatives themselves. Andrew Scheer has been a nondescript, establishment conservative in a field where all of the other candidates have a key feature: Justin Trudeau is the incumbent and a son of a former prime minister, Jagmeet Singh is of Indian heritage, Elizabeth May is a woman, and Maxime Bernier is an ex-Conservative Party populist. Really at this point, the only thing Scheer is known for is the guy who will “put money back into the pockets of all Canadians” and “get you ahead.” These kinds of slogans work if you are an exuberant figure like President Trump down south, but when you are Andrew Scheer, it seems almost tiresome. And once again, the Conservatives have correctly identified the right issue in this election, affordability in an increasingly expensive world, and have put forward the right party policy proposals, such as cutting the carbon tax. But Scheer simply does not have the “x-factor” that some of the other candidates have.

Even with all of this criticism of the Conservative strategy, this is his election to win. He has been the one stable guy in the election field, where all the other candidates have had some sort of issue. Scheer even has a burgeoning conservative movement in the west that he could have capitalized on. The fact is, had Scheer been just a little bit more outgoing, and exuberant, the Conservatives could have been firmly in the lead. In the end though, it is his nondescript nature that makes an issue like his dual citizenship with the United States all the more magnified. And in a country where most voters vote based on the party or leader, and not policy proposals, this could be a problem. It is about time that the parliament became Conservative again, and this is certainly their election to lose. If they do, it will be a stunning indictment on Scheer and the party as a whole.

Key Strategy: If Scheer changes his strategy at this point, it will be extremely jarring. By now the Conservatives’ strategy will have to keep going exactly how they are and just keep attacking the Liberals. But most importantly, if Scheer can come out firing in the coming election debates, the Conservatives can truly have a great shot at securing at least a minority government.

New Democratic Party

Leader: Jagmeet Singh

Can Jagmeet Singh’s NDP gain some traction? (Source: Rabble)

With the Liberals losing steam ahead of the election, the real beneficiaries have been the NDP. The perennial third party in the elections, they have been the key representatives of the New Left in Canada. The key chance for the NDP in this election will be if they can steal the disheartened Liberal voters from voting Green or Conservative or even Liberal again. But let’s be honest, there is little chance that the NDP will come close to being the opposition. This is especially with Jagmeet Singh’s checkered past, and how he simply disappears from the public sphere when there is not an election on. The fact is, Singh has simply been underwhelming, and while the latter point from the previous sentence might not apply now, it certainly would if he became the official opposition or more.

Key Strategy: Keep performing well in the debates and keep taking shots at the Liberals. That, and securing the majority of the youth and immigrant vote will build them a base that they can count on for the next election, no matter how unlikely it is they will reach official opposition.

Green Party of Canada

Leader: Elizabeth May

Can the Green Party rise? (Source: Macleans)

The Green Party technically should be a one-issue party, but instead, they have somehow managed to turn themselves a farther left version of the NDP, but still not be complete democratic socialists. Elizabeth May has built up her party from complete irrelevance to partial irrelevance. The fact is, every election the media say that it will be their election to rise and shake up the usual election first, second, third, lineup. And every election, they fail to live up to that title of the upstarts. With that said, voting for a party literally called the Green Party will give some Canadians peace of mind, knowing they did their part against climate change, especially when the Liberals have failed in that regard.

Key Strategy: Just keep doing what they are doing and hope they can catch a lucky break against the NDP in the upcoming debates.

People’s Party of Canada

Leader: Maxime Bernier

The future third party? Bernier will hope so. (Source: Toronto Star)

More bad news for the Bloc Quebecois, another party has arrived on the scene to steal any remaining relevance they had. Maxime Bernier has filled the gap in Canadian politics for that right-wing populist guy, something Canada is somewhat late to the party on (see US, Brazil, and all of Europe). While Bernier has a track record of being a libertarian, he has grown more and more populist as his election campaign has gone on. As it is, the PPC hosts a significant challenge to Conservatives and that might make or break a winning or losing election for Scheer. So, whether one thinks that the PPC is relevant or not themselves, they are certainly crucial towards the results of this election. Looking forward though, the PPC certainly has the opportunity to turn into an NDP-type secondary party to the main party of their ideology. Of course, equally likely that it won’t happen, but it will be interesting how they progress past this election.

Key Strategy: Build up a reputation, especially online. Take part in long-form discussions and podcasts that are regularly available to all people, such as the Joe Rogan Show. Otherwise, Maxime Bernier will have to continue to be the exuberant person that he is, as he is currently the id of his party. Aim to make a push in three to four elections time to usurp at the very least, the Green Party’s spot as the perennial fourth-place party.

Final Remarks

This will be a very close election. That much is obvious. The result will very likely be a minority government, which depending on who you ask, will be a good thing. Whether this will be a historic election is yet to be seen, but it certainly will go down to the wire. May the best party win.

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Aditya Khan

First year university student. Sometimes likes to write stuff.