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How will social movements approach next year's federal election?

Photo by Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine via Wikimedia Commons.

The next federal election will take place on October 21, 2019.

What analysis and hope can social justice activists offer to the more than 17 million people expected to vote in the 43rd general election in this country?

In the October 2015 federal election it seemed clearer. The disaffection with the Conservatives easily led to 'Stop Harper' and 'Go Vote' campaigns that were arguably very successful. The Harper government was defeated -- its seat count reduced from 159 seats to 99 seats -- and voter turnout went up from 61.1 per cent in 2011 to 68.49 per cent.

But the Harper agenda was hardly defeated.

Notably the Trudeau government kept the Harper government's weak emission reduction target (and then went a step worse by buying the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline) and kept the Harper government's funding formula for health care.

And we still ended up with the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 'Comprehensive and Progressive' unconvincingly tacked on to the front of it.

The disappointment that followed the broken promises of electoral reform, respect for Indigenous rights, and a phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies has led some -- perhaps for the first time ever -- to consider not voting this time.

And in 2015 the youth vote dramatically increased to 58.3 per cent, up from 40.5 per cent in the 2011 election. Millennials will be the largest demographic of voters in this upcoming election, but will they choose to vote again in such large numbers?

History and polling numbers would also suggest Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals have a very good chance of winning again in 2019.

CBC's Poll Tracker reports that the Liberals are at 37.3 per cent support, the Conservatives are at 33.1 per cent, the NDP is at 15.5 per cent, the Greens are at 7 per cent, the Bloc Québécois is 3.9 per cent, and the new People's Party is at 1.4 per cent.

CBC's polls analyst Éric Grenier observes, "With these numbers, the Poll Tracker estimates that the Liberals would have a two-in-three chance of winning a majority government and a six-in-seven chance of winning the most seats."

Grenier estimates (under our dysfunctional first-past-the-post electoral system) this would translate into 182 seats for the Liberals (above the 169 seats needed for a majority), 127 seats for the Conservatives, 19 seats for the NDP, 8 seats for the Bloc, and 2 seats for the Greens.

This is a dramatically different outcome that we might have seen with proportional representation in which the Liberals would be more likely to win 125 seats (the most seats, but not a majority), the NDP 54 seats, and the Greens 24 seats.

So what do we do?

Do we use the election to highlight the Liberal's broken promise of electoral reform? Do we use the election to haul out a leaking tar sands pipeline prop at as many Liberal events as possible? Yes to this and more?

Do we use the year in the lead-up to the election to ensure that the NDP and Greens adopt policy platforms reflective of the Leap Manifesto, including pledges to ensure a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050, cuts to military spending, immigration status and full protection for all workers, and "an end to all trade deals that interfere with our attempts to rebuild local economies, regulate corporations and stop damaging extractive projects"?

Do we put our hope in an outcome that would mean (as a best likely outcome) a minority Liberal government supported by the NDP and Greens with extensive conditions?

Do we do everything we can to ensure that Andrew Scheer's Conservatives don't win? Keep in mind that just a few days ago Scheer tweeted, "The only thing that has ever really reduced poverty is capitalism. Can't end poverty without educating young people of the benefits of free markets and fighting socialism."

Do we mobilize to ensure that any use of racism, Islamophobia and anti-immigration politics is quickly countered? With the increasing popularity of far-right, nationalist parties in Europe and other parts of the words, we need to pay attention to this.

Some Indigenous friends and allies will choose not to vote, as they don't identify as Canadian or part of the Canadian state. Others may choose to vote in an attempt -- before having to physically block its construction -- to win the kind of opposition that was gained by the NDP/Green success in the May 2017 provincial election in British Columbia.

Overall, at this point, it doesn't seem likely that there will be a Stop Trudeau campaign akin to the Stop Harper push we saw in 2015. There also aren't clear answers at this point on how to most strategically engage in the 2019 election.

This suggests that there needs to be genuine forums for progressive discussion to think through key questions and arrive at our own conclusions as to how we can make the best of the political moment now less than 365 days away.

Please also see Duncan Cameron's thoughtful column "One year before the next federal election, the Trudeau government is weak, but the opposition is weaker."

Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer

Image: Grid Engine/Wikimedia Commons

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