Politics in Canada is never easy -- and it is about to get serious

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Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Photo: Anson Chappell/Flickr

You have to work in two languages, across six time zones; understand that Quebec is a nation unto itself without saying it out loud; be familiar with 11 provinces and their leading political figures; and explain how you would reverse a few hundred years of mistreatment, discrimination, and prejudice in dealings with First Nations.

You need to discuss the value of the dollar in foreign-exchange markets, how to make housing affordable, decode how the Bank of Canada influences mortgages and interest rates, offer a better tax policy, explain how you would improve a dozen serious spending programs, beginning with health care, be clear about relations with the United States, and speak discerningly about Venezuela and other foreign policy issues as they emerge.

You are a candidate for election in Canada. Politics is not easy to master, but you have a hole card: you run for a political party that has addressed all the above issues and has answers to questions you will likely be asked.

What you have to do is learn your lines, persuade people on the doorstep your party has what they want, not make mistakes with the media, raise money, recruit volunteers, and organize your election campaign. The rest is up to your leader and the party.

Canadian politics is about to get serious for those who will be contesting the October 2019 federal election. Shortly, the Canadian public is going to tune into what choices they face at the polling station.

Gerald Butts directed the successful 2015 Liberal election campaign: the Liberals and Justin Trudeau went from 36 seats and third place in the House of Commons to forming a majority government.

Butts, former chief adviser to Trudeau, is warning Liberals that the October election has to be about choices. If it becomes a referendum on the Liberals or what voters think of Justin Trudeau, Butts sees the vote for blind change coming into play.

The Conservatives have a game plan to engineer a change in government: incite distrust, dislike and disdain for the prime minister. The strategy is aimed at splitting off Liberal supporters and driving them in disgust towards the NDP and the Greens.

In such a scenario the Conservatives could emerge with a majority government, but they have to have something to offer potential vote switchers to bring them on side. So far the Conservatives have been reluctant to lay out their ideas for government.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, aware he faces the breakaway People's Party of Canada headed by Maxime Bernier, has been working to consolidate his partisan base.

The Liberals have strengths. Employment growth has been impressive. The poverty rate has fallen sharply, thanks to a much-improved Canadian Child Benefit, which is scheduled to increase again.

The Liberals have a climate plan. It includes sending out carbon tax rebate cheques -- due to arrive shortly in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and New Brunswick.

Justin Trudeau is a strong campaigner. His personality is a main reason the Liberal caucus increased by 148 MPs when the votes were counted in the 2015 election. But voters are fickle, and the Liberals need more than Justin Trudeau to form a second majority government: they need the Conservatives to stumble.

New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh is introducing himself to the Canadian public with a compelling memoir of his youth spent fighting back against discrimination and suffering sexual abuse by a trusted adult, who was hired to teach him self-defence.

In the House of Commons, the New Democrats, much like the Conservatives, have been attacking the misdeeds of the prime minister. Excessive partisanship does not serve the NDP well. In 2015, its partisan attacks on then prime minister Stephen Harper helped cause his defeat -- at the hands of the Liberals.

The NDP does not have enough partisan support to win an election. In order to grow its ranks it has to speak directly to concerns that animate Canadian voters.

The parliamentary caucus has begun to switch its emphasis away from what is not to like about Trudeau and the Liberals. NDP MPs are focusing on public policies to address drug deaths, wealth taxation, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Party leader Jagmeet Singh has indicated the NDP priorities: affordable housing, pharmacare, and a transition to a green economy via a green new deal.

Underlying the political conversation about how to vote on October 21 will be which party can best address bread-and-butter voter concerns and which leader can be trusted to deliver on the issues that matter to people.

Duncan Cameron is president emeritus of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Photo: Anson Chappell/Flickr

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