Prime Minister Trudeau seems set to send Canadians to the polls in the weeks ahead, but all of the major political parties have a lot of shaping up to do if they want to govern—or continue to govern the country.
The incumbent Liberals remain popular. It seems that the WE Charity scandal and mounting issues involving sexual misconduct in the armed forces have not affected their popularity. But Liberal management of the pandemic has often appeared inconsistent and inefficient, the Prime Minister seems soft on international issues, and the governing party sometimes projects a smug attitude of knowing what is best for Canadians.
If they really want to be re-elected, Trudeau and the Liberals need to shed the smugness and move past answers such as promising to “do better” on ethics, the pandemic, and indigenous matters and show substantial action that is implemented efficiently.
The Conservatives, led by Erin O’Toole, need to find a groove of positivity if they want to form Canada’s next government. Disliking Justin Trudeau and the Liberals is not enough. The Tories need to present real alternatives to Liberal policies and practices in a way that is positive and makes voters trust them. The Liberals have weaknesses, and the Conservatives do have plans, but they need to take extra steps to get voters enthused. If the Conservatives do not do this, they could be heading for a full decade of political misfortune with a caucus representing only the prairies and southern Ontario– with a revolving door on their leader’s office. The Tories must portray themselves as a government-in-waiting.
The NDP needs to move beyond their largely urban base of supporters who represent a disparate range of opinions. The middle is where elections are won in Canada, regardless of the colour on the campaign signs, especially in vote-rich Ontario where moderation dominates. With few exceptions, the New Democrats have largely lost their private-sector labour and rural origins. Those voters often want expanded social programs, but they are often more socially conservative than the current NDP base. Leader Jagmeet Singh, his MP’s and candidates often appear more like activist urban-city councillors than serious contenders for governing a country.
The most important thing the Green Party should do if it wants to win any seats in the coming election is end its internal fighting. Caring for the beleaguered Earth we live on is what unifies the Greens, but the recent challenges to the leadership of Annamie Paul indicate environmentalism alone is not a sufficient unifier, and Kermit the Frog was right. It’s not easy being Green. The party needs to unify behind Paul for the election campaign if they want to be taken seriously as a cohesive organization. If the campaign is a disaster, they can clean up the mess after it’s over.
The Bloc Québecois stands to gain seats at the expense of the Liberals. To successfully achieve this, they need to go soft on sovereignty and demonstrate themselves as a strong, regional voice at the federal level. Support for a sovereign Québec is not high right now, but residents of the province do prefer politics that are responsive to its uniqueness. The continued popularity of the autonomist but not sovereigntist Legault government is evidence of that. Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet would be wise to take this same approach in the federal campaign.
The parties have work to do if they want the respect of voters. Canadians should demand and deserve respect from the politicians who serve them.