National campaigns for Parliament and the leadership of Canada are now under way. And unlike U.S. elections, it’s a short campaign. After 40 days, voters will go to the polls on October 21st. There are several national parties in the mix but Conservatives and Liberals are expected to dominate the race.
According to Elections Canada, federal law mandates that “a general election must be held on the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year following the previous general election.” Dr. Chris Kirkey, Director of the Center for the Study of Canada at SUNY Plattsburgh, notes that Parlimentary procedure must be followed, similar to what happens in Britain. "The Prime Minister has to go and dissolve parliament. He does that by going to see, or she does that, by going to see the Governor General and then it’s a really quick 40 day campaign.”
There are six parties whose leaders are campaigning nationally, but Kirkey expects only two will be dominant. “You have Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Some would suggest it’s his election to win or lose. And then the second major candidate is Andrew Scheer from the Conservative Party and the third party in terms of polling numbers and anticipated seats is the New Democratic Party headed by Jagmeet Singh. There are three other parties. There’s one that’s very specific to Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois, and then there’s the Green Party and then a new party. Maxime Bernier had been a former Conservative cabine minister and sort of struck out on his own. But it’s looking right now like it’s going to be a Liberal-Conservative race according to public opinion polls.”
Kirkey says the primary issues depend on the region of Canada where voters live. “Canada’s a country of regions. Western Canadians are going to be particularly interested in environmental policies. If you go to Atlantic Canada that area is going to be concerned obviously as they traditionally are with maritime particularly fishing issues. And in Ontario and Quebec it’s going to be largely about questions of the economy. You know, in a country such as Canada that’s not focused disproportionately or exclusively or even primarily on national security, what you find is that issues such as health care, climate change, the overall health of the economy and other related social issues tend to dominate the political conversation and that’s what’s happening right now.”
Canada’s elections operate under a Parlimentary system, which means when voters go to the polls they are choosing local representatives and do not directly vote for the Prime Minister. Kirkey says that doesn’t mean the party leadership isn’t considered when someone casts a vote. "It’s going to come down to Ontario and the question there is really can the Liberal Party expecting the majority of seats in Atlantic Canada and in Quebec can they secure enough seats because they’ll still get a few in places like Manitoba and British Columbia. They may even squeak out a few seats in Saskatchewan. They may be shut out in Alberta, I don’t know, but you know that’s really going to be the tale of the tape so to speak.”
Northern border interests in New York follow the Canadian national elections closely. North Country Chamber president and CEO Garry Douglas says he and regional officials travel regularly to Ottawa to maintain nonpartisan contacts. “The U.S. economic partnership with Canada, the kinds of investments that take place here to help Canadian companies grow in the U.S. market there’s consensus across the political spectrum on that. So we don’t tend to see when things go from Liberal to Conservative or whatever in Canada real difference in those elements that are important to us. What will be important to us is the relationships with individual officials ministers and contacts that we have. And so we’ll be watching for those personalities and will as we have done for the last 25 years if there is a change in government we’ll be moving very quickly to get back to Ottawa, form relationships with the appropriate new cabinet ministers and their deputies. We’ve done it before. We’ll do it again.”
The winning party must obtain 170 of the 338 seats in the Canadian House of Commons to win a majority. If the winning party has 169 or fewer seats it must form a minority government.