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While you were at the beach

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/9/2015 (1663 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The kids are back in school. The trees are starting to turn colour. The geese are headed back south.

So folks, it's time to kick that summer habit of living under a rock and pay attention.

In 41 days Canada will choose its next federal government. So far the main political parties have run rather understated campaigns but there have been a few things worth noting. Here's a quick recap:


Conservative Party of Canada

Campaign so far: It has been a rough 38 days for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives. There was the trial of Mike Duffy which has raised serious doubts about what role Harper himself may have played in a scheme to keep the Senate expense scandal contained. The outraged Conservative supporter who cursed at the media for asking questions about Duffy did not help. There was confirmation of a recession — be it technical or real — that couldn't have been more poorly timed. And last week the Harper campaign was thrown for a loop as the world mourned after a photo a Syrian toddler lying facedown on a beach turned global pressure up to address the refugee crisis in Europe.

In short, the hits just kept on coming.

He has made more announcements than any other party so far, including a $1.5 billion permanent home-renovation tax credit, increasing the number of reservists in the military and a bunch of small fry such as tax credits for service club memberships or adoption fees.

He is trying to campaign in a bubble to keep down the controversy — all events are carefully screened to admit only the most staunch of supporters — but still Harper spent a lot of time answering questions he would rather avoid.

The Conservatives head into the second half of the campaign with ground to make up but the money and organization to overcome some of that.

What's to come: Expect the Conservatives to unleash a torrent of attack ads on their opponents. The Duffy trial is over now until November but this week former senior Harper aide Bruce Carson goes on trial for influence peddling and illegal lobbying. Expect Harper to try and keep the focus on national security and military engagement in the Middle East.


New Democratic Party of Canada

Campaign so far: The NDP campaign to date has been light on details on how it will fulfil its biggest promises such as abolishing the Senate, introducing universal child care or restoring health-care funding to the provinces.

Tom Mulcair was expected to mop the floor with his rivals during the first leaders' debate, but his performance was adequate at best. He set himself apart from the Liberals by swearing he will balance the budget in the first year no matter what. After a misstep on day one when he avoided questions completely, he has now answered more questions from the media than either Harper or Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

He is playing some to the NDP base, with promises to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement for poor seniors and expand the Canada Pension Plan, but he is reaching out to more non-traditional NDP markets with a pledge to fund 2,500 new police officers and cut small-business taxes.

Mulcair wants the NDP perceived as the only alternative to the Conservatives.

The NDP however have enjoyed a lead in almost all the polls since the campaign began and while that has energized team orange, it has also turned more scrutiny to the NDP platform and more attacks from both main opponents.

What's to come: The NDP have had a banner year in fundraising and have kept campaign spending to a minimum thus far, leaving it more room to spend on advertising to fight back against the expected Conservative onslaught. The party plans to release a fully-costed platform before Sept. 17, which will be heavily scrutinized.


Liberal Party of Canada

Campaign so far: The Liberals came into this campaign in third place, battling Conservative-planted perceptions of Leader Justin Trudeau as a light-weight with nice hair. Expectations were relatively low, particularly for his debating skills, and so far, Trudeau has avoided any major gaffes.

He constantly makes an effort to contrast himself to Harper's controlling nature and bubble campaigning, wading into crowds, taking lots of questions, and pouring on the charm.

Trudeau shook things up and took a big risk by saying he would not balance the budget until 2019-20, running deficits of up to $10 billion in the next two years in order to invest in things such as infrastructure and green-energy technology to stimulate the economy. He trotted out former Prime Minister Paul Martin, hoping to remind Canadians the Liberals can be fiscally responsible, since Martin was the finance minister who balanced the federal budget after two decades of red ink.

He pledged $60 billion in new infrastructure money, one third of which would be dedicated to public-transit projects.

He made a bid for the First Nations vote with a pledge to spend more than $2 billion over four years to improve on-reserve education, and for the veterans' vote with a promise to reform veterans' pensions and services. That latter has been a sore spot between veterans and the Conservatives in recent years.

What's to come: The Liberals have responded to attack ads with ads of their own and expect more of that. Also expect Trudeau to promote the expertise on the Liberal team of candidates, past leaders and work to contrast that with the heavier controls on Conservative candidates. The Liberals will also likely explain more fully the cost of its plans and its deficit plans.


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Updated on Tuesday, September 8, 2015 at 9:07 AM CDT: Adds videos

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