December 16, 2019

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Writ drops, gloves come off

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is asking voters to give him another chance, casting Wednesday's national election call as a choice between economic growth and cutbacks.

Experts say the reality is the Liberals trying to avoid political rivals taking their urban support, and stalling Tory momentum in swing suburbs, including in Manitoba.

Ridings to watch

OTTAWA — Here’s how Christopher Adams, a University of Manitoba political scientist, sees Manitoba’s 14 ridings:

SAFE:

Winnipeg South Centre (Liberal MP Jim Carr)

Winnipeg North (Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux)

All Conservative and NDP ridings outside Winnipeg

OTTAWA — Here’s how Christopher Adams, a University of Manitoba political scientist, sees Manitoba’s 14 ridings:

SAFE:

Winnipeg South Centre (Liberal MP Jim Carr)

Winnipeg North (Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux)

All Conservative and NDP ridings outside Winnipeg

CONTESTED:

Elmwood—Transcona (NDP MP Daniel Blaikie)

Saint Boniface—Saint Vital (Liberal MP Dan Vandal)

Winnipeg Centre (Liberal MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette)

Winnipeg South (Liberal MP Terry Duguid)

AT RISK OF FLIPPING:

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley (Liberal MP Doug Eyolfson)

Kildonan—St. Paul (Liberal MP MaryAnn Mihychuk)

"There’s no doubt the Liberals are going to lose some of the seats they won last time around in Winnipeg," said Raymond Hébert, a political-science professor emeritus at Université de Saint-Boniface.

"The Liberals have nowhere to go but down."

Moments after Gov. Gen. Julie Payette ordered writs to be issued in all 338 Canadian ridings Wednesday, Trudeau painted the Oct. 21 election as a decision between his party and the Conservatives, ignoring the NDP and Greens.

PAUL CHIASSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Conservative leader Andrew Scheer delivers a speech during a campaign rally in Trois-Rivieres, Que. on Wednesday, September 11, 2019.</p>

PAUL CHIASSON / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer delivers a speech during a campaign rally in Trois-Rivieres, Que. on Wednesday, September 11, 2019.

"We’ve all got a choice to make: keep moving forward and build on the progress we’ve made, or go back to the politics of the Harper years," Trudeau told reporters outside Rideau Hall.

Manitoba voter participation

Click to Expand

Provincial 2019 vote turnout: 55 per cent

Provincial 2016 vote turnout: 57 per cent

Federal 2015 vote turnout in Manitoba: 76 per cent

Federal 2011 vote turnout in Manitoba: 66 per cent

— source: Elections Manitoba unofficial results, Statistics Canada

Reporters asked repeatedly about the SNC-Lavalin affair, after the Globe and Mail reported the RCMP was probing a possible obstruction of justice, but were stymied by witnesses who felt muzzled by cabinet confidence. The prime minister responded enough information had been made public.

Launching his own campaign in Trois-Rivières, Que., Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer the ongoing saga showed Trudeau had lost the moral authority to govern.

"Justin Trudeau is not the person he claimed to be," Scheer said, arguing he could cut taxes, the deficit and carbon emissions, which he argued have all risen under Trudeau. "He will say anything to get re-elected."

ADRIAN WYLD / TE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>NDP leader Jagmeet Singh speaks during a campaign stop in London, Ontario on Wednesday September 11, 2019.</p>

ADRIAN WYLD / TE CANADIAN PRESS

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh speaks during a campaign stop in London, Ontario on Wednesday September 11, 2019.

Both Trudeau and Scheer alluded to climate change, and issues that rally their bases, such as health care and irregular immigration. But their remarks focused overwhelmingly on the economy.

They both said they wouldn't have Ottawa try reversing a controversial Quebec law that bans most public servants from wearing hijabs, in a province that will be key to either party taking the lead.

Polls have the two parties tied in their support, with the NDP and Greens fighting for third place.

In London, Ont., NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took a combative tone, pledging to get tough on mobile carriers gouging Canadians. He said he'd "stand up to the lobbyists and corporate insiders," accusing the Liberals of "pretty words and empty promises."

Green Leader Elizabeth May urged voters to consider more than their pocketbooks, citing "the climate emergency" as well as ethics breaches as a reason to go beyond the main parties.

"No other party leader is going to say this, but first and foremost, we are earthlings," she said in Victoria. "What matters most is that we vote for what we believe in."

CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS</p><p>Green Party leader Elizabeth May announces the official launch of the Green Party of Canada election campaign as she's joined by green candidates during a press conference at the Delta Hotels Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort  in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday, September 11, 2019. </p>

CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Green Party leader Elizabeth May announces the official launch of the Green Party of Canada election campaign as she's joined by green candidates during a press conference at the Delta Hotels Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort in Victoria, B.C., on Wednesday, September 11, 2019.

Chris Adams, a University of Manitoba political scientist, said federal parties could get traction in Winnipeg on the economy writ large, with issues such as health care, crime and poverty resonating across the city, while the carbon tax is particularly unpopular in the suburbs.

"Winnipeg is in play, in many ways," Adams said.

Manitobans are being asked to return to the ballot box six weeks after Tuesday's provincial vote, in which just meagre 55 per cent of those eligible cast a ballot. Hébert believes more will turn out for the federal election, with the SNC-Lavalin affair and headlines about abortion catching people's attention.

"It's much more controversial now, and the stakes are much higher federally," Hébert said, adding autumn is also a better time to attract voters.

Both Adams and Hébert believe voters who gave the provincial Tories their second majority will likely be galvanized by the result, and show up to polls for their federal cousins. If so, contested Liberal seats in the outer reaches of the city could fall to the Conservatives.

Hébert noted strong NDP momentum in three of the four ridings that cover NDP MP Daniel Blaikie's federal district of Elmwood—Transcona could help him keep his seat against Tory opponent Lawrence Toet, who won the riding in the 2011 election.

With relatively few Canadians having a set impression of Scheer, the federal Liberals have opted to link him with unpopular Tory premiers, such as Ontario’s Doug Ford and Alberta’s Jason Kenney.

In his first term, Pallister butted heads with Trudeau numerous times, but he told reporters Wednesday he is "not going to campaign in the federal election," unlike Kenney.

Manitobans can expect the Liberals to do the same with Premier Brian Pallister, whom 54 per cent of Manitobans disapproved of, and 63 per cent of Winnipeggers said he had an unhelpful, combative style, according to an August survey conducted by Probe Research for the Free Press/CTV News Winnipeg.

In his first term, Pallister butted heads with Trudeau numerous times, but he told reporters Wednesday he is "not going to campaign in the federal election," unlike Kenney. Instead, Pallister intends to be vocal on which policies would help and hurt the province, regardless of party.

"I wasn't elected to just serve the needs of the federal Conservative party. I was elected to serve the needs of Manitobans," the premier said.

 

The Liberals could have enough headaches elsewhere. On Wednesday, Ontario elementary teachers gave notice of a possible strike vote, which would likely hurt the federal Tories in key swing ridings.

Across Canada, the Liberals will likely also blame provincial government for delays in infrastructure projects, many of which require provincial cost-sharing and classification along streams such as transit and green initiatives. Tories counter those changes had gummed up the rollout of projects.

In any case, the Liberals issued a last-minute doubling of municipalities share of the gas tax, a long-existing levy used for road repair. That's helped salvage some ribbon-cutting photo-ops for the party's Winnipeg candidates, even if most involve projects still being built (such as the Waverley Street rail underpass).

— with files from Jessica Botelho-Urbanski

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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