BLUESKY BRIEF - August 17th

With the country still amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it comes as no surprise that all the federal party leaders are being asked questions about where they stand on mandatory vaccinations. The Liberals, NDP and Bloc have lined up in favour of mandatory vaccinations for federal employees and travellers on domestic planes and trains, while the Conservatives won’t mandate a jab. It’s a wedge issue in the making and will continue to feature in political discourse, particularly as Trudeau points out that all Liberal candidates are must be vaccinated, and O’Toole remains mum on the issue. Read on for the take from our election political observers.

From the desk of Geoff Turner, Vice President

With the NDP and Conservatives releasing platforms in the days abutting Sunday’s election call, it reinforced that all parties have long been anticipating and working towards the end of this parliament as the global pandemic and our national politics reached a summer 2021 inflection point. These documents, and the positions that underpin them, take months. It’s unusual – especially for a “snap election” – to have major party platforms in the opening days of an election, with leading parties typically releasing a platform mid-campaign, once the ballot question is closer to view and temperatures have been taken with key constituencies.

With the handling of the pandemic – past, present and future, and the rapidly unfolding events in Afghanistan looming large in our memories and our outlook, it seems the core of this campaign is at least about something, as opposed to the many elections that come and go with a Seinfeldian about nothing afterglow. The Liberals are confident their handling of the pandemic is supported by the public and have ample comparisons to make to conservative leaders in provinces and other countries who had a different prescription for Canada’s handling of this once-in-a-lifetime crisis. With the twin-headed beast of climate change and economic fairness that is demanding once-in-a-generation transformations, the Liberals are true believers in doing big things and are banking on the sense that the public is overwhelmingly there, too.

And while we wait for the Liberal platform that will come in the traditional mid-campaign stride, they have offered up a wedge that can make you forget an 83-page platform released on day one.

From the desk of Neil Brodie, Vice President

Before the weekend, we saw the release of the NDP platform and day two of the campaign, saw the Conservative leader present his party’s blueprint for governing. Seeing these documents so early in a campaign is relatively rare. Usually, political parties wait until later in a campaign before committing their party to promises that may get overtaken by events. Other risks of an early platform release are less news coverage of daily announcements since the media already know everything your campaign will say, having other parties that have not released their platform steal your ideas and sell them as their own, and other parties criticizing your platform for most of the campaign before they release their platform. However, releasing the platform early allows voters to see what your priorities are and allows them to think about whether they are ideas they like. We have 33 more days to figure if this was a risk or a reward for both the NDP and the CPC.

And speaking of platforms, right there on page 18 the Conservative plan is their strategy on how to beat COVID-19 through vaccination and testing to fully reopen our economy. But that won’t stop the Liberals from making vaccination status a political issue. Current Liberal talking points are far from the “cough into your sleeve and wash your hands” from April 2020. But then so are the Conservatives' messages. Any politicization of public health reflects poorly on those doing it. Hopefully, the Liberals will tone down the rhetoric on this topic and join with the Conservatives pushing for people to get vaccinated.

From the desk of Cameron Holmstrom, Consultant

A usual dilemma for political parties in an election campaign is when to release your campaign platform. Do it early, to give people more time to become aware of it? Or wait until later, to reduce the chances for your opponents to attack it? It’s a hard choice and there is no perfect answer. But in this pandemic, the game is different and the correct answer to this question should reflect that fact. With Elections Canada estimating that up to 5 million Canadians will vote by mail this time, the amount of time for parties to reach these voters before their ballots are marked is limited. That adds to the increasing pre-COVID trend of people voting earlier, taking advantage of advance polling days instead of waiting right until the end to queue up to vote.

With that in mind, the NDP and Conservatives were wise to get their platforms out early. That will increase the chances for Canadians to take a serious look at what they are offering, and judge accordingly. It shows that both parties are ready for a campaign they didn’t want, putting down markers in the process that the other parties will be compared against.

But when it comes to vaccine mandates, the Conservatives continue to make missteps. By actively opposing them, they are sending people a message that they are more concerned about their base than public health, which puts them firmly at odds with the NDP and Liberals. It’s hard to convince people that you have their backs in this pandemic when you refuse such a sensible idea in the middle of a public health crisis. It also forces Canadians to think that when faced with such a tough decision, their public health isn’t the first concern. I don’t know how you undo that kind of impression.

Today’s Liberal leader Justin Trudeau announced small business measures to provide specific sector support. In today’s announcement, a Liberal government would build on the support introduced during the pandemic by providing more help to COVID-19 impacted businesses and support the creation of one million jobs through:

  • the extension of the Canada Recovery Hiring Program to March 31, 2022, so businesses can hire more workers and Canadians can get back on the job;

  • temporary wage and rent support of up to 75% of the expenses in Canada’s hard-hit tourism industry to help them get through the winter;

  • launching the Arts and Culture Recovery Program that will match ticket sales for performing arts, live theatres, and other cultural venues to compensate for reduced capacity;

  • the extension of COVID-related insurance coverage for media production stoppages to support 150,000 Canadian jobs; and

  • the implementation of a transitional support program to help bridge workers from the creative industry who continue to be impacted by the pandemic.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole also made an announcement today and it was a fairly large one as it was the unveiling of his party’s full campaign platform, Canada’s Recovery Plan. Inside the 83 page document, Conservatives introduced four major initiatives to create jobs with spending that to get the country out of the pandemic.

  • · Canada Job Surge Plan: paying up to 50% of the salary of new hires for six months following the end of CEWS;

  • · Canada Investment Accelerator: getting companies spending money and creating jobs by providing a 5% investment tax credit for any capital investment made in 2022 and 2023, with the first $25,000 to be refundable for small businesses;

  • · Rebuild Main Street Tax Credit: providing a 25% tax credit on amounts of up to $100,000 that Canadians personally invest in a small business over the next two years, to get money flowing into main street businesses and create jobs;

  • · Main Street Business Loan: providing loans of up to $200,000 to help small and medium businesses in hospitality, retail, and tourism get back on their feet, with up to 25% forgiven; and

  • · Convert the Child Care Expense Deduction into a refundable tax credit covering up to 75% of the cost of child care for lower-income families.

The NDP released their platform before the start of the campaign and today Jagmeet Singh highlighted a plank that has been resurfaced from the 2019 campaign…taxing the wealthy. If elected, an NDP government would “make our tax system fairer and ensure that the wealthiest individuals are paying their fair share, we will increase the capital gains inclusion rate to 75 percent. A New Democrat government will also boost the top marginal tax rate two points, put in place a luxury goods tax on things like yachts and private jets, and ask the very richest multi-millionaires to pay a bit more towards our shared services with a wealth tax.”

And for the Green Party today, leader Annamie Paul started her media availability calling for Governor General to recall Parliament “to debate the desperate situation in Afghanistan.” She then continued to unveil her party’s climate platform.

The Conservatives campaign platform garnered A LOT of attention not for the content but the cover. This tweet won the internet on this topic.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s first stop of the day in the riding of Toronto-Danforth was the target of ...

Here is where you can expect the leaders to be today 9all times in Eastern):

Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada – will be in Markham, Ontario where he will make an announcement at 10 am about support for Canadian families. Later he will visit another restaurant - this time in Barrie, Ontarion

Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada – will head to the GTA where he will make an annoucement in Toronto at 1pm and then hold a ally at 6:30pm in Richmond Hill.

Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP – travels to British Columbia today where, at noon, he will make an job creation plan and tour a local PPE manufacturer. He will then visit a local bakery and attend a nomination meeting in Burnaby South.

Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada – remains in Toronto where she will visit Regent Park and then hold a media availability at 2:30pm. In the evening, she will canvas at the Dundas subway station.

Yves Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois - is in Montmagny today where he will speak about seniors with the press at 10:30am. He will then head to Batican, Quebec and Shawinigna.

The video of people desperate to leave Afghanistan and storming the tarmac at Kabul International Airport is heartbreaking. Senior Associate Lt. Gen (Ret'd) @HonAndrewLeslie gave his thoughts on the situation on CBC News Network and CTV Ottawa.

And Consultant Cameron Holmstrom appeared on CTV News Channel to give his thoughts on the first full day of campaigning.

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