BLUESKY BRIEF - August 19th

In 32 days, Canadians will head to the polls and yesterday, Elections Canada laid out the pandemic voting procedures. Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault says that all polling stations will follow the public health guidelines specific to each province and that it will be similar to what “you meet every day at the grocery store.” For those not comfortable voting in person, who cannot wear a mask or cannot get to a polling station, Elections Canada is asking Canadians to register to be able to vote by mail. All the details on how to do that can be found on the Elections Canada website. It should be noted that mail-in ballots will not be counted until the day after the election so it may take two to five days to complete that count. This could mean the results of some close races in some ridings won’t be known right away.

What is known right now is that the majority of polls are indicating that it is a tight race between the Liberals and the Conservatives with the NDP increasing in popularity. That had Bluesky wondering if the swing in party fortunes in the Nova Scotia election will affect the outcome of the federal election.

From the desk of Neil Brodie, Vice President

First of all, congratulations and thank you to all the hardworking folks in Nova Scotia who gave their time working for all the candidates. Secondly, congratulations to Premier Houston who has a majority government.

Two months ago, polls showed the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia was 28 points behind the governing Liberal Party. What a difference two months make. Even early Tuesday pollsters were projecting a Liberal majority in Nova Scotia.

These results from the Nova Scotia provincial election will be much scrutinized by all federal parties over the next two or three days. Pundits and talking heads will draw inferences from these results and try to apply them to the current federal election. But most elections are their own entities. What's important to provincial voters in one part of the country may not be important to other regions of the country in a federal context. The PC party of Nova Scotia campaigned mostly on health care. While part of the national narrative currently discussed is healthcare, many other national issues are taking the attention of voters: affordability, the environment, COVID-19 response.

The main takeaway for the federal Liberal Party should be that nothing is guaranteed when you call a snap election. The main takeaway for the federal Conservative party should be that their provincial cousins in Nova Scotia actively distanced themselves from the federal party and won a majority. Regardless, this is a big boost to the morale of Conservatives across the country and a cause for concern for the federal Liberals.

From the desk of Geoff Turner, Vice President

The clear victory by the Progressive Conservatives in Nova Scotia certainly landed with a thud in Ottawa's political war rooms and on the hustings. For those keeping score, it also reduces the Liberal provincial and territorial governments to just two, both re-elected in early 2021 pandemic elections: Yukon (a slim minority) and Newfoundland and Labrador. It is also the first pandemic election where the incumbent lost, while most had gained majorities. This comes at a time with softening of the vote intentions after the opening days. But, it’s also the middle of August, and most of this campaign is going to happen after Labour Day.

Some perspectives that situate what happened are important. First, the PC Party of Nova Scotia is not the Conservative Party of Canada. The incoming Premier did everything to telegraph clearly to his potential voters (and the rest of us), that they were not to be compared. Second, the PCs had a strong strategy of keeping message discipline by driving hard on healthcare service failures, committing to big spending and other priorities as remedies much more in common with Trudeau than O’Toole. And the incumbent premier, Iain Rankin, had not led the province throughout the pandemic, Stephen MacNeil carried the province (remember “Stay the blazes home!”).

Finally, the effect on the ground is crucial and interesting. Despite ideological preferences, the reality is that in almost all cases, campaigns of one colour or another are run and volunteered on by many of the same people, supported by the same donors and local stakeholders. So, for the Blue team, big winds in the sails, new voters and fresh data, but also resources and personnel being freshly sucked into government offices. For the Red Team, the same experience and data advantages, swing PC voters to lure back, and the ability to transition and motivate people and resources to the federal Conservative opponents. In short, the campaign continues.

From the desk of Cameron Holmstrom, Consultant

One of the oldest adages in politics is that “campaigns matter.” For all the positive polling and stories a party might get before an election, once the rubber hits the road on a campaign, things can change. Given how this campaign started, it seems that a reminder of that adage is almost required at this point.

The electors of Nova Scotia delivered that reminder Tuesday night, with a shot across the bow that few saw coming. Just as the polls showed a safe win for the Trudeau Liberals, they were even better for the Iain Rankin’s Nova Scotia Liberals. And for a month things changed, so much so that the inevitable Liberal majority became a strong Progressive Conservative win on election day. For the federal Liberals, this might serve as a sober reminder of the mood of the electorate right now.

While a blue win in the Bluenose province might normally put some wind in the sails of Erin O’Toole, it likely won’t here. Premier-Designate Tim Houston won this campaign, partially by publicly and strongly distancing himself from the federal Conservatives and O’Toole months before the campaign. He ran on a platform and approach that was closer to that of Justin Trudeau circa 2015. This result speaks to more of a desire for a new person to lead rather than a turn to the right. For the NDP, the result was good news as Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill grew his caucus, partially by embracing federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. Singh campaigned for Burrill in Halifax, helping to bring NDP gains in the capital city. There are many lessons for all parties here, but it always helps to be reminded that “campaigns matter” and that they should take nothing for granted.

In a province that is battling forest fires, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau pledges a $500 million investment in firefighters, equipment if re-elected. With the money allocated in this announcement, a Liberal government would

  • Train 1,000 new community-based firefighters to ensure we have the support we need in future fire seasons;

  • Work with provinces and territories to provide firefighters with the equipment they need to fight fires and stay safe, like Canadian-made planes to increase provincial aerial firefighting capacity;

  • Help Canadians make their homes more resilient from climate change, through retrofits and upgrades; and

  • Partner with the private sector to innovate climate adaptation, including by lowering insurance premiums that would save Canadians money.

Today Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was in Quebec City where announced his party’s plan to restore accountability to the federal government. With the Anti-Corruption Act, a Conservative government would

  • Ensure there are monetary penalties for any violation of the Conflict of Interest Act.

  • Increase fines for ethical violations from a maximum of $500 to a maximum of $50,000 to deter unethical behaviour.

  • Ensure cabinet confidence can no longer be used to shield government insiders from criminal investigation.

  • Avoid a repeat of the SNC-Lavalin scandal by requiring all meetings by corporations and organizations to be reported, and ban lobbying on a matter where the entity is the subject of a criminal proceeding under that matter.

  • Prevent Members of Parliament from collecting speaking fees.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh spoke from his Burnaby riding made an announcement directed at homeowners, and those trying to buy a home, vowing to get big money out of Canada’s housing market and help young Canadians and families buy a home they can afford.”

Being in British Columbia, Singh was also faced with an abundance of questions regarding the province’s opioid crisis.

Green Party leader Annamie Paul remained in Toronto speaking from Moss Park, a diverse party of the city. In the park, she shared her party’s plans for bringing communities like this out from the pandemic. Her announcement can be viewed here.

New day, new ads. First up, from the Conservatives…

And this creative placement wording for this NDP ad…

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

Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada is in Victoria, where he will make an announcement about support for seniors at 1 pm.

Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada is back in Ottawa, where he will make an announcement and hold a media availability at 9 am. In the evening, he will then hold a virtual telephone town hall with New Brunswick residents and another virtual town hall with Ontario residents from the Westin Hotel.

Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP heads to Edmonton, where he will make an announcement about health care and hold a media availability at 1130 am. He will then visit local businesses with Edmonton NDP candidates Blake Desjarlais and Heather McPherson. Singh will end the day with a visit to NDP Edmonton Griesbach candidate Blake Desjarlais’s campaign office.

Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada is in Toronto, where at noon she will campaign on Berkeley Street and Ontario Street. In the evening, she will then campaign at the Fieldstone Co-op building.

Yves Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois will hold a press conference 930 am on health transfers at the Hôpital de Gatineau. Beginning at1030am, he will meet with representatives from non-profit Action Santé Outaouais in Gatinea, followed by a meeting Benoit Lauzon from the Papineau Regional County Municipality at Restaurant La Toquade in Saint-André-Avellin. At 2 pm, he will hold another press conference at the Hôpital de Lachute which will be followed by a discussion on children's health care with the director of a social pediatrics centre in Lachute.

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About Bluesky Strategy GroupBluesky Strategy Group Inc. is a full-service public affairs firm with nearly two decades of extensive experience working with clients - from corporate, not-for-profit, and national associations, to governments, departments and agencies. We provide our clients with government relations, strategic communications and media relations advice and execution. Bluesky’s team can help you. Reply to this email to be connected with our team.

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