BLUESKY BRIEF - August 31st

The relationship between the federal, provincial and territorial governments has never been an easy one. The main reason is rooted in the constitutional powers given to each.

During the pandemic, Canadians generally saw Trudeau and the provincial/territorial premiers working together as best as they could. As for the election campaign, the premiers so far are sitting on the sidelines.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called a truce with Trudeau for the campaign and asked his ministers to not campaign for Conservative Erin O’Toole. In Nova Scotia, there is talk that the recent provincial election could cause voter fatigue in that province and on Wednesday, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister will resign.

In today’s Brief, the question is whether or not provincial politics can affect a federal election?

From the desk of Susan Smith, Principal

As much as the pollsters and media like to focus on the national horse race, it’s the regional races and polling breakdowns that matter. Factored into this regional mix is the mood on the ground in each province and territory: Are they annoyed with their current premier? Is this exploitable or necessarily avoidable for each of the federal leaders?

Albertans right now are very unhappy with Jason Kenney and his handling of the pandemic. This could translate into good news at the polls for Liberal and NDP votes, as well as for some of the splinter parties, bleeding off the usually automatic Conservative votes. Watch Trudeau and Singh continue to press the Kenney button, and Erin O’Toole to distance himself from his former caucus and cabinet mate.

Nova Scotia opted to turn the page on pandemic management and vote in a Conservative government after multiple years under Stephen MacNeil and Iain Rankin’s Liberals. Some of the anger around provincial healthcare and the fisheries issue could impact incumbent federal Liberal seats, though income supports during the pandemic and the promise of $10/day child care and investments in seniors’ care may win out.

Ontarians are giving Doug Ford a passing grade for his pandemic management, and are happy that he has announced mandatory vaccines and is set to introduce vaccine passports. This harms Erin O’Toole, who might have benefitted from campaigning with Ford. Team Trudeau will push hard on this vaccine wedge, trying to jam O’Toole even further while not dragging Ford into the mix.

In Quebec, Premier François Legault remains popular, perhaps with some sway over voters in his province, and Brian Pallister’s sneak-out-the-back-door exit from the Manitoba premier’s chair may help the Liberals federally.

On the whole, and apart from the flailings (and failings) of Jason Kenney in Alberta, and the sometimes pugilistic Scott Moe in Saskatoon, federal-provincial relations remain harmonious under Trudeau. The close cooperation between the two levels of government during the pandemic will keep most premiers out of the federal election fray.

Historically, voters are wily, they typically like to have one political stripe running their province, and another running their country. With the majority of Canada’s provinces and territories being run by a government with a stripe other than Liberal, Canadian voters may choose to go with the federal captain they know and return Team Trudeau to government.

From the desk of Neil Brodie, Vice President

“Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion…”

So begins the founding legislation of our country. From the moment the legislation came into effect, the provinces and the federal government have remained in a healthy state of tension.

In recent years, the federal government has been at odds with certain provinces regarding the taxation of carbon emissions. Earlier this year, the provincial premiers ask the federal government for a $28 billion increase in health transfers.

In my experience, it is only a recent development where federal leaders seeking to form a government have used provincial premiers as promoters or opponents. In 2015, Mr. Trudeau campaigned around Ontario with then-Premier Wynne to help promote himself. In 2019, Mr. Trudeau used Premier Ford as an opponent when campaigning in Ontario where the federal conservative leader, Mr. Scheer, was less well known. And this year, in the lead up to an election nobody wanted, Mr. Trudeau was openly using Mr. Kenney in Alberta as an opponent when Mr. O’Toole was less well known across Canada.

From a different angle, it is a recent development as well, to have federal leaders campaigning heavily on policies that are within provincial jurisdiction. All party platforms released so far this election has significant space dedicated to what a federal government would do in the area of long-term care and specific health policy.

There will always be health tension between jurisdictions in Canada, but hopefully, the use of other politicians as “boogey people” during the campaign will disappear quickly from our political discourse.

From the desk of Cameron Holmstrom, Consultant

Canada is one of the largest countries on Earth and as a result, each province and region is very different culturally and politically. That’s been a story as old as Confederation itself, and trying to elect a national government that speaks to those realities has always been a difficult balancing act. In this election, it’s no different but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier.

But what’s different this time is one big factor that’s driving a lot of conversation, policy and public sentiment; COVID-19. Because of their jurisdiction for public health, much of the policy around battling this pandemic falls to the provinces to create and enact. That includes specific public health rules, vaccination passports, and more. How each province has reacted has helped to drive the political mood in the said province, and spilled over to the federal campaign. Quebec and British Columbia are examples of the positive, where their governments’ responses have brought greater confidence in those governments and as a result, has made them more popular. On the other end of the spectrum, you find Alberta and Ontario, both of whom have taken approaches to battle COVID that has brought an opposite response, making their political leaders less popular & more of a liability.

As a result, in the run-up to and during the campaign, we’re seeing federal leaders try to be seen as allies of those popular leaders - Quebec Premier François Legault being the main example. Parties have tried to vie for his kind words and implicit backing of their ideas. On the other side, we’ve seen Alberta Premier Jason Kenney invoked as a rhetorical weapon against Erin O’Toole, trying to tie him to O’Toole’s nascent political brand. We’ll see if these tactics are effective this time around.

Before leaving for Nunavut (the first leader to visit the area), Liberal leader Justin Trudeau announced that a re-elected government would continue to protect Canada’s freshwater resources by:

  • Implementing a strengthened Freshwater Action Plan, including a historic investment of $1 billion over ten years, to restore and protect large lakes and river systems and enable us to fully meet Canada’s international obligations under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement;

  • Modernizing the 50-year-old Canada Water Act to better address climate change and Indigenous water rights and other emerging issues;

  • Establishing and fully funding a Canada Water Agency in 2022 to consolidate and coordinate federal freshwater efforts while collaborating with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to better protect and manage Canada’s freshwater; and

  • Investing in freshwater research through the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s Experimental Lakes Area (ELA).

Speaking from a dog rescue and sanctuary, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole provided details of his party’s plan to ban puppy mills, end abuse and violence against animals, and protect the humans who care for them. If elected, a Conservative government would:

  • Ban puppy mills and stop imports of animals bred inhumanely.

  • Strengthen the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s ability to enforce current regulations and seize animals when imported under poor welfare conditions.

  • Ban cosmetic testing on animals.

  • Add animal cruelty as an aggravating factor in domestic violence prosecutions to go after abusers who hurt their spouse by hurting their pet.

  • Support pet owners fleeing violence by working with the sector to ensure there are better options for women to leave abusive homes without having to abandon their pets.

  • Provide $10 million a year to train judges and prosecutors on the links between violence against animals and violence against people.

  • Work with the Council of Ministers of Education to promote animal welfare education as part of a child’s education on the environment and sustainability.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh focused on closing the loopholes to ensure that the “ultra-rich pay their fair share.” This would include:

  • Cracking down on tax evasion and strengthening enforcement.

  • Going after unfair stock options

  • Increasing public reporting on corporate taxes

  • Strengthening enforcement with a $100 million investment for staff and resources at the Canada Revenue Agency.

POPULAR IN THE UK – it seems that adults in Great Britain like Trudeau

POLITICAL PUP – The O’Toole family introduces their dog to voters and his name is Wexford

CONSERVATIVE STEPS DOWN – Dartmouth-Cole Harbour candidate Troy Myers will no longer run amid sex assault allegations

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

Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada will make an announcement at 10 am in Ottawa.

Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada is also in Ottawa where he will also make an announcement at noon and then, in the evening, hold a virtual telephone town hall with residents in Atlantic Canada.

Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP is in British Columbia, where he will make an announcement on housing at noon in Coquitlam and then in the evening, he will attend an event at his campaign office in Burnaby.

Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada will speak to the media at 230 pm at a community housing building in Toronto followed by a visit to a community food project on River Street.

Yves Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois will speak to the media on secularism outside at the Sherbrooke City Hall at 10 am and then he will meet with the mayor.

About Bluesky Strategy Group

Bluesky 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.

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