WELCOME TO OTTAWA PLAYBOOK. I’m your host, Nick Taylor-Vaisey. Today, new numbers from Abacus Data confirm we’ve got a real election on our hands. All the parties raced to fill their slates of candidates before a Monday deadline. And the Curse of Politics podcast panel dishes on how to effectively take down a rival.
IT’S ANYBODY’S RACE — The trend is clear. Conservatives clearly trailed Liberals before JUSTIN TRUDEAU boldly called an election. Now the Tories have pulled even — or ahead — in almost every major national poll.
Abacus Data’s DAVID COLETTO has fresh numbers this morning, and you’re seeing them before anyone else. Here’s the story they tell:
— The topline stuff: Liberals held a four-point lead last week. That’s down to a single point, 33-32, well within the poll’s 2.2 percent margin of error. The NDP is at 22 percent, down a point but still well above their 2019 result. The Bloc Québécois is up two points to 8 percent.
— The regionals: These are a double-edged sword. They tell a more precise story than national numbers, but come with smaller sample sizes. Liberals are barely ahead of the NDP in B.C., seven points ahead of the Tories in Ontario, and five back of the Bloc in Quebec. This is, on paper, the stuff of another Liberal victory.
— Under the hood: E-Day is all about getting out the vote. And the Tories have a tiny advantage over the Liberals, 34-32, in respondents who say they’ll definitely vote. Some 38 percent of voters might still change their mind, including 45 percent of NDP respondents.
— Leader impressions: Trudeau still has slightly more negatives (43 percent) than positives (40). JAGMEET SINGH‘s positives (44) are still climbing, though his negatives (26) are ticking up, too. And voters continue to like what they see in ERIN O’TOOLE, though his positives (29) haven’t caught up to his negatives (42). More on YVES-FRANÇOIS BLANCHET‘s favorability later in Playbook.
— Desire for change: Forty-eight percent of Canadians definitely want a new government, a 10-percent increase since June. Useful context: Abacus notes that number stood at 52 percent on the last E-Day, when Liberals still managed to win a second term.
— Coletto’s takeaway: “It’s almost like we have returned to normal — the political environment pre-pandemic.” That’s not great news for Liberals who crave a majority or Conservatives who want to avoid a repeat of 2019. New Democrats are the exception: their numbers are stronger than the last vote — for now.
NOMINATION CENSUS — POLITICO’s Zi-Ann Lum kept count as Canada’s political parties secured their candidates. Here are the standings as of Monday at 2 p.m., when Elections Canada closed the window on new nominations. A full slate is 338 candidates.
Bloc Québécois: 65
People’s Party: 273
— Asterisks: The Bloc Québécois didn’t reply by deadline, but the party’s website lists 65 candidates. The Greens did not respond by deadline, but the party’s website lists 138 candidates. A People’s Party spokesman told POLITICO the party’s final number could be as high as 318, pending confirmation from Elections Canada.
OPPO DUMP — The other consequence of that all-important deadline is that candidates can’t be taken off the ballot — even if they quit their campaigns. That’s exactly when rivals strike, hoping to shame opponents who’ve said things they might regret.
Enter STEVEN GUILBEAULT, the heritage minister and Liberal candidate in Montreal’s Laurier-Sainte-Marie. Guilbeault tweeted a thread of Tories whose previous comments on climate change run counter to O’Toole’s official line. We won’t do their dirty work for them, but suffice to say Shefford candidate CÉLINE LALANCETTE was first on the list for her belief that humans aren’t behind climate change — and “the universe will do what it has to do.”
COVID WATCH — As a Delta-driven fourth wave of Covid hits the four biggest provinces and school-aged kids return to their classrooms, the pandemic could become a defining theme of the 2021 campaign.
Every day, we’ll update the most recent provincial data on Covid hospitalizations in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec. The change since the last daily update is in parentheses.
Ontario: 226 (+12)*
Alberta: 401 (+65)
British Columbia: 176 (+17)
Quebec: 125 (-1)
* Ontario’s weekend numbers are artificially lower than the true count because not every hospital submits data. This increase of 12 is compared to the previous Sunday. h/t to TVO’s JOHN MICHAEL MCGRATH, who tracks this stuff like a hawk.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will start in Kanata, Ont., with a 10 ET announcement.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is back at his trusty fortress of solitude at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa, where he’ll make a 12 ET announcement. He’ll stick around the studio for a 6 ET virtual town hall with Nova Scotians, a group of voters he hopes to woo in a handful of provincial battlegrounds.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is back in Coquitlam, B.C., where he’ll make a 9 PT housing announcement at an Italian family restaurant. That’s nestled in Port Moody-Coquitlam, a Tory-held swing riding where the incumbent is NELLY SHIN. Singh’s next event is at his own campaign office — a rare visit to NDP turf — for a “burmashave.” (Remember the famous roadside billboards? It’s kind of like that.)
ASK US ANYTHING
What is happening? Questions about the campaign? Send them our way.
Each day of the campaign, David Coletto from our polling partner Abacus Data will share a data point from his polling that helps to explain public opinion during the 2021 federal election.
What about the Bloc Québécois?
Last week, Quebec Premier FRANÇOIS LEGAULT inserted himself in the campaign, describing the Liberals and NDP as “centralists.” He all but endorsed the positions of the Conservatives and the Bloc.
On Thursday, TVA will host the first leaders’ debate of the campaign — in French.
So, what is happening with the Bloc Québécois in Quebec?
Our most recent survey had the Bloc 5 points ahead of the Liberals at 34 percent. However, 44 percent of Quebecers say they are open to voting for the BQ. That means the party has room to grow, especially in the suburban areas around Montreal and the Quebec City region.
YVES-FRANÇOIS BLANCHET remains quite popular in Quebec with a net favorable score of +16. In contrast, Trudeau is +7 and O’Toole is -13.
The BQ is very much still a factor in this campaign and as we saw in 2019, Blanchet is an excellent debater. With Legault raising doubts about the Liberals, and the Conservatives rising outside of Quebec, will the BQ and Blanchet find an opening to encourage voting for them to stop the Conservatives and give Quebec a strong say in the next Parliament?
For information about this survey, including the methodology follow this link.
POLITICO Canada is collaborating with The Herle Burly on 2021 campaign coverage. DAVID HERLE, SCOTT REID, and JENNI BYRNE tackle a key question each day. Find out more about them here.
Today: What is the most effective oppo attack? The kind of thing that has you licking your chops when you see it.
HERLE: Most of politics is without the skullduggery seen in House of Cards, but war rooms really are cloak and dagger stuff. Those folks are combing through court records, finding erased social media accounts, digging up accounts of unpublicized meetings. Sometimes there’s a big policy gotcha, but mostly these attacks land on character.
REID: Two things make for a particularly delicious op attack. The first is stealth — the attack the other side doesn’t know is coming. That they could not have possibly prepared for. Like an uncovered video clip that no one else has seen or suspected. Or a court pleading that never previously surfaced. I’m talking about something that hits like a bolt out of the blue sky and leaves nothing but ash and shoe laces.
The second is denial. Not the “this claim is false and without merit” kind of denial. But the “no one could possibly believe such a thing of us” denial. I’m talking about the juicy red McIntosh apple of a campaign in denial. Yum!
BYRNE: In my experience, the attacks that best land and enact pain on your opponents are ones that are truthful and authentic. No twisting of words — that gets you in trouble. If you have a quote or recording, great. If you have a video, even better. Both were the case in ’08 & ’11 against Dion and Iggy.
The big question always becomes: Do we push it out and saturate people with the attack to form opinions and brand your opposition before they try and brand themselves? Or do you throw it out on days like the leader’s debate prep to get everyone scrambling? (Like my good, fellow pod friends did to us a couple times.)
Listen for the daily edition of the Herle Burly panel’s campaign pod. Nick Taylor-Vaisey kicks things off each morning with lively banter and keen insight. Subscribe to Curse of Politics here.
SWING VOTERS, WEEK 3 — With 19 days until Sept. 20, here’s a hard truth from outside the bubble: “People are not really engaged in this campaign, not hearing much that interests them.” That’s Herle’s first takeaway after his third session with a focus group of swing voters from British Columbia and the 905 region of Ontario.
“The core question as to what this election is about remains unanswered and it is allowing voters to drift,” Herle said after Saturday afternoon’s session.
“Through the Looking Glass: Swing Voters 2021” is following 10 voters until Sept. 20 when Canadians go to the polls. The project from Air Quotes Media offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective of what people are actually thinking about during the 2021 campaign.
“Erin O’Toole is taking the sharp edges off Conservatism,” Herle said. As a result, he adds, progressives have little fear of voting their preferences. “This may be the greatest Liberal imperative in this campaign right now — to create a sense of negative consequences from change.”
THREE STRIKES, THEY’RE OUT — A bureaucrat who worked as a director for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada resigned after a string of eyebrow-raising infractions that an investigation eventually called “gross mismanagement,” according to a federal website.
The employee was alleged to have “bullied and marginalized” a subordinate, promoted someone with whom they had a personal relationship without declaring a conflict, and sole-sourced a contract to a third party with which they held a financial stake — again, without declaring a conflict of interest. They quit their job before the investigation concluded.
— Corrective action: Senior managers will “ensure policy directives and oversight mechanisms are strengthened for prevention and early determination of potential similar acts of misappropriation.” Translation: Watch more closely next time?
Do you work at IRCC? We want to hear from you. Drop us a line.
Conservative MP DAVID SWEET represented suburban Hamilton and some of its surrounding rural areas for 15 years. He chaired his party caucus after the 2015 election, and also helmed the Commons industry and ethics committees (he stepped down from that role earlier this year after traveling during the pandemic).
As Sweet now retires from politics, his Flamborough-Glanbrook riding might be in play. His chief of staff, DAN MUYS, hopes to retain the seat for the Tories. VITO SGRO, the runner-up in Hamilton’s 2018 mayoral race, wants to paint it red.
Sweet talked to POLITICO about some of his favorite moments — and what’s next for him. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Tell us about the best caucus meeting ever.
That would have to be after the 2011 election when we won a majority. That was huge. It was electric. We had lots of new members who joined us because we had the majority. I don’t think we got much business done. But we certainly had a good time. We always had a challenge fitting in that room, the Library Room. We were always right to the back wall.
When did you have the biggest impact in caucus?
When my caucus had total confidence in me and voted for me to be the caucus chairman in 2015. Being able to run the meeting and liaise between the caucus and the leadership team and the whip’s office, the House leader’s office, all of our Senate colleagues, that was a place where I was able to make the biggest impact.
I was dedicated to making sure my colleagues always were able to be heard. We always had an open-mic session in our caucus, and it was important for me to make sure other business never overwhelmed their ability to speak to issues they felt the leader needed to hear.
What did you want to accomplish but never could?
I wasn’t able to accomplish something that was introduced to me three years after I was elected — I lobbied for it through both the last two governments — and that was to get funding for the anti-microbial lab at McMaster University.
Governments really need to be involved as far as viruses and antimicrobial resistance. I wish I was not retiring without that lab having some very serious funding.
What’s your Day 1 plan for your post-parliamentary life?
We bought a campground in New Brunswick near a place called Tabusintac — 45 acres with 1,100 feet of riverfront. We’re about 30 minutes north of Miramichi on the Tabusintac River, which spills out just north of the Northumberland Strait. We have the advantage of the warmest waters in Canada. If you get in a boat from our campground and go down a river to the ocean, the first thing you come to are sand bars filled with seals. It’s just phenomenal. You go five minutes past there, and there’s right whales and humpbacks.
On day one, I’m looking forward to assembling my sawmill and getting it running and starting to do some building on my own. I’m ready to go. Everybody thinks it’s a big change. But to me, I’m just going to be serving people differently. Our mission statement is to serve up nature for visitors’ adventure, joy and well being.
In news for subscribers:
— Canadian political leaders make prime-time pitches in volatile Quebec.
— Europe’s glory days of trade deals are over.
— States press forward on vax passports without Biden’s guidance.
— The U.S. federal health department is creating a new office to address climate change as a public health issue.
— EU’s move to restrict Americans injects more uncertainty into Covid-era travel.
— The Toronto Star’s ALEX BOUTILIER and the St. Catharines Standard’s GRANT LAFLECHE tell the inside story of those protesters trailing Trudeau across Canada.
— The Writ’s ÉRIC GRENIER considers the path to a viable O’Toole government.
— The Globe’s MARK MACKINNON tells the story of Ukrainian troops who rescued Canada-bound Afghans in a daring operation.
— Back to the Globe, a call to put foreign policy on the election agenda in an opinion essay signed by LLOYD AXWORTHY, JEAN CHAREST, JENNIFER WELSH, JEREMY KINSMAN and BEN ROWSWELL.
Spotted: Former MP GLEN PEARSON tweeted from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Suite at an unnamed hotel. Any guesses where he’s staying? (Answer here). … Enterprise Canada’s SUPRIYA DWIVEDI texting with colleague LUCAS MEYER about the questionable economics underpinning Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
Birthdays: Today would have been GORD BROWN’s birthday. The beloved MP from Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes suffered a heart attack in his office on Parliament Hill in 2018.
Movers and shakers: A pair of Liberal hands at Counsel Public Affairs, SHEAMUS MURPHY and BEN PARSONS, are lobbying for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.… Capital Hill Group’s FERNANDO MINNA, a policy adviser in the Harper years, is signed up for cybersecurity provider Tanium.
PLAYBOOK POLL — We asked readers which area code would see the most party leader visits this week. The options: 905 (GTA), 604 (Lower Mainland), 418 (Quebec City) and 902 (Nova Scotia + P.E.I.). Two-thirds of you guessed the all-important 905, which we admit was the clear favorite. Check back next Monday for the final tally.
Monday’s answer: Who was the first baby boomer to be elected prime minister? BOB GORDON was quick to our inbox: Avril Phaedra Douglas KIM CAMPBELL. Those of you who answered the same were part right.
STEPHEN HARPER was Canada’s first elected baby boomer. Full marks to CAMERON LAPINE, JOSEPH CRESSATTI, MICHAEL MACDONALD and LEIGH LAMPERT.
Tuesday’s question: Name Canada’s first deputy prime minister.
Send your answers to [email protected]
Have a petition you want signed? A cause you’re promoting? Seeking to increase brand awareness amongst this key audience? Share your message with our influential readers to foster engagement and drive action. Contact Alejandra Waase to find out how: [email protected]
Thanks to Luiza Ch. Savage, editor Sue Allan, Zi-Ann Lum and Andy Blatchford.