On the last day of the federal election campaign, the major federal party leaders are making their closing arguments to voters and stumping in some of the most competitive regions in the country.
Each leader has spent the past 36 days attempting to sway hearts and minds. Now there are just hours remaining before polls open and they are left to await the judgment of voters.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who began the election with a short walk to Rideau Hall on Aug. 15, kicked off its final day with an event in Montreal and is expected to touch down in several provinces before tomorrow. He was not expected to speak with reporters.
Riding high in pre-election polls, Trudeau began the campaign by saying Canadians deserved a say in how Canada would recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In this pivotal, consequential moment, who wouldn’t want a say? Who wouldn’t want their chance to help decide where our country goes from here?” he said outside Rideau Hall.
But as that initial lead evaporated and the campaign developed, the Liberals’ message morphed into a mix of asking voters whom they trust to end the pandemic in the first place and a series of attacks against the Conservatives on climate, guns and vaccine policy.
“Because my friends, Canada is today at a crossroads, at a moment where we have to make a really important choice,” Trudeau said at a rally Sunday, “not just about what we’re going to do in the coming months to end this pandemic for good, but also how we’re going to stay true to our values and meet the challenges of the future with the same level of ambition and devotion to each other that we showed as Canadians every day through the past 18 months.”
More than any other leader, Trudeau has spent the campaign on the defensive, visiting more ridings currently held by Liberals than those controlled by opposition parties, according to an analysis of the leaders’ schedules by CBC News.
He spoke Sunday in the riding of King–Vaughan, a suburban-rural GTA riding held by cabinet minister Deb Schulte and the type of seat targeted by Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s centrist pitch.
O’Toole’s pitch to moderates
O’Toole was in the same part of the country Sunday, holding just a couple major events, first in Markham and then in Toronto itself, neither of which included speaking with media.
Throughout the campaign, O’Toole has sought to forge a moderate image, with a platform that focuses on issues like jobs and the economy, mental health and includes pitches to workers.
“I want you to know if you’re frustrated, if you’re angry anywhere in this country, I want you to know something. I get it. Conservatives get it,” O’Toole said at a Saturday rally in Kitchener, Ont.
“Now is the time for Canadians to make a choice,” O’Toole said Sunday in Markham, Ont. “We can choose to settle for second-best — for a party that hardly tries and barely delivers. Or we can choose to believe in a brighter, better, more united future.”
The Conservatives briefly held a substantial lead in public polling before a decline that brought them to a statistical tie in national support with the Liberals, according to CBC’s Poll Tracker. They have been caught up in recent days responding to Liberal attacks on vaccine mandates and gun policy.
O’Toole spent the campaign almost exclusively in enemy territory, targeting Liberal seats in Ontario, Quebec and B.C.
Particular attention has been paid to the suburbs around Toronto, in regions such as Durham — near O’Toole’s own seat — as well as York and Mississauga.
The anti-Liberal NDP campaign
Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has consistently framed the election as a referendum on Justin Trudeau, hammering home the idea that the Liberal leader says the right things but does not follow through.
Singh has relentlessly focused his attacks on Trudeau throughout the campaign, only occasionally criticizing Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, and then often by linking the two together “as teaming up to do things that hurt people.”
“The only way you can be absolutely sure that we invest in child care, the only way you can be absolutely sure we fight the climate crisis, the only way you can be absolutely sure we invest in healthcare, is by voting New Democrat,” Singh said Sunday in Burnaby, B.C.
The NDP have been on the offensive throughout almost the entire campaign, spending a great deal of time in B.C. and Ontario. The only NDP ridings Singh has visited have been in Hamilton, Alexandre Boulerice’s riding in Quebec, one trip to Winnipeg and Singh’s own seat.
The party is polling higher nationally than in 2019 and is hoping to pick up seats in B.C., regain some presence in Quebec, and pick up more urban ridings across the country, in places such as Toronto and Edmonton.
Given how close this election appears to be, it appears likely that the balance of power will once more rest with the NDP and other opposition parties. Singh has studiously avoided directly answering questions about how he would behave in a minority situation.
Bloc looking to hold on in Quebec
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet was the second-most defensive leader of the campaign, not surprising given the Bloc’s proportion of seats in Quebec. His campaign appeared to be foundering until just recently, when backlash over a question in the English debate over Bills 21 and 96 reinvigorated his pitch to be Quebec’s defender in Ottawa.
The Bloc’s level of support is likely to lead to an incredibly complex set of circumstances in Quebec, where many seats will be strongly contested by three or even four parties.
Many seats in the province came down to just a few percentage points in 2019, and the volatile polls suggest another night of close results and unpredictable splits Monday.
Paul sticking close to home
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul is ending the campaign in Toronto Centre — her own riding, which she has rarely left over the past five weeks. Weakened by internal conflict before the campaign, the Greens will be hard-pressed to defend their two seats and make any gains, based on their level of support in public polling.
But Paul has continued to pitch the Greens as the only true champions of climate action in Canada.
“If you want to see more change in Ottawa, if you are tired of politics as usual, if you do not want Canada to keep walking toward the mirage of climate action and actually seize our destiny as a climate champion, then the choice is yours,” Paul said Sunday.
A PPC breakthrough?
Maxime Bernier is ending the campaign in Alberta, notably, not the riding where he himself is running for the People’s Party of Canada in Beauce, Que.
The PPC has experienced a surge in support in public polling, but Bernier has spent little time in his own riding. He has spent the campaign railing against pandemic restrictions and policies like vaccine mandates, position that seem to have won him some fervent supporters.