Canada: Justin Trudeau kicks off tough election campaign | News | DW | 11.09.2019
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Canada: Justin Trudeau kicks off tough election campaign

The prime minister who promised "sunny ways" to Canadians in 2015 has been worn down by a damaging ethics controversy. Now he has dissolved Parliament ahead of a mid-October election.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally kicked off what promises to be a grueling election campaign as he contends with sinking popularity and surging challengers on all sides.

The charismatic Liberal prime minister who won a surprise landslide in 2015 on the promise of "sunny ways" for all Canadians will be battling to hold on to his parliamentary majority against untested adversaries across the political spectrum. 

Trudeau met with the country's governor general, Julie Payette, on Wednesday morning to ask her to dissolve the current Parliament, setting the stage for the October 21 general election.

Voters will elect 338 members of the House of Commons in October. The latest polls show the Liberals claiming a slight lead over the Conservative Party.

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Who are the challengers?

The prime minister, who is admired abroad for his progressive policies but plagued by scandals at home, faces a test of his popularity this campaign season.

Andrew Scheer was elected leader of the country's other main political party, the center-right Conservative Party.

Trudeau will also be facing off against the New Democratic Party's Jagmeet Singh, the first non-white leader of a federal party in Canada, and the Greens' Elizabeth May, who is seeing gains in popularity.

What are the issues?

Climate change and affordability are predicted to be key campaign issues.

Trudeau swept into office with a host of progressive policies framed himself as a champion in the fight against climate change during his first four-year term, while his top adversary, Andrew Scheer, has pledged to roll back a federal carbon tax as his first act in office if elected.

Though the Canadian economy has strengthened — posting second-quarter growth of 3.7% and nearly half a million new jobs created in the last year — the economic gains have not been felt by the wider Canadian public, who have expressed growing concern about an increasing cost of living.

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Trudeau's legacy

The achievements of the Liberals' four years in office included legalizing marijuana, boosting the number of refugees resettled in the country, renegotiating NAFTA, and finalizing trade deals with the EU and Pacific nations.

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Trudeau's government also spearheaded the largest military procurement in Canadian history to replace aging military equipment. Trudeau was also responsible for the contentious expansion of a crude oil pipeline that would allow the country to diversify oil markets.

The purchase of the pipeline brought with it wide criticism from environmental groups and Indigenous communities alike.

A damaging scandal

The worst hit to Trudeau's progressive image came with the SNC-Lavalin inquiry, a corruption scandal in which Trudeau was accused of interfering in the criminal prosecution of a Quebec-based engineering firm.

Trudeau fired two senior ministers — both women and one of them Canada's first Indigenous attorney general — for calling out the alleged meddling in a bid to try to save jobs in his home province.

Read more: Canada's Environment Minister Catherine McKenna gets security detail

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked both former ministers Wilson-Raybould (pictured here) and Philpott out of the Liberal caucus after they lost confidence in the Prime Minister and his cabinet's handling of the SNC-Lavalin criminal case.

Trudeau kicked both former ministers Wilson-Raybould (pictured here) and Philpott out of the Liberal caucus after they lost confidence in the Prime Minister and his cabinet's handling of the SNC-Lavalin criminal case.

For many, the move sullied his reputation as a feminist after putting a gender-equal cabinet into place, as well as his traction in the ongoing attempts at reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

What is the likely outcome?

The Liberals now hold 38% support, versus 34% for the Tories. The Green Party, which has two seats in the lower house, polled at 11% support.

The Greens could leapfrog the New Democrats at 8% to claim third place in parliament for the first time.

This year's election campaign cycle will last just under six weeks — half of the length of the 2015 election campaign, which clocked in at 78 days, making it the longest in modern Canadian history.

Nevertheless, the length of Canada's election campaigns is negligible compared to its southern neighbor. The US' 2016 presidential election campaign lasted 597 days.

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mmc/rt (Reuters, AFP)

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