The federal election campaign produces little enthusiasm for any party.

OTTAWA – A campaign that started with rage on Justin Trudeau’s decision to call federal elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic is ending amid anger over Conservative prime ministers’ handling of the health crisis.

The first wave of discontent appears to have sunk Trudeau’s hopes of a liberal majority and even jeopardized his chances of barely winning another minority.

The second wave can still save you.

When Trudeau disconnected his minority government on August 15, he tried to frame the ballot question as: “Who wants to end the fight against COVID-19 and lead the country towards a strong, greener and inclusive recovery? “

Canada, he argued, is at a pivotal moment in history and Canadians deserve the chance to decide how they want to proceed and under whose leadership.

Instead, the campaign quickly turned into a referendum on Trudeau himself, with opposition leaders relentlessly hitting his “selfish” choice to put his personal pursuit of the majority above national interests amid a deadly pandemic.

The tenuous lead liberals had enjoyed in campaign polls, as well as Canadians’ overall satisfaction with the Trudeau administration and the country’s leadership of the crisis, evaporated almost immediately.

“I think a lot of us misunderstand what an optimistic country was like in terms of where we’re going, vaccines and all, and we just confuse what a really grumpy, anxious and tired electorate was that had no real desire to have an election.” says pollster David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data.

The fact that Afghanistan’s capital Kabul fell to the Taliban on the same day that Trudeau called the elections, leaving thousands of Canadians and Afghans who had assisted Canada’s military mission stranded in the country, only exacerbated the anger for his chance.

When Liberal support plummeted, Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives picked up some momentum.

Largely unknown before the campaign, O’Toole abandoned the “true blue” image and politics he had crafted to woo his party’s large contingent of social conservatives during last year’s leadership race, instead. , he presented himself to Canadians as a moderate centrist in a gamble. to win over disillusioned liberal voters.

The strategy seemed to work, at least initially. Liberal attempts to break through on issues like abortion, private health care, and mandatory vaccinations for federal workers did not stick with O’Toole.

Jagmeet Singh is urging progressives to vote from their hearts, arguing that electing more new Democrats is the best way to force a minority government of any kind to pay attention to issues championed by NDP advocates, such as taxing the ultra-rich or universal pharmacare.

Meanwhile, Jagmeet Singh of the New Democrats was able to capitalize on his position as the most popular federal leader and the apparent collapse of the troubled Green Party to give the NDP a bit of a boost as well.

By mid-campaign, however, the Liberals had recovered slightly, the momentum of the Conservatives and the NDP seemed to stall, and the two main parties were caught in a virtual tie, neither within reach of a majority.

And that’s pretty much where things are heading into Monday’s vote, suggesting that the outcome of the 2021 election will end up looking a lot like the one that emerged in 2019.

Beyond the timing of the election call itself, Coletto says his poll suggests that there have been no real pivot points during the campaign, no major issue or blunder that has been lastingly recorded with those Canadian grumpies.

O’Toole received no noticeable blow from the virtual backing of Quebec Prime Minister Francois Legault.

It took a small hit after changing its platform promise to repeal the liberals’ ban on assault-style firearms.

The indifferent campaign of the Bloc Quebecois had some wind in its sails after leader Yves-Francois Blanchet was offended by a question asked by the moderator of the debate in English last week that, according to him, suggested that Quebecers are racists.

Trudeau got a little push to tackle profanity-spitting protesters, primarily opposed to vaccinations and public health restrictions, as they became more aggressive and even dumped him and his entourage with gravel at a campaign stop. .

Typically, Coletto says those are the kinds of events that can change the trajectory of elections. But this time, they were more like brief flashes.

Coletto believes that is because people have remained largely disconnected from the campaign, and it has only been decided shortly before casting their votes, whether by mail, at the advance polls or at local polling stations on Monday. .

“It feels like people, once they tuned in at least enough to feel like they could make a decision, they landed where they were in 2019, for the most part,” he said.

The only party showing sustained momentum in the second half of the campaign appears to be Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, which has embraced the anti-vaccination and anti-mask fringe.

The PPC is unlikely to win seats, but it could bleed enough support from the Conservatives to rob them of victory in close fights, hence O’Toole’s end-of-campaign warning to center-right voters to vote for parties. little ones without names. It’s a vote for Trudeau.

Trudeau similarly warns progressive voters to stay away from the NDP and the Greens, arguing that the only way to prevent a conservative government is to vote for the liberals.

Singh, meanwhile, urges progressives to vote from their hearts, arguing that electing more new Democrats is the best way to force a minority government of any kind to pay attention to issues championed by NDP advocates, such as charging. imposed on the ultra-rich or universal pharmacare.

It is by no means certain that anything can move the needle in the final days of the campaign.

But Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney’s near apology for how he has handled the fourth wave of COVID-19 in his province has at least refocused the federal campaign in its final days on Trudeau’s preferred voting question.

And it has brought O’Toole’s question about passports and vaccine mandates back to the limelight, along with his earlier praise for Kenney’s handling of the pandemic.

Alberta and neighboring Saskatchewan have the lowest vaccination rates in the country and their health systems are now overwhelmed by the highest rates of COVID-19 cases. This week, Kenney and Saskatchewan Prime Minister Scott Moe belatedly imposed stricter public health restrictions, including testing vaccination policies they had long resisted.

“What’s happening in Saskatchewan and Alberta could tell voters what the prime minister has been saying all along, that it’s a high-stakes choice and the choice he ultimately makes will have consequences, it could lead to life or death. “. says Coletto.

“And maybe that will make people pay a little more attention and think more closely about their choices, instead of them just disciplining liberals for doing something they didn’t want them to do.”

It could also possibly give the Popular Party a late boost, Coletto adds, leaving Bernier the sole bearer of the anti-restriction torch.

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