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Inflation, travel woes set to top fall political agenda – CTV News

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The Liberals and Conservatives are headed for a showdown in Ottawa this fall over the hottest political files of the summer, with both parties making plans to prioritize issues like inflation and travel woes.

After a summer of scrutiny over chaos at airports and passport offices, as well as continued economic pressure being felt by families due to the rising cost of living and inflation, Nanos Research Founder Nik Nanos says he’s anticipating an “ugly and edgy House of Commons this fall.”

In an interview on CTV’s Question Period, Nanos said this will especially be the case if perceived Conservative leadership frontrunner Pierre Poilievre wins on Sept. 10. The House of Commons is scheduled to resume on Sept. 19. 

While the long-time MP may be best placed to come out on top once all ballots are counted next week—and has been doggedly going after the Liberals throughout the race over these issues at campaign stops and in highly circulated social media videos— regardless of who wins, the fresh face at the helm of the Official Opposition will be putting pressure on the Liberals when it comes to these hot-button issues.

That’s because— according to Nanos—absence of action, the Liberals are vulnerable.

“When we look at our weekly tracking on what Canadians are worried about, you know there’s actually a four-way tie. There’s usually only one or two things that Canadians are worried about,” Nanos said, naming jobs, the rising cost of living, health care, and the environment as the key points of concern. “It’s like nothing is going right.”

The pollster said that in these situations it’s typically the incumbent government that takes the brunt of the impact.

“Think of it this way… If you can’t pay the rent, what do you have to lose by voting for someone other than the incumbent government? Nothing and that’s what the Liberals are up against,” Nanos said.

Keying in to this, Conservative Party President Rob Batherson says he’s confident that rather than post-leadership unity questions, Conservatives will be squarely focused on using issues like inflation to grill, and eventually defeat, the Liberals.

“The Conservative Party of Canada—after a very vigorous leadership race with a lot of strong opinions expressed— once that new leader is chosen… the focus is going to be on: Who is the leader and the team that can replace the Liberals?” said Conservative Party President Rob Batherson in an interview on CTV’s Question Period on Sunday.

“When you look outside the Conservative Party of Canada, what is driving public opinion among Canadians? And that’s the fact that everything is more expensive. It’s the fact that our passport offices have been made to become campgrounds, Pearson Airport is international embarrassment, and people are looking for a change in government,” Batherson said.

LIBERALS PLAN TO PRIORITIZE

Aware that these issues continue to top the agenda and likely keen to provide a counter to the coming Conservative critiques, one top Liberal minister told CTV’s Question Period that these pressure points will be among their top priorities for the fall session, with plans to iron out their approach during next week’s cabinet retreat.

According to Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, inflation and improving service delivery to Canadians are going to be key focuses for the Liberals this fall, in addition to their continued pledge to tackle climate change.

Between Tuesday and Thursday next week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet will be convening in Vancouver to discuss what ministers have heard over the summer and strategize how to respond to Canadians’ concerns during the coming fall sitting of Parliament.

Last week the federal ministers responsible for fixing what the Liberals have acknowledged are “unacceptable” passport, airport and immigration delays came out and made an effort to take some responsibility for their role in the chaos, saying that while the situation is starting to improve, they’re committed to keep working until the systemic problems are solved.

When it comes to the rising cost of living and inflation, LeBlanc said he thinks there’s more for the government to do.

“The whole affordability issue is a huge priority for us, and properly we think has to be,” LeBlanc said, without offering specifics.

Nanos cautioned that the Liberals need to change their reflexive messaging around affordability steps already taken and around inflation being a global issue, to better address the squeeze being felt at home, whether at the pumps or the grocery store.

“They have to get in the game and they have to be proactive. You know what, if you can’t pay the bills, it is unacceptable for the government to throw up their hands and say they can’t do anything,” Nanos said. “People want action, and they want empathy too.” 

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Quicksketch: A look at Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon

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MONTREAL — Here’s a look at Paul St-Pierre Plamondon, Parti Québécois Leader and leader of the third opposition party at the National Assembly.

Born: Feb. 18, 1977, in Trois-Rivières, Que.

Education: A lawyer by training, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Civil and Common Law from McGill University, an MBA from Oxford University and a certificate in International Law from the Lund University in Sweden.

Before politics: St-Pierre-Plamondon worked in law in Bolivia and Belgium before returning to practise law in Montreal and Gatineau, Que. He co-founded  Génération d’idées, a working group that fostered dialogue between young and old over issues key to the future of Quebec. He has worked as a political commentator and writer and published a pair of books: “Les orphelins politiques” (Political orphans) in 2014 and “Rebâtir le camp du Oui” (Rebuilding The Yes Camp) in 2020.

Family: Married to Alexandra Tremblay, two children and a third on the way.

Political record: Leader of PQ since Oct. 9, 2020, but has never held a seat in the legislature. Previously ran for PQ leadership in 2016, finishing fourth. Was named special adviser to the leader by former PQ leader Jean-François Lisée. PQ candidate in the riding of Prévost in the 2018 provincial election, losing to Coalition Avenir Québec cabinet minister Marguerite Blais.

Riding: Camille-Laurin (formerly known as Bourget in eastend Montreal)

Quote: “As a leader, I want to send a message by running in Montreal. It is here that our struggle to reverse the decline of French takes place. I want to send a message of hope: we will fight this legitimate struggle until the decline of French is reversed.”- St-Pierre-Plamondon announcing the riding he’d chosen.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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Quebec election: Fiona briefly throws off Quebec election campaigns

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MONTREAL — Post-tropical storm Fiona caused some disarray on the campaign trail Saturday as some parties cancelled planned events and Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault briefly suspended his campaign to manage response to the powerful gale that hit Atlantic Canada and parts of Quebec.

Legault, the incumbent premier, resumed his re-election bid on Saturday afternoon after meeting with public security officials in Quebec City and holding a briefing with reporters.

The CAQ campaign resumed with a planned meeting with Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand. However, a major partisan rally on Saturday night in Terrebonne, north of Montreal, was postponed, Legault said.

In Quebec, Fiona hit the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Gaspé and the province’s Lower North Shore, with the brunt of the impact expected from Saturday to Sunday morning. All party leaders expressed well wishes for Quebecers caught in the storm, which also played havoc with some of their schedules.

Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois cancelled a press conference in Montreal, but would meet with party supporters in Rimouski, Que. later in the day.

Liberal Leader Dominique Anglade said she was closely monitoring the situation in the affected regions but continued with her campaign in western Quebec as planned in the Outaouais region.

Once a Liberal stronghold, the CAQ won three of the area’s five ridings during the 2018 election and the Liberals are at risk of losing the two they hold, according to poll-aggregating website qc125.com.

Anglade held a rally in the area on Friday and campaigned again on Saturday before heading back to Montreal at the end of the day.

“The Outaouais has been neglected in the last four years, the health and the economic results demonstrate it,” Anglade said.

With just over a week until voting day on Oct. 3, all five party leaders are scheduled to appear live on “Tout le monde en parle” on Sunday night, a popular prime time talk show on Radio-Canada.

Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon also suspended his own campaign on Friday because of flu-like symptoms. He has tested negative three times for COVID-19 using rapid tests, but said Saturday he would only return to the hustings after a PCR test confirmation.

“As a precaution, we will wait for the return of the PCR before formally resuming the campaign,” he told reporters during a scrum in Longueuil, Que. “As you can see, I’m doing better.”

Conservative Party of Quebec Leader Éric Duhaime campaigned in the Quebec City-area riding of Chauveau where he’s seeking to win a seat in the legislature.

He called on Conservative supporters to vote in large numbers to ensure the party elects members — particularly in the riding where he’s running — as two days of advanced voting begins on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2022.

 

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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Quebec election: PQ leader fighting to revive sovereignty debate — and his own party

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MONTREAL — The question of Quebec independence has been put on the back burner during Quebec’s election campaign, but Parti Québécois Leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon is fighting to secure a place for it — and his party — after the Oct. 3 vote.

St-Pierre Plamondon, whose once-strong party has been relegated to last place in the polls, invoked the independence question during the final leaders debate on Thursday, making a direct appeal to sovereigntists who jumped ship to the Coalition Avenir Quebec in the 2018 election.

“Your project is to snuff out Quebec’s independence; mine is to restart it,” he told CAQ Leader François Legault, who had once been a cabinet minister in a PQ government but who quit to form his own federalist party.

“There are voters who trusted you in 2018 because they wanted to replace the Liberals but who support independence — I’m appealing to those people and saying, you can now vote according to your convictions,” St-Pierre Plamondon said.

Formerly a polarizing ballot issue, sovereignty has been largely left out of the conversation this election campaign, but polls show support for independence remains above 30 per cent — and higher among francophones and older voters.

Legault, who has said sovereignty isn’t a priority for the majority of Quebecers, was criticized by his rivals during Thursday’s debate for refusing to spell out how he would vote on the issue. On Friday, he told reporters he doesn’t want a referendum because it would be divisive.

Polling suggests a sizable portion of CAQ voters — more than 40 per cent — support sovereignty, making them a prime target for the PQ as the party seeks to maintain some sort of presence in the provincial legislature, said Daniel Béland, a political science professor at McGill University.

With the CAQ solidly in the lead in the polls, the race is focusing more on who voters want to see holding the government to account. Those who support sovereignty could see the PQ as a good option for a “protest vote,” even if they don’t necessarily want a referendum, he said.

St-Pierre Plamondon, who took the reins of the Parti Québécois in the fall of 2020, has promised to hold a referendum on independence in his first mandate if the party forms government.

However, “because the PQ has no chance to form government, even the idea of sovereignty is quite abstract … there won’t be another referendum anyway,” Béland said.

“So, if you like (St-Pierre Plamondon) and you like some of his ideas and you think you need a stronger nationalist voice in Quebec City, why not give them a chance even if you know they would only be in opposition?”

The issue could also resonate with some who previously voted for the Québec solidaire, which also supports sovereignty. St-Pierre Plamondon appeared to be courting that base as well by agreeing on some environmental matters with QS co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois during the two debates, Béland said.

Far from the days when it was a viable contender to form government, the PQ started the campaign with pollsters predicting it would win one seat. But St-Pierre Plamondon’s performance on the hustings and in the two debates, combined with Legault’s “lacklustre” campaign, have allowed the party to gain a bit more traction, Béland said.

More so than sovereignty, the party’s ability to capitalize on anxiety surrounding the French language has helped rally support, he said, noting the PQ was quick to jump on a recent Statistics Canada report that said the percentage of Quebec residents who predominantly speak French at home declined to 77.5 per cent in 2021 from 79 per cent in 2016.

Still, the PQ will likely return to the legislature with fewer than the seven seats it had at dissolution, and it probably won’t achieve official party status — which requires at least 12 seats or at least 20 per cent of the popular vote — unless the tide turns dramatically in the home stretch of the campaign, he said.

“It’s not great from a long-term, historical standpoint, but it’s still better than what people expected at the beginning of the campaign,” Béland said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2022.

 

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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