As yet another federal election wound down as press time approached, it was discouraging to see so many Canadians once again disgruntled with their options – but I can’t blame them.
Leading into this election, the governing Liberals had already spent much of the political capital they earned following their 2015 sweep to victory.
Optimism over electoral reform and climate change action, for example, was quickly swallowed up by a litany of scandals and a lack of action.
Justin Trudeau’s personal (blackface) and political (SNC-Lavalin, WE) failures meant he had to trade his majority government for a minority in 2019. (It helped that race was run against a rudderless opposition Conservative party still struggling to put a credible platform together.)
A relatively strong handling of the pandemic helped bolster Trudeau’s fortunes, leading to the current bet that enough political capital was built up to once again reach majority status.
Days out from the election, that once promising prospect for him appeared to be disappearing.
Any swing voter casting a ballot for the Liberals were likely holding their nose while they did it.
His credibility on issues attractive to centre-left voters, like the environment, feminism and Indigenous reconciliation is questionable at best.
Under Trudeau, Canada continues to be on pace to miss many of its climate targets, despite significant investments and the introduction of a carbon levy. More left-leaning voters continue to critique his pro-pipeline politics.
The firing of former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould (and her tell-all book released during the campaign) further impacted his credibility as a progressive.
Boil water advisories and continued legal challenges against Indigenous communities hamper any claims Trudeau makes about being an ally to First Nations.
This election, even those steeped in Liberal red are voting against the Conservatives more than they are for the Liberals.
For more left-leaning voters, the NDP still can’t be seen as a credible option – particularly in much of Western Canada, where winning even a single seat will be an accomplishment.
Leader Jagmeet Singh was unable to inspire the party’s base, and a small army of would-be volunteers are again parked on the sidelines because of it. We aren’t on the eve of another Orange Wave, or anything close to it. Heck, some within the NDP are already working to choreograph Singh’s post-election exit.
Conservative voters, meanwhile, didn’t have great alternatives if they weren’t satisfied with the leadership of Erin O’Toole.
Despite a relatively cohesive campaign, it’s clear he led a CPC into the election that continues to struggle with an identity crisis.
Born out of a marriage between two separate versions of conservatism, almost 20 years later the CPC’s existential battle between those ideologies wages on. MPs and CPC members are still unclear on where the party should stand when it comes to issues like abortion, reconciliation and LGBTQ rights.
Perhaps most damning to the party’s fortunes: While O’Toole led the party to adopt carbon pricing as part of its official stance, some CPC candidates continue to campaign against the policy.
Considering climate change is once again ranking high on voter concerns, this is a problem for O’Toole and the party.
The party faithful hasn’t coalesced behind a leader since Stephen Harper, and each of his successors have essentially been compromise picks attempting, but failing, to appease all members.
O’Toole’s current grasp of power over the party can’t be considered a strong one, having won on the third ballot and without overwhelming member support.
Without strong enthusiasm from within his own party ranks, O’Toole has struggled to sell Canadians on the idea the CPC is once again a “big tent” party capable of governing for everyone.
So there we were, once again shrugging our shoulders at our options for an election. I travelled a bit around Canada (five provinces!) during the campaign.
Not once did I meet a voter genuinely excited about their options for prime minister.
Is that what a healthy democracy is supposed to look like?