Politics·CANADA VOTES

Stage set for a pivotal final week of the campaign

In this week’s Canada Votes newsletter: polls suggest it’s an extremely tight race heading into the home stretch Also: how many parties could it take to reach a majority of seats in the House of Commons — and do all leaders use teleprompters?
Top row, from left: Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier. Bottom row, from left: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. (CBC)

With one week to go, will it be a battle royale? 

Vassy Kapelos, host of Power & Politics

What an election it's been so far. And the best is yet to come, right?

OK, maybe not the "best" — but there's definitely some excitement ahead.

The stage has been set for what should be a crucial and significant final seven campaign days. For the longest time this was a static election campaign, one where the changes were so incremental you could barely detect them. Now, suddenly, things are moving fast.

We have to start in Quebec where (as usual) the unpredictable nature of provincial politics could make it the deciding factor in this election, as it has been in so many federal contests. Back in January, when Yves-François Blanchet took the helm of the Bloc Québécois, the party had been through months of turmoil, leadership changes and MP defections. I interviewed Blanchet back then and he didn't seem worried. (Even if he was, it's not like he'd say so on TV.)

Maybe he had good reasons for keeping calm. Blanchet has been able to do what few others running in this election have managed to do so far: get more people to say they'll vote for him. Now the Bloc is in motion in Quebec, drawing support from every other party and essentially throwing the path to electoral victory for the Liberals up in the air.

Will this momentum carry through to Election Day? There's no easy answer to that question - but in Quebec, it's hard to stop something like this once it starts.

Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet speaks to reporters as candidate Marie-Helene Gaudreau for the riding of Laurentides-Labelle looks on during a federal election campaign stop in Lachute, Que., Friday, October 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Graham Hughes (The Canadian Press )

There's also momentum for Jagmeet Singh — not in Quebec, particularly, but certainly outside of it. Though his campaign has consistently outperformed expectations, it's Singh himself who has become a major story more generally. The English leaders' debate underscored that and almost seemed to cement Singh's momentum. As a result, Singh's party is benefiting, especially in B.C.

This new reality will shape a lot of what you hear over the next week. Expect the Conservatives to pump the NDP's tires; they're Singh's biggest fans now (if votes for the NDP take votes away from the Liberals, Andrew Scheer walks up the middle to power). Expect the Liberals to keep doing what they've done since the start of the campaign, by framing the election as a choice between themselves and the Conservatives. There will be an urgency to their message, because it looks like fewer people now believe their options are quite that binary.

"We have a choice," someone said to me at a coffee shop the other day. He was thrilled by the fact that the millennial vote — the biggest single group of voters in this election — could significantly affect the outcome on Oct. 21. He said he and his friends feel they don't have to vote the way their parents do - that they have options beyond the two mainstream parties.

I have no idea how widespread that sentiment is, but public opinion polls show it's out there. And it could end up making this last week of the campaign something to remember.


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Power Lines

The Power & Politics Power panelists on where the big parties will be focused this week

Amanda Alvaro  president and co-founder of Pomp & Circumstance
Justin Trudeau and the Liberals will be focused on generating even more positive momentum, following two powerful debate performances last week. As they head into the final week of the campaign, the key message to voters will be to "Choose Forward" with an investment in the middle class and the things that matter most to Canadian families.   

Rachel Curran senior associate at Harper & Associates Consulting
Conservatives will shift their attention in the last full week of the campaign away from policy announcements and events, and towards mobilizing their voters and getting identified supporters to the polls. "Get out the vote" is a massive logistical undertaking, but is one of the most important parts of any campaign.

Kathleen Monk principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group
New Democrats plan to build on their momentum during this last full week of the campaign. Jagmeet Singh will travel to battleground ridings to remind Canadians that while the other party leaders argue about who's worse for Canada, New Democrats have laid out a plan that shows who will be best for Canadian voters.


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Poll Tracker Takeaway 

Éric Grenier's weekly look at key numbers in the political public opinion polls. 

Whoever becomes prime minister after the Oct. 21 vote probably will need to keep a calculator handy.

That's because the minority math in the next Parliament could prove challenging.

The Poll Tracker's seat projections have jostled around a lot over the last few days. There will probably be much more jostling to come.

But the numbers are starting to look complicated. If the Bloc Québécois holds its newfound support and is able to win some 30 to 35 seats, with the New Democrats taking 25 (or more), it might be hard for any party to cobble together a working majority of 170 seats.

Canada doesn't have a tradition of coalition government at the federal level. But if these numbers hold, either Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer or Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau will need to find support from other parties to govern.

And yes, I said "parties" — as in more than one.

With numbers like these, it's entirely possible that no single party will hold the balance of power. The Liberals might need to look to the New Democrats and the Greens to assemble a majority of votes in the House of Commons.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh already has ruled out working with Scheer, so that means the Conservatives might be left with the Bloc as their only potential dance partner. The Liberals could end up needing Bloc votes, too.

And if these arrangements don't do the trick, individual MPs like People's Party Leader Maxime Bernier or Independent candidate Jody Wilson-Raybould - if they are successful in their re-election bids - could wield a lot of influence.

It's a Parliament that might have a short life span.

And it's still all quite hypothetical at the moment. But it's something voters might have to think about — because unless the polls change, we might be right back into another federal election campaign sooner than you think.

Tap here to go to the full poll tracker 

(Eric Grenier/CBC)

Ask CBC News

An audience member texted Election to 22222 and asked: Do all candidates use Teleprompters when sharing their platforms? Once they start taking questions from the media can the media folks tell if they are still reading their response from it?

Yes, Teleprompters are often used for important rallies or policy speeches.

They are often on a large-screen television placed just over the main camera so a leader can appear to be locking eyes with the TV audience rather than looking like they're reading off a screen. Sometimes additional screens are placed to the leader's left and right so they can appear to be scanning the crowd and talking extemporaneously while reading their prepared text.

Reporters are often given the leaders' speeches in advance and they (and anyone else behind the leader in an audience) can also clearly read the lines before they're delivered, so there is some measure of acting by all involved.

Some are better than others at reading off Teleprompters. Reading and sounding conversational is a practised art that not all master.

That said, a prompter would be pretty useless in a media scrum (that's what reporters call an impromptu press conference).

Politicians plan for some questions from reporters in this scenario, but a leader would be criticized if they were caught reading a canned answer there.

— Rob Russo, CBC Parliamentary Bureau chief

Have a question about the election? About where the federal parties stand on a particular issue? Or about the facts of a key controversy on the federal scene? Email us your questions and we'll answer one in the next Canada Votes newsletter.

Talking points are a public relations tool used by politicians and parties at every level. The intention is to keep politicians on track and ensure the party message sinks into the public consciousness, but some experts say sticking too close to a talking point risks losing the message entirely. 7:32

More from CBC Politics

Who are the federal party leaders — and how did they get to this campaign?

They've been part of the Canadian political scene for years. But when the election campaign began, many Canadians still didn't know all that much about some of the party leaders vying to be prime minister. Here are their stories.

Scheer, Singh make confident pitch to voters as polls move to favour Conservatives

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is asking for a mandate to govern with increasing confidence as shifting polls favour his party to win the most seats for the first time in this campaign. Meanwhile, Jagmeet Singh is urging voters to park their votes with the NDP, despite poor polling numbers. Read the full story here.

New leader Blanchet steering Bloc back to relevance in Quebec

Polls now suggest the Bloc is poised to make significant gains. And much of the credit if that happens will go to Blanchet, who only took over the party's leadership this year. Read Chris Hall's full analysis here.

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