Politics

The front-lines: Where federal party leaders are concentrating their efforts for the coming campaign

The federal leaders are about to shift from the barbecue circuit to the campaign trail — and where they choose to launch their campaigns and spend most of their time will be key to learning which regions of the country are set to become battlegrounds in the coming election.

Where the leaders are going in the next few weeks says a lot about what regions will decide the election

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right), leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Andrew Scheer (top left) and leader of the federal NDP, Jagmeet Singh (bottom left), all say they will be looking to win seats right across the country. (Getty Images/CP Images)

The federal leaders are about to shift from the barbecue circuit to the campaign trail — and where they choose to launch their campaigns and spend most of their time will be key to learning which regions of the country are set to become battlegrounds in the coming election.

This week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer were in New Brunswick and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was in British Columbia. 

In the 2015 election the Liberals swept all 32 seats in Atlantic Canada — mostly at the expense of the Conservatives. And with long-time Liberal MPs retiring in several maritime ridings, Scheer is looking to make inroads in the region and  spent the last two weeks campaigning there. The Conservatives are especially excited about potential gains in Cape Breton. 

"I think we're going to surprise a lot of people there," Campaign Chair Hamish Marshall said.

Though, for their part, the Liberals say the Tories should not expect any easy victories.

"We are going to be in Atlantic Canada and talking about the things that are important to the people there," campaign director Jeremy Broadhurst said.

But one strategy doesn't fit the entire country, and the parties know that devoting too much time in one region comes at the expense of the others.

"It's a big country, a lot of very different regional dynamics and I think all of us [strategists] have to be alive to all of that," Marshall said.

Seat-rich Ontario

Tailoring your message to diverse pockets of the country is something the NDP is prepared for. 

"I think Canada is such a vast country that every campaign does come down to focusing on regional realities," said Jennifer Howard, who is heading the NDP campaign. 

Expect Singh to spend a lot of time in Southwest Ontario, she said — somewhere Scheer is also headed next week. And with limited funds (millions of fundraising dollars less than the Conservatives and Liberals), Howard says they'll be going where there are more people.

The Liberals are shifting away from that, having been criticized for focusing too much on cities during the last election. So far this summer Trudeau has visited almost every major urban centre in the country.

Broadhurst says his party's campaign will branch out beyond metropolitan Canada once the writ drops sometime in September. 

"There's not going to be a part of the country that we don't go to on the leaders tour."

The path to Parliament

The parties were cagey about where they are each going to kick off their campaigns, but they all have eyes on the same three areas — the front-lines, if you will, on the path to form government — Ontario, B.C. and Quebec.

These areas often sway the results of federal elections and most of the summer visits by Trudeau, Scheer and Singh have been to those key regions.

The Liberals' most likely path to government runs through Ontario and Quebec — much like it does for the Conservatives.

Scheer's plan is to frequent all three places but, to reach the goal of the 170 seats needed for a majority government, the Conservatives know they will need seats wherever they can pick them up.

"We need to win seats off of all the other parties," Marshall said.

Trudeau's party will also need to pick up seats to offset any potential losses on election day, and NDP seats are a prime target.

"We are absolutely going to be on the offensive looking to pick up seats, whether it's in southwest Ontario [or] outside of Montreal in Quebec," Broadhurst explained.

"We're going to be in Saskatchewan and Alberta and B.C. and in the North. I mean, this isn't going to be something where we are looking to just focus on one region at the expense of others."

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