Party Lines


Party Lines

A political primer for every kind of concerned citizen co-hosted by Rosemary Barton (The National) and Elamin Abdelmahmoud (BuzzFeed News). From CBC News and CBC Podcasts.

Updated: Twice a week
Download episodes from this podcast for: 10 years

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Use the links below to download a file.

Yeah, that’s a big deficit

Rosie and Elamin were pretty sure the federal government’s fiscal “snapshot” was going to present a rather bleak picture this week. Lo and behold, they were right on the money: Finance Minister Bill Morneau unveiled a projected deficit of $343 billion for the 2020–21 fiscal year, along with the expectation that Canada’s GDP will shrink by an amount not seen since the Great Depression. It all sounds pretty serious, but how worried should we be? Elamin and Rosie break down what you need to know about the Liberal government’s long-awaited economic update — and check in on how the opposition parties are feeling about it, too.

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[mp3 file: runs 00:22:39]

Will you download a contact tracing app?

Get ready to make space on your home screen soon: July 2nd was supposed to be the day Canada’s “COVID Alert” app rolled out for testing across Ontario, with a wider cross-country release expected down the line. When the Prime Minister unveiled these plans a couple weeks back, he emphasized the app’s privacy measures and low-maintenance nature — but will that equate to an uptake significant enough to reap the public health benefits? Plus, Rosie and Elamin look south of the border as COVID-19 case numbers continue to spike in the U.S. What lessons can we learn from our southern neighbours, as the risks of reopening become clear?

Download Will you download a contact tracing app?
[mp3 file: runs 00:23:18]

Is it time to pause the PM’s pressers?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hit a milestone, if you will, on Monday: he completed his eightieth press conference since the pandemic was declared in mid-March. The majority of them have been held just off his front porch at Rideau Cottage, though a few recent briefings have become almost campaign-style visits to Ottawa-area businesses. And those big-impact announcements of border closures and emergency economic supports that dominated spring headlines? They’re now few and far between. With that in mind, Rosie and Elamin wonder: have these regular prime ministerial briefings run their course? Plus: the death of a third temporary foreign worker employed at an Ontario farm is raising serious concerns about working and living conditions of seasonal workers during this pandemic — though advocates have been flagging many of these concerns for years. Elamin and Rosie take a look at what steps can be taken, now and in the long-term.

Download Is it time to pause the PM’s pressers?
[mp3 file: runs 00:21:39]

Systemic racism and the RCMP

You’ve probably heard a lot of discussion around systemic racism this past week — particularly when it comes to the RCMP. Commissioner Brenda Lucki acknowledged last Friday that it exists within the force she leads, after dodging questions days earlier and explaining she’d heard up to “15 or 20 definitions” of the term. Elamin sifts through several examples of systemic racism specifically involving Indigenous people, from the creation of the RCMP itself to current statistics illustrating how Indigenous people are treated in Canada’s justice system today. Plus, Rosie takes a close look at the government’s recent promise to deliver a “fiscal snapshot” early next month. Why did it take so long to commit to an economic update, when other countries — even other provinces here in Canada — have already laid theirs out?

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[mp3 file: runs 00:23:03]

Does taking a knee mean taking a stand?

People all around the world saw the photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau taking a knee at an anti-Black racism protest in Ottawa last week. Some felt it was a striking image, but others wondered if that moment would translate into action. Elamin and Rosie take a look at some of the federal government's possible next steps, including Trudeau's recent move to support outfitting RCMP officers with body cameras. Plus, as the feds pledge $14 billion in support for re-opening provinces, Rosie and Elamin wonder if that kind of interdependence might spell trouble down the line. Municipalities, especially, are struggling to make ends meet. But could floating them have a lasting impact on the federation?

Download Does taking a knee mean taking a stand?
[mp3 file: runs 00:23:15]

Who feels served and protected?

Elamin was ready to talk about something else this week — anything else, but recent events have forced another heavy conversation about structural, anti-Black racism. The protests unfolding in cities across the continent are responding to issues that are not strictly American. The concern around police brutality and the relationships between police forces and Black communities is a live issue in Canada, too. Some are calling to defund, redefine or divest from the police — but what might that look like? Rosie and Elamin explore what some are proposing, while also examining how police forces are funded across the country.

Download Who feels served and protected?
[mp3 file: runs 00:22:56]

The crisis in our care homes

It’s some of the most wrenching news to come out of this pandemic: horrific allegations of elder abuse and neglect at five Ontario long-term care homes, outlined in detail by the Canadian military, whose members have been providing assistance to seniors since late April. But they're not the first to blow the whistle. Now that COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation, Rosie wonders: could this finally be the spark that overhauls the system? Plus, Elamin takes a closer look at some of Ontario’s recent daily case numbers, which remain in the hundreds as the province holds off on loosening more restrictions. What needs to happen to get Ontario in a better spot?

Download The crisis in our care homes
[mp3 file: runs 00:24:14]

Is it safe out there?

Elamin and Rosie have spent weeks wondering how and when Canada might start rebooting parts of the economy. But now that virtually every part of the country is starting to re-open, Elamin has a new question: how safe is it out there? Has the risk changed at all, since the onset of the pandemic? Plus, Rosie shines a light on another challenge that has emerged over the last ten weeks: getting food on the table. Do Canadians need to worry about food security, here at home?

Download Is it safe out there?
[mp3 file: runs 00:23:44]

What lies beyond the border

Rosie and Elamin check in on two borders this week: the one Canada shares with the U.S., and the one Quebec shares with Ontario. In both cases, one side’s dealing with a much more serious COVID-19 case load than the other. When it comes to Quebec, and especially Montreal, Rosie wants to know: how did it get this bad? How did one region get hit so much harder than virtually everywhere else in Canada? Looking south, Elamin wonders if our American neighbours could be eager to ease the travel restrictions that are set to expire next week. Might Canada feel pressured to reopen our border with the U.S.?

Download What lies beyond the border
[mp3 file: runs 00:24:06]

Let’s check in on the Conservatives

While it’s been about five months since Andrew Scheer announced he’s stepping down as Conservative leader, he pledged to stick around until a replacement was picked — meaning he remains Canada’s leader of the Official Opposition, through this unprecedented pandemic. This week, he warned that the government’s COVID-19 support programs could discourage Canadians from returning to work, risking labour shortages as some provinces begin to reopen parts of the economy. But how do you begin to dial back economic support if some people still don’t feel safe returning to work? Rosie and Elamin also take a look at who’s still in the race to succeed Scheer — and what challenges lie ahead for the Conservative Party, as they continue their search for a leader in this new era.

Download Let’s check in on the Conservatives
[mp3 file: runs 00:25:13]

Jurisdictional jealousy

If you’re listening to this in New Brunswick right now, congratulations! You’re allowed to go to the beach today. Rosie and Elamin are not. But as Rosie points out, provincial reopening plans vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction simply because the COVID-19 case load in each province is so different. Still, Elamin wants to know: as Manitobans hit up patios next week while their neighbours to the east remain indoors, will the Prime Minister have to alter his cross-country messaging? Plus: Rosie and Elamin take a closer look at some of the hardest-hit Canadians in this pandemic — residents of long-term care homes.

Download Jurisdictional jealousy
[mp3 file: runs 00:27:41]

Policy in the wake of tragedy

It’s been a tough week, in a tough month, in a tough year. In the wake of last weekend’s devastating tragedy in Nova Scotia, questions have inevitably been raised about federal gun control. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on several occasions this week that his government was on the verge of introducing new legislation that would ban assault weapons — a pledge they made in the 2019 election, since shelved by the pandemic. But could this recent tragedy expedite those plans? And speaking of legislation: the House of Commons returned on Monday to sort out once and for all how MPs will continue Parliamentary business over the coming weeks. It’s got Elamin wondering: what do we need most from Parliament right now?

Download Policy in the wake of tragedy
[mp3 file: runs 00:25:23]

How do you turn the economy back on?

So, we’re a month into this whole thing: the physical distancing, the not being able to hang out, the favourite restaurants being closed, and the kids staying home from school. That’s also four weeks of the economy being at a virtual standstill. How can the federal government get people back to work, and how soon? As Rosie puts it, kick-starting the economy is not so much flipping a switch as it is slowly turning a dial, like a dimmer. And as Elamin points out, the government faces some massive risks if they turn that dial too fast, too soon. Plus: is it possible the pandemic has improved relations between Ottawa and the provinces?

Download How do you turn the economy back on?
[mp3 file: runs 00:25:01]

To project, or not to project?

Projections. Models. Curves. Political coverage is getting a whole lot more mathematical these days, as provinces release their pandemic predictions to the public. But when we hear these best- and worst-case scenarios, Rosie wonders: do they have the potential to help — or harm? Plus, Elamin takes a look at the current state of Canada-U.S. relations, after last week’s scuffle over shipments of N95 masks. Could COVID-19 have a lasting impact on the relationship between our two countries, long after the virus retreats?

Download To project, or not to project?
[mp3 file: runs 00:24:38]

Fighting a war on two fronts

The start of a new month means rent is due for millions of Canadians all across the country. But people can only apply for these new federal government assistance programs starting next week. As Elamin points out — that leaves a lot of people in the lurch. With job losses and EI claims also mounting, could this pandemic widen an already worrisome wealth gap? And how prepared is the federal government to take on all of this additional spending? As Rosie puts it, they’re now fighting a war on two fronts: there’s the pandemic itself, and its massive economic impact.

Download Fighting a war on two fronts
[mp3 file: runs 00:22:06]

Will the government drop the hammer?

Did you notice the Prime Minister sounding more stern this week? Elamin says it’s like the scene in a family minivan: if you don’t stop acting up back there, dad’s gonna turn this car around and no one’s gonna get any ice cream. In this case, the ice cream is civil liberties — the freedom to still leave your house, at a safe distance from others, during this COVID-19 pandemic. As government officials warn of possible “stringent measures” to clamp down on those not following public health directives, Elamin asks: is that what we need, for people to take this seriously? And Rosie takes a close look at Tuesday’s unprecedented reopening of the House of Commons, where about 30 MPs gathered to pass the government’s economic support package — a sitting that came with some unexpected challenges.

Download Will the government drop the hammer?
[mp3 file: runs 00:23:05]

Extraordinary times. Extraordinary measures.

Elamin gets the most important question out of the way first: how are you? As the entire country faces an unprecedented public health emergency, it’s easy to get lost among the nonstop COVID-19 updates — and Rosie and Elamin get it. It’s a lot. It’s unusual to see the prime minister announcing major updates every day, let alone in front of his house while he continues to self-isolate. But are Canadians hearing what they need to hear from the government right now? And with Parliament suspended, is it harder for journalists and opposition parties to scrutinize the government’s latest crisis measures?

Download Extraordinary times. Extraordinary measures.
[mp3 file: runs 00:24:07]

How do you budget for a pandemic?

With new updates coming every day on the spread of coronavirus, Elamin wonders: what are people looking for, from their government? And do Canadians need to hear a more complete picture from authorities, on what could lie ahead? As the prime minister announces this week a billion-dollar support package for Canadians in the face of COVID-19, Rosie points out — there’s a federal budget coming down the pipe this month, too. How will they balance a financial roadmap for the year ahead against more support needed in a time of crisis?

Download How do you budget for a pandemic?
[mp3 file: runs 00:26:25]

Eight Conservatives enter the Thunderdome

After weeks of wondering who's in and who's out, the stage is finally set for the federal Conservative leadership race. Eight contenders will fight it out to become party leader, and by extension, Leader of the Official Opposition -— a plum job, in a minority parliament. Catherine Cullen, senior reporter for CBC News, sits in for Rosie this week and joins Elamin in running through the list of hopefuls. And as several candidates say they intend to bring down the Liberal government at the first opportunity this fall, Elamin asks — are the Conservatives more focused on defeating Justin Trudeau than establishing a party vision?

Download Eight Conservatives enter the Thunderdome
[mp3 file: runs 00:26:42]

Can Canada reconcile oil and the environment?

This week, Justin Trudeau’s cabinet had a tough decision on the docket: approve the Teck Frontier oilsands mine in Alberta, or turn it down? Turns out, they never had to make the call, as the company announced on Sunday they were pulling the project. Teck’s CEO hoped the withdrawal might “allow Canadians to shift to a larger and more positive discussion about the path forward,” which has Rosie wondering — can we move forward on reconciling resource extraction and climate change? And how can policymakers have that conversation, without getting bogged down in partisan politics? Plus, with “reconcile” on the mind, Elamin looks into how the latest round of land rights protests — and the political response to them — might affect reconciliation.

Download Can Canada reconcile oil and the environment?
[mp3 file: runs 00:25:29]

What's at stake with Wet’suwet’en?

In the week since Rosie and Elamin last spoke, the rail blockades and protests in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation have evolved into a "full-blown national crisis," as Elamin puts it. It's the third major issue the federal government has faced in less than two months. Elamin wants to know: what should the government be doing to resolve things? And where does this “rule of law” fit into it all? And Rosie takes a closer look at the political stakes: thirty years after the Oka Crisis, and twenty five years after Ipperwash, how will this government manage a crisis with historic implications?

Download What's at stake with Wet’suwet’en?
[mp3 file: runs 00:23:45]

We need to talk about Wet'suwet'en

Demonstrations have rolled out across the country this week in support of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, where members have been fighting the construction of a natural gas pipeline on their traditional territory. And it’s got Elamin thinking about a big question: when it comes to reconciliation, how far is Canada really willing to go? Plus, Rosie takes a look at what’s otherwise occupying the Prime Minister this week — a campaign to get Canada a spot on the UN Security Council. But after two decades away from the table, does Canada even need a seat?

Download We need to talk about Wet'suwet'en
[mp3 file: runs 00:26:18]

Could the Red Chamber oust Lynn Beyak?

You can count on one hand — exactly — how many times in Canadian history senators have suspended one of their own, but no senator has ever been permanently expelled from the Red Chamber. As Senator Lynn Beyak faces a second possible suspension in less than a year, Rosie and Elamin wonder: might her peers set a new precedent? Plus, Elamin examines the state of Justin Trudeau’s relationship with the provinces. Is enough attention being paid to the places where the Liberal Party won zero seats?

Download Could the Red Chamber oust Lynn Beyak?
[mp3 file: runs 00:25:52]

Parliament’s back — and so is Party Lines

When Rosie and Elamin last spoke, the question of what might happen to Conservative leader Andrew Scheer loomed large. Now that he's stepping down, the race to choose a new party leader is heating up. Elamin runs through the long list of names you won't see on the ballot. Plus, Rosie takes a look at what's topping the government's agenda as MPs returned to the House of Commons, and explains why things might be moving a bit slower than you’d expect.

Download Parliament’s back — and so is Party Lines
[mp3 file: runs 00:23:26]

Re-introducing Party Lines (S2 Trailer)

By popular demand, our hit election primer podcast — co-hosted by Rosemary Barton (Chief Political Correspondent, CBC News) and Elamin Abdelmahmoud (BuzzFeed News) — is relaunching as a political weekly. Its broader goal in divided times: to help Canadians understand our politics, and each other, better.

Download Re-introducing Party Lines (S2 Trailer)
[mp3 file: runs 00:01:00]

The shelf life of Andrew Scheer

Though the Conservatives lost urban votes in Ontario and Quebec, Andrew Scheer says it’s possible for him to hold socially conservative views and be the next prime minister. The results say differently, and Elamin breaks them down. Plus, Rosie speculates why Trudeau is taking so long to build a new cabinet that checks a lot of different boxes: [ ] gender balanced, [ ] regional representation, [ ] experience. This is our last episode before we take a break! Now that the federal election is over, what would you like to hear in a political podcast going forward? Let us know through our survey on

Download The shelf life of Andrew Scheer
[mp3 file: runs 00:27:23]

Where does Canada go from here?

So, that just happened. The Liberals have been re-elected with the smallest vote share of any government in history. Rosie and Elamin reflect on what Trudeau can (and can’t) do with his party’s new minority status and a growing regional divide.

Download Where does Canada go from here?
[mp3 file: runs 00:23:40]

Words to define on the eve of an election

It’s the final stretch before voting day and opinion polls suggest it will be a very close race. Elamin wants to define some key terms (coalition, anyone?) and walk through a brief history of minority governments. Plus, Rosie wants to check in with strategic voters. What’s the difference between voting for your favourite party and voting against your least favourite? What’s smart? What’s cynical? Could strategic voting be both?

Download Words to define on the eve of an election
[mp3 file: runs 00:24:07]

How to serve up your politics this Thanksgiving

We’re told to avoid politics at the dinner table, but with advanced polls open on Thanksgiving weekend, it may be harder to avoid the subject this year. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, says Rosie — but she’s got some advice.  And Elamin wants to talk about younger voters. More Millennials are now eligible to vote in Canada than Baby Boomers. How will they, and their younger Gen Z siblings, wield their collective power? And what does Rihanna have to do with it?

Download How to serve up your politics this Thanksgiving
[mp3 file: runs 00:24:33]

Why debates still matter in 2019

You could be forgiven for thinking only diehard political junkies watch election debates. Rosie thinks we should change that. She makes the case for spending some of your precious time watching the leaders duke it out for your vote. Plus, we’re just a little over halfway through the campaign and Elamin is feeling uninspired. The polls suggest he’s not alone. He wants to talk about the barely budging numbers and why a lack of bold ideas may be to blame.

Download Why debates still matter in 2019
[mp3 file: runs 00:24:34]

Who really (truly) cares about climate change?

The polls suggest that a majority of Canadians (9 out of 10) see addressing climate change as “important or urgent.” But do they behave and vote accordingly? Rosie wants to talk about political posturing and the state of the planet. And Elamin tries to predict this year’s “ballot box question.” His current front runner is an affordable cost of living — but should it really be simple as voting for the party that will save you the most money?

Download Who really (truly) cares about climate change?
[mp3 file: runs 00:28:03]

Justin Trudeau's bombshell "brownface" photo

The Liberal campaign is in damage control mode after Time surfaced a yearbook photo of Justin Trudeau wearing “brownface” in 2001. Elamin and Rosie got on an overnight call to talk about his swift apology — and the likely lengthier fallout.

Download Justin Trudeau's bombshell "brownface" photo
[mp3 file: runs 00:19:39]

Will women decide the election — again?

The federal election campaign has officially started, and Rosie wants to talk about what women want. They aren’t a monolith — but how they vote could determine the outcome of this election (as it did in 2015). And Elamin wants to talk about immigration policy. He say it's both an economic issue and a way for parties to do a bit of virtue signalling.

Download Will women decide the election — again?
[mp3 file: runs 00:25:21]

Elephants in the war room

Rosie takes stock of each party’s position out of the gate. What’s at stake for each leader — and what would success look like? And Elamin wants to talk about the elephants in the room. How does each leader talk about the things they’d rather not talk about?

Download Elephants in the war room
[mp3 file: runs 00:24:29]

Introducing Party Lines (Trailer)

Rosemary Barton and Elamin Abdelmahmoud introduce Party Lines, a new political podcast from CBC News and CBC Podcasts, dropping Sept. 5, 2019. Talking politics is for everyone.

Download Introducing Party Lines (Trailer)
[mp3 file: runs 00:01:56]