The House

Ballot box questions summed up by 3 party veterans

What are the ballot box questions for each of the three main federal parties? We speak with politicians who were part of the last campaign, but chose not to run this time: Conservative James Moore, the New Democrat Libby Davies and Liberal Bob Rae.

Key turning points in the campaign that shaped voters' intentions

(Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Three political veterans who aren't running for re-election have weighed in on the key turning points for the main federal parties — and the ballot box questions that will shape votes — as the campaign wraps up its final days.

For the Conservatives, Stephen Harper's fiscal and trade track records remain a major draw for voters, said British Columbia MP and Minister of Industry James Moore, but he believes most Canadians have already made up their minds.

"I think, quite frankly, that the election is effectively over," he told host Chris Hall of CBC Radio's The House in an interview airing Saturday.

"This is now about machine politics and us making sure that the voters committed to voting for Stephen Harper vote and show up at the polls. There's the clichéd phrase of the Conservative 'ballot box bump,' but it's not a mystery and it's not a myth, it's because we have good machine politics."

Moore conceded, however, that it's been a tough 77-day campaign for the governing Conservatives.

"It's been a challenging campaign, given that we have two national competitors for the first time in a long time, because historically it's been a two-way fight," he said.

Liberals' deficit spending, F-35 stance 'showed imagination'

Recent polls suggest a three-way race has tightened into a showdown between the traditional two main federal parties.

For the Liberals, former interim leader Bob Rae said the party's momentum in the polls comes down to two planks of the party's platform that "showed imagination."

"I think the first one was saying we're not going to play in Mr. Harper's financial sandbox," Rae said.

"The second major pivot Justin Trudeau made that I also think opened things up [in the race] was when he said we don't have to do the F-35 [fighter jet]," he added.

The leaders' debates also made a positive difference in the Liberal campaign, Rae said.

"In the debates, I think [Trudeau] put to rest the idea that he's highly scripted," he said. "He showed an ability to improvise and engage and fight back. There's a lot of innovation in his campaign … and that's why the numbers have gone up."

Rae's focus on Trudeau as an integral element of the Liberals' success underscores what he sees as the ballot box question necessary for the Liberals to form a government after Oct. 19.

"I think the question is, do you want real change? Do you want a government led by Justin Trudeau to provide that change?" he said, adding that he believes Trudeau is part of that calculation for Canadians at the polls.

"He's a positive element on the doorstep. People like him, and people talk about him."

NDP: It's about 'change and leadership'

Outgoing Vancouver NDP MP Libby Davies agrees the ballot box question revolves around change, but she doesn't think Trudeau necessarily factors into that.

"I think it is about change, but it's also about who has the gravitas, who has the characteristics and the experience to take on that role as the prime minister of this country," she said in a separate interview.

"So I do think that leadership question is very central to this campaign. [NDP Leader] Tom Mulcair has that depth and capacity and experience to take on that very important role."

Davies said the NDP's momentum earlier in the campaign has gotten off-track, but told Hall "don't count us out."

"I think there were some issues, particularly the niqab, that were very difficult," she said. "I think that did have an impact, certainly in Quebec. But I think overall, the campaign has gone really, really well. We have a very solid ground game, the NDP is legendary for that."

It wasn't just the niqab that threw a wrench into the NDP's campaign. Davies said the Liberals' decision to come out with deficit budgets "changed the conversation."

"Can you imagine what the reaction would have been if the NDP came out with a statement that we're going to run deficits?" she said. "It would have been mayhem."

Instead, the NDP chose to run on a promise to keep the books balanced — a tactical decision Davies said was "a situation where you're damned if you do and damned if you don't."

Davies also criticized what she said was a historical tendency of the Liberals to campaign "from the left." 

"The Liberals are legendary for running from the left, promising everything and not being able to deliver," she said.

Long campaign 'good for the country'

As exhausted politicians make their final pitches to voters in the last weekend of the 77-day marathon campaign, Moore said he thinks the long campaign has had a positive democratic influence on voters.

"I'm not running this time, so maybe I have more of a 30,000 foot-view of it, but I actually think it's been a great campaign," he said.

"I don't think anybody voting on Monday has a lack of clarity about what Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair or Justin Trudeau think or how they carry themselves. I think that's good for the country."


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