Canadians go to the polls on Monday to vote in one of the closest federal elections in recent memory. Political and personal scandals have damaged the popularity of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is now facing a strong challenge from his Conservative Party rival, Andrew Scheer. And Trudeau’s reelection bid is not only being threatened from the right — progressive candidates have also criticized his record, demanding that he do more for Indigenous reconciliation, social programs and climate change.

We asked our regular Canadian columnists and some guest writers who should win and why. Here’s what they wrote:

J.J. McCullough: Voting Conservative is the only way to temper the radical left

J.J. McCullough is a Global Opinions contributing columnist. He lives in Vancouver.

Throughout this election, the Conservative Party has done its best to minimize its differences with the governing Liberals, assuring the skittish it has no intention of regulating abortion, questioning climate change, lowering immigration or cutting funding to anything but the most obscure and irrelevant federal programs. At a time when conservative movements around the world are rebranding in creative and ambitious ways, the Conservative Party of Andrew Scheer remains committed to a static flavor of conservatism defined by modest tax cuts and resentment of progressive “hypocrisy.”

Yet voting Conservative remains the only practical bulwark against a Canadian left tempered by no comparable instincts of caution. As Lawrie McFarlane in the Victoria Times-Colonist recently noted, the era of Canada being governed by a centrist duopoly of two pragmatic parties is clearly over; the leftward drift of Canadian political culture has not only made the Conservatives less conservative, it has radicalized the Liberals.

Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads a party defined by brazen fiscal irresponsibility and open hostility to the country’s natural-resource sector. He employs fashionable buzzwords like “multiculturalism” and “reconciliation” as pretexts to pursue wild ideological initiatives like the infamous “genocide report” that embarrass and divide the nation. He decries polarization while never examining the role his over-the-top woke rhetoric has played pushing both left and right to extremes.

He seeks to grow the power of those who already have it, strengthening unelected institutions like the Senate while tightening restrictions on free speech and political activism. His supposedly post-national vision of Canada is actually a deeply stratified one that primarily benefits his fellow members of the eastern establishment, be it through bailing out legacy media institutions or contorting the legal process to protect SNC-Lavalin.

It can be asked whether electing a moderate Tory government led by Scheer will do anything beyond temporarily pause (or even slow-walk) the worst excesses of the Trudeau agenda while the Liberals radicalize further. A vocal faction of aggressively principled conservatives have drifted to Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party for precisely this reason. Theirs are valid concerns, and I am not unsympathetic.

In the end, however, I find myself most persuaded by a simple appeal to that most classically conservative value — personal responsibility. When I’m someday asked if I did my part to help unseat the worst government of my lifetime, I want to say yes.

Amanda Alvaro: Trudeau has elevated Canada’s role in the world

Amanda Alvaro is a communications strategist and regular political commentator on CBC’s “Power and Politics.” She worked for the Trudeau campaign in 2015. She lives in Toronto.

The world is watching the Canadian election. That’s a bit of marvel and certainly not something we’re used to. Until recently, the international community was hard-pressed to give much coverage to our politics and leaders, let alone the debates of the day.

But that was just the latest sign that the world has been keeping an eye on Canada and Trudeau for a while now. That’s because over the past four years, things have changed. Canada is no longer the polite and quiet cousin to our neighbors south of the border — we are now recognized globally for progressive leadership.

Today, we’re admired for having one of the most successful progressive governments in the world. The Liberal government of Trudeau has kept 92 percent of its promises. Under Trudeau’s leadership, Canada installed the first gender-balanced cabinet in the country’s history, committed to fight climate change with the introduction of a carbon tax, gave refuge to over 25,000 displaced Syrians and lifted almost 1 million Canadians out of poverty.

The economy is thriving — there are at least 1 million more jobs than when the Liberals first took office — and unemployment is at record lows. But despite the progress, the race is tighter than it should be thanks to the wave of conservative populism sweeping the globe. And a lot is at stake.

We need only look at what this particularly disturbing brand of populism has done to a woman’s right to choose in the United States under President Trump. Americans were told that certain rights weren’t at risk, and yet abortions are now highly restricted in several states. In Canada, anti-choice groups are backing dozens of Conservative candidates during this election cycle, potentially helping to elect more anti-choice Conservative members of Parliament than ever before.

Alarming anti-immigration rhetoric has also seeped to our side of the border and challenges the very idea of who we are as a multicultural nation, the badge that we’ve proudly carried for generations.

These things matter. Perhaps more than ever.

Trudeau is not perfect — nobody is — but perfect has always been the enemy of good. He should remain the prime minister of Canada. The country is better off now than it was four years ago, and we’re headed in the right direction. Trudeau has proved to be a consistent defender of our interests and values domestically and on the global stage.

The world is watching. And it should be, because progressives everywhere want to know that good is still possible.

David Moscrop: A progressive minority government would be the best outcome

David Moscrop is a Global Opinions contributing columnist. He lives in Ottawa.

Canada’s electoral and party systems make endorsements tricky. In a multiparty, parliamentary democracy with single-member plurality elections, it’s easy to say that you prefer one party over another. But it’s harder to encourage others to vote for them without considering whether that riding is competitive, if there are relevant second or third preferences or parties you want to stop from winning, and the quality of local candidates on offer. The fact that Canada’s 43rd election might be its closest ever and voters have imperfect polling data at the riding level makes endorsements even trickier.

To manage these considerations, I’m going to consider what the best kind of vote is, what I think is within the realm of possibility and would like to see happen, and what those who feel the same way should do to maximize the chance that such a thing does indeed come to pass.

First, the best vote is one for whichever candidate or party you prefer. But if you want to try to cast an effective strategic vote, there are things to consider.

On election day, I hope to see Canadians return a minority Parliament in which progressive parties must cooperate to preserve a Liberal government. In another universe, I would support Jagmeet Singh and the New Democratic Party, full stop. But the universe in which we live is likely to return either a Liberal or Conservative plurality. Canada would be best served by the former having to cooperate with the NDP — and perhaps the Green Party, too.

A Liberal government carefully checked and pulled left by a progressive and cooperative opposition would be more likely to deliver, among other things, an ambitious climate plan, a national housing strategy and robust pharmacare. Canada has a long history of minority governments pursuing and delivering on ambitious plans (typically, though not exclusively, those are Liberal governments pushed by the NDP to do better). Minority governments have delivered medicare, pension plans, student loans, the flag, official bilingualism, freedom of information legislation, a health-care-funding accord, legal same-sex marriage, Keynesian stimulus during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis and more.

Canadians cannot, however, directly elect a minority government. Each Canadian votes for a local representative. Members of Parliament then determine who will govern and whether that government will be a minority or majority. Voters can, however, rely on imperfect but potentially useful regional and local projections and polls to determine which progressive candidate is most likely to win and cast their ballot accordingly.

That candidate might be a New Democrat, Green or Liberal. The key is to elect as many progressive MPs as possible. So, on election day, vote your progressive preference, hold your breath and hope for the best.

Andray Domise: A vote for the NDP is a vote against cynicism

Andray Domise is a Toronto-based writer and contributing editor to Maclean’s magazine.

In 2015, not long before the previous Canadian federal election campaign, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau gave a speech from the Chateau Laurier hotel in Ottawa. “We’ll make sure that Canadians have a stronger voice in Ottawa — a voice that reflects and represents them,” he said, unveiling a promise that, should the Liberal Party form a government after the election, 2015 would be the last one decided by the winner-take-all “first past the post” system. Well, the Liberals did indeed form a government, and after a lengthy study conducted by an all-parties committee, Trudeau scuppered his promise.

In the grand scheme of promises made and promises broken by this government — reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, ending federal subsidies to oil and gas companies, meeting our greenhouse gas emissions targets — the lost hope of electoral reform might not seem like the biggest item on the 2019 agenda. Canada is, after all, the biggest per-capita carbon polluter in the Group of 20. We are still ripping Indigenous children away from their parents’ arms and forcing their families to navigate a byzantine process in order to be made whole again. We are still eroding our human rights legacy by selling armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

But there is something about the cancellation of electoral reform that is particularly galling. The year 2015 was supposed to be the close of the most exhausting aspect of any Canadian election, which is hearing the words “strategic voting” spoken in earnest. With those two words, any person who claims to care about climate change, racial reconciliation, income inequality, etc., will transmogrify their language into the oily cadence of a cynical pundit, bleating to anyone who will listen that voting their conscience is tantamount to just throwing their vote away altogether.

In their minds, a vote for the New Democratic Party (whose leader Jagmeet Singh has made strong policy commitments and has a record as a former Ontario MPP of following through) is taking away a vote the Liberals were somehow entitled to and making the path to victory easier for the Conservatives.

Due to that broken promise on electoral reform, here we find ourselves thinking it naive to care enough about our values and policy goals to vote for NDP candidates who, by all indications, would likely support them. That broken promise helped create an even more cynical political environment, one in which talk is currency and action is an onerous (if not counterproductive) burden.

Progressive politics is more than compassionate language and inclusive rhetoric — it’s having the courage to make the necessary changes to improve our democracy, uphold our global responsibilities and improve the material conditions of the working class. So far, the Liberals have failed to deliver on these promises. And it appears the Singh-led NDP intend to follow through on theirs.

I say give them a shot. It’s not like things could get any more cynical around here, anyway.

Michael Taube: Scheer has the right political and economic vision

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist, TV and radio pundit, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.

On Oct. 16, Barack Obama endorsed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his reelection bid. With the Liberal government behind in most polls, they’re hoping a symbolic nod from a popular, like-minded progressive politician will provide a small boost.

It won’t work, however.

Many Canadians now understand that Trudeau’s public image was a facade. He has little to no grasp when it comes to strategic communications and political tactics. He often appears smug in public, like he knows more than anyone else in the room when he clearly doesn’t. His managerial skills are poor, and he’s unable to properly break down even the simplest of issues. His domestic and international reputation is in tatters due to the SNC-Lavalin controversy and appearing in blackface/brownface on three occasions.

That’s why a growing number of Canadians have turned against Trudeau and are seriously considering Andrew Scheer and the Tories.

Scheer is a fiscal and social conservative. He wants to decrease the size of government, reduce income taxes for individuals and corporations, and champion the free market. He wants to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers and establish a domestic free trade agreement. He wants to introduce more tax credits for parents with children in arts and sports programs, promote private sector initiatives, slash the bureaucracy and enhance individual rights and freedoms.

He also wants to rebuild Canada’s once-respected role as a foreign policy leader under former prime minister Stephen Harper. He would fight the war on terror, ensure that organizations like NATO remain strong and focused, work hand-in-hand with European allies on security measures and support Israel’s right to self-defense.

Scheer would immediately become an important ally and trading partner for President Trump. The lines of communication between our nations would be more open and less divisive than they’ve been during Trudeau’s leadership. Ensuring safety and security at the Canada-U.S. border and tackling illegal weapons, drugs and crime would become top priorities. Trade deals, including the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, would be treated as strategies to achieve fairness and create more jobs and economic opportunities in North America.

Scheer has the right political and economic vision to move Canada forward. Despite Obama’s flighty endorsement of the Liberal prime minister, the Tory leader deserves the only endorsement that really counts: the support of Canadian voters.

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