Justin Trudeau has picked up the first major editorial endorsement of the election, winning the support of a Montreal newspaper that had been cool to the Liberal Party in recent campaigns.
In an unsigned editorial, La Presse urged its readers to support the Liberals on Oct. 19, arguing the party has done a better job than the NDP of offering an alternative to the Conservative government.
The editorial is harsh on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper after nine years in power. In 2006, La Presse supported the Conservatives, suggesting it was a time for a change from the Liberals, who were struggling with the sponsorship scandal. The newspaper endorsed the Liberals in the 1993, 1997 and 2000 elections, but did not support anyone in 2004, 2008 and 2011.
"Our choice is motivated by the leadership style of Justin Trudeau. In contrast to Mr. Harper, and to [NDP Leader Thomas] Mulcair to a point, Mr. Trudeau promotes a constructive approach to politics," the editorial said. "He avoids personal attacks. He likes people, and they like him back. He has a bit of Laurier in him. … He is ready."
La Presse said that under Mr. Harper, Canada was ruled by an "ultraconservative minority" that failed to find compromises on key issues. The editorial blasted the Conservative government's handling of environmental matters, international affairs and its treatment of independent federal agencies such as Statistics Canada.
"Instead of aiming to reach consensus, they used divide-and-conquer tactics, fostered ignorance and prejudice. This is the most harmful governing style for a country as vast and multicultural as ours," La Presse said.
The editorial said the New Democrats' main promise of a national daycare program does not respond to a specific need in Quebec, but would likely cost more to implement than what the party has budgeted.
The paper said it weighed the benefits of making an editorial endorsement in this day and age, stating "citizens don't like to be told how to think." However, it decided to go forward and will publish letters in coming days from both supporters and opponents of its position.
On social media, some supporters of the NDP were clearly angry. One Mulcair staffer said the endorsement was not surprising coming from a company that recently laid off 158 workers as it undertakes a transition from a physical paper to a digital format (except on Saturdays).
The Liberal Party did not comment on the matter.