Skip to main content

Canada's Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during an election campaign stop in Montreal, Quebec.CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

Fresh from the recycling bin outside their 2019 war room, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party has found the refrain to see them through these final days of the campaign: Vote Liberal – Canada’s future is at stake.

We’re at a critical point in this pandemic, the Liberal Leader reminds listeners at campaign stops in the ridings that matter. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole isn’t capable of seeing the country through the remainder of the crisis, says Mr. Trudeau, because he is beholden to the “far-right anti-vax wing of his own party.” Vote Liberal, he insists: The health of the nation is at stake.

We’re also at a critical point in terms of public safety across the nation, say members of the Liberal Party. Gun violence – which killed fewer people last year than did opioids, cancer, car accidents, heart disease and COVID-19 – should be top of mind, they say. And Mr. O’Toole has a secret plan to allow the scariest-looking weapons in this country back on the streets, even though Mr. Trudeau’s plan didn’t actually require gun owners to forfeit their weapons. Ah well. In the words of Liberal candidate and cabinet minister Patty Hajdu: “We can’t let Canada move backward on gun safety. Erin O’Toole is playing a dangerous game.”

Canada is at a crossroads on abortion rights, the Liberals claim, pointing to the access issues in New Brunswick and other rural regions. Mr. O’Toole won’t do anything to tackle those inequities, they say, unlike Mr. Trudeau – who, okay, also hasn’t really done anything to tackle those inequities over the last six years, but will talk about them passionately around election time. And worse, though Mr. O’Toole calls himself pro-choice, “in reality, he’ll let his team bring forward legislation to restrict abortion access,” says Liberal candidate Maryam Monsef, reading directly from the aforementioned 2019 playbook. We can’t allow the Conservatives to take Canada backward on women’s rights.

Indigenous appears 182 times in the Liberal platform, and 126 times in the Conservative’s. Will all that talk lead to action?

O’Toole’s handicap: He has no big selling point, other than Trudeau-bashing

This moment is also a critical one in determining the path Canada will follow in the future of our health care, the Liberals say. This pandemic has revealed the frailties of our hospital networks, the necessity of a robust and maintained stockpile of personal protective equipment, the urgency of resuscitating and reforming our pandemic alert system, the importance of border controls in slowing the spread of a global pandemic and the need for domestic production of critical vaccines, medications and other health care materials. That’s why, on the campaign trail, the Liberals are talking about … very little of that. Instead, they’re focusing on Mr. O’Toole’s allegedly clandestine plans to usher in two-tiered health care. Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland revealed as much when she tweeted out a manipulated video that made it seem as though Mr. O’Toole would usher in a for-profit parallel health care system. “The Conservatives are faking it on health care,” Ms. Hajdu tweeted last week. “That will cost lives and jobs.”

Indeed, Canada is at a most fragile crossing, rendering this, in the words of Mr. Trudeau back at the beginning of the campaign, “the most important election since 1945.” Guns, abortion, two-tiered health care – these are the issues that have affected Canadians intimately for the last whole four weeks – and that is why voters must make the correct choice or risk watching the nation slip back into the hellish status quo of five weeks ago.

And because of that, the Liberals would like to remind progressive voters, as they did in 2019, and in 2015, and in every election since the sun started rising in the east and setting in the west (only Michael Ignatieff could stop Stephen Harper, after all) to vote with the future of the country in mind. “We’re the ones positioned to stop Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives from taking Canada back,” Mr. Trudeau said at a recent campaign stop in Halifax. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh might seem like a nice dude, but there are more important considerations at play when the country’s fundamental values and priorities are perilously at risk.

All of which, however, leads to one inconvenient question: If “we can’t afford to go backward,” in the words of Liberal candidate Mélanie Joly, “not on health care or child care. Not for our seniors. Not for our workers or our families;” if “Conservatives will put more assault-style firearms on our streets,” according to Liberal candidate Bill Blair; if “Mr. O’Toole is laying out a vision that would take us back on climate change,” according to Mr. Trudeau; if Canada is at too critical a juncture to risk a backward slide on all matters of importance under a Conservative-led government – then why did Mr. Trudeau invite that risk with a discretionary election call that could lead to a Conservative-led government?

If the refrain in the final week of this campaign is to vote Liberal because the future is at stake, is it not incumbent on Mr. Trudeau to add an addendum: “the future is at stake, and we put it there?”

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.