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Hello. We begin today with a briefing note from Nik Nanos, chief data scientist of Nanos Research, which conducts daily polling for The Globe and Mail and CTV.

Debates can make or break candidates but the proverbial knockout punches are historical, epic and unusual. Brian Mulroney’s “you had an option” in the 1984 election was one of those devastating punches.

The recent TVA French-language debate had no knockouts, but had definite punches. Post-debate tracking by Nanos for The Globe and Mail and CTV News suggests that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer took a bit of a decline in his numbers following that debate.

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The national polling trend is clear as mud with neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives having a clear lead. There has been continued gridlock with the Liberals and the Conservatives.

In a campaign characterized more by bickering than substantive policy jousts, tonight’s debate will be a critical juncture to see if anyone can get the upper hand. Watch for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to contrast himself with Mr. Scheer and work to justify another mandate. For Mr. Scheer, after a rough week of distractions related to his citizenship and professional credentials, look to him to try to motivate core supporters to get out and vote. A potential minority parliament is a perfect storm for both the NDP and Greens as they could become exceptionally relevant in the House of Commons. For Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, his English might not be as good as his French but he will have a clear message. Then there’s People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier – the wild card. Realistically his best path forward is to try to shake voters from the Conservatives. Watch the exchange between him and Mr. Scheer – former caucus-mates, former Conservative leadership combatants – and expect a possibly more personal edge to their exchanges.

The current gridlock is likely a manifestation of a lack of enthusiasm for both of the front-runners. In that respect, for some Canadians the current environment is a political desert with more bickering and jabs than any sort of discussion on issues Canadians care about like the environment, jobs and health care.

With two weeks left before the election, one can argue that perhaps tonight might be the last opportunity to do a campaign reset to have a fight over competing visions for the future of Canada.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

DAILY TRACKING OF PUBLIC OPINION

  • Liberals: 34 per cent
  • Conservatives: 33 per cent
  • NDP: 15 per cent
  • Green: 10 per cent
  • Bloc Québécois: 5 per cent
  • People’s Party: 2 per cent

The survey was conducted by Nanos Research and was sponsored by The Globe and Mail and CTV. 1,200 Canadians were surveyed between Oct. 4 and 6, 2019. The margin of error is 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked: “If a federal election were held today, could you please rank your top two current local voting preferences?” A report on the results, questions and methodology for this and all surveys can be found at https://tgam.ca/election-polls.

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TODAY’S HEADLINES

Today on the campaign trail: The party leaders have light schedules as they prepare for tonight’s English-language televised debate in Gatineau, Que. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer announced that, if his party formed government, they would make all national museums free and establish a new one at the RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau held a photo-op with Ontario teachers the morning after the provincial Progressive Conservative government made a deal with education support staff and averted a strike that would have shut down many schools in the province. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Leader Elizabeth May do not have any public events today before the debate.

The Liberals are keeping on a Nova Scotia candidate who has made a number of past racist and sexist social-media posts because Mr. Trudeau says the candidate has apologized.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney criss-crossed Ontario over the weekend to stump for federal Conservative candidates in 23 scheduled events, many at various houses of worship.

The Leader of B.C.'s Green Party, Andrew Weaver, is expected to announce today that he is stepping aside (but remaining an MLA) for health reasons. The B.C. Greens hold the balance of power in the province’s legislature and keep the NDP minority government in office.

The federal and B.C. governments say they will investigate concerns raised by a Globe and Mail investigation published this weekend, which detailed how some immigration consultants and trucking companies have been taking illegal cash payments from foreign nationals to help them obtain permanent residency. Those people are then put on the road in trucking jobs for which they can be dangerously unprepared for – leading to fatal crashes, such as the one in Humboldt, Sask., that killed 16 teenage hockey players.

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And significant news for Syria: The United States has announced it is pulling all troops from the region so that Turkey can begin a military assault. Kurdish fighters in Syria, who worked with Western forces against the Islamic State, say they feel abandoned by the move. The troop withdrawal also throws into question what will happen to foreign fighters – including those from Canada – who went to the region to join the Islamic State, but have not been repatriated by their countries.

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on the parties’ comfort with deficits: “There is a serious risk that the deficits that Liberals once insisted would be small and temporary will become large and permanent. And that the spending promises being rolled out in this campaign will leave Ottawa with a pernicious structural deficit that undermines investor confidence, putting Canada on track for a painful fiscal reckoning similar to what it faced in the 1990s. Yet no one seems to be talking about that on the campaign trail. Maybe they should.”

Adam Radwanski (The Globe and Mail) on the lack of debate about climate change: “But this is not a world in which one can hunker down and avoid global trends. Even setting aside what elevated temperatures might do to Canada’s North, or rising waters to its coasts, the changing climate could cause everything from massive migration shifts to dramatically different trade patterns, not to mention the potential for international conflicts and abject suffering.”

Jennifer Ditchburn (Policy Options) on the lack of action on climate change: “Canadian politics around climate change looks embarrassingly immature in comparison. None of us particularly enjoys the petty partisanship of Canadian politics, but even more grating is the fighting over what to do about climate change. It’s been more than 20 years since the Kyoto Accord was signed half-heartedly by the Liberal government of the day. That the current government plan doesn’t even get us to our Paris Accord targets shows you how much of an impediment partisanship has become. Surely we have arrived at a point where we can get past the basics and agree on a baseline of action?”

Roland Paris (The Globe and Mail) on foreign policy in the election: “Beyond the campaign platforms, speeches and debates of the current pre-election period, Canada needs a comprehensive review of its international policy. Whoever wins power in the next few weeks should launch one. The last such review concluded in 2005 – an eternity ago.”

Donna Dasko (The Globe and Mail) on achieving and keeping gender equality in politics: “Our history has shown us that even the most significant gains for women in politics can be quickly lost. Think back to 2013, when six provinces had female premiers. Now let us recall that photo taken during last summer’s premiers’ conference, with its all-male cast. Not even one female premier remains in office.”

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Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on what the leaders need to do in tonight’s debate: “The parties have put forward policies, and there are policy differences, but so far no leader has been able to punch through with a narrative that makes Canadians think they have a project they’d want to sign up for. The English-language debate may be their last best chance to do that.”

John Doyle (The Globe and Mail) on the debates as TV programming: “Television can be cruel to politicians. It exposes hesitation and ignorance about topics, and highlights them. The person is the message. The message is the person.”

Robert Hurst, a former president of CTV News who has helped organize past leaders’ debates, in The Globe and Mail, on this year’s format: “This election campaign was supposed to be different. The Election Commission would present debates that would use television to illuminate the platforms and the candidates for the electorate. But the outcome has been abysmal. A single debate in each official language. In central Canada. Regional and fringe candidates will waste airtime. The journalists are back on stage, also wasting airtime. The debate is two hours. It will air in the West while people are busy with commutes or dinnertime. That’s perfect for the parties.”

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