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This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. 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.

Ahead of the Sept. 20 election, Quebec Premier François Legault has weighed in with remarks that may be bad news for the Liberals, in particular.

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On Thursday, the day of the final leaders’ debate, Mr. Legault gave low marks to the Liberals, NDP and Greens, saying the three parties hold “dangerous” views and are not supportive of the Quebec’s key requests in areas like health transfers and immigration.

Speaking to reporters in Quebec City, Mr. Legault, leader of the majority Coalition Avenir Québec government, offered a mixed review of Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, praising several of his positions while objecting to the Conservative party’s new platform costing, which shows that a Tory government would not honour a federal agreement to give Quebec $6-billion for child care.

Although the Premier did not explicitly say this, his comments implied that voting for the Conservatives or the Bloc Québécois would be preferable to supporting the other main parties.

Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief Bill Curry and I report on the development here.

Quebec is a key election battleground because of the fact that it sends 78 MPs to Ottawa, and also because voters in the province are less predictable than in other parts of the country.

In 2019, the Liberals won 35 seats in the province, the Bloc won 32, the Conservatives won 10 and the NDP won one. Party standings in the province have fluctuated significantly from one election to next.

Daniel Béland, director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, said Thursday’s development could be very challenging news for the Liberals.

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Mr. Béland said in an interview that Premier Legault is especially popular among the province’s francophone majority, but has limited influence over anglophones or voters who are allophones, meaning they speak a language at home that is neither French nor English.

Of the latter, Mr. Béland said, “They don’t care about what Mr. Legault says. The secure Liberal ridings are fine. The question is in ridings where you have a larger francophone population, especially in areas where the CAQ is strong at the provincial level, [this] could make a difference.”

As for why Mr. Legault is weighing in, Mr. Béland noted that the CAQ is a conservative party in many ways. “There are more ideological affinities between François Legault and Erin O’Toole than François Legault and Justin Trudeau,” he said, noting the federal Conservatives are the most natural home for non-sovereigntist, right-of-centre voters in Quebec.

“That’s quite a few people.”

ENGLISH-LANGUAGE DEBATE TONIGHT:

The English-language leaders’ debate, which will be the last major debate of the election campaign, will be held tonight, beginning at 9 p.m. ET. It will run for two hours.

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Go here for details on how to watch or listen.

The debate will cover five themes, chosen based on a questionnaire: affordability, climate, COVID-19 recovery, leadership and accountability, and reconciliation.

The moderator will be Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute. The participating journalists will be Rosemary Barton of CBC News, Melissa Ridgen of APTN News, Evan Solomon of CTV News and Mercedes Stephenson of Global News.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

FRENCH-LANGUAGE DEBATE - Federal party leaders battled over child care, the pandemic recovery and Quebec identity politics in the official French-language debate held Wednesday night and broadcast from Gatineau. The debate could have an influence on a campaign where the outcome is viewed as uncertain with less than two weeks to go. Story here.

UPCOMING FROM THE BANK OF CANADA - Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem provided the clearest picture to date of how the central bank plans to reduce monetary stimulus. He set up expectations for a possible cut in government bond purchases in October and said that the bank expects to start raising interest rates before it entirely winds down its quantitative easing program. Story here.

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NEW MANITOBA PREMIER CHANGES TONE ON INDIGENOUS POLICY - Interim Manitoba Premier Kelvin Goertzen is winning praise from the province’s Indigenous leaders for striking a collaborative tone even as they lobby him to scrap a handful of contentious bills. Goertzen replaced Brian Pallister, who resigned as premier after five years. Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives choose a new leader on Oct. 30. Story here from The Winnipeg Free Press.

FORMER MPS AIMING FOR COMEBACK - At least 27 former MPs are running once more this election, in attempts to get back to the House of Commons. Story here from CBC.

TORIES SEEK LOWER MAINLAND BLUE WAVE - Much has been said about British Columbia weighing in at the end of election day to help determine the outcome. Justin McElroy of CBC looks at Conservative hopes for a blue wave in the Lower Mainland’s southern suburbs. Story here from CBC.

OBITUARY - PAUL HELLYER: For a time, he was considered a possible future prime minister of Canada. Principled, articulate, supremely self-confident, Paul Hellyer was Canada’s modernizing minister of defence, who shepherded through the unification of the armed forces in 1967. Mr. Hellyer died in Toronto on Aug. 8 after a fall. His death came two days after his 98th birthday. Obituary here.

LEADERS

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet visits a college in Gatineau, meets with staff at La Presse, visits the Gatineau returning office and participates in the English-language leaders debate.

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Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole participates in the English-language leaders debate.

Green Party Leader Annamie Paul participates in the English-language leaders debate.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau participates in the English-language leaders debate.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh makes a public appearance at Extraordinary Baby Shoppe and Hintonburg Kids ahead of participating in the English-language leaders debate.

ELECTIONS SPOTLIGHT - NORTHWEST TERRITORIES

One Seat. At dissolution of Parliament, one Liberal.

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Graham White, a retired University of Toronto political science professor, spent nearly three decades conducting research in the Canadian Arctic and writing extensively about government and politics in the three territories.

“Like the territory itself, politics in the NWT are highly distinctive. The single federal riding is substantially larger than Ontario but has only about 45,000 residents. Half are Indigenous – various Dene First Nations, a sizeable Métis population, and Inuvialuit (Inuit) – many of whom live in small communities off the highway system. These demographics in part explain why, far more than elsewhere, NWT elections turn on the popularity of individual candidates. Thus, once Chrétien-era minister Ethel Blondin-Andrew, winner of five straight elections, bowed out of federal politics after 2006, the Liberals fell to a poor third, garnering less than a fifth of the vote.

“Michael McLeod, a former mayor of Fort Providence and three-time territorial MLA, easily took the riding for the Liberals in 2015 and in 2019. Running against him this time are four first-time candidates: Kelvin Kotchilea for the NDP, Roland Laufer for the Greens, who captured 11 per cent of the vote in 2019, Independent Jane Groenewegen, a former long-serving MLA, and Conservative Lea Anne Mollison. None are accorded much of a chance against the popular McLeod, a prominent advocate for the NWT in Ottawa.

“NWT voters are concerned about the same issues as other Canadians, as well as perennial housing problems and the long-stagnant territorial economy. Yet perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this election is Mollison’s candidacy. Not only does she live in Ontario, but she reportedly has never been in the NWT. All parties parachute candidates into ridings, though usually because they are well-known, but it is hard to imagine many voters looking favourably on such a flagrant snub of territorial political norms.”

PUBLIC OPINION

Together with CTV and Nanos Research, The Globe and Mail is doing daily surveys to track which party and leader Canadians prefer. Check here for the latest results.

NEW ISSUES POLLING - The Angus Reid Institute says its polling research has found the Liberals hold a key edge on such issues as climate change and COVID-19 response, while the Conservatives have a clear advantage on varied economic issues, from strengthening the economy, to taxation, to creating job opportunities. Details here.

OPINION

The Editorial Board of the Globe and Mail on how Justin Trudeau may have guaranteed low voter turnout by calling the shortest possible federal election: “In the weeks prior to Aug. 15, the day Justin Trudeau foisted a snap election on a pandemic-weary nation, Stéphane Perrault, the chief electoral officer, said he hoped the Liberal Leader would make the campaign period as long as possible. He didn’t.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on Justin Trudeau pushing his way to centre of the debate like a leader running out of time: Twelve days to go, and Justin Trudeau knows he needs to get some traction before it’s too late. On Wednesday, the second French-language debate of the campaign saw an assertive Liberal Leader who jumped in front of the cameras. This was a different Mr. Trudeau – at least in style – than the one seen circling around his answers over much of the campaign. He was more combative, pushing himself into exchanges with the aggressiveness of a candidate who is running out of time.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on why anti-vaccine protest is fine, but abuse is not: “There is a reasonable case to be made against vaccine mandates, and it is to the misfortune of sensible people who hold that view sincerely that their spokespeople have opted for violence and intimidation to make their voices heard. Had they remained merely offensive and uncouth – by trying to drown out the Liberal Leader’s public announcements, by flipping him the bird, by carrying confused signs and shouting obscenities – it would have been more tenuous to call for measures to shut them down. We’re allowed to raise a middle finger to a political leader in Canada; it is, very paradoxically, a beautiful thing. But physical abuse and intimidation is obviously not allowed, whether it’s a shoe thrown at a president, a pie in the face of a prime minister, an egg smashed on the head of a minor party leader or rocks thrown at the Liberal Leader.”

Konrad Yakabuski (The Globe and Mail) on why the CBC’s mandate should be a bigger issue in this election campaign: “Turning CBC TV into a Canadian version of PBS – minus the on-air pledge drives, and with proportionately more public funding – should be an election issue. A debate about the future of the CBC might seem like a luxury when there are bigger concerns weighing on the minds of Canadian voters. But sooner or later, the country needs to have that debate. It might as well be now.”

Mike McDonald (Rosedeer) on the psychology at work in Election 44: “Conventional wisdom is often wrong. How many more times does that need to be proven? Most pundits and media experts play it safe. They stick to the consensus. Smart politicos understand and have a pulse for voters and know that they can move quickly, decisively, and sometimes imperceptibly, especially during the writ period. Erin O’Toole and his campaign team likely believed, and likely still do, that they could win. Smaller parties, like the NDP, the Greens, and the Peoples Party cling to the hope of anything is possible as well. Need I say it? Campaigns Matter!

Steve Paikin (TVO) on the absence of simple answers to simple questions during this election campaign: “The amount of question-dodging has reached new levels during this 44th general-election campaign. How many times have you seen the following: a journalist asks a clear question, the leader gives a gobbledygook-filled answer, and then the journalist says, ‘Well, that didn’t answer the question at all, but here’s my follow-up.’ COVID-19 isn’t the only epidemic in this election campaign. Non-answers are, too.”

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