Andrew Scheer is taking aim at the idea of a coalition government, a day after NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he was “absolutely” open to one to keep the Tories from power.
Only a Conservative majority can prevent a government with “Justin Trudeau as the spokesman but the NDP calling the shots,” the Conservative Leader said in Winnipeg Monday after announcing that he would table a fiscal update within 45 days if his party forms government.
Mr. Scheer said he would not consider governing in a coalition if no party wins a majority in the Oct. 21 election.
For his part, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is declining to say whether he would join a possible coalition.
“My focus is on electing a progressive government and stopping Conservative cuts," Mr. Trudeau said Monday in Windsor. He did not address at least six questions about how he would react in the event that voters don’t hand power to one party.
Since the leaders’ debates last week, the NDP and Bloc Québécois have risen in the polls, suggesting that no party would win a majority government if an election were held today. That dynamic is what’s prompting questions about how the parties would govern in a minority Parliament.
As the leaders crisscrossed the country, local campaigns focused their efforts on getting out the vote in the four days of advance polls over the Thanksgiving weekend. According to Elections Canada, there was a 25-per-cent increase in turnout during the first two days of advance polling, compared with the 2015 election.
Mr. Singh put the possibility of a coalition government on the table Sunday when he said he would consider joining one if it meant keeping the Conservatives out of power.
On Monday, however, Mr. Singh backpedalled, telling reporters: “My focus is not on a coalition."
Instead of “negotiating the future," he doubled down on his efforts to woo disaffected Liberal and Conservative voters.
"You’re not stuck with two choices, you can go beyond that,” Mr. Singh said. With more New Democrats in Parliament, he said the NDP would push for policies such as universal pharmacare and dental care.
Even if Mr. Scheer wins the most seats but falls short of a majority, he likely wouldn’t have many partners to negotiate with in a minority scenario.
Mr. Singh has already ruled out supporting the Conservatives, and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May has said her support would be contingent on a minority government setting more stringent greenhouse gas-emissions targets – which the Conservatives don’t support. Mr. Scheer further narrowed his options Monday by ruling out a partnership with the Bloc Québécois.
“We would not govern, we would not enter into any type of negotiations with the Bloc," he said.
Canada has had its share of federal minority governments, where the party with the most seats governs by getting support from other parties on a case-by-case basis, but coalition governments are rare. Under a coalition, parties negotiate a formal power sharing arrangement and more than one party sits at the cabinet table.
On Monday, Mr. Trudeau was asked about his plans if voters don’t grant any party a majority government. While stressing that he can work with opposition parties, he also pushed the need for a “strong government.”
“Standing up against” premiers like Jason Kenney and Doug Ford and “standing up to Donald Trump and other challenging leaders around the world requires a government that is able to pull together all Canadians,” Mr. Trudeau said while standing at a podium with the Detroit skyline in the background.
The fact that coalitions are now part of the conversation with six days left in the campaign shows how much the electoral map has shifted, Dalhousie University’s director of the school of public administration Lori Turnbull said Monday.
“The election is really about the rise of the NDP and the Bloc," she said. “It’s about the rise of the two parties that aren’t the front-runners.”
To try to secure a majority, she said, the Liberals and Conservatives are attempting to frame the choice for voters in a way that brings them back into the fold. Mr. Trudeau, she said, is trying to avoid a scenario where voters think if they cast a ballot for the NDP the worst they’ll get is a Liberal minority, while Mr. Scheer is trying to “stir up” the ghost of the 2008 Liberal-NDP coalition that then-prime minister Stephen Harper successfully shut down.
“Even though coalitions are completely legitimate,” Prof. Turnbull said that Mr. Harper was able to delegitimize them and cast them as improper.
The Liberals, Conservatives and NDP started the final leg of the campaign on the offensive, visiting ridings held by their opponents. Mr. Trudeau spent most of the day targeting NDP and Conservative-held seats in southwestern Ontario.
Mr. Singh continued his tour in B.C., making two stops in the Liberal stronghold of Vancouver Centre.
Mr. Scheer started the week with two events in Winnipeg on Monday, where the Liberals hold seven of the eight ridings.
Before he was to make an announcement at a Winnipeg hotel, he was criticized for campaigning in Manitoba while the province is under a state of emergency because of snowstorms that knocked out power and forced some communities to evacuate.
Mr. Scheer said he sends his “best wishes” to the first-responders working in difficult conditions and said he had made a donation to the Red Cross but wouldn’t say how much he gave.
The Green Party Leader was not campaigning on Monday.
The Liberals and Conservatives are deadlocked at 32-per-cent support each, according to Monday’s daily tracking survey from Nanos Research. The New Democrats are at 19 per cent, with the Greens at 9 per cent, the Bloc Québécois at 6 per cent and the People’s Party at 1 per cent.
The poll was sponsored by The Globe and Mail and CTV, with a total of 1,200 Canadians surveyed from Oct. 11 to Oct. 13. It has a margin of error of 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 http://tgam.ca/election-polls.
With reports from Janice Dickson