Spotlight: Trudeau seeking second term as Canada's general election campaign begins

Source: Xinhua| 2019-09-12 17:53:05|Editor: Wu Qin
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by Christopher Guly

OTTAWA, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday announced the kickoff of a 40-day election campaign that will culminate on Oct. 21 when Canadians will decide whether his Liberal Party will receive a second four-year term in office in the country's 43rd general election.

In 2015, Trudeau had everything to gain. The Liberals he has led since 2013 began one of the longest election campaigns in Canadian history with a duration of 78 days, and ended on Oct. 19, forming the government with a majority of 184 seats in the 338-seat House of Commons.

In 2019, Trudeau has much to lose and kicked off the Liberal Party's bid for re-election by reminding voters why they turned their back on the Conservatives led by his prime ministerial predecessor Stephen Harper, whose austerity policy stalled economic growth and job creation in the country.

His Liberals, he told reporters and supporters in the national capital on Wednesday, have helped reduce the national unemployment rate to 5.7 percent last month, a four-decade low, with the creation of over a million new jobs over the past four years.

The 47-year-old prime minister, however, faces troubles in other areas following new revelations regarding the SNC-Lavalin scandal, which has dogged his government for most of this year.

Canadian daily newspaper The Globe and Mail broke the story in early 2019 about political interference from Trudeau and his officials in the criminal prosecution of the Canadian construction giant SNC-Lavalin, reported Tuesday that his government was hindering a Royal Canadian Mounted Police probe into possible obstruction of justice.

Trudeau deflected the matter as a decision made by "public servants." But the broader issue of trust and ethics will dog him during the campaign as it did at the start when opposition Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said that the SNC scandal, over which Trudeau became the first Canadian prime minister to have been found in violation of the country's conflict-of-interest law a second time, illustrated how the Liberal leader "has lost the moral authority to govern."

As the prime minister, Trudeau will also have to defend his record in office against the backdrop of his 2015 electoral victory when he heralded a "sunny ways" new era of change and hope for Canada.

His opponents in the 2019 campaign will remind voters of Trudeau's unfulfilled promises, such as the Liberals' commitment to introduce electoral forum and end the first-past-the-post system in which parties like his can win a majority of House of Commons seats without a majority of the popular vote.

For Trudeau, there is no shortage of issues involving those which fell short of expectations. The list includes his government's climate-change policy that set the same greenhouse-gas emission target for 2030 as Harper did, as well as the lack of progress regarding efforts to promote the reconciliation with Canada's indigenous peoples.

While Trudeau invoked Harper's name at the campaign launch, it is Scheer whom Trudeau will have to deal with during what is shaping up to become one of the tightest races.

The latest public opinion polls show that the Liberals and Conservatives are tied in popular support, with the governing Liberals poised to win the most seats of House of Commons in Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system, but likely less than those secured in 2015.

The other threat facing Trudeau and his Liberals comes from Canadians who favored them four years ago but might this year prefer to place their votes with another progressive party, such as the left-of-center New Democratic Party or the Green Party.

Neither of those two could form a government. But each could syphon support from the Grits and that vote-splitting could propel the Tories to victory.

Yet the Trudeau team's strategy seems to be streaming in a solo direction during this campaign.

While the three main opposition party leaders will outline their visions on the economy, foreign policy, indigenous issues, and energy and the environment in a televised debate Thursday evening from Toronto, the prime minister will be attending campaign rallies in the western province of Alberta, where the Liberals will face one of their biggest threats at the ballot box day next month.