Canada federal election debate: What issue is the most important to you?

Elisabetta Bianchini
Canada federal election debate preview: What issue is the most important to you?
Canada federal election debate preview: What issue is the most important to you?

Canadians are waiting to see who will come out on top in Canada’s first election debate with all the party leaders in attendance.

For much of the election campaign to date, the Liberal and Conservative parties have been neck-and-neck in the polls, with one party or the other pushing slightly ahead on any given week.

According to the latest poll, conducted by Nanos Research for CTV and The Globe and Mail, the Liberals sit at 34 per cent support with the Conservatives slightly below at 33 per cent. The NDP are at a distant 15 per cent followed by the Greens at 10 per cent support. These results were gathered between Oct. 4 and Oct. 6, with 1,200 respondents, and has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

Another recently released poll from Abacus Data, conducted between Oct. 3 and Oct. 5 with 1,556 respondents (a margin of error of 2 percentage points), also found that the Liberal Party was in the lead, with 35 per cent support. The Conservatives were still close behind at 33 per cent, followed by the NDP at 16 per cent and the Greens at 8 per cent support.

Aside from the polls, the Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green Party, Bloc Quebecois and People’s Party of Canada leaders have presenting their proposed changes to existing policies, providing their perspective on heavily debated election issues and responding to some of the harsh criticism they’ve faced for weeks.

Yahoo Canada asked readers what their most important issue is leading up to election day on Oct. 21. To date, the top issues identified by respondents are: immigration, taxes, government accountability, climate change and health care.

Justin Trudeau, Liberal Party

At the start of the election campaign, the SNC-Lavalin scandal seemed like the most controversial incident Justin Trudeau would have to face - until the brownface, blackface video and photos were released.

“It was something that I didn’t think was racist at the time,” Trudeau said after TIME released a photo of him at a 2001 Arabian Nights themed gala, while he was a private school teacher in Vancouver. “It was a dumb thing to do. I’m pissed off at myself.” A Yahoo Canada poll of nearly 50,000 readers suggests nearly 60 per cent of people didn’t accept his apology.

But, even still, the most recent polls suggest the scandal didn’t have a sustained impact on the support for the party.

“With two weeks to go the race remains close, and we continue to see little movement in vote intentions,” David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data said in a statement. “Impressions of Mr. Trudeau seem to have rebounded a little from the impact of the blackface photos.”

The Liberals “Choose Forward” campaign emphasizes that the party “is just getting started.”

The Liberal Party identifies that one of their top priorities include supporting the middle class, primarily by making the first $15,000 they earn free of federal taxes, which the party estimates will save the average family approximately $600 a year. This will be done by raising the Basic Personal Amount for people earning less than $147,000 a year.

Another priority for Trudeau’s Liberals is climate change. The party promises to plant two billion trees in 10 years and has committed to net zero emissions by 2050. Back in June, Trudeau announced that he would ban single-use plastic as early as 2021. The Liberals also plan to make all federal buildings powered by clean electricity by 2022 and will implement a 10 per cent rebate on zero-emission vehicles, to a $2,000 maximum.

Trudeau also announced that the party, if re-elected, will ban assault weapons in Canada. It will also “move forward with modest and responsible increases to immigration” and will increase the Canada Pension Plan and the Quebec Pension Plan survivor’s benefit by 25 per cent.

Andrew Scheer, Conservative Party

At the beginning of the election campaign, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was very vocal in his criticism of Trudeau’s actions in the SNC-Lavalin scandal.

This was particularly true following a story from The Globe and Mail stating that the federal government blocked the RCMP’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice in the handing of the SNC-Lavalin prosecution, due to it’s “refusal to lift cabinet confidentiality for all witnesses.”

Scheer continually called Trudeau a “liar” and said that his actions show that he has “lost the authority to govern.”

The Conservative leader found himself wrapped up in controversy himself when a Liberal MP and Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, shared a video of him from 2005 opposing the Civil Marriage Act.

In the video, Scheer criticizes “homosexual unions” by saying “they may have many of the collateral features of marriage, but they do not have its inherent feature, as they cannot commit to the natural procreation of children.”

Most recently, it was revealed that the Conservative leader holds dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship, since his father was born in the U.S. He is also registered with the U.S. Selective Service System. Some, including Trudeau, criticized Scheer’s lack of transparency on the topic while others consider it a non-issue.

Although the Conservative Party has not released a formal, fully-costed platform yet, Scheer has made several policy announcements and promises throughout the election campaign.

According to estimates submitted to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the party plans to cut the tax rate from 15 per cent to 13.75 per cent for income under $47,630, and will bring the transit tax credit and children’s fitness tax credit.

Scheer also promised to remove GST from home-heating bills, and will repeal the Liberal government’s Carbon Tax. Conservatives pledge to end border crossings at unofficial points of entry and “close the loophole” in the Safe-Third Country Agreement with the U.S.

Jagmeet Singh, NDP

In a distant third place, Jagmeet Singh needs to make a significant impact on Canadians in Monday’s debate to close the gap between the NDP and the Liberals and Conservatives in the polls.

Singh himself hasn’t faced much controversy through the campaign so far, he even received praise for his response to a man in Montreal who asked him to “cut off his turban” to “look like a Canadian.”

"Oh, I think Canadians look like all sorts of people," Singh said in response. "That's the beauty of Canada."

Making life more affordable for Canadians is a core component to the NDP platform. The party plans to invest $10 billion to implement an expanded Medicare program, including prescription drug coverage, by 2020. The party also plans to make post-secondary education part of the public education system, and wants to move away from student loans by increasing Canada Student Grants.

With regards to climate change, the NDP promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 450 megatonnes by 2030, electrify transit by the same year and produce more zero-emission vehicles in Canada, waving the federal taxes on the purchase of these vehicles.

The party also wants to suspend the Safe-Third Country Agreement and wants to “get rid of the backlog” of resettling refugees.

Elizabeth May, Green Party

In the Maclean’s and Citytv debate last month, Green Party leader Elizabeth May came out strong, going head-to-head- with Scheer and Singh on a number of issues, including calling out the Conservative leader for using “inappropriate language” when discussing Indigenous issues and refuting the NDP leader’s statement that she is “putting Mr. Scheer in the prime minister’s seat.”

As expected, the Greens have released the most ambitious plan to combat climate change, including the promise of a 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and zero emissions by 2050. The party will also implement 100 per cent renewable sources for electricity by the same yea, and will ban the production and sale of single-use plastics (including bags, balloons, cups, cutlery water bottles) by January 2022.

Outside of climate change, the party plans to expand the Medicare system to include universal Pharmacare and free dental care for low-income Canadians. The Greens will increase the target income replacement rate for seniors from 25 per cent to 50 per cent of income received during working years, end the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and increase immigration to address labour shortages.

Maxime Bernier, People’s Party of Canada

In a change of events, Maxime Bernier will in fact be allowed to participate in Monday night’s debate. Initially, the federal Leaders' Debates Commission did not see the People’s Party of Canada having a "legitimate chance" of electing multiple MPs - but that changed last month.

"You have satisfied me that you intend to field candidates in 90 per cent of ridings and, based on recent political context, public opinion polls and previous general election results, I consider that more than one candidate of your party has a legitimate chance to be elected," David Johnston, the former governor general who leads the commission said.

The party has faced significant criticism throughout the campaign, particularly for its views on immigration in Canada. Back in August, the party released a billboard that read “Say NO to mass immigration,” which has since been taken down.

Bernier believes immigration levels should be reduced from from 350,000 people to between 100,000 and 150,000 immigrants and refugees per year. The party leader also wants to change the current immigration system to “accept a larger proportion of economic immigrants with the right skills,” and fewer resettled refugees.

The People’s Party’s approach to climate change significantly differs from others.

“There is however no scientific consensus on the theory that CO2 produced by human activity is causing dangerous global warming today or will in the future, and that the world is facing environmental catastrophes unless these emissions are drastically reduced,” the party states.

It is also proposing to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an initiative Canada signed in 2015 with 194 other countries to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 C.

Yves-Francois Blanchet, Bloc Quebecois

The Bloc Quebecois leader may be relatively unknown in much of Canada but he will have the ability to speak to the masses and debate all other federal party leaders this week.

In the TVA French-language debate in Quebec on Oct. 2, the Blanchet took the opportunity to try to entice Quebecers to vote for more separatist MPs who will fight for the province’s interest in Ottawa.

He asked people in the province to elections officials "who resemble you. Who share your values. And who work for your interests, and only for the interests of Quebecers."

So what issue is most important to you leading up to the election on Oct. 21? Vote in the poll above and leave your thoughts in the comments below.