“It is going to be close and I think it will be a minority government,” said John Barlow, the Conservative incumbent Foothills MP, on Sept. 10. “I am excited how things are trending.”
When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the election on Aug. 15 many political pundits expected a Liberal majority. However, as of Sept. 14, polls had the Erin O’Toole-led Conservatives and the Liberals in a dead heat.
CBC Poll tracker had the Liberals with 31.9 per cent of the popular vote and the Conservatives at 31.3 per cent. In seat projections the Liberals had 151 and the Conservatives at 122, while 338 Canada projected the Liberals would win 146 seats and the Conservatives 126. It projected 32 seats for the NDP, 32 for the Bloc Québécois and two for the Green party.
There are 338 seats in Parliament. A party needs 170 to form a majority.
“I think the arrogance of Justin Trudeau to call this election when we have a drought, forest fires, we are in the middle of a pandemic and what is happening in Afghanistan has frustrated a lot of Canadians who are now looking at some of what Trudeau has done in the past,” Barlow said. “It’s (the election) has allowed Canadians to get to know Erin O’Toole and the Conservative policies.
“That combination has meant a dramatic shift in the polls.”
He said the two themes he has noticed which have resonated with Foothills residents are the economy and affordability.
Barlow said while the Liberal programs to help people at the start of the pandemic were important, it is time to transition “from a credit card economy to a paycheque economy. Getting Canadians back to work and getting small business up and running.”
Foothills NDP candidate Michelle Traxel said the party’s platform on affordability has struck a chord with Canadians.
“The NDP platform focuses so much more on the everyday Canadians and the people are realizing it,” Traxel said. “These really straightforward approaches like raising taxes for the wealthy or closing tax loopholes will have rippling effects for everyday Canadians… Even something as simple as capping cellphone bills is really resonating.”
She predicts it will be another minor government.
“I think we will be stuck with another minority government and another election cycle in two years,” said Traxel, a businessperson in Okotoks. “I’m unclear which of the two parties (Conservative and Liberals) will pull ahead in the next few days.”
She said the NDP, and potentially some of the smaller parties, will gain momentum from the 2021 election.
“I do believe the NDP will win more seats this election,” Traxel said, adding to the party’s clout in the new government. “I think we will see even more interesting legislation in the future.”
She admits trying to knock off Barlow is a tough task.
“I know I am going against Goliath, I am going against someone who had 80 per cent of the vote (in 2019),” Traxel said. “I think the amount of NDP votes specifically in this riding will shake it up a bit.
“I think it will remind a traditional Conservative MP and MLA there are other voices in the Foothills and I think that is healthy.”
She said several Foothills residents, although strongly Conservative, have thanked her for running and promoting democracy.
Maverick Party candidate Josh Wylie from MIllarville said the party’s message of Western regional representation has hit home with Foothills residents.
“The problem that we (western Canadians) are facing with their current representation is parties are skewing their policy platforms to the bulk of voters in Ontario and Quebec — carbon tax, the gun ban flip-flop,” Wylie said. “The East-West divide is growing.”
He predicts it will be a fragile Liberal minority government after Sept. 20.
You hear quite often that Erin O’Toole is ahead, but that’s in the popular vote,” Wylie said. “You recall Andrew Scheer won the popular vote in 2019 but still lost by 36 seats.
“Erin O’Toole has never been ahead in the seat count.”
Wylie said if the Conservatives do win the most seats to try and form a minority government, he is not confident the party will get the support from either the Bloc or NDP to form government.
The Mavericks are in 29 ridings and Wylie wouldn’t predict how many they would win.
“No one should be under any illusions that what we are trying to accomplish was going to end regardless of the results of this election,” Wylie said. “This is just where it starts.”
Liberal Foothills nominee Paula Shimp, from Raymond, believes Canadians will choose a Trudeau government.
“I look at the way the Trudeau government has handled the pandemic, and we have some of the lowest rates per million and we’re down around near New Zealand-Australia,” Shimp said.
“The Trudeau Liberals have really shown the goods to keep us floating through these catastrophic times and for me, that and that alone is enough for me to believe that they will continue to have the goods to help us get through this economic recovery.
“Do I believe that the Liberal party has the goods to get us through this? You betcha.”
She said the Liberals would continue to support getting more pipelines to help the oil and gas industry.
“I would love nothing more than for Chrystia Freeland to be able to negotiate a Transmountain pipeline east to west across this country,” she said.
Dan Hunter, the People’s Party of Canada’s Foothills candidate, said trying to predict the results in a chaotic election is difficult.
“This is an electorate in turmoil, all the rules seem to be broken,” said Hunter, an Okotoks resident. “The brand names that go with Liberal or Conservative or NDP seem to be not as strong as they were because of the shifting policies of these parties.”
Green Party candidate Brett Rogers was unavailable for comment.With files from Krista Conrad