Refugees, the economy and the niqab have featured prominently in the longest election campaign in Canadian history.
But the current campaign may be as notable for the issues that have been overlooked as for those that have made headlines.
“The campaign, because it’s been so long and so eventful, it has covered a lot of territory we would not necessarily expect,” says Maxwell Cameron, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia and director of the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions.
“I would not have thought that refugees and immigration policy would be a central issue. I would never have predicted the niqab would be a significant issue.”
Yet with just a few days left before Canadians cast their ballots, subjects such as poverty and inequality have not necessarily gotten the attention they deserve, Cameron tells Yahoo Canada News.
“We’re seeing such a high level of inequality and the persistence of poverty and I’m not sure that any of the parties have really articulated a strategy for addressing it,” he says.
The environment is another major topic among Canadians that may have gotten short shrift on the hustings.
“There’s been some discussion of it. It’s obviously of importance to many voters but I don’t think we’re hearing a lot of creative ideas about how we reduce our dependence on fossil fuel,” Cameron says.
Election campaigning is critical but it has also become divisive and negative, he says.
“We’ve gone too far down the road on the world of permanent campaign and partisanship and I’d like us to tone down the partisanship and see more evidence of the capacity of our politicians to work together and make our institutions work better and to ensure they function in ways that benefit all Canadians.”
The latest poll aggregates from www.threehundredeight.com suggest the Liberals would win 136 seats, the Conservatives 118 and the NDP 80.
In such a closely contested election, campaigning is driven by which voters the parties feel they need to attract, says Kathy Brock, a professor of political science at Queen’s University.
“They’re looking at issues that are really going to sway voters that they think are movable and those are the issues they’re going to put front and centre,” she says.
Enter the niqab, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and — in some ridings — the legalization of marijuana. Exit assisted suicide, women’s issues and health care.
“They’re playing it prudently,” she says of party leaders on health care, despite the fact that the federal government has a key role in transfer payments to the provinces and more specifically, in revising the law on assisted suicide following a Supreme Court of Canada decision early this year that made headlines for months.
“That has been a little bit off the radar screen.”
Aboriginal issues generally have also been largely overlooked, Brock says.
“I think that’s really regrettable because that’s an area where the federal government can play a really big role,” Brock says.
Canadian voters tend to vote locally, though, she says, looking to local candidates before the party or the party leader in deciding who gets their vote.
“Debates are really important but it’s also really important for the candidates to be out there showing up at the door, getting in touch with people,” Brock says.