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Federal election to kick off on Wednesday morning, Canadians go to the polls on Oct. 21

OTTAWA — Let the races begin, in all 338 ridings from coast to coast to coast.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will visit Rideau Hall Wednesday morning to launch the 2019 federal election, with voting day set for Oct. 21.

Informally the campaign has been well underway for months, as the party leaders have been criss-crossing the country to get their messages out and attack their opponents. But Wednesday will mark the formal start of the writ period as Trudeau visits Governor General Julie Payette to start the process to dissolve Parliament.

The Liberals emerged from the 2015 campaign with 184 seats and 39.5 per cent of the popular vote, giving them a sizeable majority over the Conservatives, who finished with 99 seats and 31.9 per cent of the vote. But this will be a much different election for the Liberals, as they’ll now be defending their own record in government and searching for ways to recapture the energy that vaulted Trudeau to a majority.

Entering the 2019 campaign, polls have shown the Liberals roughly tied with Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives in the low thirties. The New Democrats, led by Jagmeet Singh, and the Green Party, led by Elizabeth May, are both significantly further back at closer to 10 per cent.

Both the Conservatives and NDP have first-time leaders in this campaign, with Scheer having been elected in May 2017 and Singh in October 2017.  But while the Conservatives have been polling relatively strongly, the NDP has struggled since Singh took over, posting poor fundraising totals and lagging in the polls.

The Green Party, meanwhile, is enjoying stronger-than-usual polling numbers and looking for a breakthrough, particularly in British Columbia. The party, which has been led by May since 2006, has two seats in Parliament. The NDP has 39 seats, while the Bloc Québécois has ten.

Also looking to make a splash is Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada, a populist breakaway party started by Bernier after his bitter, razor-thin loss in the Conservative leadership race. The PPC is languishing far behind in the polls, but could still nab votes from the Conservatives in some ridings.

Once the campaign begins, however, polls could shift dramatically over the next six weeks. In 2015, the Liberals entered the campaign in third place and then saw a steady rise in the polls that delivered a decisive victory — though that campaign was also unusually long at 11 weeks.

While Trudeau is in Ottawa to launch the campaign, the other major party leaders will be spread across the country. Scheer will be kicking off the campaign in Trois-Rivières, Que. Singh is already in southern Ontario, where he has events scheduled in Hamilton, London and the Toronto area throughout the week. May will be holding her campaign launch in Victoria alongside other Green candidates from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.

The first leaders debate is scheduled for Thursday night, hosted by Maclean’s and Citytv. Trudeau has so far refused to participate in it, meaning it may be just Scheer, May and Singh on the stage. Trudeau has also rejected appearing in the proposed Munk Debate on foreign policy.

Trudeau is instead participating in the debates organized by the new Leaders’ Debates Commission, scheduled for Oct. 7 (in English) and Oct. 10 (in French). Those debates will also feature Scheer, May, Singh and Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet; the commission has not yet decided whether Bernier will be invited.

In addition, Trudeau has agreed to a third debate organized by Quebec broadcaster TVA, scheduled for Oct. 2. Scheer, Singh and Blanchet are also invited to that one — but May is not, despite her protests.

• Email: bplatt@postmedia.com | Twitter:




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