Late in the Game, Liberals look to attract support of key demographics via funding & policy announcements

July 8, 2019

It has been two weeks since Parliament rose for the summer, since then, the governing Liberals continue working full-steam, leaving no stone unturned as far as policy and funding announcements go, in what can be conceived as a final push to garner support from key voter groups, in the lead up to the election period.

In 2018, the Liberal government introduced changes to the Elections Act which introduced a new pre-election period spending cap with the aim to prevent a surge in pre-election political advertising from political parties and third-party advertising groups. This pre-election period kicked in on June 30th. Federal announcements cannot be done during the election—also known as writ—period, but the rules surrounding announcements by the Government of the day in the pre-election period offer flexibility.

With weeks to go before the election period, set to begin in the first two weeks of September, the Liberals have utilized the pre-election period to rollout a series of announcements on infrastructure, environment, and supports for women’s organizations. These announcements can be interpreted as the Government attempting to complete their mandate to the best of their abilities. However, looking through a political lens, it becomes evident that the stakeholders to said announcements are strategically targeted demographic and interest groups. These groups are those who helped the Liberals claim a majority in 2015 and their support will be vital for the Liberals’ re-election efforts in the fall election.

What has been announced and whom are the stakeholders?

Since Parliament rose, the Liberals have announced key infrastructure projects in the region of Quebec, including the inauguration of the Samuel the Champlain Bridge by Minister Champagne on June 28th, 2019 in the region of Montreal—Brossard. The construction of the bridge was undeniably much-needed. As the Liberals see Quebec and particularly urban ridings in the province as key to their re-election hopes, the timing of the announcement—a short two months before the election period—is also impeccable, in as far as providing residents of Montreal with reasons to vote Liberal.

Another timely infrastructure investment in Quebec was announced by Prime Minister Trudeau on July 4th, a $1.3 billion of federal funding commitment to extend Montreal’s metro line. Certainly, another much needed infrastructure investment. One whose announcement prior to the election will also help Liberals capitalize support in key ridings of Montreal come the fall. More infrastructure announcements are expected in Quebec in the coming days.

Other key demographics for the Liberals, come election 2019, are gender equality stakeholders, and women at large. In 2015, Mr. Trudeau was able to capture staggering support amongst women. According to Abacus Data’s 2015 post-election survey, the Liberals won by 17-points among women (42% vs. 25% for the CPC and 23% for the NDP), compared with 6-points among men. Women made up 52.4% of the electorate in 2015.

The Liberal Government campaigned heavily on gender equality, and has taken a number of measures on this front, such as the creation of Canada’s First Feminist Foreign Assistance Policy, the creation of the first Women and Gender Equality Federal Government Department, the launch of a Women’s Entrepreneurship Strategy, and the introduction of gender-based analysis framework in Budget 2018—accompanied by a number of measures seeking to forward gender equality.

One must remember that the SNC Lavalin affair, which saw Trudeau remove two former female Cabinet ministers from the Liberal Caucus, has negatively impacted support for Mr. Trudeau, particularly amongst women.

It is therefore not a surprise that the Liberals are working extra hours, in borrowed time, on announcements that can persuade the female vote. In what can be perceived as a last bid to regain broad support for women and gender equality stakeholders, in only three weeks, the Liberals have announced funding for sixteen initiatives under the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, a $2 billion investment fund to help women start and grow businesses. On July 7th the Liberals also announced $2.8 million for a project to fight workplace sexual harassment through improving the process of reporting incidents. These announcements will certainly be included in the Liberal’s election narrative seeking to, once again, mobilize the female vote towards their camp.

The past weeks have also been very busy for the Liberals on the Environment and Climate Change front. Minister McKenna has announced a number of items such as the ban on harmful plastics by 2021, a memorandum of understanding with California state on clean air, and Output-Based Pricing System (OBPS) and the Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) regulations—both seeking to incentivize greenhouse gas emissions reductions. It is worth pointing out that the OBPS and the CFS regulations have been contentious items with industry. While they are central pieces of the Liberal’s climate plan that will be pitched throughout the election, the two were released in the late afternoon of Friday June 28th, before a long weekend. A move easily explained as seeking to avoid backlash from industry or extensive media coverage.

It is said that timing is everything in politics. These funding announcements certainly address key policy areas of the Liberal government’s mandate. These policies on women entrepreneurship and climate changes, as well as infrastructure investment decisions have been meticulously crafted by bureaucrats and in consultation with stakeholders. That said the timing of their rollout is superb for the Liberals in Government, given the news cycle slowdown in the summer months, their announcements have faced little competition for media spotlight. Additionally, they have been rolled out as Government announcements, therefore they do not contribute to the pre-election period party expenditure caps that are applied to party activities such as campaign announcements and other marketing and advertisements costs.

Meanwhile the actual impact of these policy and funding announcements on the broad public is marginal at best, they contribute to early engagement with key targeted voting groups. Furthermore,  they not only help the governing party build a narrative of accomplishments that is top of mind, but also help build the narrative that their re-election would yield advantageous results for said interest groups.