OTTAWA – Here are brief profiles of the main Canadian political party leaders contesting the Sept. 20 election.
Justin Trudeau (Liberals) – Trudeau, 49, has been prime minister since November 2015 after he became the first leader to take a party from third place to an election win. Damaged by allegations that his government improperly intervened in a criminal case against a Quebec-based construction company and by revelations that he had worn blackface as a younger man, Trudeau lost his parliamentary majority in 2019 and now heads a minority government. Trudeau, the son of the late Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, has championed gender equality, toughened environmental laws, and spent heavily on economic and social supports amid the COVID-19 pandemic. His party also launched a national daycare program, signing deals with a majority of provinces before the election was called. He has twice been found in breach of federal ethics rules. Trudeau has faced crowds of angry protesters during the current campaign, most of them opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates. He sank in polls early in the campaign but recent surveys suggest he is recovering.
Erin O’Toole (Conservatives) – O’Toole, 48, was elected leader in August 2020 and was relatively unknown heading into this month’s election. His tightly managed campaign and socially conscious platform have made his party unexpectedly competitive. O’Toole, a former army helicopter navigator, vows more restraint on government spending, but his platform promises tens of billions in investment and no clear path to a balanced budget. He also faces tension with social conservatives within his party over issues such as climate change, gun control and abortion.
Jagmeet Singh (New Democrats) – Singh, 42, made headlines in October 2017 when he became the first person from an ethnic minority to be elected leader of a major Canadian political party. The left-leaning New Democrats lost almost 40% of their seats in the 2019 election, but Singh has cultivated a large following on social media and polls suggest he is gaining in popularity. If the New Democrats pick up seats and no other party wins a majority, Singh will likely retain his role of kingmaker, able to help the governing party pass legislation in exchange for policies his party favors. Singh promises more social spending to be offset by higher taxes for the very wealthy and multi-national corporations.
Yves-Francois Blanchet (Bloc Quebecois) – Blanchet, 56, took over the separatist Bloc in January 2019 and more than trebled its seats in the election later that year. The Bloc, which seeks independence for the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, only runs candidates in Quebec. Under Blanchet – who rivals concede is a dynamic performer in English and French – it could hold onto its gains.
Annamie Paul (Greens) – Paul, 48, is the first Black person to head a mainstream Canadian federal party. The activist and lawyer was elected leader of the Greens last October but has recently become mired in a dispute over Israel policy that could undermine the party. The Greens lost one seat when a lawmaker crossed the floor to join the Liberals and now only has two legislators.
Maxime Bernier (People’s Party of Canada) – Bernier, 58, an ex-Cabinet minister who was once forced to resign as foreign minister after mislaying secret documents, defected from the Conservatives to create the populist PPC in 2018. The party performed poorly in 2019 and Bernier lost his seat. But he has tapped into public frustration over pandemic restrictions and his party is climbing in the polls. That growing support could bleed votes from the Conservatives. Bernier was arrested in June in Manitoba for attending a rally against COVID-19 restrictions and PPC signs have been seen among the anti-vaccination hecklers on Trudeau’s campaign. A PPC official was expelled over allegations he threw gravel at Trudeau.