Voters will probably remember Anyone But Conservatives (ABC) or Stop Harper slogans from the last federal election held in 2015.
The electorate voted in large numbers to boot out the Conservatives under then prime minister Stephen Harper and bring in the Liberals, making Justin Trudeau the prime minister.
Four years have passed and the Trudeaumania that gripped Canada coast to coast to coast seems to be fading. The charismatic leader is going down in some polls or remains neck and neck with the opposition Conservative party as the October 21 election draws near. One of the most pressing issues that's dented his image has been the handling of the controversial SNC-Lavalin case.
Trudeau allegedly tried to protect the company from being prosecuted for corruption. The worst thing was transferring attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to another portfolio after she refused to accept unethical pressure. The matter did not end there. Less than two months after she resigned as the minister of veterans affairs, she was kicked out of the Liberal caucus.
Because Wilson-Raybould is an accomplished Indigenous woman, Trudeau has lost credibility and trust among the First Nations of Canada. This marks a sad ending to the beginning of a new era of hope of friendship between the Canadian government and indigenous communities. They helped Trudeau come to power by turning out in large numbers, helping to defeat Harper whose regime was much more ruthless in dealing with the First Nations.
For the record, Harper wasn’t even considering a demand for national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, whereas Trudeau ordered one.
Against this backdrop, the widening gulf between the First Nations and Trudeau has disheartened those who care for social justice. Not only that, Trudeau remains adamant about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that many indigenous communities continue to resist.
While on the one hand, Trudeau remains apologetic for the historical wrongs done to the First Nations, on the other he is dancing to the tune of the oil industry.
Apart from this contradiction, which has upset environmentalists, Trudeau has failed to stand up as a world human rights leader. He has not taken a strong stand against oppression of people in Palestine or Kashmir or for minorities being persecuted in India under a right-wing Hindu nationalist regime.
Similarly, his government hasn’t done much to come to the rescue of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong or to intervene for Indigenous communities fighting against miners in Brazil. Trudeau's words aren’t loud enough against Trump and his bigotry across the border.
As against Trudeau, New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh has been more consistent and vocal in his opposition to Trans Mountain, racism, and repression in different parts of the world. But the problem remains that both leaders continue to face hostilities from far-right groups.
Whereas Singh is more obviously a direct victim of racism because of his ethnic background, Trudeau is being targeted by the same forces for opening doors for Syrian refugees and promoting a more inclusive and multicultural society.
Notably, Singh, who is a turbaned Sikh, is also facing a backlash from within his party. Recently several New Democrats decided to quit the party to join the Greens in New Brunswick. One of them openly said that he is concerned because of Singh's appearance.
Not surprisingly, Singh has not been able to recruit many candidates and the party is facing a poor financial situation. While one can agree that Trudeau is losing popularity because of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, what scandal has Singh really created? Why is he behind in the polls, sitting at 14 percent, as against Trudeau, who has 35 percent, and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer at 32 percent support? (Abacus Data)
The only plausible explanation behind Singh’s lack of popularity is his religious background. It is no surprise that racism has grown during the last four years in Canada, especially in the post-Trump environment. This growth is also correlated with growing populism all over the world.
Hindu nationalists recently won another majority in India in May. They also enjoy some influence in Canada and are known to be inclined to support Conservatives or the People’s Party of Canada—two right-wing parties that are hard on immigration. This particular group is discouraging South Asians from voting Liberal or NDP.
Some polls indicate that this coming election will be tough for Trudeau since the Conservatives are maintaining a slight lead over him in some polling. Nothing can be taken for granted. The best scenario could be a Trudeau-led minority government that can survive with the help of the NDP.
Considering the challenges of growing populism and bigotry, it is important for all progressive groups to unite against such divisive forces and make sure that the right wing is not elected to power. Under current circumstances, ABC has become even more relevant.
If Singh has no chance to become prime minister and Trudeau can barely survive at best, then it would be wise to vote strategically to keep the Conservatives our. Using our common sense we can re-elect Liberals in their strong ridings, while electing New Democrats in others.
For example, it is important to re-elect Singh in his riding of Burnaby South, but in Burnaby North–Seymour, we need to elect Svend Robinson of the NDP over the sitting Liberal MP as Robinson has a better chance. He also remains a strong voice for human rights and climate justice.
Similarly, we need to re-elect Liberals in places like Surrey and Abbotsford where Conservatives are strong and the NDP has a lesser chance to make an impact. Last but not least, it will be appropriate to elect Wilson-Raybould as an independent MP from Vancouver Granville to send a message to Trudeau and make him realize his mistakes.
Let’s face it: politicians are no angels. They do make mistakes, but as voters we need to see what is good for us. Do we want a Trumplike leader in our country or do we need to give Trudeau another chance? Despite all of Trudeau's limitations and disappointments, I would recommend that we need to re-elect a leader who is not talking of building walls, but breaking them down.
We must not overlook the heat he has taken for letting Syrian refugees in. Let him come back even with a minority so that he'll know that Canadians are watching his actions. We don’t want racists to be in power, but our support cannot be taken for granted.
He has to prove himself next time that he means what he says, and has to listen to voices of Indigenous and working people. And if he is forced to run a minority government with the help of the NDP, that will make him more accountable and attentive to the public needs.
A minority government is, after all, good for the people however unstable it might be.