Leader: Yves-François Blanchet
Political career: A former provincial environment minister under Parti Québecois premier Pauline Marois from December 2012 to April 2014.
Strengths: Blanchet is a seasoned campaigner, and has name recognition in Quebec where he was a commentator on an afternoon tv show, was once president of Quebec’s association for music, shows and film, and was the sole candidate who ran to lead the fractured BQ movement in time for the federal election.
Weaknesses: He will have to infuse the party with a raison d’être, and motivate volunteers and organizers at a time when Quebec races are very competitive.
Campaign slogan: Le Québec, C’est Nous (Quebec is Us)
Seats at dissolution: 10
Election challenge: To rally separatist and soft nationalist voters enough to return to relevance. Support for separatism in Quebec has waned in recent years and with it, public backing for the Bloc Québécois.
Conservative Party of Canada
Leader: Andrew Scheer
Political career: Scheer is the Ottawa-born and raised MP for a Saskatchewan riding, Regina-Qu’Appelle. He was first elected in 2004, and became Speaker of the House of Commons in 2011 at the age of 32, the youngest person to hold the role. He held the post until 2015 when the Conservatives lost the election. Stephen Harper stepped down as party leader. Scheer was elected leader in 2017 by party members after 13 rounds of balloting, with barely 51 per cent of the vote.
Strengths: Scheer has a pleasant smiling demeanour, and little political baggage having been a backbencher and later Speaker. He did not a make a lot of enemies despite many years in parliament.
Weaknesses: Unclear how much he can stand the political heat of debates or the campaign trail. He tends to turn on his heel when pressed by reporters and has been indecisive or slow to take decisions such as evicting a caucus MP.
Campaign slogan: “It’s time for you to get ahead.”
Seats at dissolution: 95
Election challenge: To win a majority government. Scheer must persuade voters who turned to the Liberals in 2015 that Trudeau let them down, and that the Conservatives are the only party with a plan to govern. The NDP has ruled out supporting a minority Conservative government, so it’s hard to envisage a path to power for the Conservatives other than winning a majority.
Green Party of Canada
Leader: Elizabeth May
Political career: May became leader of the Green party in 2006 after stepping down as long-time executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada. It took another five years before May notched a historic election win and was elected the first Green party MP in Parliament, representing the riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands.
Strengths: A lawyer by training, is quick to grasp policy; a likeable, experienced campaigner who could corner the environmental vote.
Weaknesses: May’s tendency to speak off the cuff leads her to blurt out odd statements. Like the time she said she offered to quit as leader if former Liberal attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould would join the Greens; that she would not stop Green MPs from bringing forward private members bills to limit abortion; that Jesus Christ was her personal hero, and that she stayed in politics because “I have to save the whole world.”
Campaign slogan: “Not Left. Not Right. Forward Together.”
Seats at dissolution: 2
Election challenge: Convert the party’s growing support among Canadians into actual seats and ensuring that support doesn’t bleed away to other parties on election day. If any of the parties come up short of a majority government, the Green party could leverage its seats in the Commons in return for action on its priorities.
Liberal Party of Canada
Leader: Justin Trudeau
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Political career: Trudeau began his political career in 2008 when he was elected MP for the Montreal riding of Papineau after a tough nomination campaign the year before. Elected Liberal leader in 2013, handily beating five other candidates to take the reins of a party that had been bumped to third place after bruising election defeats. Led the Liberals to defeat Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in 2015, and storm past the then-official Opposition New Democrats to a 184-seat strong majority government.
Strengths: An experienced and physically fit campaigner, Trudeau has honed his skills since 2015. He enjoys the cut and thrust of debates, scrums and meeting the public, can manage the hectic pace of a national tour, and has instant name recognition.
Weaknesses: Trudeau is a polarizing figure who stirs deep animosity among his opponents and is faced with burgeoning separatist sentiments in Western Canada.
Campaign slogan: “Choose Forward.”
Seats at dissolution: 177
Election challenge: Win. A repeat majority government is the brass ring. A minority government is a feasible consolation prize but only if the Liberals are able to win the backing of opposition MPs, such as New Democrats or Greens, to make it work.
New Democratic Party of Canada
Leader: Jagmeet Singh
Political career: Singh was elected to the House of Commons in a 2019 byelection in Burnaby South, 16 months after he won the leadership of the federal NDP in October 2017. Singh came to Ottawa from Queen’s Park where he served as an NDP MPP between 2011 and 2017, holding the post of deputy party leader. He replaced Thomas Mulcair, who stepped down as leader in the wake of the 2015 election result.
Strengths: His sunny, optimistic style is appealing at a time when much of politics is dominated by partisan attacks. He has a strong personal story, centred on how he survived abuse by a taekwondo coach, and helped hold his family together through crises when his father was struggling with alcoholism.
Weaknesses: Singh is new to Ottawa on his first-ever federal campaign and he’s turned in a spotty track record so far as leader. As well, money troubles will hobble the party’s campaign ambitions.
Campaign slogan: “In it for you.”
Seats at dissolution: 39
The challenge: An optimistic view would be to win more seats but a more realistic goal may be to avoid steep losses that some predict in the face of weak pre-election poll results. Yet all might not be lost for Singh’s New Democrats. If any of the parties come up short of a majority on election day, they will be looking for support and the NDP could hold the balance of power. Singh has already ruled out backing the Conservatives but that could change after the election.
People’s Party of Canada
Leader: Maxime Bernier
Political career: A libertarian and fiscal conservative, Bernier was elected in 2006 as a Conservative in the Quebec riding of Beauce. Son of a popular former Quebec MP Gilles Bernier, Maxime Bernier held several roles in Harper’s Conservative government, as minister of industry and then foreign affairs before he was forced to quit after leaving classified documents at a girlfriend’s apartment. Bernier ran for the leadership of the Conservative party in 2017, narrowly losing to Andrew Scheer. He quit Scheer’s party in 2018, declaring the Conservatives had abandoned “core” principles. He sat as an independent MP and launched the People’s Party of Canada as a self-described populist option.
Strengths: Bernier mustered a full slate of PPC candidates, a feat for a new party. He had a base of supporters among Conservatives, having won more than 49 per cent of votes in his former party’s leadership race, and could threaten Scheer’s candidates in some ridings.
Weaknesses: Practices an abrasive style of politics that has stoked divisions on hot-button topics such as immigration, multiculturalism and the environment. His personal insults of a teenaged climate change activist Greta Thunberg earned him scorn across party lines.
Campaign slogan: Strong and Free.
Seats at dissolution: 1
Election challenge: Bernier is trying to fashion his party as hard-right alternative and carve out support from the Conservative party he left behind. But his abrasive, even offensive, style of politics has already alienated potential supporters.