10 Things the 2015 Campaign Will Be Remembered For

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There are a myriad of ways that the 2015 Federal Election has been one of the most interesting in Canadian history. Sure, during every election, candidates and pundits tell us that this is the most important vote in our lifetime, but this year there is truly a sense that something historic is afoot. What exactly that means is still anyone’s guess. But as we enter the final week of this long election period, let’s look back at 10 of the things that stick out in our memory. From the weird, to the humourous, to the devastatingly tragic, here are 10 things that this election will be remembered for…

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10) Mike Duffy Trial Eats the First Month of Campaigning

It seemed odd at first that Stephen Harper would choose to start this campaign a week before the trial of Senator Mike Duffy was back in session. And yes, a lot of the air that might have been better spent talking about issues was used up daily as all the party leaders were engaged in the news. And yes, Harper’s infuriating caveat of just five questions per day meant that it was all Duffy all the time for weeks. But in the end, have we heard a lot, or anything substantial, about Duffy since Labour Day? Sure, he remains a ghost in the machine for Harper, but at least now he’s a contained ghost, which leads me too…

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9) Earl Cowen Ruled!

Call me petty, but it still makes me laugh. Except I don’t know what’s funnier, that fact that the scene began with Earl berating a fellow Conservative, the fact that he thinks the point of the Duffy trial is about the senator cheating on his taxes, the point when he turns on CTV’s Lorrie Graham and calls her a “lying piece of $#!%,” or how, after a minute of this, he’s led away by a Conservative staffer. All that, plus  he’s wearing his “Doug Ford for Mayor” pin, which makes you wonder, “Why is Harper going back to court these guys this weekend?”

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8) Harper Goes Goofy

Harper’s sudden embrace of The Family that Shall Not be Named was one of a couple of odd campaign maneuvers for the Prime Minister in the final week of Election 2015. Let’s start with the cash register (ka-ching!), where Harper as the gleeful game show host watched gladly as select volunteers threw one bill onto another symbolizing how much Liberal rollbacks of tax cuts will cost them. Then, last night, not only did Harper appear on the popular Quebec talk show En mode Salvail, he also pulled up to the piano and sang. This isn’t a complaint actually, it was honestly refreshing to see Harper get out of his campaign comfort zone and be something resembling (for him) zany. But teaming with the Ford Bros.? That’s still vexing.

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7) May Wins the Debate Without Even Being There

Green Party leader Elizabeth May was understandably ticked about the fact that Google and The Globe and Mail (who’s now the object of fun for endorsing the Conservatives while suggesting Harper should resign) did not include her in their debate on the economy. As it turned out, she was better off. Not only was the Google/Globe debate poorly staged, not only did the three participating leaders not acquit themselves well, but May’s Periscope-broadcast, Twitter-powered segments that were simulcast during the debate allowed her to rise above the fray with solid, informed counter-commentary. For May, she won the debate by not being there.

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6) Justin Trudeau Shows Up with His Pants On

Kory Teneycke has not had a good year. Not only was he the captain of the Sun News ship as it sank below the surface of the TV ocean, and not only did he tell Global’s Tom Clark that Conservative ads were more truthful than the news, but he set the bar so low for Justin Trudeau there was no way the Liberal leader could fail this campaign when he said that Trudeau would win the Maclean’s/Rogers debate “‘if he comes on stage with his pants on.” Not only was it condescending, but as the campaign enters the home stretch with a statistically significant Liberal lead, it seems that Teneycke’s line best indicates just how much the Conservatives underestimated their young rival.

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5) Social Media Takedowns

Although Facebook, Twitter and others were around in 2011, a lot can change in four years. Witness this article published on Yahoo! It’s a list of all 2015 Federal Election candidates who had to pull their names from contention when unfortunate tweets or posts from the past were dug up once again. From Conservative candidate Tim Dutaud, who made prank calls as the so-called Unicaller; to Liberal Joy Davies, who made some misinformed comments about marijuana use and children; to NDP candidate Alex Johnstone, who commented that a structure in Auschwitz looked “phallic”; to supposed voodoo sorceress and Bloc Québécois candidate Kedina Fleury-Samson, no party was immune, and the posts unearthed ran the gambit from silly, to out-of-context, to downright mean and vicious. Some blogs were actively scouring candidates social media for nuggets, as opposition research became easier than ever. After Monday we’ll have to ask ourselves before the 2019 race: is every tweet fair game no matter the context, or will all future candidates have to be as bland as humanly possible to pass muster?

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4) Higher Than Expect Turnout and E.C. Fumbles

The good news was that voter turnout at advanced polls was 71 per cent higher over the 2011 turnout. In all, 3.6 million Canadians – AKA: 10 per cent of the total population of the country – came out during the four-day advanced polls to cast their ballot. Was it the campaign itself? Was it the extra day of advanced voting? The fact that it was a holiday weekend? And at the same time, were more students inspired to vote thanks to the new convenience of voting in their home riding while away at university and an experiment involving pop-up polling stations on 40 select campuses? On the other hand, there were long lines, confusion about the new voter I.D. rules, and some people have to wait as long as two hours to vote. Elections Canada itself may have been unprepared for just how big the turnout was going to be, or maybe they too were confused by the new rules and processes. Regardless, waiting in line is not such a bad sacrifice for democracy, is it?

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3) Niqab Becomes Wedge Issue and Things Get Ugly

In the midst of the Duffy days, it was reported that the Conservatives had hired Australian mastermind Lynton Crosby to rejuvenate the campaign. Crosby, known to have devised a strategy of divisiveness over immigration in Australia’s last election, is a master of wedge issue politics. And then everyone started to talk about the niqab. The right of Zunera Ishaq to take her citizenship oath while wearing her niqab became a hot-button topic as the Tories and Bloc played to Quebec xenophobia and the Liberals and the NDP stood up for the Charter rights granted to Ishaq by the court. As the issue heated up, reports of Muslim women wearing niqabs, or even just head scarves, being attacked began to come in, including the case of a pregnant Montreal woman who was accosted while out with her two kids. The world media then got wind of it, and the once docile and accepting Canada started to look like something out of the 1950s American South. In the end, is the wearing of the niqab going to make or break this election for any one party? It’s doubtful, but for a while there, it made none of us look very good.

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2) Longest Campaign Ever!

It seemed messed up, but strategically for the Conservatives it made perfect sense: double the campaign, double the amount of money you get to spend. With a sizable war chest and the advantage of incumbency, it seemed the Conservatives were set to make this race. So what the heck happened? Issue after issue, the Tories were forced to play defense. The economy, the Conservatives prestige issue, was either awesome or terrible depending on who you asked and what indicators you looked at, and all the while the Finance Minister, Joe Oliver, seemed to be being kept in seclusion. Meanwhile, the polls showed a tight three-way race, a log jam amongst decided voters that looked like it was never going to break. Then something weird started to happen. The heir apparent NDP started to lose ground, particularly in its beachhead Quebec, and the Liberals started making gains until achieving enough support to legitimately be considered the likely next government of Canada. Considering the funeral dirge played for the Grits in 2011, that’s quite the comeback. Still, and this is almost hard to believe, the most reliable pundits are saying it’s still anyone’s game on Monday night.

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1) The Boy on the Beach

Alan Kurdi probably never thought he’d be the face of a global crisis, but then again, most 3-year-old boys don’t think much about global crises. On September 3, the plight of the millions of refugees fleeing from war and hardship in Iraq and Syria was summed up in one image of a dead boy having washed ashore in Europe  after the raft he and his family were trying to escape Syria on went down in the Mediterranean. Compounding the tragedy was the fact that the Kurdi family had sponsorship to come to Canada, but their immigration was allegedly held up due to red tape. Although Alan was just one boy, his fate became a rallying cry for many in the election that more needed to be done for those like him. In reaction, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander suspended his campaign to address the crisis, but not much seemed to be done to improve the flow of refugees to Canada, even as various European countries started slamming the door on migrants. Alexander, meanwhile, quietly went back to the campaign trail. In the end, every party made promises about how many refugees they’d bring into the country and when, but in terms of the immediate need of hundreds of thousands fleeing violence in their home countries, not much has been done to come to their aid. Perhaps with the end of this election, the stark and demanding task of truly dealing with this and other issues will begin…

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