Tuesday, November 19, 2019
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Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau visiting Simon Fraser University in Surrey, B.C., on Oct. 11 and Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer at a campaign event in Langley, B.C., the same day. (Camila Castaneda)

Mapping the campaign trail of the federal leaders’ tours across Canada

Leader itineraries highlight battleground regions and campaign strategy

By Camila Castaneda, Riley Tjosvold, Zoë Yunker and Pratyush Dayal , in Elections , on October 18, 2019

It’s been five weeks since the election campaign began and, with the federal election days away, party leaders are still busy making announcements and holding campaign events to drum up support.

Collectively, the leaders of the Conservative, Green, Liberal, and New Democratic parties visited upwards of 70 cities and communities across the country.

Their travel schedules have kept them crisscrossing the country.

But looking closely at the campaign schedules reveals these leadership tours are not spread out evenly across the provinces or territories.

Campaign itineraries for the four leading political parties show the leaders have spent most of their time in the urban centres in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

Collectively, those three provinces account for more than 70 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons. And with 338 ridings to cover, leaders need to be strategic when deciding where to spend time.

“Investing in campaigning is a scarce resource for people, in terms of money and time, especially time,” said George Hoberg, a University of B.C. professor in public policy.

“They want to concentrate their efforts where they can make the most difference.”

Party leaders tended to spend less time in the northern parts of all provinces, the territories, the Atlantic provinces, and the Prairies.

Some of these areas are chosen, according to Angus Reid Institute executive director Shachi Kurl, are based on a strategy based on one party having a clear path to victory.

She said the lead the Conservative Party has in Alberta and Saskatchewan is “so overwhelming that campaigning there does not represent a good use of time or resources for the Liberals/NDP/Greens.”

The Prairies may be easier to predict, according to Hoberg, “but in British Columbia, especially in the Lower Mainland and in Ontario, especially around Toronto, there are a lot of votes and it is very close.”

Battleground ridings receiving extra attention

On Oct. 11, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made his way through the bustling mezzanine of students at Simon Fraser University during a campaign stop in Surrey. He used the stop to pitch some campaign promises to young voters.

Young and first-time voters were critical for Trudeau’s 2015 win.

“Each party is trying to either build on or hang onto the support they have,” said Kurl.

Trudeau wasn’t the only leader who has spent time in Surrey. Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh also made campaign stops there.

Other competitive areas getting a lot of attention from leaders are Burnaby, Mississauga, and Brampton.

“If B.C. and Ontario are battleground provinces, then their urban areas are the path to victory due to the vote-rich nature of the Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver, and because of the swing nature of the voters who live there,” said Kurl.

Leaders made few stops in Indigenous communities

When it comes to swing ridings, analysis often focuses on the way specific demographic groups can influence the outcome. In a Canadian Press story earlier this month, the Assembly of First Nations said First Nations voters could swing the votes in one-fifth in every five ridings across the country.

Yet leaders have spent little time campaigning there.

But even visits are problematic, said Terry Teegee, the B.C. regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

“Visits are fine but you know that’s just a visit,” he said. “What I would like to see is more of a discussion about how First Nations are going to be included in a lot of the policies that are potentially going to be developed with this new administration.”

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May made the most stops in First Nations communities, spending time in Musqueam, Cowichan and Tk’emlups. Singh visited Grassy Narrows in northwestern Ontario. And Trudeau visited with Inuit elders during a brief campaign stop in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, according to itinerary analysis, did not visit any Indigenous communities.

Teegee said this isn’t surprising to him.

“The Conservatives really have no platform for First Nations,” he said.

But for Teegee, and likely many Canadians, where the leaders have been during the campaign is not as important as the policies promised by each party.

Methodology used for the data collection and analysis: The data has been collected primarily through the campaign schedules shared by parties. Media accounts of the same, including reports from CBC and Cable Public Affairs Channel, served as the secondary sources of data.