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Schierman: Neither a Liberal nor a Conservative government is ideal, but Canadians should be more wary of the latter

After four uninspiring and unstimulating weeks, the campaign to form the next government of Canada has narrowed into a tight two-way race between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

For progressive voters, heading to the polls this election will be a rather disheartening exercise in civic responsibility, especially in the ridings in which third parties aren’t registering much support, leaving many torn between voting for what NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has called a choice between “pretty bad” (aka Justin Trudeau) and “worse” (Erin O’Toole).

It’s hard to find fault with Singh’s analysis on his two main rivals.

After taking stock of Trudeau’s record in office, I can’t imagine there are many Canadians that are enthusiastic about a renewed Liberal mandate.

While the Liberals have not been the failure some pundits claim they are, they also haven’t been the boldly progressive, honest, and transparent administration that Trudeau promised.

Instead, for every moment of praise this government has earned (resettling 40,000 Syrian refugees, helping lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, instituting a gender-neutral cabinet, legalizing marijuana, etc.) they have cocked up equally with clumsy policy missteps and cynical politicking.

For examples, one need only recall Trudeau’s cowardly about-face on electoral reform. Or the Liberal’s abysmal record of global engagement, epitomized by their humiliating loss for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Or their insufficient action to tax the super-wealthy, institute a national pharmacare program, and tackle the lack of affordable housing in this country.

Nonetheless, as disappointing as Trudeau’s record has been, there are even more reasons to be wary of Erin O’Toole and his Conservative cabal.

For one, O’Toole is campaigning to scrap the deals that Trudeau negotiated with various provinces to finally implement universal, federally funded childcare.

Back in 2006, Stephen Harper killed Paul Martin’s dreams of national childcare. Now, fifteen years later, another Conservative leader is pledging to do the same. For the millions of working and middle-class families, struggling to balance work with raising children, O’Toole’s promise to eliminate what could be the next major pillar in Canada’s social safety net is a worrying prospect.

Then there is O’Toole’s climate plan.

Throughout the campaign, O’Toole has stated clear his intent to rollback Canada’s emissions targets and build more pipelines, including the now-defunct Northern Gateway pipeline. This, even as scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have released yet another report, warning of dire repercussions to the planet if urgent action is not taken. But really, what else can you expect from the leader of a party whose delegates reject policy proposals affirming that “climate change is real”?

While we are on the topic of retrograde views, a majority of O’Toole’s own caucus voted against a proposed Liberal ban on conversion therapy, so don’t expect an O’Toole government to be an activist champion on LGBTQ rights, either.

Next, consider foreign policy, another area O’Toole would likely be worse than Trudeau.

With dangerous platform promises to “Recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the Canadian embassy to Jerusalem” and “Return Canada to its longstanding policy of not singling out Israel for criticism at the United Nations” O’Toole’s continuation of Scheer/Harper-era positions would only facilitate Palestinian injustice and hinder efforts to bring about peace in the Middle East.

Equally disheartening is his pledge to increase military spending, while offering nothing to bolster Canada’s embarrassingly low foreign aid spending.

Finally, O’Toole’s appeasement of Quebec nationalists (what with his silence over the province’s secularism law) has been so weak-kneed that it has even earned him Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s endorsement, which doesn’t bode well for all the discriminated religious minorities in the province, nor for Canada’s continued descent into crippling, ineffectual decentralization.

True, Canada’s other party leaders have not spoken out against Legault with the nerve that is required of them. But none have been quite so placating as O’Toole with his assuaging words and litany of Quebec-centered platform promises.

In an ideal election, neither the Liberals, nor the Conservatives, would be the party that forms the next government. Unfortunately, this election is far from an ideal one.

Therefore, in the ridings in which only the Liberals are competitive with the Conservatives, it is candidates of the former, not the latter, that Canadians will be better off casting their ballot for.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.