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Can Trudeau Hold On?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to call a snap election has left him struggling to fend off a spirited Conservative challenge.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to supporters.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to supporters during a campaign stop in Maple, Canada, on Sept. 19. Cole Burston/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Canada votes, climate talks begin at the United Nations General Assembly, and the world this week.

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Canada’s Election

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Canada votes, climate talks begin at the United Nations General Assembly, and the world this week.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Canadas Election

Canada holds its last day of voting today in a snap election that has put Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s job in jeopardy.

In August, when Trudeau called the election two years early, his Liberal Party appeared to be on track to upgrading its minority government to a comfortable majority, buoyed by high approval ratings gained from a competent coronavirus response.

But a stronger-than-expected campaign from the Conservative Party (and general public apathy toward the election) finds the two parties neck-and-neck heading into today’s vote and has raised the prospect of a new government. As Taylor C. Noakes wrote in Foreign Policy on Friday, the momentum is unlikely to lead to a Conservative majority, but a Conservative-led minority government is now more than an outside shot.

If the election was purely a popularity contest between party leaders, then neither Trudeau nor opposition leader Erin O’Toole would win: Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), tops that poll.

The NDP is such a threat to Trudeau’s chances in Canada’s first, past-the-post electoral system that the prime minister issued a plea on Friday for voters to choose his party in constituencies where NDP chances are slim, saying his Liberal Party was the “only party that can stop the Conservatives.” The parties’ differences can, in some ways, be gleaned from looking at their U.S. supporters: Former U.S. President Barack Obama has endorsed Trudeau while Sen. Bernie Sanders backs Singh.

Right turns. O’Toole has bucked the trend among his ideological allies in other Western countries and tacked to the center rather than drift further right—promising to uphold workers rights and backing both pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ stances on the campaign trail. It’s not clear whether that has resonated with the partys base as polls also show an attraction (albeit, in the single digits) to the far-right Peoples Party of Canada, led by former Conservative Party member Maxime Bernier.

A long wait. With polls this tight, it may be days until the full result is known. A record number of postal ballots also makes an immediate result unlikely, as they won’t be counted until Tuesday to respect the Monday deadline for all mail-in ballots to arrive.

Climate targets. Today’s election is likely to have a significant impact on Canada’s climate goals, as each party differs on how to reduce greenhouse gas output of the world’s tenth largest emitter. The Liberals would aim for a 40 to 45 percent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 while the Conservative Party would only reduce emissions by 30 percent. The New Democratic and Green Parties target more ambitious cuts of 50 and 60 percent, respectively.


The World This Week 

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, the General Debate opens at the 76th U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, with speeches expected from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, U.S. President Joe Biden, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Wednesday Sept. 22, U.S. President Joe Biden hosts a global COVID-19 summit on the margins of the UNGA.

The U.S. Federal Reserve issues its decision on whether to raise, lower, or maintain interest rates.

On Friday, Sept. 24, leaders of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States—the so-called Quad—meet at the White House.

Fridays for Future, the group founded by climate activist Greta Thunberg, holds a worldwide student strike in support of those most affected by climate change.

On Saturday, Sept. 25, Iceland holds its parliamentary election.

On Sunday, Sept. 26, Germany holds its federal election.

Voters in Switzerland decide on whether to legalize same-sex marriage.


What We’re Following Today 

Climate talks at UNGA. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres convenes a meeting of world leaders today to discuss international climate policy, days after warning that the world is on a “catastrophic pathway” in a new U.N. report. The report warned that by 2100, global temperatures will still rise by 2.7 degrees Celsius—an increase that will worsen deadly weather events—even if all current climate pledges are met.

The meeting comes a day before the U.N. General Assembly engages in its General Debate amid ongoing fears about the coronavirus pandemic. The unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, fulfilling his country’s traditional role, is the first person scheduled to address the assembly. To keep track of all the week’s events at the 76th UNGA, subscribe to our pop-up newsletter U.N. Brief, anchored by FP reporters Robbie Gramer and Colum Lynch.

Boris at the White House? British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in the United States to attend the UNGA, may hold talks with U.S. President Joe Biden as soon as today, according to reports. The two leaders spoke virtually last Wednesday, joined by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to announce the so-called AUKUS defense pact. Johnson is expected to discuss the future of Afghanistan and plans to lift a coronavirus-related ban on British citizens traveling to the United States. 

Russia’s election. Russia’s ruling United Russia party is set for victory following three days of voting in State Duma elections over the weekend. According to preliminary results, United Russia is likely to end up with a smaller share of the vote than it did in 2016 while still retaining its majority. Voters appear to have ignored a late appeal from Russian President Vladimir Putin to get out and vote, as official figures put turnout at roughly 47 percent.

Haiti deportations. The Biden administration plans to deport thousands of Haitian migrants in the coming days as it seeks to send a zero-tolerance message after thousands of people crossed the Mexican border and set up a camp in the U.S. town of Del Rio, Texas. Mass deportations began on Sunday and are expected to include at least three flights a day to Haiti. Advocacy groups have criticized the move and called for the migrants to be granted their right to asylum.


Keep an Eye On

Pacquiao for president? Manny Pacquiao, the former professional boxer and Philippine senator, has said he would run for president in next year’s election, accepting the nomination put forward by a faction of the ruling PDP-Laban party. His decision comes after politician Christopher Bong Go rejected a presidential nomination from a rival PDP-Laban faction earlier this month, although his running mate, President Rodrigo Duterte, accepted the nomination for vice president.

If electoral authorities recognize Pacquiao’s nomination, he may still face competition from Sara Duterte-Carpio, the mayor of Davao and daughter of the president. Duterte-Carpio has topped recent opinion polls but has been cagey about her plans for higher office, saying last week she would run for another term as Davao mayor in 2022.

Iran’s SCO plans. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday celebrated a “strategic and diplomatic success” after the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) unanimously approved Iran’s bid to become a full member of the eight-nation bloc. The move does not give a timeline for Iran’s accession but suggests SCO members Russia and China see trade with Tehran—currently hampered by international sanctions—soon opening up.


Odds and Ends

Roughly 25,000 Spaniards joined in an illegal mass drinking party on the streets of Madrid on Friday, which took police until 7 a.m. the following day to break up. The huge outdoor parties, known as “macro-botellón,” have been resisted by Spanish authorities for years and have taken on renewed significance as coronavirus restrictions limit public interactions. Police may find quieter streets next weekend as closing times for Madrid’s bars and clubs are finally extended to 6 a.m. from their previous 2 a.m. limits.

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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