Next week’s Canadian election could deal the UK a new post-Brexit ally

Next week’s Canadian election could deal the UK a new post-Brexit ally

There are only a few more days of campaigning left in the Canadian general election, with a strictly managed campaign period of 36 days culminating next Monday with the country going to the polls. This might seem a far distance from Brexit, where deadlock and delays have led to a seemingly never-ending saga. However, with Leo Varadkar announcing promising developments for a UK withdrawal deal and the tunnel negotiations having continued over the weekend, there is a chance we might be able to look beyond the October 31st Brexit deadline.

As a fervour builds on both sides of the Atlantic, Canadian Prime Ministerial hopeful Andrew Scheer spent the weekend courting voters. While public attention is focused on two very different battles, the respective outcomes could be intrinsically linked – and Mr Scheer may prove to be a great friend of the UK going forward, with Canada being a key player in potential future deals between the CANZUK countries – Canada, New Zealand and United Kingdom.

Exactly ten days before the Brexit deadline, Canadians will decide who will lead their country for the next five years. This will be a crucial five-year period for the UK as they leave the EU and create new trade deals of their own for the first time in 46 years. Therefore, it’s important to know how the Canadian candidates are shaping up.

Current Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau was widely believed to be cruising to a second term just last year. However, his stock suffered severely in the past few months due to exerting pressure on his Attorney General (initially denying that he did so) with regard to a high-profile case of fraud and corruption. Canadian company SNC-Lavalin has been accused of making payments to the tune of $48 million to Libyan government officials between 2001 and 2011. While these payments ensured employment for thousands of Canadians – which Trudeau has used as reasoning for his actions – many voters find Trudeau’s attempts to sweep the issue under the rug to be morally reprehensible.

If Trudeau overcomes these hurdles, what does he make of the United Kingdom as a trade partner post-Brexit? In the past, the media savvy leader has expressed his willingness to work with the British to facilitate a smooth transition and create free trade deals between the UK and Canada. However, the charismatic leader has also criticised Brexit as a “right-wing policy”. In fact, he has used his main rival’s support for Brexit as a denigration of his character. Yet, it’s hard to read too much into these comments as the Canadians borrow from their neighbours to the south when campaigning. It’s a regular occurrence to see attack ads on television or posters plastered across billboards along the rip-roaring motorways that traverse the vast continent. Therefore, it’s hard to know where Mr. Trudeau really stands on the matter.

The challenger apparent to Trudeau’s seat in power is Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. Formerly the youngest Speaker of the House, Scheer is seen by many as the steady hand needed after five years of a Liberal regime. Indeed, Canadians are known for correcting the political balance regularly and it would be in keeping with political trends for them to elect a Conservative leader post-Trudeau.

We know Trudeau has been flaky on his commitment to supporting his CANZUK partners after Brexit, but Scheer has long supported the UK’s exit. Back in 2016 he broke with Conservative Party neutrality on the issue and threw his backing behind the referendum. While he has lessened his public support for Brexit in recent weeks, he has only done this after repeated attacks from his rivals. What’s important to know is that he supports Brexit and trade between the Canada and the UK. What’s more, his mentor and former party leader Stephen Harper has publicly supported Boris Johnson and backed Brexit to the hilt.

With Scheer and Trudeau the main candidates to lead the nation, they also have to contend with challengers such as Maxine Barnier and Elizabeth May, but none of them are quite as appealing to the public as Jagmeet Singh. The National Democratic Party leader is eloquently spoken and clearly intelligent but has only recently won a seat in the House of Commons via a by-election in February. With this is mind, it would be highly unusual for his party to form a government with him as the Prime Minister; however, he may yet be a kingmaker. Singh has said he won’t enter minority government with the Conservatives. However, the chance to take power and influence policy may prove too tempting. He will know that he has broken ground for his party and could well enter government with one eye on the 2024 election.

What does any of this have to do with Brexit? Migration and free movement of people will be key after Brexit. Contrary to popular belief in some quarters, the UK is withdrawing from the European Union with the intention of creating new relationships and better deals. The British won’t grow inward, they will grow beyond the EU if they can. The importance of these new linkages and Canada as a trade partner was underlined by Dominic Raab when he made this country his first port of call as Foreign Secretary.

Considering the relevant facts, who will Boris Johnson be rooting for next week? Ideally a Conservative government where Andrew Scheer could openly support Brexit Britain and allow free trade deals to flourish throughout the CANZUK nations. With no trade talks taking place currently, undoubtedly they will intensify after October 31st and after Canada has a new leader.

So, with promising developments last week after Varadkar and Johnson met, there could be more good news on the horizon for Boris Johnson. For sure keep an eye on Canada’s election next Monday, as crucial future partnerships are on the line.