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Three things to watch during the election week ahead

Aaron Wherry on the heated niqab debate, the fall of the NDP and the onslaught of political TV ads


 
Zunera Ishaq talks to reporters outside the Federal Court of Appeal after her case was heard on whether she can wear a niqab while taking her citizenship oath, in Ottawa on Tuesday, September 15, 2015. (PATRICK DOYLE/CP)

Zunera Ishaq talks to reporters outside the Federal Court of Appeal September 15, 2015. (PATRICK DOYLE/CP)

Are we still going to be talking about the niqab by this time next week?

That the niqab would become an election issue was perhaps not entirely unforeseeable; the legal challenge of the ban on the niqab during the citizenship oath was still before the courts, and there had been an angry confrontation between the Liberals and Conservatives about the issue as recently as this past spring. But probably no one publicly predicted it would become one of this election’s major points of conflict. Discussion has persisted for days, most recently sparking a testy exchange through the press between Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Defence Minister Jason Kenney. (Nenshi said  Stephen Harper is playing a “dangerous” political game with his position on the niqab and Kenney responded with: “If anything’s dangerous, it would be legitimizing a medieval tribal custom that treats women as property rather than people.”) Could the election possibly be turning on the question of the niqab? Or will it recede as the time for choosing approaches?

Whither the NDP?

Appearing to be somewhat related to the re-emergence of the niqab as a political issue: The New Democrats seem to have lost support in Quebec and might now be running third nationally. The race between the three major parties still seems relatively tight, and all three can still plausibly imagine faring well on Oct. 19, but the NDP’s support has slowly declined from its pre-election high, and that is a trend that does not bode well. Each week is more important than the next for every party, but the next seven days seem pivotal for the NDP. What happens if more polls show the party running third? Does the anti-Conservative vote move decisively to the Liberals?

Is this the week that your television is taken over?

The calling of a long campaign resulted in higher spending allowances for the parties. In theory, that created the possibility of an unprecedented onslaught of television advertising, particularly in the campaign’s closing days. If that flood of pandering, pleading and undermining is to occur, it should start soon. Whatever money the parties have remaining, they have just two weeks left to spend it and there is, of course, every incentive to spend as much as possible. If the Conservatives have a significant financial advantage, that should become apparent. And if the only television ads anyone sees over the next two weeks involve a party leader being lionized or attacked, the public might come to Oct. 19 hoping that whoever is elected decides to impose new restrictions on campaign spending.


 

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