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Voters want something new, campaigns (sometimes) still matter — and other political lessons of 2018

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If one word could describe the theme linking the many elections of 2018, it would be “change.”

Ontario, New Brunswick and Quebec all saw provincial governments shift from Liberal red to various shades of conservative blue. In the United States, voters also changed the hue of their House of Representatives, with the Democrats taking control of one of the two chambers of the U.S. Congress.

It was an election year with a few broader lessons for the eventful election year to come. Alberta, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are all expected to go to the polls before 2019 is up — while minority governments in British Columbia and New Brunswick could fall over little more than a flu outbreak on the government benches.

There’s also that federal election, to be held on Oct. 21.

Looking back on the last 12 months is a good place to start as we peek around the corner at the new year. After all, the electoral lessons of 2017 were on full display in 2018.

Candidates mattered in 2018 — something the Conservatives’ Richard Martel demonstrated when the former junior hockey coach won a federal byelection in the Quebec riding of Chicoutimi–Le Fjord, stealing a seat away from the Liberals. Small parties continued to defy the limits of the first-past-the-post electoral system. And a year of largely solid election polling — in Ontario, New Brunswick and the U.S. midterms — was marred by one miss in Quebec.

Campaigns still matter …

The old yarn that campaigns matter held true in 2018, as parties waited until the writs were dropped before making significant gains in the polls.

At the outset of the Ontario campaign, the New Democrats and Liberals were virtually tied. But by the end of the campaign, centre-left voters tired of the 15-year-old Liberal government and concerned about the prospect of a Premier Doug Ford had flocked to the NDP.

Support for Andrea Horwath’s party ballooned by seven points, allowing her to end the campaign with 33.6 per cent of the vote — the NDP’s best election performance since it last formed government in 1990. The Liberals under Kathleen Wynne plummeted by 6.5 points over the course of the campaign, ending at 19.6 per cent.

Andrea Horwath’s New Democrats formed the Official Opposition in Ontario’s provincial election in June – the party’s best showing since it formed government in 1990. (David Donnelly/CBC)

That was a historic low for the provincial Liberals: an election that looked to be a tough one for the party turned out to be a disaster.

In New Brunswick, voters disillusioned with the Liberal-PC duopoly in the province tried something new. The Greens saw their support increase by about four points during the campaign, while the People’s Alliance nearly doubled its support to 12.6 per cent.

Both parties ended the campaign with three seats apiece, producing a minority government — the first in New Brunswick in nearly a century — instead of the majority that looked to be in the cards over the summer.

… except when they don’t

But while campaigns still matter, they don’t always matter more than everything else. Two party leaders survived lacklustre campaigns to emerge as premiers commanding big majorities in the Ontario and Quebec legislatures.

Following a whirlwind leadership contest that kicked off the year and resulted in Doug Ford taking over the Ontario PCs, Ford launched a general election campaign that stumbled from one blunder to another.

There were stories about actors hired to attend PC rallies, Ford’s lack of a policy platform, controversies related both to candidates nominated by former leader Patrick Brown and to those selected or supported by Ford himself (Andrew Lawton and Kinga Surma, to take two examples). There was a shaky first debate performance at the beginning of the campaign and, at the end, the news that Renata Ford, Rob Ford’s widow, would be suing her former brother-in-law.

On Oct. 1, François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec formed a majority government in the Quebec provincial election – the first time since 1966 that a party other than the Liberals or Parti Québécois won. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

In Quebec, François Legault was knocked off message by his handling of the immigration file. The Coalition Avenir Québec leader betrayed a lack of familiarity with the immigration system and came under fire from Liberal Leader Philippe Couillard, who charged that Legault would take immigrants who failed to learn French and abandon them on the Quebec-Ontario border.

But despite these hiccups, both Ford and Legault won solid majority governments — just as they were both projected to do months before their respective provincial election campaigns had even started.

Voters are shopping around

The year also saw the bonds between voters and establishment parties continue to break down. This trend has potentially significant ramifications for the elections to come in 2019, as the Alberta Party, the P.E.I. Greens and the People’s Party of Canada under Maxime Bernier look to take advantage of the disruption.

The CAQ’s breakthrough smashed the traditional back and forth between Liberal and Parti Québécois governments that had dominated Quebec for nearly half a century. The last time a party other than those two had won an election was in 1966, when the Union Nationale — a centre-right nationalist party much like the CAQ — formed its last government.

In the Quebec provincial election on Oct. 1, Manon Massé led Québec Solidaire to its best performance ever with 10 seats. (Peter McCabe/Canadian Press )

The success of the left-wing sovereignist Québec Solidaire was another notable development. The party went from three seats to 10, tying the PQ in the seat count and nearly beating the party in the popular vote. More importantly, QS expanded out of its downtown Montreal core to win seats in Quebec City, Sherbrooke and western Quebec.

In New Brunswick, too, the old parties took a step back due to the gains of the Greens and People’s Alliance. The Liberals and PCs captured just under 70 per cent of the vote, their lowest combined share since 1991. As recently as 2006, their combined total was 95 per cent.

You can’t defy the odds when people don’t like you

Some beleaguered politicians spent much of 2018 hoping to pull off the sort of electoral upset they or their parties had engineered before. But in the end, their own unpopularity proved too much to overcome.

There was Wynne and the Ontario Liberals, trailing in the polls but banking on pulling off the kind of comeback that former premier Dalton McGuinty had managed in previous elections. It never happened. Instead, Wynne conceded she was going to lose before the votes were even counted.

In Quebec, some observers were convinced that the Liberals would out-perform their polls — pointing to previous elections where that had happened, while ignoring the ones where it didn’t. In the end, the Quebec Liberals significantly under-performed their polling by levels never seen before.

U.S. President Donald Trump saw the Democrats make their biggest midterm gains since the Richard Nixon administration in the Nov. 6 elections to the House of Representatives. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

And in the run-up to the midterm elections in the United States, President Donald Trump’s backers looked with hope to the misunderstood polling miss in the 2016 presidential election — when the polls turned in a fairly normal performance, except in the handful of states that made the difference.

While the Republicans beat their polling in a few Senate races, the party lost the popular vote by nearly nine points in the battle for the House of Representatives — on par with, or even worse than, what the polls suggested.

Trudeau: agent of change or its future victim?

Change was clearly in the air in 2018, and more may be in store in 2019. Rachel Notley’s New Democrats are trailing badly in the polls in Alberta and Wade MacLauchlan’s Liberals are running neck-and-neck with the P.E.I. Green Party

The question for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals, however, is whether their last win was a leading indicator of the desire for change that was just beginning to sweep across the country, first marked by Notley’s NDP in Alberta and then carried through in provincial changes of government in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2015, Manitoba in 2016 and British Columbia in 2017.

If it was, then Trudeau might stand a good chance of being re-elected in October. Otherwise, the Liberals might find themselves pulled back out to sea by the same wave that brought them to power in 2015.

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Chris Selley: The blinding incoherence of Ottawa’s hotel-quarantine theatre is becoming obvious

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Canada’s new mandatory hotel quarantine system landed over the weekend like a wet, mildewy towel. You have to book by phone. No one answers. There are multiple reports of Canadian citizens being put on hold for three hours, then cut off seemingly automatically.

“Our trained and specialized travel counsellors are providing around-the-clock service to facilitate hotel bookings,” a spokesperson for American Express Global Business Travel told National Post.

The “regular hours of operation” listed are 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Ottawa time.

Officials have blamed the call backlog on people calling too far in advance of travel. Would you wait until the recommended 48 hours before your flight? The online advice implies you need “proof of having reserved and pre-paid for (hotel) accommodation” even to get on the plane. In fact, help is available for those disembarking without reservations, a Public Health spokesman said.

That might be useful information to put on the internet. But then, so would a reservation system. All the participating hotels already have one of those.

For now, this all-too-predictable shambles isn’t a problem for the government. On social media, many are revelling in the misery and stress it’s causing, calling it travellers’ just deserts  — never mind if it’s an expat coming home to take a job, or a grieving family returning from a funeral, and not some fully vaccinated cartoon-villain snowbird. Former Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips and Canada’s other gallivanting politicos created a full-on moral panic overnight, and the feds, hitherto scornful of anyone who suggested international travel was worth worrying about, were happy to provide some red meat.

The populist glee will wear off, though, and the blinding incoherence of this policy will eventually dawn on people. There is evidence right here at home that may illustrate the problem.

Since November, travellers arriving at Calgary’s airport on international flights, or overland  into Alberta from Montana, could take a test upon arrival, and another a week later, and upon receipt of two negative results avoid the 14-days quarantine that has otherwise been demanded of “non-essential” humans entering the country for nearly a year. That “pilot project” was unceremoniously cancelled Sunday night.

At first, participants were allowed out and about, with a few restrictions, as soon as the test-on-arrival came back negative — usually within 48 hours. Upon receipt of the second negative result, they were subject to even fewer restrictions for the remainder of the two weeks. Later, travellers from the U.K. and South Africa were excluded; the federal rule requiring a negative test to board a flight to Canada kicked in; and on January 25, the rules changed such that pilot-project participants had to remain in quarantine until the second negative result after a week.

With the U.K. and South Africa excluded and a negative test required to board, the percentage of travellers testing positive on arrival dropped by half, from 1.47 to 0.75 per cent; the number testing positive a week later dropped by one-third, from 0.74 to 0.5 per cent.

It’s a small sample size. It doesn’t prove anything. But it’s intuitive: if you weed out high-risk travellers, and test before departure, you get fewer initial positives. This hints at one approach Canada could have taken but didn’t: focus more stringent measures on certain countries. Do we really need to treat arrivals from famously COVID-free countries like New Zealand (0.7 new daily cases per million population, on a two-week average), or Taiwan (0.03 cases), the same as those disembarking flights from Israel (384), the United Arab Emirates (296) or the United States (202)?

That one in 200 travellers were still testing positive after a week highlights the central flaw in the government’s plan, however. As I noted two weeks ago, research suggests the probability of a “false negative” PCR test only falls below 50 per cent on the fifth day after infection. If your goal is to prevent international travellers from transmitting COVID-19 to anyone in Canada, you can accomplish it vastly more effectively with a five- or seven-day quarantine, followed by another test, than with three days waiting for the result of a test conducted at the airport.

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Carleton Master’s Sociology Student to Receive Royal Ottawa Award for Mental Health Work

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Charlotte Smith, a Carleton University master’s student in Sociology, has faced overwhelming challenges throughout her life: childhood sexual abuse, homelessness, incarceration, drug dependency.

Undaunted, she has channelled these experiences into her academic, advocacy and activist work, developing research projects to address youth homelessness, creating a bursary to help homeless youth attend Carleton, and delivering food, phones and other essential items to homeless and precariously housed youth who are struggling during the pandemic.

For these actions, and for sharing her story of recovery to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness, Smith will be awarded the Personal Leader for Mental Health award at the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health’s 2021 Inspiration Awards.

“It can be re-traumatizing, embarrassing and awkward talking so publicly about your mental health and substance use issues, so it’s comforting when someone tells you that you’re not just oversharing, you’re actually making a small difference in other people’s lives,” says Smith, who will be joined on the Inspiration Awards virtual podium by Carleton President Benoit-Antoine Bacon, winner of the Royal’s Transformational Leader award.

“Getting an award like this is fantastic, but there are so many people doing so much important work on mental health and substance use,” says Smith, who last year won a Community Builder Award from the United Way East Ontario for her volunteer efforts in COVID times.

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Shopify Launches Offering of Class A Subordinate Voting Shares

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OTTAWA, Ontario–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Shopify Inc. (NYSE:SHOP)(TSX:SHOP) (“Shopify”) today announced that it has filed a preliminary prospectus supplement (the “Preliminary Supplement”) to its short form base shelf prospectus dated August 6, 2020 (the “Base Shelf Prospectus”). The Preliminary Supplement was filed in connection with a public offering of Shopify’s Class A subordinate voting shares (the “Offering”). The Preliminary Supplement has been filed with the securities regulatory authorities in each of the provinces and territories of Canada, except Québec. The Preliminary Supplement has also been filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) as part of Shopify’s registration statement on Form F-10 (the “Registration Statement”) under the U.S./Canada Multijurisdictional Disclosure System.

A total of 1,180,000 Class A subordinate voting shares will be offered by Shopify for sale under the Offering, which will be led by Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC (the “Underwriters”).Shopify will grant the Underwriters an over-allotment option to purchase up to an additional 15% of the Class A subordinate voting shares to be sold pursuant to the Offering (the “Over-Allotment Option”). The Over-Allotment Option will be exercisable for a period of 30 days from the date of the final prospectus supplement relating to the Offering. Allen & Company LLC is acting as special advisor to the Company with respect to the Offering.

Shopify expects to use the net proceeds from the Offering to strengthen its balance sheet, providing flexibility to fund its growth strategies.

Closing of the Offering will be subject to a number of closing conditions, including the listing of the Class A subordinate voting shares to be issued under the Offering on the NYSE and the TSX.

No securities regulatory authority has either approved or disapproved the contents of this news release. This news release shall not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy, nor shall there be any sale of these securities in any province, state or jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to the registration or qualification under the securities laws of any such province, state or jurisdiction. The Preliminary Supplement, the Base Shelf Prospectus and the Registration Statement contain important detailed information about the Offering. A copy of the Preliminary Supplement and Base Shelf Prospectus can be found on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and EDGAR at www.sec.gov, and a copy of the Registration Statement can be found on EDGAR at www.sec.gov. Copies of these documents may also be obtained from Citigroup, c/o Broadridge Financial Solutions, 1155 Long Island Avenue, Edgewood, NY 11717, Telephone: 1-800-831-9146; Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, Attention: Prospectus Department, Eleven Madison Avenue, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10010, Telephone: 1-800-221-1037 or e-mail: usa.prospectus@credit-suisse.com; Credit Suisse Securities (Canada), Inc., Attention: Olivier Demet, 1 First Canadian Place, Suite 2900, Toronto, Ontario M5X 1C9, Telephone: 416-352-4749 or e-mail: olivier.demet@credit-suisse.com; or Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, Attn: Prospectus Department, 200 West Street, New York, NY 10282, telephone: 866-471-2526, facsimile: 212-902-9316 or email: prospectusny@ny.email.gs.com. Prospective investors should read the Preliminary Supplement, the Base Shelf Prospectus and the Registration Statement before making an investment decision.

About Shopify

Shopify is a leading global commerce company, providing trusted tools to start, grow, market, and manage a retail business of any size. Shopify makes commerce better for everyone with a platform and services that are engineered for reliability, while delivering a better shopping experience for consumers everywhere. Shopify powers over 1.7 million businesses in more than 175 countries and is trusted by brands such as Allbirds, Gymshark, Heinz, Staples Canada and many more.

We were proudly founded in Ottawa, Canada, but prefer to think of the company location as Internet, Everywhere. Shopify is a company of and by the internet, and we have physical outposts around the world. The archaic newswire system doesn’t allow us to acknowledge this fact, so we will henceforth keep this paragraph in our press releases until technology improves.

Forward-looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking information and forward-looking statements within the meaning of applicable securities laws (“forward-looking statements”) including statements regarding the proposed Offering, the terms of the Offering and the proposed use of proceeds. Words such as “expects”, “continue”, “will”, “plans”, “anticipates” and “intends” or similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements.

These forward-looking statements are based on Shopify’s current expectations about future events and financial trends that management believes might affect its financial condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs, and on certain assumptions and analysis made by Shopify in light of the experience and perception of historical trends, current conditions and expected future developments and other factors management believes are appropriate. These projections, expectations, assumptions and analyses are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other factors that could cause actual results, performance, events and achievements to differ materially from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements. Although Shopify believes that the assumptions underlying these forward-looking statements are reasonable, they may prove to be incorrect, and readers cannot be assured that the Offering discussed above will be completed on the terms described above. Completion of the proposed Offering is subject to numerous factors, many of which are beyond Shopify’s control, including but not limited to, the failure of customary closing conditions and other important factors disclosed previously and from time to time in Shopify’s filings with the SEC and the securities commissions or similar securities regulatory authorities in each of the provinces or territories of Canada. The forward-looking statements contained in this news release represent Shopify’s expectations as of the date of this news release, or as of the date they are otherwise stated to be made, and subsequent events may cause these expectations to change. Shopify undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required by law.

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