2021 Federal election bulletin

20 minute read
16 August 2021

Now that the 2021 federal election has been called by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau yesterday, and we will witness an active 36-day campaign across Canada, a summary of useful information follows below.

Party standings in the House of Commons at dissolution

The current Liberal government is a minority government holding 155 seats of the 338 seats in the House of Commons. The number needed to win a majority is 170 seats. As we embark on this election, the current number of seats each party holds in the House of Commons is as follows:

  • Liberals: 155
  • Conservatives: 119
  • Bloc Québécois: 32
  • New Democratic Party: 24
  • Green Party: 2
  • Independent: 5
  • Vacant: 1

The following table[1] provides the distribution of seats across Canada by province. Within each province, the parties with most to least seats are listed in order from left to right.

British Columbia

CPC 17

Lib 11

NDP 11

GP 2

Ind 1

Total 42


CPC 33





Total 34


CPC 14





Total 14



Lib 4




Total 14


Lib 76

CPC 34


Ind 4

Vac 1

Total 121


Lib 35

BQ 32

CPC 10



Total 78

New Brunswick

Lib 7





Total 10

Prince Edward Island

Lib 4





Total 4

Nova Scotia

Lib 10





Total 11

Newfoundland and Labrador

Lib 6





Total 7


Lib 1





Total 1

Northwest Territories

Lib 1





Total 1







Total 1

Ministers and Members of Parliament who will not be running in the 2021 Federal Election

At least 19 incumbent Members of Parliament have announced they will not be running in the upcoming Federal Election.[2] This large number could impact the ability of the Liberal Party to form a majority or minority government. It could potentially result in a change in government. Within the Liberal Party, the announcements of MP's not returning include Catherine McKenna, the current Minister of Infrastructure and Communities of Canada, as well as Navdeep Bains, the previous Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. Adam Vaughan, Will Amos and Karen McCrimmon have also announced they will not be running in the next federal election.

In the Conservative Party, David Sweet announced he is not running after it was learned that he had travelled to the United States despite COVID-19 restrictions. Others not running include Diane Finlay, who held several cabinet posts in Stephen Harper's government as well as the Deputy Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, Bruce Stanton. Also stepping down and who have expressed their frustration to effect change include: Nunavut NDP MP, Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, and Jody Wilson-Raybould, Independent MP for Vancouver-Granville.

Liberals: 7

  • Catherine McKenna – Ottawa Centre (ON)
  • Navdeep Bains – Mississauga-Malton (ON)
  • Wayne Easter – Malpeque (PEI)
  • Geoff Regan – Halifax West (NS)
  • Kate Young – London West (ON)
  • Paul Lefebvre – Sudbury (ON)
  • Bob Bratina – Hamilton East – Stoney Creek (ON)
  • Pat Finnigan – Miramichi – Grand Lake (NB)
  • Alexandra Mendes – Brossard – Saint Lambert (Québec)
  • Antony Rota – Nipissing – Timiskaming (Ontario)

Conservatives: 6

  • Bruce Stanton – Simcoe North (ON)
  • Peter Kent – Thornhill (ON)
  • Tom Lukiwski – Moose Jaw – Lake Centre – Lanigan (SK)
  • Cathy McLeod – Kamloops – Thompson – Cariboo (BC)
  • David Sweet – Flamborough-Glanbrook (ON)
  • Phil McColeman – Brantford-Kent (ON)
  • Diane Finley – Haldiman-Norfolk (ON)

NDP: 3

  • Mumilaaq Qaqqaq – Nunavut (NU)
  • Jack Harris – St. John's East (NL)
  • Scott Duvall – Hamilton Mountain (ON)

Bloc Québécois: 2

  • Louise Charbonneau – Trois-Rivières (Québec)
  • Simon Marcil – Mirabel (Québec)

Independent: 1

  • Jody-Wilson Raybould – Vancouver Granville (BC)

The Electoral Issues

Based on Maclean's 2021 Election Platform Guide , we have compiled information on each party's position on key electoral issues. The guide addresses taxes, economy and affordability, jobs & skills training, small business, deficits and debt, health, public health and pandemic preparedness, food security and hunger, energy, climate change and the environment, Indigenous affairs, immigration & refugees, national defence, public safety & national security, infrastructure, housing, retirement & seniors, child care, youth, education, agriculture, foreign affairs, international trade, justice, democracy & governance, veterans, arts & culture.

The Liberal Party of Canada

The primary issues of the Liberal Party at this time are best drawn from their 2021 budget. The budget, entitled "A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth, and Resilience" reflects their plan in continuing the fight against COVID-19. It describes meeting today's urgent needs, healing the economy while building for the long-term, and focusing on bringing more Canadians into the middle class. The building blocks for this plan include investing in new technologies; creating new jobs; focusing on women, childcare, young Canadians, and our seniors; removing systemic barriers; and a plan for a green and net zero economy.

The Conservative Party

The Conservative Party of Canada, currently Her Majesty's Official Opposition, under the leadership of Erin O'Toole provides in its platform from 2020 an emphasis on the economy and a reform of the tax system. O'Toole also expressed an interest in advancing interprovincial trade and clarifying Section 121 of the Constitution.[3] He has indicated the party needs a plan for addressing the climate; however, delegates rejected a resolution declaring climate change as real. The Conservative Party has posted an approach called "Canada's Recovery Plan" that gives a more recent, yet brief, overview of what focus we might expect from the party. It includes an emphasis on the economy by winding down COVID-19 support programs and implementing targeted stimulus measures, as well as accountability and a job plan to help those hardest hit – women, young Canadians, and small businesses. It also includes a boost in funding for mental health, and an Emergency Preparedness Plan to ensure improved pandemic planning for the future.

The NDP Party

The NDP unveiled its campaign platform on August 12, just in advance of the expected election call. While the NDP is continuing to push for a variety of policies such as universal childcare, universal pharamcare, dental and mental health care, climate change action and national reconciliation with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, the Party's platform has been updated to address the impacts of the global pandemic.[4]

The NDP has pledged to set up federally-led domestic vaccine and personal protective equipment manufacturing, initiatives the Liberals have already put in motion. The NDP also seeks to implement sweeping reforms to the long-term care system in Canada after COVID-19 exposed serious shortcomings.

The NDP also promises to be fiscally responsible and to "raise revenues through new, fair and progressive sources" by amending its long-promised wealth tax to cover a wider swath of the population than previously identified.

The Green Party

The Green Party's platform addresses the national housing crisis, the long-term care crisis revealed by the pandemic and the need to implement a new and ambitious climate action plan including green industries. The party also prioritizes the need for guaranteed livable income and the immediate creation of a committee to implement the calls for justice from the report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Their 2019 platform under former Green Party Leader Elizabeth May called for honest, ethical, caring leadership, with respect to these same issues. However, the embattled new leader, Annamie Paul, has been harmed by internal challenges to her leadership which could impact the party's performance.[5]

The Bloc Quebecois

The 2019 platform for the Bloc prioritized climate change and proposed legislation that allows Quebec to have the power over projects impacting the province. The Party specifically stated its support for Bill 21 (secularism law) and Bill 99 (to oppose the Clarity Act that removes self-determination for referendums) and improving privacy of personal information. The Bloc COVID-19 recovery plan from 2020 outlines increasing federal health transfers to better manage the health effects of COVID and improving measures of support to Quebec's business sector.

Standings in the Senate and vacant seats

While not affected by the election, the current standings in the Senate, which has a total of 105 seats, are as follows:

  • Independent Senators Group: 40
  • Conservative Party of Canada: 19
  • Non-affiliated: 13
  • Canadian Senators Group: 12
  • Progressive Senate Group: 11
  • Vacant seats: 10
    • British Columbia (1), Alberta (1), Saskatchewan (1), Manitoba (1), Ontario (1), New Brunswick (2), Prince Edward Island (1), Nova Scotia (1), Newfoundland and Labrador (1).

On July 29, 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced the appointment of five new Senators: three in Quebec, and one in each of Saskatchewan and Alberta. In Quebec, the new appointees are Michèle Audette, Amina Gerba, and Clément Gignac. The new members of the Senate in Saskatchewan and Alberta are David Arnot and Karen Sorensen respectively. All new Senators were recommended by the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, and chosen based on the merit-based process open to all Canadians. All five senators will sit as independents.

It should be noted that Senator Linda Frum (Ontario) has announced she will be retiring from the Senate at the end of August.

Safety measures implemented by Elections Canada for a COVID-19 election campaign

Elections Canada has been preparing for an election with the goal of ensuring the health and safety of all participants and ensuring up-to-date public health measures are in place.[6] The preparations include accounting for feedback from surveys of Canadians and consultation of stakeholders to ensure input from a variety of groups. Indeed, these groups include public health authorities from different levels of government including Indigenous public health authorities and multiple advisory groups to account for necessary modifications for those who might experience challenges related to the changes. Elections Canada has set out the following measures:

  • Implementing physical distancing and other public health guidelines at polling places and local Elections Canada offices;
  • Providing masks and single-use pencils to electors. Electors will also have the option to bring their own mask and pen or pencil;
  • Changing the agency's model of operations at the polls to facilitate physical distancing.
  • Providing return envelopes with prepaid postage for electors who vote by mail;
  • Increasing the capacity and convenience of the vote-by-mail system to meet a potential increase in demand for this service. An increased volume of mail-in ballots would delay the release of election results;
  • Expanding virtual training for election workers in order to limit the number of in-person interactions.

Elections Canada has indicated they did not consider Internet or phone voting given the significant planning and testing that would be required to ensure confidentiality and reliability under considerable time restraints. Elections Canada has identified it has a working group on COVID-19 preparation and has commissioned research to assess Canadian's views on the process including the impact of COVID-19 on voter turnout. Further details can be found on the Elections Canada website.

Should you have any specific questions about this article or would like to discuss it further, you can contact the authors or a member of our Government Affairs Group.

[1] House of Commons, Party Standings in the House of Commons (August 13, 2021)

[3] Andrew Coyne, "Erin O’Toole’s platform gives heft to the Conservative leadership race" The Globe and Mail, 12 June 2020; Constitution Act, 1867 (UK), 30 & 31 Vict, c 3, s 121, reprinted in RSC 1985, Appendix II, No 5.

[4] New Democratic Party of Canada, "Ready for Better: New Democrats’ Commitments to You" (12 August 2021).

[5] Peter Zimonjic, David Thurton, "Green party takes battle with leader Annamie Paul to court" CBC News 22 July 2021.

[6] Elections Canada, "Impact of COVID-19", July 28, 2021.

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