Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

28 August 2015

So mystery solved. Donald Trump doesn’t wear a toupee. Speaking at a campaign rally in Greenville, South Carolina on Thursday, Donald Trump addressed the issue head-on – if you’ll pardon the pun.

An unsuspecting member of the audience was ordered up onto the stage, by Trump himself, to run her fingers through the hairdo and then confirm to an expectant crowd that the ‘do in question is in fact real.

Well we won’t pick through the strands of Donald Trump’s colourful candidacy for the US presidency here. But hair has become a politically potent issue here in Canada, too, which is three weeks into the longest general election campaign in its history.

The hairdo in question is that of Justin Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party of Canada – a coiffure that has filled column inch upon column inch in the Canadian glossies for quite some time.

But now, it has become a political tool too. The Conservative, under the leadership of current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have seized upon everything they can to portray the Liberal leader – in television ads and stump speeches – as something of a celebrity: charismatic, handsome, from the most famous political family in Canada, but with little heft behind his charms, and little of the experience required to be prime minister.

And perhaps it’s no surprise that they have.

This election campaign is, at the moment at least, the first genuine three-way contest many Canadian voters can remember. Yes, each of the three major parties is, you could say, within a hair’s breadth of each other.

But the tone of the campaign has changed in the past week. Few political parties, in the knowledge that there are still months to go until polling day on 19 October, would reveal their major policy points with so much time to go until voters head to the voting booths.

But the campaign so far has largely, and refreshingly, been full of policy points, from each of the main parties. Tax breaks for community servants, fully paid-for childcare for parents across the nation, the reinstatement of door-to-door postal delivery, even an innovation tax break for those wanting to set up their own enterprises here – each of the main party leaders has been quick to offer some kind of answers to the challenges facing the country. And there are many.

The Canadian dollar hit an 11-year low this week as the flux in the Chinese economy rippled into the Toronto stock exchange, causing further uncertainty for an economy in trouble.

And the opinion polls are tightening. These are early days of course and political commentators here are piecing complicated calculations of how the mood in the country might evolve as election day nears.

A recent opinion poll in which respondents were asked whether they wanted change in their political leadership showed that more than half were tired with the current order. But when asked what that change should look like, the response splits.

There are still many weeks of this campaign to go. At the moment the platforms are distinct and the choice, you’d think, clear. But if the mood in the country stays as it is at the moment, the deals that will need to be done post election day, and the compromises made, will likely be more than simply splitting hairs.

Tomos Lewis is Monocle’s Canada bureau chief.

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