2019 Canadian Federal Election - Who's Running?


Ah, Elections… a time to sit back, relax, and take in the sights and sounds of our mudslinging democracy. Unlike our southern neighbours, however - we Canadians like to keep our campaign periods short and sweet - 41 days this cycle, to be precise.

While that meant we enjoyed a summer blissfully free of soap-opera worthy attack ads and radio stumps, it also means Canadians have less time to read the platforms and wade through the policy proposals and promises to make up their own minds about who to vote for on October 21st.

That’s where Pressed comes in. In the first of a two-part election series, we profile the political leaders vying to be your next Prime Minister, minus the campaign BS. Where do they come from, and what do they stand for? 

We answer these questions, and more. Tell us your thoughts about the profiles, and check out Part Two of the series, where we go more in-depth on the party’s platforms.


Justin Trudeau

Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, current prime minister of Canada


Andrew Scheer

Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

Maxime Bernier.png

Maxime Bernier

Leader of the People's Party of Canada (PPC)


Jagmeet Singh

Leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP)

Yves-François Blanchet.png

Yves-François Blanchet

Leader of the Bloc Québécois


Elizabeth May

Leader of the Green Party of Canada

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Age: 47

Birthplace: Ottawa, Ontario

Current Riding: Papineau (Quebec)

Education: BA, McGill University; B. Ed. University of British Columbia

Pre-politics résumé: After graduating from McGill University in 1994, Trudeau headed west and worked as a math, drama, and French teacher in Vancouver. After his brother passed away in an avalanche in 1998, Trudeau became involved in avalanche safety awareness, in addition to advocacy related to the protection of the Nahanni River and youth causes. He officially entered politics as an MP in 2008 and won the leadership of the Liberal Party in 2013.

Cool Flex: He’s the PM.

Known for:

Returning the Grits to their previous glory… When Trudeau was elected as leader of the Liberals in 2013, the party was in a measly 3rd place, with only 34 seats out of the House of Commons’ 338. Despite his family legacy (his father, Pierre Trudeau served as PM from 1968-1979 and again from 1980-1984), Trudeau was seen as a fresh, youthful face for the historic party, which went on to claim a majority of 184 seats in the 2015 election.

Being our first “Feminist Prime Minister.” Yes, opposition critics have mocked or questioned Trudeau’s apparent feminism, especially following the party’s split from former Ministers Wilson-Raybould and Philpott (see SNC Lavalin scandal below), but Trudeau did make history by appointing Canada’s first gender-balanced cabinet, and ensuring that gender-based analyses (which examine policies from the standpoint of how they affect women and minorities) were integrated into policy reform. Trudeau also restored funding for services related to Gender-Based Violence and launched an investigation into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, which former PM Stephen Harper had long declined to do.

Making a good trade… After Trump’s 2016 election forced Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Trudeau and his team, notably Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, managed to draw up a new deal that has garnered largely positive feedback across the board. The deal, which included former Conservative party interim leader Rona Ambrose as an advisor, is praised for strengthening Canada’s intellectual property regime and removing Chapter 11, a provision that had cost Canada $314 million in legal fees. But don’t celebrate quite yet – the deal still needs to be ratified by the US… and that’s hardly predictable these days.

What’s the tea?

SNC Lavalin. Ok, let’s get right into it. In February 2019, the Globe and Mail first reported allegations that the PM and his senior team had pressured Attorney General and Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould to apply a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (basically a settlement rather than criminal charges) in a bribery and corruption case against Montreal-based construction giant SNC-Lavalin. A Deferred Prosecution Agreement is perfectly legal, but Canada’s Ethics Commissioner ruled that Trudeau acted improperly by pressuring Wilson-Raybould. Trudeau denies that he pressured the former justice minister but also said he was just looking out for Canadian jobs (because if SNC goes down, so do hundreds of jobs). In the aftermath, Canada’s Chief Civil Servant ‘retired’, Trudeau’s Principal Secretary stepped down, and two of Trudeau’s most prominent female ministers, Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, left the party. Oh ya, and Trudeau’s approval rating took a nosedive.

That picture. Yea, that one. The picture in question, which recently came to light, depicts Trudeau at a 2001 party in Vancouver wearing a turban and dark brown paint on his hands and face (yep, brownface). If you think that’s racist, you’re right. Trudeau admitted as much, and immediately apologized, saying “I should have known better.” Expect to hear more about this from the opposition in the coming weeks.

Democratic Reform. Trudeau ran on a pledge to make 2015 the last “first past the post” election. Many Canadians voted for Trudeau because they want the way we vote to become more representative of the diversity of political views within the country. After surveys and town halls, Trudeau removed electoral reform from his Ministers’ mandate, stating that “nobody supporting proportional representation (the alternative) was able to convince me it would be good for Canada.” However, Trudeau did follow through on his promise to make the Senate less partisan by appointing “non-affiliated” Senators, which are less associated with official parties.

Thing to know: “First-past-the-post” – a voting system that means the person who gets the most votes in a riding gets a seat in Parliament, even if the number of votes doesn’t equal over 50% of the total votes. Canadians currently use this system to vote for MPs. For example, let’s say there are 10 people running in your riding and 100 people voting. The winner doesn’t need 50 or more votes, they just need the most number of votes. It’s a system that Trudeau said he would get rid of because it doesn’t actually represent the majority. He created a committee to figure out what would replace it and how long it would take. A new system called the “proportional representation” is a popular alternative, where the percentage of votes earned across the country = the percentage of seats earned in the Parliament.

Marrying the Environment and the Economy. This is a key theme of Liberal policy – and one that many experts have criticized as being grounded in blissful optimism rather than reality. A key feature of this debate is the Trans Mountain pipeline (TMX), which was purchased by the Liberals in 2018 for a cool $4.5 billion. On the economic side, the Liberals say TMX will create jobs and boost Alberta’s suffering energy industry. On the environmental side, profits are said to be reinvested in green research and development. The plan has faced attacks from both sides – with conservatives insisting the government would not have had to purchase a pipeline if the regulations around energy projects were not so burdensome on investors. Attacks from the left typically imply any support of the oil and gas industry is inherently anti-environmental. Complicating the shitstorm controversy is the fact that while many indigenous groups oppose the pipeline, several others want to purchase a stake in the development.

Saudi Arms Deal. Saudi Arabia’s defence policy is not exactly aligned with Canada’s, so it puzzles some human rights activists why Trudeau has yet to cancel an $11.3 billion deal to sell Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) to the Kingdom. Activists claim to have credible evidence that the vehicles have been used in the Yemen conflict, which has claimed the lives of thousands of children and civilians. Yet despite launching a review of the contract in October, awarded to Ontario-based General Dynamics Land Systems, $1 billion worth of LAVs have been exported to Saudi Arabia, and the results of the review have yet to be revealed.

What are his priorities?

Develop a national pharmacare plan…

In the 2015 election, Trudeau promised to investigate the possibility of moving Canada towards a universal pharmacare program. Following an advisory committee’s recommendation to implement prescription drug coverage for all Canadians, Trudeau stated, “Canadians should never have to make the impossible choice between paying for their medications or putting food on the table.” If re-elected, the Liberals will begin working with the provinces to implement a public system for drug coverage across the country.

Support seniors…

We all know who consistently shows up at the polls, and Trudeau has a promise to sway them on election day. Trudeau recently announced an increase of 10% to Old Age Security (OAS) at age 75 for seniors who have an income lower than $77,580, and a 25% increase to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) for widows. The party has yet to release a financial analysis of the cost and impact of these promises, but estimates that the bump in OAS and CPP will pull 20,000 seniors out of poverty.

Spark entrepreneurship…

Trudeau wants to make it easier for Canadians to start their own ‘Made In Canada’ business through a number of proposals aimed at boosting entrepreneurship in the country, including $250 grants for businesses looking to expand their online services, cutting the cost of federal incorporation by 75%, and eliminating all fees for business advisory services such as mentorship and training from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Export Development Canada (EDC), and Farm Credit Canada. The Liberals will also provide grants of up to $50,000 to 2,000 new business ventures every year as part of a three-year pilot program to increase entrepreneurship in the country.

Implement UNDRIP…

As a key part of Trudeau’s ambition to further reconciliation with indigenous peoples, the Liberal’s have announced that they will ensure federal legislation is aligned with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). According to the CBC, the UNDRIP “affirms the rights of Indigenous Peoples to language, culture, self-determination and traditional lands. It also establishes ‘minimum standards for the survival and well-being’ of Indigenous Peoples, according to the UN.’” Previous actions by the NDP to implement UNDRIP were killed in the Senate by Conservative Senators, who claimed that the UNDRIP adoption would give First Nations a ‘veto vote’ on resource projects - an assertion that has been rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada rulings. Now, the Liberals say they’ll take the lead on moving it forward.

As a whole, has he lived up to his promises?

He’s done pretty well, according to a new 237-page analysis (!) which shows Trudeau has delivered fully on about 50% of his promises, partially delivered on 40%, and broken 10%. That’s a higher score than former PM Harper – but still leaves room for improvement. Trudeau is hoping that a second term will give him another shot at making good on promises, old and new.

What do the polls say?

The race to be PM is looking tight after the Conservatives gained major ground when the SNC Lavalin scandal broke. However, the Liberals have been emphasizing Scheer’s socially conservative political roots (previous anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion statements) to deter voters. Along with a string of major funding announcements in the late summer, pre-election period, the Liberals are hoping to recapture their pre-scandal popularity.

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Age: 40

Birthplace: Ottawa, Ontario

Current Riding: Regina-Qu’appelle (Saskatchewan)

Education: BA, University of Regina

Pre-politics résumé: Politics all the way, baby. In his university days, Scheer worked for legacy Conservative politicians like Stockwell Day and Preston Manning and waited tables. After graduating, he worked in political offices and the insurance industry for a couple of years before winning a seat in the House of Commons at the age of 25.

Cool Flex: Scheer was the youngest person ever to serve as the Speaker of the House, and the first Speaker to represent a Saskatchewan riding.

Known for:

Since Scheer won the race to be the Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2017, he has managed to grow the party’s popularity in the polls, especially after the SNC Lavalin scandal, giving Trudeau’s Liberals a real run for their money.

Continuing Harper’s legacy…. Known as “Harper with a Smile,” Scheer has made a point of championing the same issues former PM Harper did, like lowering the deficit, strengthening the Canadian energy industry, and reducing the size of government. But he is generally viewed as a more personable leader.

What’s the tea?

He’s not exactly LGBTQ+ friendly… Unlike leaders from every other major party, Scheer has never walked in a Pride parade. In 2005, he rose in the House of Commons to deliver a forcible speech against same-sex marriage, absurdly comparing the granting of equal rights to gay couples to… equating a dog’s tail to a dog’s leg… (?) When the video resurfaced in late August, the Conservative Party responded by stating that Scheer “unequivocally supports LGBTQ rights.” However, Scheer has yet to respond himself or apologize for the (absurd) and hurtful statement.

His stance on abortion rights has come into question by activists and opposition. During his leadership run, Scheer actively courted votes from pro-life groups. However, he has promised to not re-open the abortion debate or vote on any motions to restrict a woman’s right to choose. But, he said he will not prevent his caucus from bringing forth and voting on legislation that could place limits on abortion. For more on where Canadian politicians stand on abortion, see our cheat sheet here.

He’s stood by some problematic candidates. To be fair, every party has its fair share of problematic candidates - but most parties typically throw them out and find a new candidate. But Scheer has been particularly vocal about his policy of letting candidates stay on if they apologize for past actions or statements (see above for the irony). While that policy makes sense to some, it seems unacceptable to others. Cases in point: Justina McCaffrey, the CPC candidate for Kanata-Carleton, has yet to apologize for her previous public friendship with white-supremacist Faith Goldy (they once pitched a reality show together, claiming to be the closest thing Ottawa has to socialites). McCaffrey later claimed she had not seen Goldy since 2013 but had failed to remove photos of the two together in 2017 from social media. Ghada Malek, the party’s candidate for Mississauga-Streetsville, has extensively shared homophobic, transphobic, and Islamaphobic social media posts. In 2018, the CPC declined to allow her to run for the party in the provincial election. She has recently apologized for the remarks, and Scheer has twice come to her defence.

What are his priorities?

Eliminating the carbon tax…. 

The Conservative party has been vocal in their opposition to the carbon tax since the Liberals took office in 2015, saying the policy raises prices for families on things like groceries or transportation, even if they do receive a rebate.

… OK, so what will he do about climate change?

Scheer released a Conservative climate plan this spring, focused on “green technology, not taxes,” with proposals to incentivize green research and development, set emissions standards for heavy industrial greenhouse gas emitters, and distribute home retrofit tax credits. The Conservatives claim the plan offers Canada’s “best chance” at meeting the Paris climate commitments, though they did not offer any data or numbers about the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that will be eliminated through their strategy. The plan was almost universally trashed by environmental groups.

Cutting red tape to make housing more affordable...

Scheer blames regulation of the construction and real estate industries for making it difficult to get new housing supply to the market, thereby pumping up home prices. He’ll eliminate the Liberal’s mortgage stress tests, which have made the criteria to apply for a mortgage more difficult.

Make starting a family less expensive...

Scheer is offering a new tax credit of 15% to individuals receiving paternity or maternity leave benefits administered through Employment Insurance (EI). According to the Conservative party, this would translate into a tax credit of roughly $4,000 for a family earning $50,000 per year.

Scheer would also revive Harper-era tax credits to offset the cost of arts and sports programs for children. The tax credit will allow parents to claim up to $1,000 per child for sports and fitness activities and $500 per child for arts programs. Parents can claim twice the amount for children with disabilities. The Liberal’s cut the credits in 2015 to provide funding for the broader Canada Child Benefit, which does not mandate how parents spend the money.

Shake up foreign policy…

By “getting tough” on China and reworking the current government’s strategy in the dispute. Scheer has criticized Trudeau’s government for “doing nothing” about the two Canadians detained by China and said he would implement retaliatory tariffs to respond to China’s suspension of Canadian canola and pork imports.

He’ll also be following in Trump’s lead when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by moving the Canadian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. When the United States chose to do so in 2017, the move flared up tensions and resulted in at least 58 deaths, including three children, and one medic who was helping protesters.

What do the polls say?

The race to be PM is looking tight after the Conservatives gained major ground when the SNC Lavalin scandal broke. However, the Liberals have been emphasizing Scheer’s socially conservative political roots (previous anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion statements) to deter voters. Along with a string of major funding announcements in the late summer, pre-election period, the Liberals are hoping to recapture their pre-scandal popularity.


Age: 40

Birthplace: Scarborough, Ontario

Current Riding: Burnaby South (British Columbia)

Education: BSc, Biology, Western University; JD, York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School

Pre-politics résumé: Singh grew up in an immigrant family and lived in Punjab, India, St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Windsor, Ontario before moving to Toronto for law school. After graduating, Singh worked as a criminal defence lawyer, ultimately entering politics in 2011 as an MPP for Brampton, Ontario. After he won the federal NDP leadership in 2017, he ran for - and won - a parliamentary seat in Burnaby, B.C.

Cool Flex: Singh is the first visible minority to permanently lead a federal political party.

Known for:

Advocating Against Racial & Religious Discrimination… Singh has spoken candidly about the racially-motivated bullying he experienced as a child, and what it was like to be a turban-wearing man in the aftermath of 9/11. As a politician, Singh has been vocal about his opposition to Quebec’s new religious symbols law, and has pledged to implement policies to fight the racial wage gap and the overrepresentation of minorities in the prison system.

Police Reform… During his time as an Ontario MPP, Singh put forward and was successful in passing a motion that called for a ban on arbitrary carding of individuals by police – a practice that overwhelmingly targeted minorities and particularly young black men. He also pushed for greater transparency from the Ontario Police’s Special Investigations Unit, a police body often tasked with investigating allegations of police brutality.

Tackling Auto-insurance rates – OK, maybe not as headline-making as the above, but a major part of Singh’s seven-year term as an MPP focused on lowering auto insurance rates, and specifically on banning insurers from determining rates by neighbourhood. His bill ultimately failed, but the Ontario legislature continues to debate similar motions.

What’s the tea?

Prominent news outlets manufactured controversy in 2017 when they connected Singh’s Sikh faith with violent aspects of Sikh separatism. Sikh separatism is a highly complex topic, and though Singh has never supported violent separatism, he was forced to condemn it. Basically, as a non-white political figure, Singh was subjected to a double standard by being called upon to publicly reject a form of violence he had never promoted or taken part in. In an op-ed in Maclean’s magazine, Arshy Mann framed the situation in this way: “no one would dare ask Andrew Scheer, an observant Catholic, to denounce the IRA, for example.” Double standard, indeed.

What are his priorities?

The Economy: 

The NDP’s 2019 platform stays true to its pro-union roots, promising to update the Canada Labour Code to make it easier for workers to join unions, and for workers to organize strikes. They think part-time workers should receive the same benefits as full-time workers in the modern gig economy. They’ll also ensure new international trade deals guarantee labour rights.

A Green New Deal:

To marry the environment and the economy, the NDP plans to create 300,000 “good jobs” through government investments in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure. They’re also planning to reinvigorate Canada’s embattled auto industry by creating incentives for manufacturers to build zero-emission vehicles in Canada. Like the Greens, they promise to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, and with the extra cash, they’ll develop a ‘Canadian Climate Bank’ to invest in emerging green tech.

Health and Nutrition:

The NDP has long advocated for a national pharma-care plan to cover prescriptions for all Canadians. They’re continuing that promise, in addition to a national school nutrition program that will partner with provinces, territories, and indigenous communities to provide wholesome breakfast and lunches for students. 

For the youngest ones, the NDP are promising to invest $1 billion in affordable childcare across the country.

For older folks, they’re promising to make home care cheaper and amend the Canada Health Act to implement a national standard for care.

OK, how are we gonna pay for it:

Tax the rich, baby. In July, Singh released a plan to increase the capital gains tax (i.e. profits made from the sales of things like stocks, bonds, and real estate) and the personal income tax for top earners. Specifically, one of the policies involves a 1% tax hike on those who earn over $20 million.

Corporate taxes will get a bump, too. Singh will push up federal corporate tax rates to 2010 levels, from 15% to 18%, generating billions for government coffers.

What do the polls say?

It’s not looking good. As mentioned above, the NDP used to be the official federal opposition party (i.e. second place) – now they’re barely holding on to third place, sitting at 13.5%. In recent weeks, Singh has been criticized for not campaigning as heavily as his competition – regardless of whether that’s true (what constitutes campaigning is a bit of a grey area), he’d be wise to hit the ground running – ASAP.

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Age: 65

Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, USA

Current Riding: Saanich – Gulf Islands (Vancouver Island, BC)

Education: JD, Dalhousie University

Pre-politics résumé: After moving to Cape Breton as a child, May spent her young adulthood working at her family’s restaurant and gift shop on the Cabot Trail. As a mature student, she enrolled at Dalhousie University’s School of Law and later put her legal degree to work for a number of public interest and environmental groups. Interestingly, May worked as a Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Environment for the Mulroney government (yes… the Conservatives).

Cool flex: May is the author of eight (!) books, including “Global Warming for Dummies.”

She’s also the only woman, mother, or grandmother running to be prime minister.

Known for:

Her track record of environmentalism. May has been an environmental advocate her entire life, beginning in the 1970s by advocating against the use of aerial insecticides in Nova Scotia forests, and has worked with indigenous groups in Canada and the Amazon.

Her hardworking reputation. May is known on the Hill for her willingness to pull long hours for her constituents – she’s consistently racked up awards like “Parliamentarian of the Year” and “Hardest Working Parliamentarian.”

What’s the tea?

Some doubt the Green Party’s ability to capture the interests of voters across the country. The party only won 600,000 votes (and one seat) in 2015 (the last federal election), and in terms of political clout, the party’s influence has traditionally been confined to B.C.

May’s particular brand of environmentalism might rub some more moderate voters the wrong way. In March 2018, May was arrested and fined for civil contempt while demonstrating against the TransMountain Pipeline. Pipelines are certainly a controversial topic in Canada – but a majority of Canadians are still in favour of building pipelines.

What are her priorities?

The Environment: 

The Green Party has pledged to oppose all bitumen export projects and halt the expansion of Alberta’s oil sands (although they will invest in domestic refining projects). They’ll keep the carbon tax and ditch fossil fuel subsidies (this was also an unfulfilled Trudeau 2015 promise). In addition, May is a big fan of rail travel and is all for building lines between commuter-heavy routes like Edmonton-Calgary and Sydney-Halifax.

Democratic Reform: 

A number of this year’s Green candidates switched over from the Liberal party after Trudeau failed to change Canada’s electoral system. The Greens promise to replace our current first-past-the-post system with proportional representation.

Thing to know: “First-past-the-post” – a voting system that means the person who gets the most votes in a riding gets a seat in Parliament, even if the number of votes doesn’t equal over 50% of the total votes. Canadians currently use this system to vote for MPs. For example, let’s say there are 10 people running in your riding and 100 people voting. The winner doesn’t need 50 or more votes, they just need the most number of votes. It’s a system that Trudeau said he would get rid of because it doesn’t actually represent the majority. He created a committee to figure out what would replace it and how long it would take, but ultimately dropped the prospect of changing the current system. A new system called  “proportional representation” is a popular alternative, where the percentage of votes earned across the country = the percentage of seats earned in the Parliament.


The Green Party thinks it’s time to change the fact that Canada is the only country in the world with a national universal healthcare system that does not also cover drugs. Like the NDP and Liberals, the Greens plan to introduce a pharma-care plan, as well as a plan for low-income children to receive dental coverage.

Universal Basic Income:

To tackle poverty, the Greens have proposed to team up with provincial governments to provide a ‘Guaranteed Livable Income’, similar to a universal basic income scheme. In addition, they plan to implement a $15 federal minimum wage

What do the polls say?

After a poor showing in 2015, experts think this might just be the year for the Greens. According to the CBC Poll Tracker, which combines results from multiple polls, the Greens are sitting at 9.7%.

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Maxime Bernier, the 57-year-old leader of the newly founded People’s Party of Canada hails from the riding of Beauce, Quebec, which he has represented as an MP for 13 years. After losing a bid to become the leader of the Conservative Party, and clashing with Scheer and other party leaders, Bernier formed the PPC in August 2018. A quick scan of Bernier’s tweets makes it clear where the PPC stands: the party supports anti-immigrant, transphobic values. Bernier denies climate change and once bullied 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg (who has autism), calling her “clearly mentally unstable.” Yep.

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The Bloc Québécois is currently headed by Yves-François Blanchet, a Quebecer (quelle surprise!) running to be the MP for the riding of Beloeil-Chambly. That’s right - though Blanchet won the Bloc party leadership in January 2019, he actually does not currently have a seat in the House of Commons, having only been a provincial representative. That means that should Blanchet not win a seat in this election, the Bloc will likely need to find a new leader. But so far, it’s looking pretty good for Blanchet - he’s been able to boost the Bloc in the polls, causing some to speculate that the party may be able to regain the seats and prominence they lost back in 2011. So, what does Blanchet and the Bloc stand for? Blanchet will continue the party’s separatist advocacy, an idea that has declined in support in recent years, and will defend the province’s highly controversial Bill 21 - which bans public servants from wearing religious symbols at work (think hijabs, turbans, yarmulkes, etc.). In addition, the party will say ‘non’ to pipelines, and end fossil fuel subsidies.

– Contributed by Claire Robbins

Claire is the Founder and Managing Editor of B*tchcoin, an e-newsletter for Canadian women that covers jargon-free, straightforward financial news.

P.S. Don’t forget to mark your calendars: Monday, October 21st is election day! Pressed is here to help you understand how to vote, who’s running, and the important things to consider when deciding (asking your dad who you should vote for is no longer necessary). Pledge to vote with Pressed.

Jacqueline Leung