Opinion: Liberals far from ‘open and transparent’

On Aug. 17, Tim Houston and the Progressive Conservative Party won a surprise victory in Nova Scotia. Yet until recently, Iain Rankin and his Liberals had been predicted to win by a narrow margin. As former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker once said, “Dogs know what to do with polls.”

Of interest is the similarity in campaign slogans. Trudeau stated, “So in this pivotal, consequential moment, who wouldn’t want a say?” Rankin asserted, “Nova Scotia is at a pivotal moment. This election is about our recovery.”

Granted Houston painted himself as a “red Tory” and distanced himself from the federal Conservative party. Yet might the same fate await Justin Trudeau in the current federal election?

Despite multiple promises, the Trudeau government has been far from “open and transparent.” For example, at the press conference on Aug. 15, Trudeau was repeatedly asked whether – if he failed to obtain his majority government – he would resign as leader. He insulted the journalists by totally ignoring the question. Instead, he posed new questions of his own, and proceeded to go off on a tangent with scripted answers.

By calling an election, he claimed to be responding to a desire of Canadians to have a say in the pandemic, but overlooked the fact that about two-thirds did not want a $600 million unnecessary election in the first place.

He has not fulfilled promises from his last mandate, such as clean drinking water for Indigenous communities, affordable housing, and elimination of the first-past-the post system.

As John Ivison wrote in the National Post, the money to “build back better” has already been approved, resulting in doubling of the national debt in only six years.

For the next five weeks, a “caretaker government” with limited power will be in charge. It could not be at a worse time. An orderly reopening of the US-Canada border in both directions is still in limbo. Schools are about to open, but children under age 12 cannot be vaccinated.

Thanks to the Delta variant, the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is well underway, especially among the unvaccinated. By Aug. 17, over the previous two weeks, cases per 100,000 had increased 361 per cent in British Columbia, 344 per cent in Alberta, 110 per cent in Saskatchewan, 202 per cent in Ontario, 164 per cebt in Quebec, 184 per cent in New Brunswick, 425 per cent in Nova Scotia, and 234 per cent for all of Canada.

The Delta variant accounts for 99 per cent of new cases in the U.S., 95 per cent in B.C., and over 94 per cent in Ontario. Quebec and the Atlantic provinces have so far been relatively spared.

There are other major problems: Much of Canada in on fire from British Columbia to Northern Ontario, with thousands of homeless and displaced persons. Droughts and grasshoppers have taken a major toll on prairie farmers. Now there are new humanitarian crises: earthquakes, tropical storms, and political uncertainty in Haiti and the sudden take-over of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

During the election period, MPs from the last Parliament who are not cabinet ministers have no legal status. Recall that the War Measures Act was replaced in July 1988 by the Emergencies Act, which differs from the former act in that “a declaration of an emergency by the cabinet must be reviewed by Parliament.” What happens if it is dissolved for an election?

There are a multitude of unknowns in the next few weeks. We now lack the ability to recall Parliament for an emergency session so that backbenchers and opposition MPs have a forum to discuss policy and funding decisions, and can hold Justin Trudeau accountable.

Now that Trudeau has called the election despite a multitude of objections and in a period of great uncertainty, we should surely ask whether the federal Liberals should soon be rewarded with a majority mandate or not.

Ottawa physician Dr. Charles S. Shaver was born in Montreal. He is past-chair of the Section on General Internal Medicine of the Ontario Medical Association.