Opinion: Plenty of reasons to avoid an election this fall

Opinion: Plenty of reasons to avoid an election this fall

Pandemics, like elections, are democratic: Everyone gets a vote, and everyone can catch coronavirus

Justin Trudeau apparently views the prospect of a fall election in the same way he views COVID-19 – as something to be avoided at all costs, but not feared.

For a moment on Wednesday, the prime minister got carried away with his own enthusiasm for democracy, giving a spirited defence of Canada’s ability to juggle a pandemic with the logistics of an election campaign.

“We want to see our democracy thrive not in spite of difficult circumstances, but because of difficult circumstances,” Trudeau said.

“I think it’s a little irresponsible to be talking about recklessness when it comes to elections. We all should have tremendous confidence in Elections Canada to be able to bring forward strong measures to keep us safe and allow for the expression of the democratic will of the people.”

When Canadian Press reporter Joan Bryden pointed out that this sounded an awful lot like an endorsement of a fall election, Trudeau abruptly changed tacks.

“I do not want an election. I don’t think Canadians want an election,” Trudeau said, insisting he was just standing up for the idea of it, not the imminent implementation of one.

All he meant to say, he insisted, was “if there has to be an election, we’ll figure it out.”

It may be true that we can “figure it out.”

New Brunswick did, as the prime minister pointed out, and Saskatchewan will do the same in a few weeks. So will the United States this fall, somehow.

Trudeau surely hasn’t missed the fact that New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs turned his minority government into a majority in this week’s provincial election – something that Trudeau would certainly like to do, too.

But if “figuring it out” goes anything like the constantly evolving calculations on reopening Parliament next week, the process would be long, complicated and uncertain. Pandemics tend to take the snap out of a snap election, or even the much less complicated choreography of a throne speech.

Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet have each been hit in the past few days with positive COVID-19 tests in their immediate circles. Both are now forced to hunker down in isolation that guarantees Parliament won’t be resuming in any condition close to normal next week.

That makes the House of Commons a perfect mirror of what’s going on in the larger country this September – the strong desire for return to normalcy colliding with the harsh reality of a virus that seems to be on the upswing again.

It’s also a reminder that pandemics, like elections, are extremely democratic: Everyone gets a vote, and everyone can catch a coronavirus.

Trudeau went through his forced isolation at the outset of the pandemic in March; now it’s two opposition leaders who are similarly confined to doing their work virtually.

In normal times, Trudeau would have been accused of crass cynicism if he tried to engineer an election so soon after the Conservatives chose a new leader. The prime minister might have weathered that criticism, even in a pandemic.

But add the new reality of two rivals literally locked down in self-isolation and there’s no way to call that a responsible – or fair – way to plunge the country into another election, less than a year after the last one.

Even if one assumes that Trudeau did have election prospects dancing in his head when he prorogued Parliament last month, setting himself up for a confidence vote, there’s no question that things have changed since then.

The lofty declarations about the throne speech “building back better” have recently given way to a flood of Liberals dampening expectations.

Now, it’s more like “getting ready to build back better at some unspecified date in 2021,” which makes a very lousy title for a throne speech – or an election platform, for that matter.

We have finally stumbled onto a set of numbers that are even more compelling to government strategists than poll figures, if anyone is contemplating the odds of an election.

Reasonably healthy opinion standings for the Trudeau Liberals fade sharply in comparison to the unhealthy COVID-19 numbers now coming in daily from across the country.

Any Liberals dreaming of the magic 40 per cent needed to win a majority government need only glance at the increasing numbers of people lining up for COVID-19 tests in Ottawa and other hot spots this week.

“Weíll figure it out” is not really a plan – for an election or a second wave of COVID-19. That probably tells us that Trudeau has decided that any prospects for a fall campaign, like the coronavirus, need to be contained.

Susan Delacourt is a columnist with Torstar Syndication Services.

Opinion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Thursday that the province reported the first case of the B.1.617 variant. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears record number of active COVID-19 cases

Alberta reports 1,857 new cases of COVID-19, 1,326 new variants

After considerable consultation with student representatives, Red Deer College has
made the difficult decision to increase tuition and fees for the 2021/2022 academic year. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer College to celebrate grads virtually in June

Graduates of Red Deer College won’t get an in-person graduation ceremony this… Continue reading

The Bowden Institution medium security facility is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Central Alberta Addiction centre faces COVID-19 outbreak

18 test positive at iRecover Treatment Centre in Tees

A cleaner goes into Red Deer’s Canada Post sorting facility near 67th Street and Taylor Drive on Thursday morning. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Employee tests positive for COVID-19 at Red Deer Canada Post mail sorting facility

Canada Post has confirmed an employee at the Red Deer mail processing… Continue reading

Two people (not in photo) are facing charges following a Sept. 20, 2020 anti-racism rally in Red Deer.
Advocate file photo
Woman charged in Red Deer anti-racism rally going to trial

Calgary woman facing a charge of assault with a weapon in connection with Sept. 20, 2020 rally

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

SickKids surgeons give baby another shot at life after removing nearly 3-pound tumour

SickKids surgeons give baby another shot at life after removing nearly 3-pound tumour

A COVID-19 patient wearing oxygen mask waits inside a vehicle to be attended and admitted in a dedicated COVID-19 government hospital in Ahmedabad, India, Thursday, April 22, 2021. India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections Thursday as a grim coronavirus surge in the world's second-most populous country sends more and more sick people into a fragile health care system critically short of hospital beds and oxygen. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP /Ajit Solanki
COVID-19 variant of interest vs. variant of concern: What does it mean?

COVID-19 variant of interest vs. variant of concern: What does it mean?

File photo
Expert says Saskatchewan should consider more targeted vaccine plan as variants surge

SASKATOON — Nazeem Muhajarine says he feels a sense of relief after… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising Canada will slash its… Continue reading

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
More supply needed to ease housing price crunch, but always more to do, Freeland says

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says the country needs a boost… Continue reading

Smoke pours from the stacks at the Portlands Energy Centre in Toronto on Thursday January 15, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Risk experts say climate change to take big chunk of Canadian economy by 2050

One of the world’s largest insurers says Canadians will be more than… Continue reading

A Blanding’s turtle (Gabrielle Fortin/Contributed)
Earth Day: Finding hope in an old sweater

During the pandemic, many of us have spent several months at home.… Continue reading

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says 1.7 million reusable masks have been ordered at a cost of $4.2 million.” (Advocate file photo).
Alberta teachers and education minister swap accusations of politicizing curriculum

EDMONTON — Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the group representing Alberta teachers… Continue reading

Most Read