I offer them with some trepidation. Just prior to the last British Columbia provincial election call, I was writing down some reasons why I thought a B.C. election wasn’t a good idea at the time. Alas, the writ was dropped even as I was putting the thoughts down.
We now see hints and rumours about a forthcoming federal election. Bits of news such as Elections Canada seeking to buy a large quantity of transparent masks so election officials will look more human to the voters lead us to believe that a decision has already been made, even if it hasn’t yet been announced.
Here’s why that plan shouldn’t proceed:
An election is neither needed nor wanted by Canadians now
The typical Canadian has much more pressing concerns than the possibility of what may well be a minor change in who’s sitting in Parliament in Ottawa.
Our biggest, almost all-encompassing concern now is getting through the pandemic. On the day of writing, British Columbia had the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in over a month.
Vaccines now exist, but Canada has been slow in receiving and distributing them. Forty-one countries and counting have vaccinated a higher percentage of their population than Canada – in most cases, many times higher. And many of these countries are well below Canada on any scale of wealth, development or democracy.
We’re getting tired of seeing photos of people around the world getting jabbed when most Canadians aren’t even sure when they will be able to register for, let alone receive, the vaccine.
Statements from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others giving optimistic dates about when all or most Canadians will be covered are met with skepticism. We believed earlier forecasts that would have had a lot more people vaccinated by now than is the case. No one likes to be fooled twice.
Even if it takes until the end of this year, we will get the pandemic under control. At that time, getting the economy back on track will be much more important than an election. Our unemployment rate is pushing double digits. Many businesses have failed and many more are on the edge and will not last the additional months it will take to get the vaccine distributed and the pandemic under control.
Government spending hasn’t been particularly effective. Many needy individuals and businesses haven’t been helped and too much money has gone to those who don’t need it. We will all soon be seeing higher taxes to deal with the resulting debt.
Also, elections are costly. The last federal election in 2019 cost $540 million. This was up from $443 million for the 2015 election, even though the 2019 campaign was shorter. Most Canadians can think of better ways to spend over half a billion dollars now.
An election is risky for federal Liberals
An election now won’t benefit the Canadian population. In calling one, the Liberal government would be putting politics before the well-being of voters.
The Liberals must feel that they would come out ahead with a solid majority after a vote. Some recent polls have indicated this. However, as former prime minister John Diefenbaker said, “the only poll that counts is on election day.”
One needs rose-coloured glasses to believe the Liberals could sweep the polls now. Here are some examples where they’ve demonstrated ineffective leadership:
- The SNC-Lavalin affair, which cost the prime minister two effective female cabinet ministers, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott.
- The WE Charity scandal, which has still not been settled.
- The selection and then the dismissal of Julie Payette as governor general.
- The tragedy of the two Michaels, Spavor and Kovrig, still unfairly incarcerated in Chines jails.
And this is in addition to the mishandling of the pandemic and the economy.
Not only is the government less than stellar, the Conservative party is not fulfiling its job as the official Opposition in the House of Commons. Not only has it not been taking advantage of the government missteps just mentioned, it’s new leader, Erin O’Toole, hasn’t been prominent. The Conservative platform is insufficiently detailed and not well publicized, and the party is wasting its energy on internal squabbles.
The pandemic, the vaccine crisis and the weak economy have caused the majority of Canadians to express dissatisfaction with the workings of the federal government. This may deter an election.
However, depending on how far along the plans are, we may still get one. And given the weak alternatives, the current government may win again.
Troy Media columnist Roslyn Kunin is a consulting economist and speaker. For interview requests, click here.