OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau triggered an election campaign Sunday as he looks to benefit from promising polls and regain the strong hold on power his Liberals lost nearly two years ago.
Trudeau emerged from a meeting with Governor General Mary Simon, who accepted his request to dissolve Parliament.
He announced that Canadians will vote Sept. 20 in an election that he immediately tried to frame as a decision on political parties' post-Covid-19 visions.
“My friends, it's been a big couple of years,” Trudeau, who has been prime minister since 2015, told Canadians outside Rideau Hall after meeting with Simon. “The last 17 months have been like nothing we've ever experienced and we're all wondering what the next 17 months, not to mention the next 17 years, will hold.”
Trudeau then mentioned the global issues — the pandemic, recession and climate crisis.
“You're probably wondering what this means for you, for your job, for your kids, for your retirement, for your community and for your country,” he said, before later adding: “This about giving Canadians an opportunity to weigh in at a really pivotal time.”
The Liberal leader's quest to recapture a majority of the seats in the House of Commons begins as the country enters a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections. Canada, however, has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.
Trudeau will look to capitalize on strong polling and his government’s record in handling the health and economic crises of the pandemic.
The summer election campaign carries risk for Trudeau. Polls suggest that a majority mandate is not a lock, and the pandemic’s uncertainty threatens to create unexpected campaign conditions.
Trudeau’s main opponents are Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul.
Dogged by scandals, Trudeau saw his majority entering the 2019 election campaign reduced to a minority, forcing his Liberals to earn the support of other parties to pass legislation.
An early election has been the subject of speculation for months with polls showing Trudeau’s popularity on the rise.
The vote will give his Liberals the opportunity to strengthen his position in Parliament. Liberal MPs held 155 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons as of Sunday.
Trudeau will ask Canadians to give him a new majority mandate to enable him to follow through on a post-pandemic, “build back better” vision.
Earlier this month, the Liberal leader sidestepped multiple questions about the possibility he could launch the country into a summer election campaign right as another wave of Covid infections was rolling in.
But opinion polls suggest his Liberals are in a solid position — and that recapturing a majority of the seats in the House of Commons is within their grasp.
“Apart from the risk of a fourth [Covid-19] wave, I don’t think there’s been a better time to call an election than now,” Abacus Data CEO David Coletto told POLITICO last week as he shared a poll showing the Liberals in majority territory. “I wouldn’t say a majority is a guarantee. But they are certainly as close to a majority as they have been since the last election — minus the early days of the pandemic, when they wouldn’t have dared call an election.”
The Abacus survey suggested the Liberals would earn 37 percent of the vote. The Conservatives would secure 28 percent, the NDP 20 and the Green Party 5 percent.
Opposition leaders have criticized that Trudeau calling an election now would be a tone-deaf wanton power grab during a pandemic.
The opponents who will look to defeat Trudeau include O’Toole, who took the helm of the party less than a year ago. O’Toole will need to overcome national name recognition challenges before election day, an issue he first encountered during his unsuccessful leadership bid in 2017.
Since taking over, the former Canadian Forces air navigator has put his own stamp on the party.
After the resignation of the party's former social conservative leader, O’Toole has tried to push the Conservatives toward the center by supporting carbon pricing and signaling a tougher stance against big business.
A national campaign will be O’Toole’s first as leader and Trudeau’s third. It will be the second for Singh and Blanchet and the first for Paul.
The Abacus polling has suggested that Singh, whose left-of-center NDP had just 24 seats, is the most popular of all the party leaders. But beyond their leader’s personal popularity the NDP would have to pull off a major surprise to win power.
All party leaders have been in campaign mode for weeks.
Trudeau and his cabinet ministers have toured the country making major announcements, including federal funding for provinces to bring in affordable child care.
The Liberals released a campaign-style ad that closed with the slogan “Forward. For everyone.”
Singh’s New Democrats released a platform-style list of “commitments” last Thursday. The vows focus on areas such as climate change, affordability and bolstering health care.
Last Wednesday, O’Toole held an event to announce part of his plan to strengthen Canada’s fast-growing, innovative sectors.
The Conservatives caught a lot of attention, and flak from the party's own candidates, with a political video released Friday under the punchline: “The only reason for an election is because Trudeau wants a majority.” The video shows a clip from from the 1971 film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” with Trudeau's face superimposed on spoiled-brat character Veruca Salt.
Vying for a third term, Trudeau will have to campaign against his record since taking his party from third place to a majority government in 2015.
Trudeau will also hope the scandals that followed him into the 2019 campaign are well behind him.
One scandal came from actions taken by himself and members of his entourage to repeatedly press Canada’s attorney general to drop corruption charges on a Montreal engineering company. During the 2019 campaign, a Time magazine bombshell showed him in brownface two decades ago, which was followed by more photos and videos of Trudeau in racist makeup.
Trudeau became the first Canadian leader in decades to lose the popular vote and win the election.
Minority governments rarely last four years and tend to fall anywhere between 18 and 24 months. This historical trend, paired with a healthy lead in polling and the C$350 billion the government has pledged to spend to get the country through the pandemic, plus the billions in child care and early learning deals with seven of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories, mean the political conditions are ripe for an early election.
The results of five provincial and territorial elections held during the pandemic provide a hopeful trend for Trudeau’s minority government. Elections in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador produced majority governments for incumbents. Yukon’s election ended in a draw between the Yukon Party and the incumbent provincial Liberals.
Polls have found that Trudeau would be unlikely to see much of a backlash from voters for triggering an election this summer.
The Abacus poll suggests 83 percent of Canadians would not be overly concerned about an early election call. Two-thirds of Canadians told Abacus that a fourth wave of Covid would have no influence on their vote, though 20 percent reported that they’d be angry enough not to vote Liberal.
As for the rest, they said they’d be more likely to vote in the government’s favor given its track record on the pandemic.
Trudeau’s Liberals head into an election buoyed by a lead in polling over rival Conservatives — but a weak opponent has its own dangers. Vote splitting could produce another minority government.
View original post