What was the point of that election?

Opinions

The Prime Minister called a snap election during a global pandemic – for what?

Stock photo via UpSplash.

After months of stoking COVID-19 fears and urging provinces to maintain strict lockdown procedures, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pulled a not-so-majestic 180°, and called on millions of Canadians to get out and vote during the fourth wave of the pandemic.  

Opposition parties were quick to call foul, condemning the election as a petty power grab. With neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives promising any major changes, there remained no main issue to justify the whole electoral ordeal. The election itself became the main issue of the election.  

On Sept. 21, headlines read: “Trudeau wins minority government.” But what did he really win? His big gamble failed to pay off — the Liberals acquired only one extra seat. The Conservatives won’t be forming government. The Bloc didn’t get the bump they were hoping for. The New Democratic Party (NDP) saw no orange wave. Annamie Paul and Maxime Bernier, leaders of their respective parties, couldn’t even win in their own ridings. 

Vancouver Island remains a New Democrat bastion, with NDP incumbents Laurel Collins, Randall Garrison, Alistair MacGregor, Gord Johns, and Rachel Blaney maintaining their seats. Unsurprisingly, former Green Party leader Elizabeth May was re-elected in her Saanich-Gulf Islands riding. But after smearing of internal conflicts within the party, Nanaimo Ladysmith incumbent Paul Manly was narrowly ousted by NDP-challenger Lisa Marie Barron. 

If there’s one thing I think we learned from Sept. 20, it’s that the Trudeau brand is out of fashion. 

Rewind to 2015, to a younger, bright-eyed Justin Trudeau. The charismatic son of a well-liked prime minister. His campaign promises were fresh and exciting: legalizing marijuana, launching inquiries into missing and murdered Indigenous women, assisting Syrian refugees, and reforming the antiquated first-past-the-post system. 

Now, after a handful of scandals and even more blackface incidents, Trudeau has shown his true colours as another calculating and self-serving politician.  

Polling suggested that almost 69 per cent of Canadians didn’t want this election, and that 25 percent felt unsafe voting in person. It’s estimated that Elections Canada spent $50 million dollars on COVID-19 measures: providing plexiglass, hand sanitizers, single-use pencils, etc., making this the most expensive election to date. 

Even by this big-spending government’s standards, this exercise was a tiresome waste of resources. And apparently, it was all for nothing. We seem to be in almost the exact same place we were a few weeks ago, and thanks to the cost of this election, $610 million deeper in debt. 

$610 million. How many boiled water advisories could have been lifted with that money? How many units of affordable housing built? How many trees planted? (Reconciliation, housing, and climate action are all issues straight out of the Liberal Party’s campaign promises.) 

In 2007, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government introduced Bill C-16, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act to strengthen fixed election dates. Harper stated in a speech that “fixed election dates stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar simply for partisan political advantage.” 

Despite the legislation, the Governor General can still dissolve parliament at any time. And convention dictates that the Governor General comply with the Prime Minister when the latter requests dissolution. This loophole was hilariously illustrated when only a year after introducing the bill, Harper called a snap election. Much like Trudeau, he was denied his desired majority. 

At the time, the Liberals went up in arms that the Conservatives had managed to bypass their own laws through legal ambiguities. Apparently, history repeats itself. 

After being denied 170 seats for the second election in a row (and having gravel hurled at his head), it’s clear Canadians see no more “sunny ways,” from our Prime Minister. 

Perhaps Trudeau was on the right track in 2015, back when he was promising electoral reform. That was, after all, when Canadians trusted him enough for a majority. Now, he’s on track to return to office with the lowest popular support in the country’s history. From the current makeup of our parliament, it’s apparent Canadians still value a diversification of political voices. What we have now is five parties squeezed into a parliament built for two. They will need to work as a de facto coalition to help pull the country out of the socioeconomic ruin wrought by the pandemic. 

Trudeau wasted our time with a cocksure grasp at a majority government.