Written for Daily Hive by Rachael Segal, a lawyer who has worked in politics across Canada for over a decade. She is on a mission to engage more women in to politics. For more election coverage follow her on Instagram.
It may seem like a lifetime ago, but Canadians last went to the polls less than 24 months ago in October of 2019.
Since 2017 Canada has had fixed election dates, prescribed every four years, written in to Canadian election law. With that said, you’re probably wondering why the Prime Minister has asked the Governor General to dissolve parliament and Canadians to go to the ballot box on September 20th.
Well, it all depends on who you ask.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals believe that they need a mandate to govern. You will remember that in 2019, Canadians revoked Trudeau’s majority government, leaving him governing with a minority government of 155 seats.
With today’s makeup of the House of Commons, you need 170 of the 338 seats in the House to win a majority government. Why does that matter? Because it’s hard to govern in a minority when you need the opposition’s support to pass legislation! Trudeau has put forward a report card to Canadians: How did we do in managing the pandemic? He is hoping Canadians will return an A+ and a majority government.
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If you asked Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, the answer is simply “power.”
Much like we saw in British Columbia during the provincial campaign, the Opposition Leader believes that Trudeau is calling this election during the pandemic because we have typically seen governments get re-elected with strong majorities in Canada over the course of COVID-19.
History has taught us that the electorate does not like change during times of crisis. In BC, John Horgan’s bet on launching a provincial election during a pandemic paid off, leaving him with a solid majority of 57 seats in the 87 seat BC Legislature. With that said, after this week’s change in government following a provincial election in Nova Scotia, Trudeau may now be a bit more nervous.
Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the federal NDP has been a vocal opponent of this pandemic election, calling Trudeau “selfish” for wanting to call an election in the middle of the 4th wave of COVID-19.
A letter to Trudeau dated August 9th from Singh suggested that the NDP has worked as a partner with the Liberals on passing legislation, and therefore there is no need for Trudeau to seek his majority. Singh went so far as to write a letter to the newly appointed Governor General asking her to reject Trudeau’s ask to dissolve parliament; something which has not been done in Canada since Mackenzie King was Prime Minister in 1926!
Many have criticized Singh for these measures due to his support of John Horgan’s pandemic election in British Columbia in 2020.
So why are we voting again? Quite simply, because we can.
There used to be a time when outrage would follow the dissolution of a government for no specific policy reason, but recently it seems that Canadians have moved past this.
Canadians have much more to worry about these days than political tactics, and that is what incumbent governments bank on. Lower voter turnout usually results in incumbent wins.
While some Canadians may punish Trudeau and the Liberals for going to the polls and costing taxpayers time and money, most will carry on unfazed by Trudeau’s reasoning for an election and more worried about the policies in party platforms that will effect their every day lives. If you could take a calculated risk with a great reward, wouldn’t you take it? Justin Trudeau just did.