Seizing on his minority government’s relative success in the fight against Covid-19, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called for a snap election, to be held on September 20, two years earlier than its original date in October 2023.
The charismatic Liberal leader, son of the late Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, became the second youngest prime minister in Canadian history when he was first elected with a majority of seats in Parliament in 2015. The Liberal party’s victory that year ended nearly 10 years of Conservative government in Canada.
The once popular Premier saw his image and standing damaged by political scandals and allegations of nepotism.
Therefore, his call for early elections, with the aim of securing a comfortable majority, is in fact a calculated gamble that could nevertheless backfire. Trudeau leads a minority government, following the 2019 general election. He depends on the opposition to pass legislations; however his government could fall anytime if he loses an important vote, such as the one on budget or other major legislations in the House of Commons.
So far, he seems comfortable going into the early polls. Majority of Canadians think the government has done fairly a good job in the fight against the pandemic. Canada is one of few countries in the world that is almost fully vaccinated — more than 71 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated and over 82 per cent have received at least one dose.
The economy is on a steady recovery path as Trudeau’s government pumped hundreds of billions to support the economy. The country, which has had one of the longest lockdowns at the height of the pandemic, has started to reopen and on September 7 all vaccinated travellers, Canadian and foreigners, will be able to enter the country without the need to be quarantined.
Trudeau hopes that Canadians will reward him with a majority this time. “We’ve had your back, and now it’s time to hear your voice,” Trudeau told Canadians on Sunday. He urged the electorate to choose his party, which, he said, knows how to successfully “finish the fight against COVID-19”.
That could work for him but with his popularity at a low point, even within his own party, a Liberal election victory is far from certain. The party is expected to fall behind him though as there is no apparent Liberal alternative to the Prime Minister, but if he loses the election or fails to secure a majority, a party leadership contest is on cards.
Opposition parties described Trudeau’s call for early election as “selfish” and opportunistic. Some Canadians will also see the early polls as unnecessary during a new wave of Covid-19. But that actually is what Trudeau counts on — the fear of change of leadership during a pandemic especially when his government did fairly well during the crisis. His gamble may very well work.