Justin Trudeau. File
Steve Scherer, Reuters
Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is poised to trigger a snap election two years ahead of schedule, betting that high vaccination rates and a post-pandemic rebound will help him prolong and strengthen his grip on power.
Trudeau, 49, is eyeing September for what would be his third election, sources said. He first won a majority in 2015. But in a federal vote two years ago, after decades-old blackface pictures surfaced, Trudeau came up short of a majority, forcing him to depend on opposition parties to pass legislation.
The Liberals need to pick up just over a dozen more seats in the 338-seat House of Commons to be able to govern on their own. A fall vote would be “an election of inches, not giant steps. We’re looking at 15 seats or so,” said Allan Tupper, professor of political science at University of British Columbia at Vancouver.
“Failure would be not to win a majority ... and repeat the status quo,” Tupper said.
If Trudeau were to get only another minority, it would almost certainly lead to questions about whether the party needs a fresh face, analysts said. The official opposition Conservative Party has consistently lagged in polls, suggesting Canadians could reward the Liberals for their handling of the pandemic.
There are precedents that look promising for the Liberals. Four of Canada’s 10 provinces held elections during the pandemic with the sitting government winning every time.
With a majority in the House of Commons, Trudeau would have a free hand to follow through on his stated policy priorities of fighting climate change and supporting those who suffered most during the pandemic.
Pollsters say there is a window this fall in which the Liberals could win a majority, as Canadians embrace the freedom of being vaccinated and the latest budget injects billions of dollars into the economy.
Nationally, Liberals would win 34%, compared to 29% for the Conservatives and 22% for the left-leaning New Democrats, pollster Leger said in a survey published last Wednesday.
That is probably still short of a majority, but polls by other companies have put the Liberals further ahead.
The timing of the election is important “because the pandemic has been a highlight in the Liberal government’s performance in the eyes of Canadians,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of polling firm Angus Reid Institute.
In the first quarter, 45% of adults said the COVID-19 response was by far the top issue on Canadian voters’ minds, but in the third quarter it was the ninth issue at 19%, an Angus Reid poll from July 16 shows.
“So Justin Trudeau now has to stay in this sweet spot wherein the pandemic is still on the minds of Canadians,” Kurl added.
COVID-19 case numbers are down dramatically, as are hospitalisations and deaths, and vaccination levels are among the highest in the world.
The Bank of Canada earlier this month painted an optimistic picture of growth heading in the second half of the year. But another potential source of trouble is that - instead of fading from peoples’ minds - COVID-19 will come roaring back as more contagious virus variants spread, as is happening in the United States and elsewhere.
“The reality is that with the Delta variant and other variants of concern out there, it is likely that we will see a rise in cases over the coming months,” Trudeau said on Tuesday.
Even if Canada is largely spared, a COVID-19 resurgence elsewhere still could hurt, said Doug Porter, the chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.
“There is a risk that markets could become concerned about a fourth wave ... If we had a more serious correction in markets, that could affect sentiment here in Canada as well,” he said.
If the Liberal leader were to fall short of a majority for a second time, it might be an indication that voters are growing tired of Trudeau, triggering talks of succession.
“There are still a number of Canadians who like Justin Trudeau very much, but in terms of that mania, that fever, that passion for Justin Trudeau — that is long gone,” Kurl said.
The Simpsons are returning to Canada in an upcoming episode that will air on Sunday for a storyline that will feature Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, admired abroad for his progressive policies but damaged by scandals at home, kicked off a six-week re-election campaign on Wednesday with opinion polls suggesting his hold on power will be weakened.
The Canadian Consulate in Hong Kong said on Friday it has suspended travel to mainland China for local staff, just days after an employee of the city’s British Consulate was confirmed
Time magazine published the photo on Wednesday, saying it was taken from the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. It depicts the then 29-year-old Trudeau wearing a turban and robe, with dark makeup on his hands, face and neck.
Voting legislation that Democrats and civil rights leaders say is vital to protecting democracy collapsed when two senators refused to join their own party in changing Senate rules to overcome a Republican filibuster after a raw, emotional debate.
Despite the onset of the Omicron variant and the alarm over it, there are some positive signs. Governments worldwide are easing quarantine rules, reviewing coronavirus curbs and pushing back pandemic-era emergency support as they bid to launch their economies
When people debate whether to forgive some or all of the $1.75 trillion in student debt weighing on millions of American families, opponents often argue that it would be wasteful and unfair: Too many relatively well-off, well-educated people would benefit at the expense
It really galls me when climate change advocates keep telling us that it’s our meat eating that is causing global climate change. They claim that, because we’ve been eating meat, fish and poultry, the emission of methane has increased and that has contributed to climate change.