When then Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his minority government got legislation passed in 2007 fixing federal election dates every four years, he said this would prevent governments from calling snap elections for short-term political advantage.
Then the following year he broke the rule, which in essence is not really binding, in a quest to obtain a majority government.
It didn’t happen then but it did in 2011 when he again called an early election with the same goal in mind, putting the lie to any thought that his party, at least, would abide by any rule regarding fixed election dates.
But now he has company.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is breaking the rule this year and it is obviously for political gain, his hope being that he will turn his minority government into a majority.
I say good luck with that.
Trudeau is obviously striking early because he sees weakness in his main opposition, Conservative Leader Erin O’toole being virtually unknown and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh leading a party that has never come close to attaining power federally.
But I am not so sure he has a solid read on the pulse of the Canadian public.
A poll, commissioned by Torstar and conducted by Mainstreet Research over two days during the week beginning Aug. 8, found 65 percent of respondents think this is not a good time to have an election.
It showed across Canada, support for an election was lowest in British Columbia, with 75 percent of respondents opposed, and highest in the Prairies, where 48 per cent said now is the time for a federal campaign. Opinion was closer to the national average in Ontario, where 67 percent opposed an election call.
In regard to where the parties stood at that time, the poll showed Trudeau’s Liberals held the largest share of support, at 35 percent; O’Toole’s Conservatives were at 26 percent and Singh’s NDP at 16 percent. Both the Bloc Quebecois and the Green Party enjoyed five percent support.
A lot, of course, can have changed since this poll was taken but it would seem to me we are headed for another minority government led by the Liberals. I think that is the most Trudeau can expect, considering his abysmal record governing on just about everything and at every level
In regard to calling an election early, I recall David Peterson, who led his Liberals to minority power in Ontario in the 1985 election and who got a majority two years later, going to the well a year early in 1990 as he feared the rising deficit, which to that point had remained secret, would hurt him if the next election were held after the news got out.
Seeing the election as unnecessary, the public turned on him and elected Bob Rae’s NDP, an experiment that lasted five years and has lain at rest ever since.
Some of this may come back to haunt Trudeau, who called this unnecessary election in the midst of a pandemic.
Now you might say that the United States held its election in the midst of the pandemic too, but that was different. It went ahead with its election because the dates are laid down and do not have an escape clause, as is the cast in Canada.
The Liberals are receiving some ugly protests, something that is being decried by all parties.
Conservative candidate Kyle Seeback said Saturday some of his campaign volunteers who were at a Liberal event shut down by police last Friday night amid a tenuous security situation were no longer welcome on his campaign.
A CBC story said that although Trudeau has been dogged by protesters at many of his campaign events, the scene in Bolton, Ont., Friday night was particularly chaotic, with hundreds of angry people on hand for a planned outdoor rally.
It said among the protesters were anti-vaccination activists who shouted vulgarities at Liberal volunteers and carried anti-Trudeau signs scrawled with obscenities. The crowd was frustrated with Trudeau’s push to make vaccines mandatory in some settings and his support for provincial vaccine passports to restrict entry into some non-essential businesses.
Earlier that day Trudeau had to cancel a campaign rally at Nobleton, Ont., and anti-vaccination activists also disrupted Trudeau’s visit to a local bakery. Protesters were seen banging on the bakery windows while shouting “F—you, Justin.”
Speaking to reporters after the fracas, Trudeau said he has never seen this level of anger or intensity at a campaign event.
I don’t think many in this country have.
Asked if his move to make vaccine mandates a campaign issue is partly to blame for the fervent opposition he’s now facing out on the hustings, Trudeau said he knows some people are “scared” about mandatory shots, but he won’t back down from his pro-vaccine posture.
Nor should he.
As I have said many times, we are in a war against COVID-19 and as far as I am concerned I am for any measure that is required to win it.
O’Toole spoke up about the events while at an engagement in Fredericton on Saturday, saying he is trying to run a positive campaign and that he “strongly condemns any form of harassment” on the campaign trail.
“We should be having a healthy and respectful debate,” he said. We have no time for people who bring negativity to campaigning. I urge everyone to put the country and our democracy first — let’s have a positive debate of ideas on the future.
Singh was of the same frame of mind.
They are sending out the right messages but I doubt the anti-vaccination, anti-mandate and anti-mask whackos will hear them or consider them.
Indeed, these people are acting more like disciples of former U.S. President Donald Trump than anything we normally see in Canada.
Please tell me we are not going emulate what is happening in the U.S.