OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced early elections in Canada on Sunday, a move he said was necessary to give his government a mandate to deal with the pandemic and recover from its economic effects.
The widely anticipated move marked his confidence that voters would return him to power after three consecutive campaigns.
The election, slated for September 20, will take place less than two years after the previous vote and at a time when coronavirus cases are on the rise in many parts of the country, leading health officials to declare a fourth wave is in progress. Mr. Trudeau could have waited until 2024 to call an election.
“Everyone understands that we are truly at a pivotal moment in our country’s history,” Trudeau said after asking Governor General Mary Simon to dissolve Parliament to allow for an early election. “This is a time when Canadians can and should be able to influence what we experience and how we will build a stronger and better society.
For several weeks, Mr. Trudeau, prominent members of his cabinet and the leaders of the main opposition parties have been making election appearances across Canada. Throughout the summer, 29 MPs announced their retirement, signaling that a vote was imminent.
As they were during the pre-election campaign, on Sunday Erin O’Toole, the Conservative leader, and Jagmeet Singh, who leads the center-left New Democratic Party, condemned voting during the pandemic as dangerous, although the provincial governments of their two parties held votes amid the health crisis. Opposition leaders also called an early vote an opportunistic and unnecessary game by Trudeau to get his Liberal Party a majority in the House of Commons, which he was denied in 2019.
On Sunday, Mr O’Toole said the Prime Minister was fully aware that the fourth wave of the pandemic was underway.
“He has more information than all Canadians,” O’Toole said at an Ottawa studio that he will use for virtual campaign events. “I sincerely hope that Justin Trudeau does not put people in danger by launching this election. “
Mr. O’Toole did not respond to repeated questions about whether his party had followed the lead of the Liberals and NDP in demanding that its candidates be fully immunized. He also did not respond to questions about Mr. Trudeau’s plans to require full vaccination of officials as well as airline and intercity train passengers or the need for vaccine passports.
“The Conservatives would like Canadians to be able to make their own decision,” O’Toole said in French while urging voters to get vaccinated. “We have to educate people, not force them. “
Canadian political observers broadly agree that Trudeau, 49, is betting that his government’s generally welcomed handling of the pandemic – Canada has, or nearly so, the highest vaccination rate in the world – will result in success. political if an election is held soon. Waiting any longer could allow that goodwill to dissipate, said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, a nonprofit polling group based in Vancouver, B.C.
Speaking in a park in Montreal, Mr. Singh of the New Democratic Party highlighted all the work the government has done despite its minority status while taking credit for successfully putting pressure on the Liberals to improve many of these measures. This, he suggested, undermines Mr Trudeau’s claim that he needs a new mandate to deal with the rest of the pandemic and its aftermath.
“Why does he want the majority? Mr. Singh asked. “The reality is he’s sick of the New Democrats pushing him to give more help to more people.
All major Canadian polls put Mr. Trudeau’s party ahead of the Conservatives, who were the largest opposition group in the last Parliament. but the parliamentary majority hoped for by Mr. Trudeau is not a certainty.
Much has changed for him politically since he promised “sunny ways” when the Liberal Party he led unexpectedly defeated the Tories in 2015.
A self-proclaimed feminist and a staunch supporter of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, Mr. Trudeau was plunged into a spin before the last election. A federal ethics oversight body found in August 2019 that her office had broken an ethics law by pressuring Jody Wilson-Raybould, an Indigenous woman who was Minister of Justice and Attorney General, to she drops a criminal case against a Montreal-based company.
A conviction for the company could have cost thousands of jobs and diminished the political fortunes of the Liberals in Quebec, according to Trudeau’s staff. When Ms. Wilson-Raybould did not give in, she was demoted to a lower cabinet post, which she ultimately resigned.
Then, during Mr. Trudeau’s last election campaign, it appeared that before entering politics, he had disguised himself as a blackface or brownface at least three times. His party won the most seats in the 2019 election, 157, but failed to secure an absolute majority in the House of Commons of 338 seats.
During the pandemic, Mr. Trudeau’s economic support programs for individuals and businesses proved popular. But a program to funnel money to unemployed summer students has become a political anchor for the prime minister.
The student program was to be administered by WE Charity, a group that had paid his mother, Margaret Trudeau, and brother Alexandre Trudeau about 282,000 Canadian dollars (about $ 225,000) for speaking engagements. The Prime Minister had spoken at numerous WE Charity events, and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, has already hosted a podcast related to the association.
Mr Trudeau said WE Charity was selected by non-partisan officials to run the program, but admitted he should have recused himself when the cabinet reviewed the contract without a tender. The grant program was eventually canceled.
Despite these setbacks, Mr. Trudeau’s ability to attract an enthusiastic and photographed crowd remains unmatched among Canadian politicians.
Another asset for Mr. Trudeau who is starting an election campaign is Mr. O’Toole’s slow start since he became leader of the Conservative Party almost a year ago. The pandemic has most likely contributed to Mr. O’Toole’s low political profile and approval ratings.
This applies even in the Conservative stronghold of Alberta, where the Liberals were kicked out in the last election.
“We found out that O’Toole was really no more popular than Trudeau,” said Janet Brown, who heads a polling firm in Calgary, Alta. That works primarily for news organizations. “Even Albertans who are traditional Conservative voters just don’t feel like they know him that well yet.
A campaign, of course, could allow Mr. O’Toole, a former Royal Canadian Air Force navigator and business lawyer, to gain a better profile.
Because the provinces of Ontario and Quebec are home to about two-thirds of the Canadian population, they are essential to seize power.
Polls show the Liberals continue to dominate electoral districts around Montreal, while the Bloc Québécois, a regional party committed to Quebec independence, rules most of the rest of the province, leaving Mr. O’Toole over there.