The Morning Brief – 06.17.21
By Bruce Carson
With the G7 and NATO meeting behind him, and the House set to adjourn in the middle of next week, Prime Minister Trudeau thoughts will naturally turn to election timing.
If he is looking ahead on the international calendar, the G20 meeting takes place at the end of October in Rome. He won’t want to miss that gathering. Then there is the COP 26 meeting which takes place in Glasgow, November 1-12.
Liberal House Leader Pablo Rodriguez has identified the “must have” list of bills the government wants to see passed before the House rises for the summer.
Most important among them is the Budget Implementation Bill, C-30 as with its passage taxpayers’ money continues to flow and the over $100 billion stimulus fund will be available to dole out pre-election goodies among pet projects across the country under the heading Build Back Better.
So while Trudeau serves out his quarantine time he will have a moment to contemplate election timing, if he hasn’t already settled on a date.
As Prime Minister Trudeau has said on many occasions, his main objective is to see Canadians through to the end of COVID-19, a time when almost all are vaccinated. He has said he is not interested in going to the Acting Governor General seeking dissolution of Parliament before vaccines have done their work.
And that brings up an important point; surely Trudeau does not want to put the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in the position of granting dissolution for this minority parliament.
We understand that the prime minister discussed the process for selecting a Governor General with the Queen while he was in the UK. The next logical question is did he discuss the name of those who might be appointed to that position.
Presumably, the Governor General’s situation will be sorted out in the coming days or weeks, so full attention can turn to election timing, strategy and platform matters.
At this point, it looks like every Canadian who wants a vaccine will have two doses by the end of August, if not sooner. That should mean, if an election was called, it would be a post-pandemic election. There may be some constraints placed on campaigning and voting, but they should be manageable. Trudeau would not want to find himself in a situation similar to what occurred in Newfoundland and Labrador in its recent provincial election.
So with “must have” legislation presumably passed and the pandemic pretty much in the rear view mirror timing of the next election could be late summer or early fall. Trudeau’s thinking can naturally turn to issues and the campaign itself.
The problem with campaigns, as Trudeau well knows, is that one can never be certain that unexpected issues will not erupt and displace a well thought out campaign strategy.
What would be the ballot question that Trudeau would want to headline his campaign? His personal popularity has dipped since 2015, so it has to be a substantive question, not just one that features him leading the country for another four years.
It could be a question built on the “success” enjoyed by the government when dealing with COVID-19 and providing financial support for Canadians; “We have the backs of Canadians.”
For this strategy to work, the campaign must take place before multiple inquiries take place and report regarding the government’s handling of the pandemic, vaccine procurement and financial support for individuals, small and medium sized businesses and large corporations.
The election also has to take place before Canadians become aware of the effect of the accumulated national debt could have on their lives and inflation climbs above 2%-3% while interest rates begin to rise.
In other words timing should be sooner than later, especially if the Liberals want to run on a ballot question featuring their response to COVID-19. Putting the election off until sometime in 2022 will not benefit the government, but benefit the opposition which will be waiting with open arms for the results of the post-pandemic inquiries.
As the prime minister surveys the outstanding issues before his government, it could be argued that there is no safe place at present from which the Trudeau Liberals can campaign. Issues that should have been winners for this government have turned negative due to lack of action.
There are three matters that come to mind and no doubt there are more. The discovery of 215 bodies of Indigenous children on the Kamloops Residential School site shone a very bright light on the Trudeau government’s lack of progress addressing the Calls to Action contained in the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The government on Monday attempted through two announcements to take the focus off lack of action regarding the recommendations dealing with residential school sites. The government responded to Call to Action 17, by providing a process for reclaiming traditional Indigenous names on passports and other ID.
Call to action 15, was fulfilled by the appointment of an Indigenous Languages Commission.
One wonders what the government will discover next week to announce from the Calls to Action?
The situation in the senior ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces has continued to deteriorate. Recent revelations of two senior members of the military golfing with the former Chief of Defence staff Vance demonstrates how tone deaf the senior ranks have become.
It would seem that the only thing keeping Minister of Defence Sajjan in his job is the prime minister’s reluctance to shuffle his cabinet, particularly before an election.
And the murder of four members of a Muslim family in London also shone a light on the government’s failure to bring forward legislation dealing with online hate speech.
These matters plus the price of housing, rising inflation and related issues are not ones a government would want to dive into in an election campaign that it initiates.
But it may very well be that the issues of today will not be the issues of tomorrow. So a plan to wait through the summer for COVID-19 recovery or into early fall would seem best, for a prime minister seeking a return to majority.
He should know that if that majority is not achieved, there are Liberals who are anxious to take his place and they can be found inside and outside the House of Commons.
Next week The Morning Brief will review the issues that should play prominently in the next campaign.
- Retail trade numbers for April to be released
- GDP numbers for April to be released
The Morning Brief returns on Wednesday, June 23.