Fall Election? Pundits’ Views Differ on Favourability of Timing for Liberals, Tories

Fall Election? Pundits’ Views Differ on Favourability of Timing for Liberals, Tories
The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 23, 2019. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Lee Harding

Despite indications that a fall federal election could be a possibility, some are advising that going to the polls a few months from now may not be the right time for either the Liberals or the Conservatives.

Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said on May 14 that if the pandemic is under control, an election campaign could begin on Aug. 16 without interfering with the Quebec municipal elections in November. A minimum 36-day campaign that starts in mid-August would wrap up by late September.

Jacqueline Biollo, a principal consultant at Aurora Strategy Group, told The Epoch Times that it may not be wise for the Liberals to rush to the polls.

“Canadians have been focused on important missteps and alleged controversy of the Liberal government of late, including the recent sexual harassment claims in the military, a growing deficit, the lack of transparency and accountability,” she said.

Biollo suggests that allowing more time before an election is called could make the current controversies dogging the Liberals fade from memory.

“Canadians remain focused on surviving the global pandemic and thriving once the world starts to open up again. Canadians want tangible results that reflect their short- and long-term needs,” she said.

The Liberals have 154 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons and can continue with the support of any one of the other major parties. To topple the government, the Conservative would need the help of both the Bloc and the NDP.

Geoffrey Hale, political science professor at the University of Lethbridge, points out that polls show the Conservatives are lagging in populous provinces such as Ontario and Quebec, which would be key to winning an election.

“The Conservatives are not doing well in Ontario. They appear to be holding their own in B.C., although it’s hard to say from the available data how that shapes out between the Interior and the Lower Mainland,” Hale said in an interview.

While that may not help the Conservatives going into an election, he also questions if it’s enough for the Liberals to call an election.

“Certainly, earlier in the year there was a sense that the Liberals were doing well in Quebec. However, how much of that is transferable into an election is an open question. … One has very different electorates on the island of Montreal and everywhere else in Quebec.”

Still, speculation is rife that the Liberals are getting ready for an election this year, one example being Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s comment calling the government’s April 19 budget an “election-style budget.”

Political strategist Daniel Bernier from the Earnscliffe Strategy Group says that if the Liberal government delivers on its vaccination commitment by the end of September and the pandemic is subdued, it could be good timing for the Liberals to have an election.

“An election in the fall prior to bringing the House back would be great timing for the prime minister if the vaccine rollout works well,” Bernier told The Epoch Times.

University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman says if there is an election, it would be triggered by the governing Liberals rather than the opposition via a vote of non-confidence.

“Could there be an election in August? There could, but I don’t believe that will happen unless Trudeau triggers it by having Parliament dissolved,” he said.

The fact that debate on Bill C-19, An Act to Amend the Canada Elections Act, was cut short to facilitate its quick passage may suggest the Liberals are foreseeing there could be an election in the next few months. In turn, the Bloc tabled a motion in the House proposing that a national election be delayed until the pandemic was over.

“If there is a pandemic, we don’t have an election, and if the pandemic is controlled, we don’t need a law to hold an election during the pandemic,” Blanchet said.

Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.
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