British Columbians faced with possible federal election in final days of provincial campaign
VANCOUVER -- In the final days of an unpopular provincial snap election, British Columbians are now faced with the prospect of a federal election that could unfold as early as Wednesday if parliamentarians vote to bring down the government.
The Justin Trudeau Liberals were re-elected just one year ago, still a short time-frame for a minority government – especially when the federal Conservatives, Liberals and NDP all insist they don’t actually want an election.
While it’s certainly true no one wants to be seen as being responsible for triggering a snap election during a pandemic, and bearing the public anger B.C.’s premier has seen comes with it, one observers believes the Liberals have the most to gain if Canadians head to the polls.
“I don’t think anyone wants to go to the polls right now, including the Liberals,” said political scientist David Moscrop. “That said, you look at the parties and say, 'Who is most confident they can win if we have to go to the polls?’ it would be the Liberals. So in a sense, the Liberals can’t lose — either they shut down the committee idea and they shut down further investigation into the WE controversy, or they end up at the polls, blame the opposition and have a shot at not just returning as government, but maybe returning with a majority.”
Moscrop says the most recent opinion polls have the Liberals flirting with majority territory, and while the Conservatives’ new leader, Erin O’Toole, is gaining traction, he doesn’t believe they want to head to the ballot box now.
That could change in a few short months.
“As these minority governments age, it becomes more likely, and as the opposition parties get more footing, it becomes more likely,” Moscrop explained. “As much as we don’t want an election during a pandemic, we also might not want an election as we’re rolling out a vaccine and trying to get everyone vaccinated and get this thing over with. So I do think it becomes more and more likely the longer we wait, but I don’t think anyone’s going to be rushing any time soon to do this unless there’s some huge electoral incentive at the polls.”
The fact that British Columbians, alongside voters in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, are election-weary from provincial campaigns – in addition to the steady bombardment of developments in the American election – likely doesn’t factor into decision-making in political war rooms that typically eye seat-rich ridings in Ontario and Quebec.
Federal New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, who holds a seat in Burnaby, sees the clash over the parliamentary committee to explore pandemic spending as a thinly veiled attempt by Trudeau to go to the polls.
“We want to know what's happened with spending during this pandemic, we want to know what the prime minister and the Liberal government have done and there's a lot of unanswered questions that we want to see those answers," said Singh. “I'm not interested in posturing to find a way to put our country into an election…I will not be any part of this farce that this prime minister is suggesting that this is what's important."
But Singh was also stumping for NDP candidates in the provincial election, which has been widely criticized as an opportunistic move by John Horgan to roll the dice on forming a majority government despite the health risks of a pandemic at a time when policymakers should be focussed on the well-being of citizens rather than campaigning – similar criticism to what Singh leveled at Trudeau.
In the end, the Conservatives may run the biggest risk if they team up with the Bloc Quebecois but don’t get support from the NDP, because they’d need their votes to have the majority required to bring down the government in Wednesday’s confidence vote.
“It’s the boy who cried wolf,” said Moscrop. “If you keep saying that you don’t have confidence in the government, if you keep saying this government doesn’t work, if you keep saying we’re going to bring down the government or the prime minister should resign or X, Y or Z should resign — and then nothing happens, people sort of look at you and say, ‘What are you doing there? What is the point of this? Get back to work.'"