Federal election speculation: Race against a possible fourth wave of COVID-19
With speculation that a federal election call could come as early as Thursday, political experts say the Liberals will have to be careful about timing as COVID-19 case numbers climb in many parts of the country.
For weeks, Liberal ministers and MPs have been seen at virtual and in-person events. Tuesday, there were at least five announcements, including in Steveston where Liberal cabinet minister Harjit Sajjan announced $50 million to help small harbours in British Columbia. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is 15 seats shy of a majority.
Hamish Telford, a political scientist and professor at the University of the Fraser Valley says the Liberals are targeting about 30 ridings, and he expects to hear Liberal party members make promises that address local concerns in those ridings. While the pandemic and economic recovery will be the backdrop to any election, he says the goal will be to hone in on ridings that can be won.
Opposition leaders are making their pitches to not have an election. Polls show both Conservative Party of Canada leader Erin O'Toole and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh are lagging behind Trudeau.
At an event of his own in Ontario on Tuesday, O'Toole told reporters that "Now is not the time for an election. Now's the time to make sure we're ready for the risks of a fourth wave." He added he was worried the Liberals would pursue their political interests anyway.
Some voters may agree with O'Toole. Yet, last fall, B.C. premier John Horgan called an election in the middle of the pandemic, and although he received some flak, he won a majority for the B.C. NDP.
"Case numbers were rising then and they got the election done in the nick of time and that's what Justin Trudeau is hoping he can pull off this summer," said Telford.
Despite a fixed election date, it appears the federal Liberals are pushing for an earlier election. Trudeau has said parliament is dysfunctional. Ministers are saying its hard to pass legislation. Both are messages out of the B.C. NDP's playbook for 2020.
Singh is pushing back, writing in a publicly-released letter to Trudeau saying that his party is ready to work together and pass bills.
"I want to make sure we have bills like the conversion therapy ban passed in legislation and let's make sure environmental laws are passed," Singh told reporters at an election-style stop.
Typically, political parties don't listen to opposition leaders, but to their own polling data.
"Since they have been on this trajectory for months the polling must be fairly consistent and giving them confidence they can pull it off," added Telford.