Will Trudeau gamble on a 2021 election?


in Canada, Politics, The environment

For weeks, the press has been full of reports about a potential election, with the Trudeau Liberals potentially hoping to replace the 147 seat minority which he won in the 2019 election with another majority like in 2015.

Speculation has reached the point that a prominent potential Liberal candidate has told the media that he won’t be running this time because of other commitments.

There is a common view that the ongoing implosion of the Green Party may be part of the rationale for going to the polls.

Presumably, Trudeau’s team at the Prime Minister’s Office has encouraging interal voter models, since they have allowed widespread speculation on an election and encouraged it with the traditional statements that the current Parliament isn’t working. Nonetheless, it may be a risky prospect. A Nanos poll found that only 26% of Canadians want an election. Furthermore, there is good cause to worry about another big new wave of COVID cases as protective restrictions are scaled back, people change their behaviour, and variants continue to spread within populations around the world where far too many people have refused vaccinations in the places where they are available. That could leave the government punished on both sides, first from those who support strong public health policies and feel let down by the government’s willingness to contain the pandemic, and also from the mega-libertarian crowd who have hated the precautions which have been taken and will rage if they are reimposed.

From a climate change perspective, it’s hard to know what to hope for. The Liberal government’s climate change policies have been deeply inadequate and sometimes counterproductive (insisting that fossil fuel development can continue, building long-lived infrastructure to that effect, refusing to set targets that are within the time period where the government will be accountable and which are compatible with a 1.5–2.0 ˚C limit and Canada’s fair share). The Conservatives would clearly be worse, as a central part of their pitch is dismantling the carbon pricing system which has been the Liberals’ main contribution with some notion of wooly support for technological development, The NDP and Greens might theoretically be better but (a) they can’t win given first-past-the-post and the preferences of Canadians and (b) it’s not clear their climate change policies would be better. The NDP has been perhaps the most inconsistent party, torn both by anti-environmentalist union sentiment and the party’s hope of replacing the Liberals on the centre-left, making them chiefly critics of that party. The Greens have far too little support to plausibly form a government, and tend to be riven anyway by campaigns to posture for moral purity. Ironically — at a time when people are opening up to the idea that climate change is the defining challenge of our time — the focus of the Greens is elsewhere.

Perhaps the best outcome would be an election that produces little change: a similar seat count, another Liberal minority, and a continued need to cooperate with other parties to stay in power. There is a case that a majority would let them act more boldly on climate, but I would say there is a stronger case that having to maintain support from other parties pushes them to do more than their status quo backers in the finance and resource industries would prefer.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

. July 21, 2021 at 12:48 pm

If Justin Trudeau doesn’t win a majority in the next election, Jagmeet Singh may be the reason

The Conservatives have offered no clear plan for how they would have handled the pandemic – and will handle the recovery – differently. They are not a party associated with fighting climate change, combating racism or improving Indigenous relations. We do not live in Conservative times.

But Mr. Trudeau is not a terribly popular prime minister. A recent Abacus poll has about an equal number of people saying they have a positive or negative impression of him, and Mr. O’Toole is quite unpopular. The only national party leader with a positive approval rating is Mr. Singh.

All recent polls have the NDP sitting at around 20 per cent, well above the 16 per cent they garnered in the 2019 election. If that number holds, the NDP should pick up seats: in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, in Toronto, elsewhere in Ontario, maybe here and there in the Prairies.

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