There’s a certain loss of mystery now that everyone knows when a federal election is going to be held.
It used to be the government’s prerogative to keep the opposition, the media and the public guessing when the writ would be dropped. It was certainly grist for the media mill and fun for journalists, but it’s a big advantage, which Stephen Harper, for one, thought was unfair.
That’s why his government changed the law to require general elections to be held on the third Monday in October in the fourth year of a given mandate. The Federal Court has ruled the law is not legally enforceable, but the Trudeau government followed it anyway.
Minority governments, of course, will usually collapse long before four years are up.
So Oct. 21 has been the date for months and that has resulted in a longer election campaign than the short, sharp ones Canadians are used to.
Not that most of us were paying attention this summer, but federal politicians have been working the festival circuit since Parliament took a summer break in June. Let’s hope our campaigns don’t edge into the endless cycle typical of our friends to the south.
Elections are your best chance to tell politicians what you think. The very concept of democracy is under attack these days and the best way to defend it is to vote.
But for now at least, we’ve got a six-week campaign during which Canadians will decide whether Justin Trudeau’s Liberals get another shot despite some troubling scandals or Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives will take over four years after being soundly thumped.
The two old-guard parties are roughly tied in the polls at about 30 per cent each, so the likeliest outcome as the campaign begins is a minority government. But Canadians change their minds quickly and polls can be deceptive.
At dissolution of the 338-member Parliament, the Liberals held 177 seats, Conservatives held 95, the NDP had 40, the Bloc Québécois had 10 and the Green Party had two. There were eight independents and one each for the People’s Party of Canada (that’s Maxime Bernier, who left the Conservatives) and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (Erin Weir, who was kicked out of the NDP). There are four vacancies.
Atlantic Canada was famously a Liberal sweep in 2015. About the only thing we can predict with certainty is that that won’t happen again.
The Liberals must try to make people forget the SNC-Lavalin affair, a scandal that exposed the party’s attempts to interfere in how a Quebec-based corporation was being prosecuted on corruption charges. They also broke a promise to institute a system of proportional representation, an issue that resonates in P.E.I.
Scheer’s Conservatives are being forced to defend against suggestions that they’ll re-open the abortion debate and cut back severely on immigration.
Whatever happens, we urge Atlantic Canadians to pay close attention. Elections are your best chance to tell politicians what you think. The very concept of democracy is under attack these days and the best way to defend it is to vote.