Ahhhhh, that time of the year when pundits have nothing else to think about or write about and so they turn their thoughts to early summer elections.
I’m normally a skeptic on such things and remain one but with the buzz continuing, I’ve got to at least consider the possibilities.
It started nearly two weeks ago with Susan Delacourt in iPolitics.
“Nobody panic — the question is posed in wild speculation — mostly,” Delacourt wrote in her column.
It’s that word at the end, “mostly” that leaves me with a smidge of doubt in my position that no such snap election will come. Delacourt has extensive contacts on Parliament Hill, especially but not exclusively, in the Liberal camp. If she floats this you have to at least ponder it.
Could it happen?
Don Lenihan is no slouch in the Liberal world either. The long time political observer is part of Canada 2020, a think tank so close the Liberals it is hard to determine where one begins and the other ends.
In his follow-up column to Delacourt’s, Lenihan proposes that a snap election on dealing with Donald Trump and Canada U.S. relations is exactly what is needed.
A national election is the obvious option. It would allow for a full and searching debate, establish a direction that the country could stand behind, and confer a mandate to act on the next government. The task this poses for Canadians is focused and manageable: consider what Trump stands for, how his policies could affect Canada, and how we should respond.
Okay, so two columnists, both well connected to the Liberals and I understand each other – they are apparently married – calling for a snap election.
Avoiding future problems.
Delacourt makes the point that in calling one Trudeau would avoid a whole host of other possible problems in the future. From pipeline issues to border problems, pot legalization to a carbon pricing fight – Trudeau could avoid them all and call an election now on Donald Trump and trade issues.
That is where Andrew Coyne of National Post comes in. Coyne lists off a similar set of problems plus the looming provincial elections in Quebec and Alberta that could see centre right government’s win.
But holy moly — any one of pipeline, carbon tax or Trump would be enough to throw most governments. And they have to nail all three. In an election year.
If you were in government, wouldn’t you prefer to get the election out of the way first? Again, I very much doubt they will. But wistful Liberals might one day wish they had.
They are all interesting thoughts, interesting theories but I’m not buying.
Not buying it just yet.
While Trudeau is getting lots of support over his spat with Trump on trade and Canadians are rallying to the flag on the issue, that doesn’t mean they are rallying to Trudeau.
Darrell Bricker, the CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs and the dean of Canadian polling says the Liberals are tied with the Conservatives and other issues are at play. He says now may not be the best time for a snap vote, despite Trump.
Idea that Trump provides big momentum for Grits dubious. True, most Cdns strongly oppose him. But, we’ve seen only modest Trudeau bump. Gov’t will be held to account for effect of Trump on Cdn economy. They own the results. Blaming Trump won’t fix that.
— Darrell Bricker (@darrellbricker) June 24, 2018
Fixed election dates.
The next election is scheduled for October 21, 2019. It is set by our fixed election date law.
Now that law is about as solid as jello, the first line of the legislation that brought into existence says effectively that it doesn’t need to be followed. And it is true that Stephen Harper went to an early election in 2008 even though he had only recently passed the fixed election date law.
So why wouldn’t or couldn’t Trudeau do the same now?
Well I’d never say they couldn’t but should they?
Harper had both a minority government and an unstable global economy to deal with and said he needed a mandate to act in uncertain times. Trudeau could make the uncertain times argument but he already has a mandate and that includes to deal with the United States.
What could go wrong?
My take is that if Trudeau called an early election citing Trump as the issue that voters would see it a s cynical ploy. He could end up being punished like Ontario’s former Liberal Premier David Peterson when he went to the polls three years into his majority government.
Would voters turf Trudeau over such a move? Possibly but I can’t say.
The electorate is strongly divided east versus west and Ontario remains a battleground that holds 80 Liberals seats.
Anything could happen if an election were held now. Which might be why Trudeau ignores calls to go early and pulls a real Quebec move – wait for winning conditions.