Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Canada’s Governor General on Sunday to ask that Parliament be dissolved so an election can be held Sept. 20.
As such, Canadians will be going to the polls during the biggest public health crisis in 100 years.
The election is not necessary as the federal Liberals have a legal mandate until Oct. 16, 2023.
That the vote would be called during a pandemic raises a number of questions – and problems – that would not ordinarily be part of a federal election.
But the Liberals have been governing for almost two years without a majority and believe, after showering Canadians with billions and billions of dollars, that perhaps they’ve won their hearts.
It’s an opportunistic act – and yet it will probably work. Polling suggests the Liberals will likely win an election right now, and they might even get the majority government they so earnestly crave.
But what an incredible risk Trudeau is taking. The pandemic is not over. The nation and its citizens have been repeatedly locked down since March 2020 in a continued fight against COVID-19. It’s only in recent months that some restrictions have been lifted, but only because of increased vaccinations rates and lower COVID cases. Yet many of those restrictions remain, as does a prevailing spirit of fear and hesitation among many Canadians who have been fed a daily dose of caution by people like Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer.
Now those same Canadians are being asked to march to a polling booth to vote. Of course, they will be masked and social distancing restrictions will be in place.
More on Dr. Tam. She has been basically Dr. No for the past 18 months. She has been incredibly cautious about reopening society and allowing Canadians more freedom. But Dr. Tam has no problem with an election during a pandemic, according to an interview earlier this month with CBC. And the Liberals don’t have that problem, either.
Yet a pandemic election is fraught with unique challenges. And the biggest one could be the issue of Canadians who have chosen to remain unvaccinated. Will they be allowed into a public building to cast a ballot? Or will they be compelled to vote in another manner? That sounds ridiculous, but it’s a valid question given the current political climate. All kinds of public officials have been pushing for proof of vaccination.
It’s just another reason why this election shouldn’t be held during a pandemic.
– Peter Epp