Calling an election is comparable to finding out you or your partner is pregnant. It’s never a perfect time, the joy and excitement is mixed with a hearty dose of anxiety and not everybody is going to be thrilled about it.
If Justin Trudeau visits Rideau Hall on Sunday to formally ask the newly installed Governor General, Mary Simon, to dissolve Parliament and trigger an election, the upcoming vote will certainly meet all three of the above criteria.
First, let’s start with the “if.”
While many media outlets are frothing at the mouth about what their sources have told them about Trudeau’s plans, we’ve seen this movie before. We’ve been hearing an election was imminent since the early spring. Cry wolf enough times and eventually the wolf will appear. While this time does seem to be more certain, the Trudeau Liberals could be generating this election buzz as a weather balloon to test their popularity or to get the other parties and their leaders spending time and money for nothing or both.
In other words, there’s plenty to be gained for Trudeau by not calling an election and then starting on Monday he has no intention of calling an election soon because there’s so much to do (like battling wildfires and helping evacuees and people who have lost their home in the southern B.C. interior) and the COVID-19 battle is not yet won.
Yet there are even more political reasons why Trudeau should go to the polls now.
Four provincial elections, including one here in B.C. last fall, were held during the pandemic. The incumbent government won all four, riding a wave of voter sentiment that they were in good hands during these uncertain times. Trudeau would likely receive a similar amount of appreciation from Canadian voters. The message will be he wasn’t perfect, but he was good enough when he had to be.
More importantly, from a political cynicism perspective, now is not the perfect time but as close as it gets for the Trudeau Liberals. Based on the polls, national and regional, neither the federal Conservatives or the NDP, or their leaders, are significant threats to form government. Put another way, the likely worst outcome is another minority government and the prospect of a return to majority rule is very real.
John Horgan rolled those dice here in B.C. last year and came out a winner. Same thing for Trudeau?
That’s the bet.
There is risk, of course. The polls might be off. Voters might resent Trudeau far more than expected. Calling an election while B.C. is under a state of emergency could cost him valuable seats in this province. The past scandals, the mismanagement of the pandemic and the desire for change could all bubble up, as could a sudden surge of support behind either Erin O’Toole and his Conservatives or Jagmeet Singh’s NDP.
Trudeau was third in the polls at the start of the 2015 election and Tom Mulcair seemed poised to lead the NDP to form its first-ever federal government. Just like a pregnancy, things can change quickly and there’s little that can be done to prepare for it or alter the outcome once it’s happening.
Speaking of pregnancies, Singh announced on social media Thursday that he and his partner, Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu, are expecting their first child. Voters love feeling a personal connection to their candidates and parents, regardless of their age and political leanings, can look at those Instagram pictures and be reminded of the moment they announced their pregnancy to the world.
Will it be enough to spark a huge wave of support for Singh? Probably not.
Will Trudeau still be prime minister after Sept. 20, the expected date of the election? Probably.
But in pregnancy and in politics, nothing is ever certain.