Election fever is rampant these days. Federal political parties are already on the campaign trail. The campaign manager for the Liberal Party of Canada has issued an edict to all of their candidates to rent campaign space for the next two months. The prime minister is hyping up expectations that an election is imminent. Much of the mainstream media is sucking it all up.
After less than two years since the last one, why is another federal election necessary right now? Polls show that most Canadians don’t want one. There is really only one answer: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau believes a snap election will vault him into a majority government and he would have no compunction about spending millions more of taxpayers’ dollars to get there.
The prime minister is making a lot of noise about Parliament being dysfunctional. It is not. It is doing its job of keeping the government accountable; at least it is trying to. It is the Trudeau Government itself that is undermining the role of Parliament by defying its authority, to the extent that the Speaker of the House of Commons, himself a Liberal, has had to resort to the courts in order to protect the fundamental rights and obligations of a democratically elected parliament.
Recently, in outlining the need for an election, Justin Trudeau blamed Jagmeet Singh and his New Democratic Party for obstructing the ability of his government to pass legislation. That is the height of hypocrisy, and the prime minister knows it.
The NDP has committed to support the government on all non-confidence votes, at least until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. For the past two years it has propped up the government and voted for almost every piece of legislation introduced by them. They will continue to do so because, as their leader has informed the governor general, they do not want an election.
The prime minister wants an election now, not because Parliament is dysfunctional, not because he has been unable to govern, but rather because he believes that people are worn down by the COVID-19 pandemic, desperately want to return to a new normalcy, and consequently will forget the countless scandals of his administration, the huge public debt that risks Canada’s future, and the fact that his government was directly responsible for the delayed arrival of vaccines for Canadians.
He may be right, but meanwhile, in the real world, a world that is more than just about him, another crisis is brewing. It is a crisis that is far more important than a self-serving, unnecessary election, one that requires firm leadership, tough decisions now, and policies that transcend political expediency.
In very recent days, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has warned that Canada is entering a delta variant-driven fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said this:
“The updated longer-range forecast shows how the epidemic trajectory may evolve through early September. It suggests that we are at the start of the delta-driven fourth wave, but that the trajectory will depend on ongoing increases in fully vaccinated coverage, and the timing, pace and extent of reopening.”
This is a reality that was not unexpected and is not unique to Canada. The hard truth is that the delta variant is real, it is virulent, and it can only be contained by ensuring full vaccinations to the highest extent possible. Another hard truth is that vaccine hesitancy and anti-maskers are direct inhibitors to preventing a fourth wave of COVID-19 and its devastating consequences.
As likely as it may be, as tempting as it might be, we do not need a national election when, as much as some would wish it otherwise and as much as we are all fed up with COVID-19 and its variants, it is still alive and well. In Ontario alone, while the numbers are still low, infections, almost all of them related to the delta variant and to unvaccinated people, have nearly doubled in the past few days.
Instead of worrying about an election, the prime minister should convene an emergency first ministers’ summit. He should work with the premiers to develop a national strategy and policies for controlling the variants of COVID-19. It should be consistent in every province, and it should be tough. It should require mandatory vaccinations for health care workers and those in the education field. It should mandate masks in public places, and it should make clear to people who refuse to be vaccinated that there will be consequences that will severely limit their mobility. There should be stiff penalties for lack of compliance, with the exception of those with health issues, and there should be vigorous enforcement.
It takes real leadership to get consensus on contentious national issues. Without it, partisan politics rears its ugly head, the blame game becomes dominant, and nothing gets done. Prime ministers and their provincial counterparts have accomplished national consensus before on matters of vital importance to Canada. On the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic, it needs to happen again.
This should be the prime minister’s first priority and he does not need a new mandate to accomplish it. He would simply not be defeated in Parliament because of it. Any party that did so would pay a heavy price.
Recently, in commenting on the possibility of a snap election versus dealing with current critical issues such as the pandemic, Canada’s former attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, said this on Twitter:
“If one was acting [for]the well-being of Cdns, the only responsible choice is to cooperate & govern.” She has that right.
At this point in the COVID-19 pandemic, we badly need strong, coordinated leadership at both the federal and provincial levels of government, who can be united in making the tough decisions in spite of the political implications. Too many of them, in my view, are afraid to lead where some of their supporters may be reluctant to follow. They are more interested than anything else in staying in office to maintain power.
That to me, is a shame and, in times like these, potentially catastrophic.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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