Sunday, October 24, 2021

Do We Really Need a Federal Election Right Now?

Is now the right time for a federal election? A fair question, given the past 18 months we’ve endured with the COVID-19 pandemic, which it should be noted has yet to end, and in fact a fourth wave of the virus has been gaining momentum.

Whether we like it or not, a federal election has been called for September 20, two years ahead of the planned October 2023 election. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is hoping to add to his party’s seats in the House of Commons and win a majority government – enough of this pesky minority government in which you have to work harder and cooperate with political adversaries to make things happen. It’s clear that a majority is the goal for the Liberals, but have they miscalculated the timing for this election?

I have heard many express that they simply are not in the mood for a federal election, and the inevitable campaigns, which often feature negative attack ads and untimely knocks on the front door.

Mental and emotional exhaustion are rampant across the nation, and after more than 18 months of never-ending bickering posing as debate about mask mandates, gathering limits, and distancing measures that have been implemented to combat the virus, we Canadians will now have to endure a little over a month of bickering and debate amongst candidates on issues from child care to Afghanistan. Strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy month.

Many have noted that this is yet another example of political opportunism, an attempt to take advantage of the current state of affairs, and no doubt our Prime Minister is most certainly an opportunist. But that neither surprises nor offends me: politicians are opportunistic by nature, it comes with the territory.

What does offend me is heaping a federal election on a nation still struggling to recover from this pandemic and the economic chaos it has brought with it, not to mention a heightened state of anxiety for many.

Many business sectors are still struggling to stay alive after being battered for months due to the pandemic, and parents are finally (hopefully) getting their kids back into school in a couple of weeks, after months of balancing home-schooling, work, and adjusting to gathering and distancing measures that kept many school-aged children away from their social circles for months on end.

Personally, even as a life-long political junkie, I have zero appetite for a federal election right now. It’s well down my list of priorities at the moment, and though I am sure that the prime minister’s campaign data folks have made a case for the timing based on polling numbers, such decisions can backfire, particularly if turnout is low, a distinct possibility, and a likely edge for the Conservatives who are traditionally more effective at getting out their core vote.

In short, most of us have enough on our plates at the moment, we just don’t need a federal election clouding our already burdened brains.

Locally, only incumbent Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Alex Ruff is ready to go. Other parties have yet to confirm candidates as an election wasn’t expected until 2023. So as the parties scramble to confirm candidates, Ruff will no doubt have an edge when it comes to knocking on doors and engaging with the public.

Though the timing might not be ideal, and the mood of the nation might not be what campaign managers would like, in just over a month we will be asked to cast our votes and choose our next government. Some will base their vote on the current minority government’s pandemic response, others will vote based on concerns about things like childcare or healthcare, while others have concerns ranging from the environment to the economy. The issues are numerous, and unlike many elections there is no single overriding issue to galvanize the public, at least not yet: there is an entire campaign still to come.

Many of us will grudgingly head to the polls on September 20, and I suspect many will be unwilling to chance long lines six feet apart and with face masks while the virus is still on its rampage, so voter turnout could be significantly lower than previous years, meaning the next government will be selected by even fewer Canadians than previous elections.

Brace yourself for the onslaught of campaign ads and fiery speeches on the evening news. We might still be battling the pandemic, but dang it, our prime minister wants an election, and an election we shall have.

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