, 08.20.2020 08:26 AM

My latest: no election now

There isn’t going to be an election.

Not anytime soon, anyway. Blame Covid.

For a while there, it looked like there could be. Justin Trudeau’s Liberals had surged ahead of the leaderless Conservatives. His lead was big – big enough to suggest a Parliamentary majority was likely.

Speculation grew about a snap election. A referendum-election on how to respond to the pandemic, perhaps: big-hearted, high-minded Liberal spending versus mean, miserly Conservative austerity. A renewed majority looked to be in the bag.

And then the WE scandal hit. Trudeau’s mother and brother were caught receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from a charity. A shady, shadowy “charity” that had been handed a billion-dollar Trudeau government contract with no competition.

Almost overnight, Trudeau’s polling lead evaporated. Even without a leader, the Conservatives were running even with the Liberals. The Bloc Québécois commenced declaring its intention to defeat the government if Trudeau, his Minister of Finance and his Chief of Staff did not resign.

Speculation about an election surged once again – but this time, the Opposition parties appeared to be the likeliest winners, not the Trudeau Liberals. WEscam had changed everything. The former winners were looking like losers, and the former losers were starting to look like winners.

But there isn’t going to be an election anytime soon, and everyone in Ottawa knows it. And prorogation isn’t the main reason.

Elections are essentially great big job interviews. Candidates seek public office, and voters consider whether to hire them or not. As in every job interview, those doing the hiring – and those wishing to be hired – communicate back and forth. In an election, they do that via the media and the Internet. Lots of technology. It’s modern.

But quite a bit of our elections, still, take in the old-fashioned way: with candidates, voters, campaign staffers and elections officials interacting in close quarters.

Lining up to vote. Scrutinizing ballots. Counting them. Holding all-candidates’ debates. Knocking on doors. Shaking hands. Holding rallies. Coming to hear someone speak. Handing out campaign literature. Building lists. Putting up signs.

All of those emblems of elections – as antiquated and antediluvian as they may be – are still the way we do things. They’re still important.

But in a global pandemic, they’re also things that can get some of us sick. They’re things that make some of us die.

That’s what happened in Chicago a few weeks ago. During the March 17 Illinois primary, multiple precincts experienced Covid-19 outbreaks. Dozens got sick. One poll worker, 60-year-old Revall Burke, died.

Burke was at the Zion Hill Baptist Church, working as he had during many primary votes. He got sick. Five days after the primary, Burke was dead.

In other states, well-intentioned efforts to prevent voters and campaigners from falling ill failed. In Wisconsin in April, dozens of voters and poll workers got infected. It happened, said a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, to people “who voted in person or worked the polls on election day.” In the days and weeks that followed, many, many more got sick.

Anywhere primaries took place, in fact, experienced coronavirus outbreaks. It couldn’t be avoided.

The obvious solution is mail-in balloting, some say. But in the United States, the ruling Republican Party has literally authorized the removal of mail boxes in locations across the United States. They hope to forestall losing by doing that. And it just might work.

Up here, the same sort of considerations apply. We are simply not ready to conduct a federal general election vote entirely via the postal system. Elections Canada has simply not had enough time to prepare for that sort of historic change.

So, whomever is ahead in the polls – the Trudeau Liberals in the Spring, the leaderless Conservatives in the Summer – the same considerations apply. If you force an election, you are forcing people to participate in a process where they might get very sick.

Where they might die.

No one wants to take that chance. No one wants to be accused of indifference to sickness and death befalling the very people whose votes you seek. Not much of an election slogan, that: vote for us, but do it before you are dead.

The Americans have no choice: their constitution mandates an election takes place. And when it is over, Canadians will mostly agree:

The election can wait.

21 Comments

  1. Gord Tulk says:

    There won’t be an election because the NDs have no money and will get waxed if they trigger one while they get so much of their agenda done by the LPC and far more in the coming months.

      • Richard Hayden says:

        Voting is worth risking covid for. If we can manage to keep liquor stores open im sure there is some way to vote safely.

        How many people have died in the fight for democracy.
        How many people in this world would look at you and laugh if you told them we shut down elections for Covid?
        We have lived so long with freedom and choice we are forgetting how valuable a gift it is . That it is a gift worth risking your life for. It is certainly a gift worth doing everything possible to manage in the face of Covid ( a modest risk)

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:

          Richard,

          I tend to swing more toward your view but I will admit that public input will be key: if the masses are screaming for an election, there will be one. If they are doing the same to prevent one, there’s no chance that one will happen anytime soon.

    • joe long says:

      The NDP won’t get their agenda. They’ll get a few promises from Justin, and what is a Justin promise worth?

      Mr Singh will try and claim credit for some of what Justin does announce, but the NDP will get lost in the media coverage of our Dear Leader and his female finance minister.

    • Dave H says:

      Part of me thinks that the NDP will want an election now, *because* they’re broke. They’re broke now. Wait another couple of years, and they will still be broke. But, have an election during COVID, and it will be a lot of online campaigning. It won’t be a traditional campaign. It will be new for all parties. It could be that if you’re at a financial disadvantage, maybe having a digital election is your best hope. Not being able to afford a campaign plane to fly your leader around the country is less of a concern, if none of the parties are able to be out and about.

    • Walter says:

      This reminds me of what happened in Ontario.

      In 2013, the Ontario Liberals with Kathleen Wynne in a minority were on the brink of being defeated on the budget – and NDP didn’t have the guts to pull the plug and call an election (even though it was their best shot at forming gov’t).
      What happened?
      Liberals won a majority a year later – NDP 3rd.
      4 years later, NDP still didn’t win.
      Another 2 years later, NDP back into a distant 3rd.

  2. Phil In London says:

    Aside from not wanting to die in order to vote, I think it would be wise for all parties to hold their powder. Liberals obviously till they can buy their way out of scandal, Conservatives because a new leader needs some time in front of all Canadians to prove he or she is not a right wing nut. NDP it’s in the name NO DAMN PRINCIPALS they won’t sell out their kissing cousins if they can get a huge social package they can sell to us. Bloc who cares, Greens see Bloc and NDP but with even fewer seats. If I had a real chance to win and I am not a Liberal, I would let them get a little deeper in the muck, scandal on it’s own won’t sink them but scandal and a budget in a year or so might make them own this debt a little more. No party was going to come out of this Covid mess in a near impossible governing model. Another hung parliament won’t change much and Trudeau isn’t going anywhere (yet) in that scenario. I say Let the Liberals fight among themselves and all others can magnify their slips.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Phil,

      Only two things motivate Liberal politicos: the holy grail of lifetime pensions and the grim reaper of polling.

      • Martin says:

        I agree that the 6 year pension rule is a huge motivating factor. So that means no election until at least 20/10/21 if that theory holds. Surely many of these groupies have enough self awareness that they know they are vulnerable the next time they run? But, maybe not.

  3. Douglas W says:

    We’ll go to the polls in the fall if O’Toole or Dr. Lewis gets the Conservative nod.

    If MacKay wins, a federal election may well be a year away.

  4. Yet Another Calgarian says:

    Its the Prorogue Mahones with the Ottawa Song of the Damned.

    You remember when the ship went down
    You left me on the deck
    The minister’s corpse jumped up
    And threw his arms around my neck
    For all these years I’ve had him on my back
    This debt cannot be paid with all your jack

  5. Peter says:

    Warren, that’s true, but BS line at the same time …
    If we can stand ½ hour in line in front of Costco, Canadian Tire, etc. with open mind and little engineering know-how we would figure out how to do “covid-safe election”: Safe spacing, masks, not in schools but open air tent in school soccer fields. multiple lines spaced far apart. Voting stretched for a 3-5 days, a week, ballots & boxes sit for 1 week or ozone gas decontamination (same you use for 1-3 hours decontamination of hotel rooms, rental cars. Take it from a guy, political refugee from “east” who trained for chemical & biological weapons, contamination, decontamination in the Cold War. This Chinese virus is mild compare to the shit we trained and were expected to continue to do fighting and run economy. If “progressive communist” could figured out then, I am sure we would figure today even out better. The only problem I see is what to do with political-as-proffesion- spinners. You would not like the “remedy” the communist prescribed. …. By the way, there are 3 provincial elections (Saskatchewan, in Maritimes..) this fall – No problema. So, where is the problem to have federal election, again ? It only may be incompetence of federal institutions and political spin.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Peter,

      Your points are well taken but I would argue that possible elections should be based solely on two determining factors: individual psychological profiles and projected turnout metrics. If they refuse to come or show up to teach the government a lesson for making them vote under risk-increased conditions, then that government is more than likely cooked. Same thing with turnout: a low turnout in a COVID-19 environment likely favours a throw the bums out mentality while a high turnout surely does as well.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        It’s not like in the US where everyone knows going in that the election is constitutionally mandated. That goes over better than using a fixed election date law passed by Parliament as a basis for dropping the writ. IMHO, apples and oranges.

        • Peter says:

          If you look for problems, you find problems. If you look for solution, you find (doable) solution. Writing from SK -in 2 weeks kid goes to school. Parents & board discussing the solution, procedures. The older works daily, business trip 3 weeks in US. Wife, physician works in hospital, see patients, we had changed a lot in her practice. People work daily in stores, constructions, bank, farms, … LIFE GOES ON. YOU ADJUST. The only people persistently on Zoom at home you see, are on TV in MSM. Politicians pretending, we have to stay home. Point is, outside of Ottawa bubble, people already adjusted to “new norm” and are living their lives. As I said we go to vote in the fall in Saskatchewan provincial election. I didn’t hear yet anyone complain. It’s Yap, OK.

  6. Gilbert says:

    I doubt the Liberals want an election. They know that they’re in trouble. I also doubt the NDP wants an election because it can gain concessions from the government. But we know that politicians pay attention to polls, and if polls show that Canadians want an election, maybe the NDP will side with the Bloc and the Conservatives and hope to take left-wing ridings from the Liberals.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Gilbert,

      Watch Higgs and the other upcoming provincial votes. My guess — and it’s purely that — is that Higgs will lose. They will be mad as hell for having to vote now.

      But Higgs is not even remotely comparable to Trudeau. Higgs has far less damaging political baggage and yet…

  7. Peter says:

    It may take 2-3 years when everyone is vaccinated. Are we going to pretend that there cannot be election for such a time ? But we can do everything else ? What is the difference between this fall, next fall, following fall ? – None ! There are people who would not come to vote, even if there is no Covid. For older people, hospital patients, etc., you bring the voting box to them (as every election). Procedure could be a little different….. I don’t see election itself a problem. But, the problem I see, that candidates, volunteers, going from “door to door” to speak with voters. No mass gathering. That is much more problematic and would need rethinking. But CPC just did that, manage in their leaders selection. Found the way do it differently.

    I don’t want to push it. The main argument to Warren was, election is doable. Doing election now (this fall) or later (next fall) in 2-3 years, it may not be different or better.

  8. Keith Richmond says:

    Warren, I will bet you a beer that O’Toole beats Trudeau in the next election.

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