In Depth

Why Canada’s Justin Trudeau has called a snap election

The leader is ‘gambling’ that his Covid record will convince voters to hand him a majority

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called a snap general election for 20 September, some two years ahead of schedule.

Under Canada’s fixed election date law, the next vote was scheduled for October 2023, explains the BBC, but Trudeau successfully asked Governor General Mary Simon, the representative of head of state Queen Elizabeth, to formally dissolve parliament and authorise a snap poll.

Trudeau told a news conference that, because of the pandemic, “the decisions your government makes right now will define the future your kids and grandkids will grow up in”, adding: “So in this pivotal, consequential moment, who wouldn’t want a say?”

The Telegraph notes that Trudeau, who first won a majority in 2015, “came up short of a majority” in the 2019 election. Therefore, for the last two years, he has led a minority government, relying on opposition parties – largely the left-wing New Democratic Party – to pass legislation and decide on spending.

However, a recent opinion poll put Trudeau on the brink of capturing the 170 seats needed for a majority government. The Liberals have a five-point advantage over the opposition Conservatives.

Therefore, says The Guardian, Trudeau is “gambling that voters will reward his administration’s handing of the coronavirus pandemic” because he “sees an opportunity to win back the majority that voters denied him in 2019”.

The Globe and Mail reports that in the four weeks leading up to the election call, Trudeau’s party made announcements “trumpeting more than $40bn in spending on everything from electric-vehicle charging stations to faster internet to satellite networks and a hydroelectric project”.

Some pollsters feel Trudeau’s move is well timed. “Politically, I don’t really know if there’s been a better time for this government,” David Colleto, chief executive of Abacus Data, told the BBC. “The mood of the public is a good one right now.”

However, notes The Times, another poll “suggests it could be difficult” for Trudeau to get the majority he seeks. A Nanos Research survey on Friday suggested an election would leave Trudeau in power but still without a majority.

He is already under fire from opposition politicians. The New Democratic leader, Jagmeet Singh, who had sent a letter to the newly installed governor general calling on her to reject Trudeau’s request to dissolve parliament, said: “It’s not the right time to have an election.”

And the Conservative opposition leader, Erin O’Toole, echoed: “Canadians are worried about a fourth wave of Covid-19… Now is not the time for an election.”

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