A Lengthy Reboot

By Richard Hsu
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Canada Federal Elections 2021

Canadians will vote tomorrow to pick their next Prime Minister. I am not engaged at all. I didn't read news articles, watched the TV debates, haven't seen a single ad from any party. So when the current PM Justin Trudeau called the elections last month, and I found out the date was in September, I was relieved the Canadian campaign season is short (compared to the US). There are lawn signs and discussions about it among neighbours, friends and family, but things are not heated and low-key. Most people I know of don't care, so I predict a low turnout this time.

Why did Trudeau call an election now? Trudeau must be tired of compromising with the other parties (before this term, he had five years of majority rule where he didn't have to rely on them). The timing of the election is puzzling, but I am guessing he calculated his popularity is at its peak. His forecasts might have circumstances (economic, Covid) not getting any better next year. While it may not look well-timed now, Quebec, Alberta were out of Covid lockdown when he called elections in early August, and things were opening up in Ontario. Cases were going down, and vaccination rates pointed in the right direction. Those were sunny days.

Polls aren't predicting what he wanted: a majority government. Instead, he is likely to get another minority (his 3rd consecutive term). I don't expect it to last a year before the opposition gives him a no-confidence and votes him out. Next year this time, we might have another election, and the chances of Trudeau getting back then would be near zero (I can't see Canadians giving him another term).

When Trudeau won in 2015, defeating Harper, he got a rare majority government and near 40% of the votes (polls have him at 31% today). He made a lot of promises many of them he kept (most famously marijuana legalization, carbon tax, 50:50 male:female representation in his cabinet). He also handled Trump's presidency well (especially tariffs and NAFTA renegotiations, although a lot of credit for that goes to Deputy PM Freeland). Finally, I give high marks to Trudeau's patient, persistent, and firm response to the COVID pandemic.

But it isn't all roses with Trudeau. Ethical issues like his family's close ties to the WE Charity that was about to get a $912 million government contract raised doubts about corruption and competence. As well, the inappropriate pressure his office applied to the attorney-general for leniency in the SNC-Lavalin bribery case for political reasons (SNC-Lavalin threatened to move their 9,000 worker company from Quebec to elsewhere) betrayed poor judgement.

I don't know much about Conservative Party PM candidate Erin O'Toole or what promises they are making. I know more about NDP's Jagmeet Singh, although their promises are unrealistic and require a blank check (they are the 3rd major party that has never governed Canada).

Here are some of the things that I care about:

  • A greener environment with fewer plastics, less human waste, price on emissions
  • Affordable childcare
  • No privatization of healthcare
  • Keep religion out of public policy
  • Less secretive governing
  • Smaller budgets (waste less on Defence, bad IT projects)

The biggest issue with the Conservatives is their core supporters are in the oil money-dependent province of Alberta, so I can't see how they will do anything about a greener environment. On the other hand, Trudeau's Liberals and I align on most of these. They aren't perfect but the best option we have. So I think Canada will be better with him as a Prime Minister, but does he deserve another 5-year majority rule? I am not sure.