If anybody still wants to know why the Liberals called an election for Sept. 20, they need look no further than the campaign of Erin O’Toole, which appears to have crashed on takeoff.
Days before the election was called, O’Toole’s Conservatives sent an email blast to members asking if they knew of anybody interested in being a candidate. The Conservatives may have the largest campaign war chest, but they are looking a bit light on talent.
Then, two days before the election was called, the Conservative war-room ran an amateurish Twitter video that cast Justin Trudeau in the role of Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, a 1971 movie.
Many Conservatives, including former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall, ridiculed the video as just plain dumb.
Meantime, Trudeau announced mandatory vaccination against Covid for the public service, Crown corporations and federally regulated employers. Deliberate trap or not, O’Toole stepped in it.
With polls showing about eight in 10 Canadians in favour of mandatory vaccination, O’Toole came out against the policy.
Now the vaccination issue is hanging around O’Toole’s neck like a stinking albatross, just as social conservative values were permanently attached to his predecessor in the 2019 election.
In fairness, on the first full day of campaigning O’Toole released a meaty policy platform that is, for the most part, impressive. The leader used the platform to change the channel in a partial recovery. But vaccines still came up in journalists’ questions and likely will for the rest of the campaign.
The Liberals would have been crazy not to call an election this summer, pandemic or no pandemic. Any party in their position would do the same.
That said, the Liberals have allowed Jagmeet Singh and, to some degree, Erin O’Toole to make an issue out of calling a snap election during a pandemic. Interestingly, Singh wasn’t bothered when B.C. Premier John Horgan called a snap pandemic election 11 months ago. In fact, he was out on the campaign trail with his NDP brother.
O’Toole, of course, was a member of a government that engineered two snap elections, in 2008 and 2011, after introducing fixed-term elections.
Hypocrisy, like opportunism, is a leading industry in Ottawa.
So let’s put aside the Liberals making a grab for a majority government and look at what this election could mean to the political landscape and the future of the country.
On the political side, the NDP may be poised to take votes from the Conservatives and the Liberals.
Historically, the Liberals have attracted strategic voters. But with the prospect of Conservative victory diminished, those same voters may no longer be reticent about voting NDP. That could cost the Liberals their coveted majority.
Or Canadians could follow their tradition of liking NDP leaders but not voting for them.
In addition to taking on the governing Liberals, Conservatives will be busy competing with two other parties — Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada and the Alberta nationalist Maverick Party — for the right-wing vote.
Since this is the election taking us into a post-pandemic era, Canadians need to take a hard look at what’s ahead.
The economy and climate change are fast becoming one policy portfolio, known as the Net Zero economy. A national childcare program may be our best chance for a workforce big enough for the economic growth needed for full recovery. And we have to pull our laws into the digital age.
For some reason, O’Toole wants to scrap the childcare plan and replace it with a refundable tax credit. That won’t create more badly needed childcare spaces and will drive families to the Liberals and NDP. It is the major weak point in the Conservatives’ big platform document, and a tone-deaf one at that.
No doubt the Liberals and New Democrats will use vaccinations and childcare as wedge issues against the Conservatives.
But let’s hope this election provides some discussion on what life will be like post-pandemic.