Political parties of all stripes have gone into preparation mode in anticipation of an election that could be called in just a few weeks.
Early Monday, the Conservatives named Erin O’Toole as their new leader, and hours after delivering his acceptance speech, the former cabinet minister tweeted a picture of himself heading into the office of the Official Opposition on Parliament Hill.
“Thankful for the victory and humbled with the work ahead,” he wrote. “Let’s get going!”
The political stakes now are high.
The governing Liberals have prorogued Parliament and promised a Speech from the Throne in September to lay out a new vision for the government to shape the economic recovery from the pandemic.
A Speech from the Throne sets out the government’s view of the condition of the country and gives a sense of the legislation it intends to bring forward in the new session. After the speech, a vote is held, which is seen as a test of the support for the government.
The Liberals hold a minority of seats in the House of Commons and have relied on the backing of the NDP and the Bloc Québécois since last fall’s federal election.
The Bloc has threatened this summer to force an election, while the NDP has gauged its support for the government issue by issue. It has worked closely with the Liberals in an attempt to influence policy during COVID-19.
The Conservatives have been highly critical in recent weeks of the government over a now-cancelled contract with the WE Charity, but they have not indicated they want an election.
Nik Nanos, the founder and chief data scientist of Nanos Research, told The Globe and Mail on Monday that the Conservatives might want to capitalize on the WE political controversy, which has affected support for the Liberals.
“The one thing that the Conservatives have in their favour is they’ve just come off a leadership, a leadership that was conducted primarily in the pandemic era where they used social media and technology to reach out to Conservative Party members,” Mr. Nanos said.
“They would just be building off of the momentum and organizational momentum of the leadership race.”
The Conservative Party is not in debt, Mr. Nanos said, adding that a snap election call in September would not give the Liberals much time to define or characterize Mr. O’Toole.
It is likely that the Liberals, the Conservatives and the Bloc are prepared for a potential election, he added, saying the one party to watch is the New Democrats.
“They are probably the party that is the least election-ready compared to the other parties,” he said.
“The focus will be on them as to whether they are willing to trigger an election even if they might not be ready or whether they are going to prop up the Liberals.”
NDP national director Anne McGrath said in an interview that her party won’t support the Liberal government just to prevent an election.
“Would we be ready if there was one in the fall? Absolutely. … Our support is entirely dependent on whether or not we can force the government to come up with the measures that are necessary to support people during this pandemic and beyond.”
Parties must always be ready for an election during a minority Parliament, she said.
“My experience in minority Parliaments also is that there are often a lot of rumours about an election, and they may or may not happen at the time that people think they’re going to.”
Similarly, the Greens’ Elizabeth May told The Globe on Monday that parties always have to be prepared for an election in a minority Parliament and acknowledged that efforts have intensified ahead of the Speech from the Throne.
The Liberals have hinted that the Speech from the Throne will include a vision of an economic recovery focused on green initiatives, she said, adding she suspected her party would be in a position to support it depending on what it says.
The Greens are to name a new leader on the first weekend of October.
“We have a very competitive race and I have no idea who is going to be the next leader,” she said.
Green Party interim leader Jo-Ann Roberts added in a statement that the party says it would be irresponsible to trigger an election in the midst of a pandemic.
Braeden Caley, the senior director of communications for the Liberal Party, said his party’s priority is to support Canadians during the challenging time caused by COVID-19.
The party has been holding virtual events that included thousands of members, he added.
“Over the course of the spring and summer, we’ve also been continuing to hear ideas from Liberal MPs, past candidates and grassroots Liberals across Canada on the best process to help elect even more Liberal MPs whenever the next campaign arrives,” he said.
“The party is continuing to hear strong interest from a wide array of dedicated community leaders seeking to run as new Liberal candidates, and we’ll have more to share about the new nominations process soon.”
The Globe and Mail, August 24, 2020