As far as political predictions go, the forecast of a federal election sometime in 2021 is probably a relatively safe one. Nailing down how many weeks or months this current Liberal minority has left is a much more difficult guessing game.
Yes, there are factors here beyond the Liberals’ control but they remain in the driver’ seat in many respects when it comes to election timing. And, of course, it’s no real secret that the Liberals are probably the party most eager to hit the campaign trail.
So while we might not know when the next federal election will occur, the question of when it should occur is much more straightforward. And to that, the answer should be clear: an election prior to the summer is not only unnecessary but irresponsible.
The cabinet shuffle prompted by Navdeep Bains’ announcement that he would not be running again certainly created the appearance that a trip to the polls might indeed be imminent. On the other hand, Trudeau has suggested that his preference would be to wait until there has been more widespread vaccination of Canadians.
The issue of vaccines will loom large in the next election campaign, whenever that is. If all goes well on that front it would certainly be the kind of victory that could propel the Liberals to a majority government. Even if one is not inclined to view the prospect of a Liberal majority with enthusiasm, we can at least be hopeful that this gives the Liberal government even more incentive to not screw this up.
Frankly, though, Canadians deserve to know whether the Liberals are capable of not screwing this up before we cast judgement on this government. That alone should be reason to hold off on calling or otherwise prompting an election.
There is the additional question of what the coming weeks or months might hold in terms of the severity of this pandemic. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic that 2021 is going to be a much better year than the one preceding it, but we could still have some difficult challenges to deal with.
The pandemic has worsened in some parts of the country and projections and modelling suggest that the worst may be yet to come. There is obviously concern about the threat posed by the faster-spreading variants of the coronavirus, some of which have already been detected in Canada. If those variants get loose in the community, the next few months could be bad indeed.
As such, it would be irresponsible to plunge Canadians into an unnecessary election against such a backdrop.
Whatever impatience the Liberals have with the current minority Parliament or whatever giddiness they’ve derived from recent polls is all of very little concern to most Canadians. Focus on the task at hand, please. There are no obstacles posed by the current makeup of Parliament that preclude the government from righting the vaccination ship, but there are certainly ways in which an election itself or the myriad of results it could produce would cause problems.
Yesterday’s developments concerning Pfizer and the disruption in vaccine supply that we’re going to have to cope with for the next few weeks is a reminder yet again that the vaccine rollout still faces challenges and still requires the government’s full attention.
The silver lining in yesterday’s news is that the disruption is a result of Pfizer upgrading its production capacity in Europe, so this might bode well for vaccine availability in the months ahead. To the extent that this has any political implication, it’s likely that Liberal election enthusiasm has been dampened, at least for the moment.
As noted, there are others ways in which we could end up stumbling into a federal election in the coming weeks or months. All parties should be mindful of the current situation. But it seems quite apparent that the list of parties that need to temper their appetite for an election is a list of one.