Global News has confirmed reporting originally published by Reuters that Trudeau plans to ask for an election on Aug. 15. A tight five-week campaign is expected to follow, with Election Day on Sept. 20.
For months, there has been mounting speculation that Trudeau would force Canadians back to the polls to seek a majority mandate as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on. First elected with a majority in 2015, Trudeau lost that hold on power and was reduced to a minority in the 2019 federal election.
He has relied on the support of at least one other federal party, often the NDP, to pass legislation during the pandemic. In recent months, however, both Trudeau and his officials have frequently accused the opposition parties of stalling or blocking legislation — the first hint that an election could be coming.
The Liberals racked up record levels of debt as they spent heavily to shield individuals and businesses from COVID-19. They plan to inject an extra $100 billion – between three and four per cent of GDP – into the economy over the next three years.
Growth is set to rebound in the third quarter and Canada currently has one of the world’s best inoculation records.
“Circumstances have changed massively since 2019. We need to know whether Canadians support our plans for economic recovery,” said one of the sources who spoke to Reuters.
The official opposition Conservatives, Trudeau’s main rivals, say his spending is excessive and will leave future generations hobbled by debt.
Liberals acknowledge a call for an election now would be a gamble, given that recent opinion polls suggest the party is not yet guaranteed a majority and the risk of a fourth wave of COVID.
That said, a survey by Abacus on Thursday put the Liberals at 37 per cent and the Conservatives at 28 per cent.
The online poll of 3,000 people, conducted between Aug. 6 and 11, suggests Trudeau could well regain control of the House of Commons. The Liberals currently hold 155 of the 338 seats.
Constitutional experts say Simon will agree to the request, though infectious disease experts have raised questions about the timing of any potential campaign amid the fourth wave of the COVID-9 pandemic.
On Thursday, officials faced repeated questions from journalists about the safety of campaigning during a fourth wave, with many focusing on the travel between regions that is central to running a nationwide campaign. Dr. Theresa Tam, chief public health officer, said there are ways to mitigate risk.
At the same time, she confirmed the fourth wave is underway in Canada.
“There’s a lot that’s been learned about how to make these kind of voting spaces safe,” she said.
“There are public health measures that people have to observe including local measures on gathering sizes but also best practices in any of those gatherings: mask wearing being one of those, outdoors being better than indoors … I think anyone who’s sort of campaigning must observe those best practices and follow local public health advice as well.”
Tam added mail-in voting could be “a good idea” depending on specific circumstances.
But she declined to comment on whether an election amid a fourth wave — one that experts say is primarily hitting unvaccinated Canadians, a group that includes children — is itself a good idea.
“It’s not my role to advise on whether there should be an election or not,” she said.
“Our job is to advise on how to do thing as safe as possible.”
The Liberal party did not immediately respond to a request for comment on a possible election.
An election has been expected. Trudeau has been jetting across Canada for weeks as he and his cabinet sign child-care funding deals with several premiers and make a flurry of funding announcements.
Federal opposition parties have also been on the unofficial campaign trail, trying to get a jump on an election call.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have been criss-crossing the country, with O’Toole making whistle stops in at least seven provinces in the past four weeks.
On Wednesday in Waterloo, Ont., he laid out his plan to spur innovation by cutting the income tax rate in half on new patented technologies developed in Canada, which followed a pledge Monday to connect every Canadian with high-speed internet by 2025.
Singh announced a slew of campaign promises in Newfoundland on Thursday.
Commitments in the NDP proto-platform include paid sick leave, universal pharmacare, rapid emissions reduction and student debt cancellation.
More to come.
— With files from Reuters and The Canadian Press.