Five weeks ago, Canadian prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a snap election to try to convert his minority government elected in 2019 into an absolute majority. The polls at the time indicated that the opposition appeared weak and that he stood a good chance of achieving his goal.
Despite the reservations of many Canadians about the timing of the election during a major pandemic, the two major news networks have called the election for Trudeau, and he will most likely form a minority government with the support of some of the smaller parties in the House of Commons.
Not surprisingly, all of the opposition leaders zeroed in on a key question asked by many voters: why did Mr. Trudeau call this unnecessary election during a pandemic and additionally why did he do so on the same day that Kabul fell. Mr. Trudeau spent much of the first weeks of his campaign defending his decision explaining that the pandemic and the socio-economic steps required to support the economy and sustain Canadians economically required consulting the electorate to learn which options presented by the various parties appealed to the majority of Canadians.
As we can see from the results, Canadians have endorsed Mr. Trudeau’s vision for a post-pandemic Canada and have underwritten his handling of the pandemic to date.
A disconcerting element for the Prime Minister throughout this campaign has been the frequent and loud, sometimes personal demonstrations against Trudeau as he travelled across the country.
These demonstrations were carried out largely by right wing voters who generally support the Conservatives and the extreme right People’s Party of Canada along with a broad coalition of anti-vaxer activists. At one event, Trudeau was pelted with rocks. Throughout his campaign stops he has been subjected to ongoing, sometimes profane verbal abuse by these same voters.
As in other countries, there is a small by significant minority of Canadians who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and who are adamant that the government has no right to attack their right to decide for themselves regardless of the grave danger that remaining unvaccinated poses for the general population.
Led by former Conservative Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier, the People’s Party of Canada has taken quite a few pages out of Donald Trump’s book. Last week he told the media that when “tyranny becomes law, revolution becomes our duty” – language reminiscent of the right-wing militias that populate the United States.
Mr. Bernier later said he didn’t know that this is the rallying cry of the “3 percenters” an American extreme right-wing group that played a major role in the attempted coup on the Capitol last January. Although he and his party only have the support of about 5% of Canadian voters, he is striking fear onto the hearts of some Canadians who fear an invasion of U.S. extreme right wing political values into Canada.
These demonstrations have now shifted now include rallies at major hospitals across Canada with hundreds of demonstrators blocking access to health service providers and patients seeking medical assistance. Many of them also stand against the vaccine “passports” introduced by several Canadian provinces over the past few weeks to ensure that unvaccinated people cannot have access to public places.
Another issue was that of the legalization of assault weapons.
The Conservative plan called for restrictions on assault weapons introduced by the Liberals be rescinded. This became a bone of contention since a large majority of Canadians are against easy access to weapons, especially assault type rifles. This led Conservative candidate Erin O’Toole to say that he would respect the Liberal’s ban on these weapons, and his opponents jumped all over him accusing him of flip-flopping or outright lying.
Added to this is the fact that a number of Conservative candidates have refused to be vaccinated, and Mr. O’Toole refused to say how many of his proposed caucus have indeed received both shots.
Moreover, many on the Conservative Right are calling for a ban on abortion and on LGBTQ rights, going against the position that a majority of Canadians and Mr. O’Toole himself support
One suspects that Mr. O’Toole is trying to bring his party back to the center of the spectrum and that his moves are part of a calculated strategy. But will the Christian conservative base of the party follow him there, or does he risk splitting the party? Can he offset the loss of this core group by enticing moderate centrists from other regions of the country into his fold and hang on to his leadership of the Party? It remains to be seen.
Mr. Trudeau has alienated a good number of Canadians who are frustrated with the pandemic and the massive social and economic changes that it has created. This, in addition to his numerous breaking of ethics rules during his tenure. First, he accepted a trip paid for by the Agha Khan who was lobbying for a government grant. Second was his Trump like interference in the judicial process of the SNC Lavalin trial and finally, the $912 million We Charity scandal. In fact, Mr. Trudeau is the only Canadian Prime Minister to ever be found guilty by an Ethics Commissioner not once, but twice. Finally, another major unfulfilled promise was that of voting reform which was a key part of his past platforms.
After six years of Trudeau, fatigue has set in and the enthusiasm he generated in 2015 has now diminished due mostly to poor ethical choices and broken promises during the past six years.
Others are frustrated with the lack of economic and social equity, underscored by the continuing mistreatment of Canada’s indigenous population, creeping inflation due to the disruption of supply chains as a result of the pandemic, and by the growing disparities between the wealthy and the rest.
All impressions either for or against party platforms were further fueled by social media that amplifies negativity to the nth degree and that can create coalitions across national frontiers instantaneously, as we have seen with all the false conspiracy theories that assail us daily.
Despite all the above, Prime Minister Trudeau has won his third election, and, if it is a minority government, Canada will be right back where it was six weeks ago.
Edición: Laura Espejo