On September 23 Canadians will hear the new federal Liberal plan in the form of a Speech from the Throne, laying out in broad strokes the minority government’s proposed roadmap through one of the biggest challenges to face our nation in more than a generation. Not only is the COVID-19 pandemic a health crisis, it has also hammered global economies and set the political norms of what can and cannot be afforded in dealing with the economic fallout on its head.
Polls have repeatedly shown that the Canadian population, with the possible exception of a couple of the prairie provinces, are pleased with the federal government’s response to those challenges—despite the cost.
Temptation to pull the trigger on an election is strong for many governments as poll numbers that had risen to astronomical levels during the initial responses to the pandemic are now heading in a more southerly direction. In politics it is important to strike while the iron is hot, and that certainly has worked for the New Brunswick minority government which saw its return as a majority government, and British Columbia Premier John Horgan seems to be hoping to catch the wave in his own political fortunes, perhaps shaking free of the shackles to the Green Party in his own minority situation. Time will tell if that was a shrewd move or another David Peterson moment that will be punished at the polls by a disgruntled and fearful electorate.
New Brunswick premier Blaine Higgins had the cover of having been forced to the polls, something that Premier Doug Ford who enjoys a majority government (as did former Ontario premier David Peterson when he pulled the plug early in what was then universally viewed by the electorate as a cynical move) does not enjoy.
Should an election occur at the federal level it would clearly be a forced event. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly stated he does not want one, despite the allegations of the opposition. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has signaled that his party is more interested in making the lives of Canadians easier during these trying times. Even incoming Conservative leader Erin O’Toole has scaled back his earlier commitment to make bringing down the Liberals job one, leaving only the Bloc Quebecois sticking to its guns on a vote of non-confidence.
But putting partisan considerations and strategies aside should be job one for all Canadian politicians at every level. Now is not the time for disunity.
Canada, indeed the world, is facing the biggest challenges to face humanity for generations, if not millennia. Not only are we in the midst of one of the biggest global pandemics, humanity is faced with the crisis of climate change, a crisis that threatens the very existence of our civilization, if not our species.
The Liberal government is certainly guilty of hubris and arrogance in the heavy handed way they have dealt with internal dissent and downright foolishness in the way they dealt with the WE Charity issue, but these are not hanging offences in normal times, let alone during the midst of two of the greatest challenges our nation has faced in our lifetimes.
Politicians at every level must come together to chart the way forward. The governing Liberals must find common ground, not only with just the one party they need to survive in power, but with all those sitting across the (now virtual) floor as her majesty’s loyal opposition. We must cast aside the temptation to follow in our republican neighbours to the south into partisan brinksmanship and look to our parliamentary roots and traditions.
When our nation’s peace, order and good government are threatened we have traditionally come together to face the foe. If ever there were times that call for such unity it is these.
To paraphrase the late American icon Patrick Henry—now is time for all good parties to come to the aid of their country.