If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to call an election in the middle of a pandemic with an ongoing and acute vaccine shortage, he can do it today.
It would strike many Canadians as self-serving and unnecessary, but that’s nothing new in politics.
But what Trudeau and Liberal House Leader Pablo Rodriguez should stop doing is pretending that if there’s going to be a spring election, it will be the fault of the Conservatives for obstructing Parliament.
If there’s a spring election, it will be because the Liberals want one.
Trudeau can call an election any time he likes.
His government doesn’t have to be defeated on a confidence vote by the opposition parties, which control the majority of seats in Parliament.
All Trudeau has to do is ask Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner — who is fulfilling the duties of the Governor General until a new one is appointed after Julie Payette’s resignation — to dissolve Parliament, triggering an election.
Given that the last election was 16 months ago and the average lifespan of minority governments is about 18 months, there’s no reason the Chief Justice would refuse Trudeau’s request, as the CBC’s Aaron Wherry noted Monday.
When Rodriguez tells The Canadian Press that an election may be necessary because the Conservatives are “playing politics all the time in the House. It’s delay, delay, delay and eventually that delay becomes obstruction,” he should be laughed out of the room.
Ditto his claim Canadians should be insulted and worried that, “important programs may not come into force … because of the games played by the Conservatives.”
First, a politician complaining that political parties play political games is the equivalent of complaining that water is wet.
Second, Trudeau recently told the Liberals’ national board of directors “it looks like” there will be a spring election, according to a report by hilltimes.com.
Third, the Liberals obstruct the work of Parliament all the time for partisan reasons.
When Trudeau prorogued Parliament in August for more than a month, he did it to shut down investigations by parliamentary committees into his We Charity controversy.
After Parliament returned to work in September, Liberal MPs used the procedural tactic of filibustering to prevent those committees from resuming their investigations.
When the Conservatives moved a motion to create a new committee with broad powers to investigate the WE affair, Trudeau declared it a matter of confidence, daring the opposition parties to pass it and trigger an election.
That didn’t happen when the NDP backed the Liberals to defeat the Conservative motion, with party leader Jagmeet Singh saying: “New Democrats will not give Prime Minister Trudeau the election he’s looking for. We are voting against an election.”
That’s still Singh’s position.
Finally, no one is obstructing Trudeau or Finance MinisterChrystia Freeland from bringing down a federal budget.
Freeland has described that budget — whenever she finally gets around to delivering it — as “the most significant one of our lifetimes.”
Which raises the question of why the Liberals, in a time of unprecedented government spending, haven’t brought down a budget in almost two years — more than 700 days and counting — going back to March 19, 2019.
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That was before the last election, when Bill Morneau was finance minister.
The delay is inexplicable — every province and territory was able to bring down a budget last year — unless, of course, Trudeau’s plan is to call an election immediately after Freeland delivers the budget.