PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau’s fairly unequivocal dismissal last week regarding rumblings about a possible snap election was probably one of the best calls he’ll ever make as a politician.
Going to the polls well before the expiration of a political mandate is almost always fraught with risk, which British Prime Minister Theresa May found out the hard way just last year.
May survived, just barely. But who can forget her ashen expression when it emerged that her Conservative party had lost seats instead of cruising to a majority government, as had been widely anticipated.
In an election campaign, many things can go terribly wrong, often things that are entirely unforeseen.
When May, in her usual monotone, announced in the spring of 2017 her decision to lead her party into an early election, she said it “was the only way to guarantee certainty and security for the years to come.”
In many parts of the U.K., that was probably received as political poppycock. May was presumably referring to the good of the country, but even if the election had not produced a hung parliament, Britain’s place in the world — with the Brexit fiasco, and a volatile, protectionist showboat in the White House — would have remained as uncertain as ever.
Unlike May, Trudeau is hardly laden with a wooden personality. He has proved himself to be an adept campaigner; sometimes it seems like he is never really out of campaign-mode, always ready to oblige a fan who wants to include him in a selfie.
Trudeau’s natural exuberance is a given. Liberal strategists know they can count on it. So it would hardly be surprising if, despite Trudeau’s claims to the contrary, members of his party’s brain trust are indeed mulling the prospect of going to the polls sooner than later.
For a start, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh could fall flat on his face when he tries to gain a House of Commons seat in the British Columbia riding of Burnaby-South. A byelection is to be set as early as next month.
Currently held by NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who is vacating the federal scene for a run at municipal politics, the Vancouver-area riding is hardly a safe seat. In the 2015 election, Stewart edged out his Liberal rival by a mere 500 votes.
So if Singh loses, throwing his leadership into question and his party’s fortunes into disarray, the Liberals might think the timing couldn’t get any better.
Meanwhile, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer — with fellow Tory MP and party maverick Maxime Bernier nipping at his heels — is hardly a household name in the eyes of many Canadians, especially those who would not normally vote for a right-wing party.
That might also figure into the Liberal’s calculations, since presumably Scheer’s profile has nowhere to go but up, despite exhibiting a fairly ho-hum personality so far.
Trudeau, arguably, might only get worse. Politically, the ill-fated Trans Mountain pipeline project has been a disaster for the prime minister, who couldn’t seem to decide if he was an environmentalist or a promoter of big oil. He flip-flopped spectacularly on electoral reform, looked fairly ridiculous in costume during a botched trip to India and, most recently, saw his credentials as an ardent feminist slip over allegations that, about 20 years ago, he patted an 18-year-old female reporter on the behind. (She didn’t like that.)
So would anyone be surprised by a fall federal election? No, not really. But it be would all about politics, and very little to do with what’s good for our country.