OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to launch a federal election campaign this Sunday, with the vote scheduled for Sept. 20, according to Reuters sources.
After months of speculation over the prospect of a pandemic election, Reuters is reporting that Trudeau is planning to visit Rideau Hall this weekend and ask Gov. Gen. Mary Simon to dissolve the 43rd Parliament and draw up the 338 writs, triggering a fall vote. CTV News has not yet independently verified this report.
If the campaign kicks off this Sunday, the 2021 federal election will be 36 days in length, the shortest possible permitted under elections law. Triggering the election means that Canadians will be in for five weeks of campaigning, seeing the federal party leaders crisscrossing the country and pitching themselves, their candidates, and their platforms, under ongoing COVID-19 public health restrictions.
While the next fixed election date isn’t until October 2023, minority governments rarely last the full four years between elections. In the 2019 federal election, voters reduced the Liberal majority to a minority and since then there’s been a series of shakeups on the political scene, from the election of new opposition leaders and recent invigoration over social justice issues, to the ongoing global pandemic that has upended much of life as Canadians knew it.
In his anticipated post-election call remarks from outside Rideau Hall on Sunday, Trudeau will have to explain to the electorate why he felt it was necessary to put the country into an election now, while reopening and vaccination efforts are still underway amid fears over a Delta-driven fourth wave of infections.
Both Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh have spoken out against a snap election, though all sides have already been engaging in pseudo-electioneering all summer long. Parties have also been pushing ahead with nominating candidates, putting in place key campaign staff and sorting logistics like renting campaign planes and buses, while pledging to follow all local pandemic precautions.
Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault has spoken favourably of having a longer writ period to allow Elections Canada to have a longer runway to get all elements of a national election in place, but the agency says it is nevertheless ready to safely conduct a vote.
Should the Governor General agree to dissolve Parliament, all outstanding business in both the House of Commons and Senate that was not passed when both chambers adjourned in June will die, and all parliamentary committees essentially cease to exist, leaving it up to the next government to restart a legislative agenda. The government, and the bureaucracy in each federal department and agency, will enter a “caretaker” mode in which major decisions are limited.
During the process of dissolving a Parliament there are typically three steps: dismissing the senators and members; calling the next Parliament and ordering the writs to be issued; and setting the date for when Parliament will next meet after the writs are returned with the results. Writs are written orders instructing the returning officer in each of the 338 federal ridings to hold an election to select a member of Parliament.
Heading into the campaign, here’s the current seat breakdown in the House of Commons:
- Liberal: 155
- Conservative: 119
- Bloc Québécois: 32
- NDP: 24
- Independent: 5
- Green Party: 2
A party needs to win 170 seats for a majority government.