OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will visit Rideau Hall and meet with Gov. Gen. Mary Simon at 10 a.m. EDT on Sunday, according to his official itinerary, paving the way for the dissolution of the 43rd Parliament and drawing up of the 338 writs of election.
This is expected to be the official launch of the federal election campaign. Sources have confirmed to CTV News the vote could be held as early as Sept. 20. If it is, the campaign would last 36 days, the shortest possible permitted under elections law.
Trudeau will be joined by his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and will speak to reporters following the meeting.
Triggering the election means that Canadians will be in for at least 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. Political headlines since then have included the election of new opposition leaders and recent invigoration over social justice issues, as well as the ongoing global pandemic that has upended much of life as Canadians knew it.
Trudeau now appears ready to gamble that his handling of the pandemic — and the unprecedented financial support doled out – will propel his party back to a majority.
“It looks like the strategy for the Liberals is to have a very quick election where there are not many opportunities to make a mistake and to hope to cruise to a majority victory,” Nanos Research chief data scientist Nik Nanos told CTV National News on Friday.
And while recent voter surveys seemed to support his wager, a new poll by Nanos Research shows Liberals are out of majority territory at this moment.
According to the data, if an election were held today, the Liberals would win 33.4 per cent of votes – a drop of 5.9 per cent from their standings four weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Conservatives would pick up 28.4 per cent of ballot support, up 4.8 per cent from where they were four weeks ago. The support for the other four major parties has not shifted as considerably in the last month.
Political strategists say that for the Conservatives and the NDP, the top priority during the campaign will be demonstrating that they represent viable alternatives to the Liberal government.
Opposition parties have criticized Trudeau’s timing, arguing that the Liberals are putting their own political interests above those of Canadians who are once again facing another wave of COVID-19 cases. Political analysts are already pointing to the government’s recent mandatory vaccination order for federal employees as a potential wedge issue dividing progressive and conservative voters.
“This is playing politics and trying to get votes wit the pandemic, with the health situation,” former NDP leader and CTV political commentator Tom Mulcair told CTV National News.
However, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters on Thursday that it’s possible to hold a safe election campaign and voting period if public health guidelines such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and proper sanitization are followed.
“There’s a lot that’s been learned about how to make these kinds of voting spaces, if you like, safe. I think the key advice is really to observe all those good practices and that would then make safe voting possible whether it’s social distancing, mask-wearing, and all of those measures that everyone’s pretty used to by now,” she said, adding that mail-in voting could also be a sound alternative to in-person polling stations.
With files from CTV National News parliamentary correspondent Kevin Gallagher