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National election coming to Canada, will be shortest campaign allowed by law

A headshot of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing a blue suit, shirt and tie
Office of the Prime Minister
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the governor general to dissolve parliament Sunday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday called on the governor general to dissolve parliament, setting the stage for a national election in Canada. It will be the shortest campaign allowed by federal law: 36 days.

The campaign buses are rolling, lawn signs are going up and the candidates are fine tuning their election teams. It will be, for many, an unusual election because of the pandemic guidelines: masking, physical distancing and much of the campaigning on line.

The main question asked of Trudeau after he announced the election was why now?

"The decisions your government makes right now will define the future your kids and grand kids grow up in. So in this pivotal, consequential moment who wouldn’t want a say, who wouldn’t want their chance to help decide where our country goes from here,” Trudeau said.

Erin O'Toole
Erin O'Toole
Erin O'Toole is the new leader of the official opposition Conservative party.

As expected, Trudeau talked about his government’s successes in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, but said the fight is not over, much more needs to be done — not just on the pandemic, but on environmental issues and a post-pandemic economic recovery. Trudeau also kicked off his own campaign with virtual town hall of Liberal candidates.

Opposition parties blasted Trudeau for calling the election, saying, even with a minority government, he’s managed to push through most of his political agenda. The new leader of the official opposition Conservative party, Erin O’Toole, said Trudeau is risking the health of Canadians with an unnecessary vote.

“Justin Trudeau has called an election. That’s Justin Trudeau’s choice and I hope that his decision doesn’t cost Canadians too dearly," O'Toole said. "But let’s be clear. This election is not about the next week, the next month or even the next month. It’s about the next four years.”

O’Toole’s campaign is off to a bumpy start. What he wasn’t clear about is whether he would make his own candidates get vaccinated against COVID-19 as they get ready to campaign. Instead, he said he supports the right of Canadians to make their own health choices. He also stopped short of supporting some kind of vaccine passport for international travel.

Jagmeet Singh
Jagmeet Singh
Jagmeet Singh is the leader of the third-place New Democratic party.

The other key player to watch is Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the third-place New Democratic party. With Trudeau only having a minority government, it has been Singh that has been propping up the Trudeau Liberals. Now Singh calls Trudeau’s decision a selfish summer election.

“Well, it’s clear Justin Trudeau wants to grab power, wants a majority. But why does he want a majority? It’s certainly not because he wants to help more people or help people more," Singh said. "It’s because he wants to help people less and people end up paying the price.”

Two weeks ago, polls suggested Trudeau’s Liberals were in Majority territory. That’s not the case in the most recent survey from Nanos Research.

"You can see that the Liberals are down a full 6% points in the last four weeks, while the Conservatives are up," said Nik Nanos. "This has fundamentally changed the complexion of the race from something that looked like a Liberal majority to something that is potentially a horse race."

At dissolution, the current breakdown of seats in the House of Commons was Liberals 155, Conservatives 119, New Democrats 24 and the separatist Bloc Quebecois 32. Canadians go to the polls on Sept. 20.