By Pauline Kerr
Canada is headed into a federal election this September – no shock, since the major parties have been campaigning for months.
While not surprising, the official call on Aug. 15 was somewhat unnerving, coming at the same time medical authorities started to refer to the long-feared COVID-19 fourth wave as something that is already happening. Again, there was no real surprise. The rising numbers tell their own story.
Even more unnerving is the fact a lot of people have stopped wondering if their kids would ever go back to in-person schooling and are scrambling to find decent shoes that fit the teenager who has gone barefoot or worn ratty old sneakers for months. School is going back. Reading and writing and ‘rithmetic. Backpacks and iPads and brand-name everything. And possibly vaccination passports, but that is a debate for another day.
Many businesses have been contacting employees about returning to the workplace, raising the question of daycare availability. The folks who have enjoyed telecommuting from the cottage for over a year, and started making plans for this to become a permanent state of affairs, are discovering with horror they are expected back at their big city offices.
Calling a federal election right now does seem odd timing. In some ways, though, the timing is perfect. The Trudeau Liberals have managed to hold onto their minority government for almost two years, throughout the worst of the pandemic. As the shift to some form of normality seems to be happening despite the fourth wave, this seems to be the time to seek a much more stable majority for the difficult work ahead, rather than continue with a government whose continued existence depends on other parties.
A minority government can work, and work well, if there is the will among all parties to keep it going. The periodic rumblings from opposition parties indicate the will to make this government work is quickly eroding.
No one doubts for a moment that a federal election can take place safely, despite COVID. What can and should be questioned is whether voters will have sufficient opportunities to explore the issues and make an informed decision.
A snap election might tend to push people toward making a snap decision, or not voting at all – understandable, with all the other pressures we are facing.
Canadians have been spoiled by decades of good government, no matter what party is in power. There may be errors in judgment, and decisions and policies with which we disagree, but we have not suffered through a truly bad government. In recent years there has been a problem getting people to buy into elections and cast their ballots.
It is up to each person who is eligible to vote to ensure that does not happen with the coming federal election.
The short time for the official campaign, and the pandemic, will make it difficult for candidates to go knocking on doors and participate in public events. There will be fewer opportunities to find out what each stands for, and even fewer chances to keep candidates informed about what we, the voters, consider to be key issues.
The temptation will be to let the “back-room boys” decide what the issues are and vote accordingly – or not bother voting. We cannot let that happen.
An election campaign is one of the few times our voices are heard by those we choose to make the decisions. Our country is facing major challenges – recovery from a worldwide pandemic, the ravages of global climate change, political instability in many parts of the world that could erupt into war, and much more. We have to make sure the right people are in place in Ottawa to make wise decisions.
While some of us may be thinking with weird fondness back to life in a lockdown, when our most difficult decision was whether to get dressed in real clothes or spend the day in pyjamas, we cannot turn back the clock. We have serious decisions to make, and a responsibility to ensure they are good ones.