COLUMN: Status quo federal election still to have consequences

Election numbers change minimal but will still be disruptive

Federal election campaign stops across Canada in the second week of August 2021. (Canadian Press photos)

Federal election campaign stops across Canada in the second week of August 2021. (Canadian Press photos)

To be sure, those who find politics, in general, a head-scratching waste of time – Monday’s federal election will do nothing to allay that opinion.

“I don’t understand” is the ongoing refrain for many, seeing millions of dollars spent on an election that offered little change from the current setup in Parliament.

Liberals in charge; NDP propping them up; Conservatives continuing their journey to seek power; the Bloc Quebecois maintaining its current foothold in Quebec; the Green Party lacking a national agenda beyond a response to climate change to capture more widespread voter support; and the People’s Party gaining popularity statistically among the angry folk but yet to see that materialize in electing even one MP.

But elections do matter, elections do have consequences. And, Monday’s trip to the polls has raised some uncomfortable realities for all the national political parties.

For Justin Trudeau, our version of the Teflon leader in the tradition of former U.S. presidents Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump, he has been able to avoid political purgatory from some questionable decisions in recent years, but his party has stagnated.

Taking comfort in the numbers of nearing a majority in the last two elections presents a false sense of security.

The expectation now is the Liberals will probably call another election in the next 18 to 22 months if the COVID pandemic rescinds and the economy enters the widely-predicted post-pandemic boom phase.

But will Trudeau be at the helm? And what will his sense of history be for his immediate future – a leader hell-bent to win another majority, the attitude his father Pierre Trudeau exhibited, or a leader with a vision for his country, like Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson who was head of two minority governments in the ‘60s.

The Pearson era, which saw him fall short of a majority in two federal elections, left us with a legacy of accomplishments – a national pension plan, family assistance program, broadened old-age security benefits, national health care plan, kept our country out of the Vietnam war debacle.

For the Conservatives, leader Erin O’Toole’s attempt to swing the party platform to the centre of the political spectrum and be a more acceptable option for the political centre in this country failed.

His campaign organizers wanted to create a gaffe-free campaign within the safety net of controlling his message on social media rather than direct contact with voters did not work.

Like the Liberals, his party seems stuck in neutral, with an unease between the centre wing of his party and the extreme right crowd.

There will be internal struggles to control party policy going forward, and if O’Toole is the party membership’s choice to lead that push and pull will prove will play out in the months ahead. A referendum petition on his leadership has already been launched last week, mere days after the Sept. 20 election.

The NDP has a popular leader among younger voters in Jagmeet Singh, reinforced by his lone party leader presence on Tik-Tok. But, he has the good fortune of retaining his power’s place in the driver seat of a minority government, even if the NDP saw its support at the polls decline last Monday outside of B.C.

The Green Party dysfunction within the party ranks and revolt against leader was its downfall in this election, but as the years unfold and elections come and go, the party continues to languish in the weeds of federal politics, trying to make small voter movement appear to be a momentous swing.

People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier finds his party gaining traction from disenfranchised voters across the political spectrum, earning more than 800,000 votes in what many are calling a protest vote – anti-vaccine, anti-masking, anti-institution, anti-whatever.

But leading that revolt from Quebec rather than Ontario or western Canada is not in that party’s best interests. Many Quebeckers have already given up on Canada and are aligned with the Block Quebecois movement, which remains a major federal political player in that province.

Still, supporters will point to the party gaining traction, albeit in a small increment, and that will not be lost on the Conservative Party hierarchy, even if Bernier’s campaign claims to have garnered disenchanted past Green and Liberal voters.

Long-time Conservatives have seen this movie before, how the Reform Party began as a protest vote and ultimately caused the downfall of the Progressive Conservative regime and destroyed the political reputation of former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

While the chance of that happening is unlikely, never say never in politics.

Just look at what has happened in the U.S., a nation crumbling at the seams in disharmony as national politics continue to unfold in ways nobody thought would ever happen.

So an election that was meaningless? Perhaps we should not be so quick to pass judgment just yet.

CanadaElection 2021