Part 3 in a series of blogs on issues of importance to me that helped me draw my conclusion about voting intention. As a political Christian realist, I’m only considering the two parties most likely to form government.
The foundation article for this analysis is Marking Your X With Neighbourly Love published at Convivium. The first personal blog is Decision 2021: Candidate Character and International Religious Freedom. The second is Decision 2021: Indigenous Relations/Reconciliation.
There are a few related issues that I’m going to tag here. Although each is deserving of more attention, this series is summary comments to frame my assessment of select issues (but not all issues) important to me.
The pandemic has introduced a dynamic into the election that differs from previous elections. Despite all-party agreement by motion in the House of Commons on May 25 not to hold an election during the pandemic, here we are.
Justin Trudeau’s stated reason for calling the election is for Canadians to determine the leadership and direction of the federal government as we emerge from the pandemic. However, as the fourth-wave election unfolds many Canadians see it as unnecessary. Prior to the election, Trudeau’s government had the support of the NDP (and at different times the Bloc and Conservatives).
The initial response of Mr. Trudeau’s government to the pandemic was to not invoke the federal Emergencies Act, but to seek an exemption from parliamentary oversight from March 2020 until December 2021. Opposition parties rejected the idea. A key constitutional purpose of parliament is to assess, approve and oversee government expenditures. Trudeau shifted gears, and sought to establish entirely virtual meetings of parliament, with his government having unhindered authority until the technology was in place. Again, opposition parties united to establish a physical presence in the House of Commons with reduced numbers, both before and after the technology was available.
Prior to the election, several parliamentary committees were digging into pandemic related and non-pandemic-related government expenditures. Trudeau was elected in 2015 with a promise of three deficits under $10 billion and a balanced budget by 2019. That didn’t happen.
The federal debt has been increased by roughly $280 billion in pandemic spending. Non-pandemic spending was in excess of $300 billion since receiving a balanced budget from the previous government in 2015.
Questioned by parliamentary committees, Trudeau’s ministers were unwilling or unable to account for tens of billions of dollars in expenditures in both categories. Mr. Trudeau prorogued Parliament in 2020 to interrupt parliamentary committee investigations and called an election in 2021 when delay tactics to further inhibit committee action had run their course.
The $610 million estimated cost for this election is 1% of the overall debt incurred by the current government over the last six years, doubling the debt incurred over the previous 148.
The Conservative platform commits to non-pandemic expenditures remaining subject to parliamentary committee accountability and to an independent inquiry into pandemic response. I like the idea of an independent inquiry rather than a parliamentary inquiry on pandemic spending as it moves the probe beyond partisan motivation.
The Liberal Party makes no commitment to a post-pandemic review of government actions.
Vaccines and Passports: At the risk of striking a hornets nest, here’s a summary of what I understand about available vaccines and tests. The vaccines reduce the severity of symptoms for most, as well as the risk of getting covid, but not the risk of transmission. That appears to be the statistical correlation at this point in the delta wave. Vaccines were intended to be voluntary, promoted as such by political and medical officials at every level of government, and encouraged for personal and healthcare system protection. Rapid testing has improved to the point where an unvaccinated person who tests negative is less likely to transmit covid than a vaccinated person without the test. Other countries are requiring double-dose certification from international travellers as protection for their healthcare systems and populations, although some will require both the vaccine passport and a negative test.
I describe some of the constitutional and human rights issues related to vaccines in Taking a Jab at Religious Freedom: accommodation for medical reasons, conscientious objection, and legitimate religiously based objection.
When Mr. Trudeau announced his shift in public position from ‘vaccines will not be mandatory for any Canadian’ to mandatory vaccines in federally regulated businesses such as banks and airlines as well as the federal public service, along with vaccine passports for travel by air, rail or water within Canada he knew he was provoking the vaccine hesitant; some to get vaccinated and others to expand existing protests against covid health measures. The increased protests have resulted in small but significant numbers of voting intentions moving toward the Liberal Party and the Peoples Party, marginally reducing support for the Conservative Party.
Justin Trudeau and Max Bernier have made proposals that are not constitutionally viable, but garner emotional support for their positions. Of course, Mr. Trudeau’s announcements are just announcements. He has said it will be up to a year before the federal vaccine passport is available for domestic or international travel, and the public service has been prevented from implementing an official policy on vaccines until after the election.
Please note, in regard to hospital protests against Trudeau’s vaccine announcements, harassing or obstructing someone from accessing medical care is already a crime in Canada.
Erin O’Toole is proposing a constitutionally supportable position on the issue―the same position presented by the chief human resources officer for the Government of Canada and the president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
For me, it’s a good sign when a candidate for prime minister understands and respects Canadians’ Charter freedoms and human rights.