While it might take some time to fully determine what this federal election was all about, what’s already clear is there are several things it most decidedly was not.
It was not, as Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau insisted, "maybe the most important since 1945 and certainly in our lifetimes."
It became important, to a degree, after Canada’s 23rd prime minister initiated it, for no reason other than that all elections are important because they play a part in determining the future direction of the nation. But Mr. Trudeau’s contention that this one was so crucial that it had to be called a full two years before required under federal law, and in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, was simply ludicrous.
When the final mail-in votes are tallied, the absurdity of the premise will have been laid bare by the manner in which Canadians rejected it by delivering a Parliament almost identical in makeup to the one dissolved five weeks ago.
Mr. Trudeau boldly reached for a renewed majority mandate after two years of dealing with the frustrating forced compromises of a minority Parliament. By press time Monday night, voters had told Mr. Trudeau his government may continue to govern, but has not sufficiently earned trust to be granted the majority he so clearly covets. And absent that desired outcome, questions will necessarily be asked about his viability as Liberal Party leader going forward.
Another thing this election was not is business as usual. Owing to restrictions, concerns and constraints related to COVID-19, the way people voted was different this time around. More chose to vote early, either at advance polls or by mail, and many of those who opted to vote in person in the traditional fashion found themselves casting ballots at places other than their customary polling locations, lining up in numbers and waiting longer to vote because fewer polls and fewer poll workers meant delays and frustration.
This election was not an endorsement of Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole’s unwieldy effort to straddle the line between broad mainstream appeal and hard-right western conservatism. The party’s position on gun control and weak messaging on pandemic measures clearly did not resonate with Canadians. And it wasn’t a major victory for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, though it did offer small reason for celebration as his party seems most likely to achieve significant seat gains.
It was also not a breakthrough for the People’s Party of Canada, despite the defiant roadshow of leader Maxime Bernier and the noisy support of Canada’s anti-vaccine fringe. Mr. Bernier was denied a seat in his own riding, and the PPC’s support grew in audible volume and vote count but produced no electoral dividends.
This election was not popular. Canadians were quick to express anger and frustration at Mr. Trudeau for an electoral ordeal that will have changed very little about the parliamentary seating chart. Canadians are exhausted, emotionally, mentally and financially, from the constant demands of the COVID-19 fight, and this election produced little more than added irritation.
This election was not in any way necessary. It might be remembered as the vote only one Canadian — Justin Trudeau — really wanted.
And as a result, there is something Mr. Trudeau is not, but which he sorely wanted to be: the leader of a majority government.
Five weeks and an estimated $610 million later, Canadians — now painfully apprised of what this election was not — will be excused for wanting to pointedly ask Mr. Trudeau what it was for.