No need for an election if parliament is working
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/07/2021 (699 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As Parliament wound up heading into summer, speculation about a possible summer election was rampant. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and even though the leaders of every opposition party have said there should not be an election, the Prime Minister refuses to commit to an election-free summer.
If he chooses to go ahead, we will have to hope that it goes far more smoothly than the recent election in Newfoundland and Labrador.
An election would mark the end of one of the most unusual parliaments in Canadian history. The pandemic posed real challenges to the normal operations of Parliament, especially as the frequent travel of MPs suddenly meant they could become vectors of infection spreading the virus to communities across the country.
There were bumps along the way, but the relatively rapid development of a virtual parliament allowed parliamentarians to hold government to account early in the pandemic and eventually to carry on with a more-or-less normal legislative process.
The system meant far more accountability for the federal government than many provincial governments across the country.
Nevertheless, like many Liberal governments before it, this government could not avoid scandal. New Democrats worked to hold the government to account for its misdeeds while putting the focus on the needs of people, rather than plunging the country into an election during an uncertain time.
That the Prime Minister’s right-hand man, former Finance Minister Bill Morneau, was forced to resign over the WE Charity scandal shows that accountability is possible, even in a virtual parliament.
Meanwhile, New Democrats were able to secure a living-benefit level for the CERB, payments to seniors, people living with disabilities and post-secondary students, and a meaningful step toward granting every Canadian 10 paid sick days per year.
New Democrats also worked with partners such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business to secure a 75 per cent wage subsidy. The only part of our plan the government did not adopt was restrictions on executive pay and dividends New Democrats believe were necessary to prevent abuse of the program. Recent reports in the Globe and Mail justify those concerns.
Where the Conservative government in Manitoba has used its majority to cut legislative sittings and steamroll Manitobans with its agenda, the minority situation in Ottawa allowed for negotiations that improved the federal government’s pandemic response and made it pay for the most scandalous parts of its agenda.
Of all the things that are wrong in Ottawa, the minority parliament is not one of them.
While I hope the country can be spared an election while suffering a twin public health and economic crisis, I am optimistic that, if we do have an election, Canadians will once again choose a parliament that does not give 100 per cent of the power to a party with less than 40 per cent of the vote.
Elmwood-Transcona constituency report
Daniel Blaikie is the NDP MP for Elmwood-Transcona.