A solid campaign could deliver a Liberal majority

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The election will likely be decided on the strength of who can best manage the post-pandemic economic and social recovery.

By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on August 9, 2021.

OTTAWA—Happy people vote governments back in.

It is not surprising that at the close of the Olympics, the Canadian government will soon pull the plug on the current minority government.

Some ministerial employees were issued layoff notices last week, standard operating procedure for governments just before an election.

On the Olympic scene, Canadians keep piling up good news stories.

From Andre De Grasse to Damian Warner, from the swimming pool to the soccer pitch, Canada could do no wrong.

And Canadians back home, from family members to Olympiophiles, were riveted to the two-week Olympic run coverage.

Retiring cabinet minister Catherine McKenna, a competitive swimmer herself, sent out a tweet at the beginning of the Games telling her followers that her feed would be sport-dominated for the Olympic period.

She also had something very special to say about the magic of sport, attributing her success in life to the lessons she learned on the water.

On the opening day of the Games, McKenna had a message about the linkage between sport and politics. “I never dreamed of being a politician when I was a kid. I dreamed of being an Olympian. But even though I didn’t make it, all the training paid off for politics.”

McKenna went on to tweet: “I learned more lessons for politics from my time in competitive swimming than anywhere else. Have a clear goal & work hard every day to achieve it, ignore the noise, get back up when you fall, it’s all about the team. And have fun!”

As Canada comes to the close of one of its best Olympics ever, even those who don’t watch the Games are beaming with pride because of the athletes’ performances.

That puts everyone in a good mood. With the country looking at the back end of the pandemic, the Liberals could choose no better moment to call an election.

Even though there were some bumps on the road to recovery, Canada’s current world standing in pandemic management is extremely high.

On the vaccination track Canada is leading the globe, and thus far, has managed to mitigate the spread of variant viruses.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who received plenty of criticism for the slow rollout of the vaccine, will definitely benefit from the high percentage of vaccinated Canadians.

We compare particularly well with the United States. The anti-vaxxers there seem to line up by political party, with the majority of vaccine opponents in the Republican Party. In Canada, even the most die-hard Conservatives understand the value of stopping the spread of COVID via vaccinations.

With the virus under control, and the Olympics winding to a close, the time is ripe for Canadians to go the polls.

Of course, the opposition parties are going to decry the decision, but once the election is called, no one will pay much attention to the whys and the wherefores.

Instead, the election will likely be decided on the strength of who can best manage the post-pandemic economic and social recovery.

With children finally back in the classrooms and university students back on campus, the general mood this autumn will be positive.

An almost giddy euphoria has already set in as Canadians are finally able to enjoy most aspects of life without fear of viral death.

Politics may not be top of mind for most of us, but the writ period of 37 days will be short and sweet.

That doesn’t mean the election will be a slam dunk for the Liberals. If the last election is a guide, anything can happen.

Who knows whether there is another “blackface scandal” lurking in the prime minister’s closet?

But the pre-election summer tour did not go great for the Conservatives. Erin O’Toole seemed to spend more time courting Calgarians than worrying about his status in the eastern parts of the country.

If he is working on solidifying existing support, that does not bode well for O’Toole’s capacity to beat the government. An election win depends on making inroads in Ontario and Quebec, not piling up huge majorities in the only province where the Tories are guaranteed a majority.

As for the New Democrats, they may well benefit from the implosion of the Green Party and with a targeted vote, they could increase their representation in the House of Commons.

But even though their leader has attracted his own TikTok following, Jagmeet Singh will likely not have the same newcomer appeal that he enjoyed in the last election.

A solid campaign could deliver a Liberal majority.

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.