There’s a federal election coming.
Sorry to act as a harbinger of the coming march to the polls, but we can all see it.
The Liberals won a majority in 2015, a minority in 2019, and now, like several provincial governments, they are hoping to strengthen their position based on how they handled the pandemic.
It seems like it should be a good time to call an election.
If all goes well (knock wood) by the end of summer everyone who wants to be fully vaccinated will be, the COVID-19 pandemic will be in retreat, the U.S. border will be open, business will be roaring back, and the general public, drunk on freedom and spending money after a year and a half of misery, will be in a celebratory mood.
Meanwhile, as things are looking up for the country, things are looking decidedly less good for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s main opponents.
No, not Conservative leader Erin O’Toole. I mean Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
The most prominent conservatives and the sharpest thorns in the side of the federal Liberals (sorry Erin!), both of them are in the doghouse with their own voters. And when voters are fed up with the provincial Conservatives, they can more easily be persuaded to vote for the federal Liberals, or at least that’s the theory Trudeau will be staking his government on.
But every election is a roll of the dice.
June 10 is the anniversary of the federal election of 1957, and it’s an instructive case in watching a confident ruling party fling itself into disaster.
Then-PM Louis St. Laurent was popular, Canada was prosperous, and the Liberals had, at that point, kept a lock on power for almost three decades.
The Liberals made a number of unforced errors in the campaign – St. Laurent hated being on TV just as millions of Canadians had installed one in their living rooms – but the most dramatic incident was utterly unplanned.
At a Liberal rally at Maple Leaf Gardens, a 15-year-old boy hopped onto stage while St. Laurent was speaking, and tore up a picture of the PM. One of the Liberal officials on the platform either tried to tackle the boy or shoved him, and he fell to the concrete floor, his head making a sickening thud. Reporters and police had to protect the boy from angry party supporters, and St. Laurent was visibly shaken. The boy was not badly hurt, but the fracas may have been the last nail in the coffin.
Macleans magazine famously printed its edition before polls closed, confidently speaking in its editorial of how the country had again chosen the Liberals.
But it didn’t. Tory leader John Diefenbaker won a slim minority government, which he would turn into a majority nine months later.
When you start a campaign, you roll the dice.
Six months from now, we could have PM Trudeau. Or we could have PM O’Toole, or PM Jagmeet Singh via Orange Crush 2.0.
What goes around comes around, of course. Diefenbaker’s fate was to rule for seven years, before his own cabinet imploded, and he was run out of office, his fall just as sudden as his rise to power.
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