Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada has called a snap election, citing the need for a new mandate to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
During a press conference at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Sunday, Trudeau, the leader of the center-left Liberal Party, revealed that an early election would be held on Sept. 20.
“Everyone understands that we are really at a pivotal moment in history of our country,” he said. “This is a moment where Canadians can and should be able to weigh in on what we’re going through and how we’re going to build a society that is stronger and better.”
The prime minister made the declaration after requesting and receiving authorisation from Governor General Mary Simon to dissolve Parliament.
“[Simon] signed the proclamations to dissolve parliament and call a general election, carrying out one of her constitutional duties as The Queen’s representative in Canada,” her office said.
The governor general performs mostly a ceremonial role in Canada, a former British colony.
Today, #GGSimon signed the proclamations to dissolve Parliament and call a general election, carrying out one of her constitutional duties as The Queen’s representative in Canada. pic.twitter.com/SCRKpDNIdO— Governor General of Canada (@GGCanada) August 15, 2021
Trudeau, who was initially elected in 2015, framed the next election as a chance for Canadians to have their say on the country’s path out of the COVID-19 pandemic, what recovery should look like, and what Canada should be for future generations.
“The decisions your government makes right now will define the future your kids and grandkids will grow up in,” he said. “So in this pivotal, consequential moment, who wouldn’t want a say? Who wouldn’t want their chance to help decide where our country goes from here?”
The expected snap election was announced less than two years after Trudeau won a second term in 2019. He had roughly another two years before the next election was required.
Trudeau, who has led with a minority government since his second election, is betting that enough Canadians support his COVID-19 exit and recovery plan and approve of his handling of the pandemic to secure him a majority government and the ability to no longer need other parties to pass legislation.
“Canadians need to choose how we finish the fight against COVID-19 and build back better,” he said. “We believe the government’s most important responsibility is to keep Canadians safe and thriving, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Opposition leaders criticized him for holding the election amid the health crisis.
Erin O’Toole, leader of the right-leaning Conservative Party, said a leader who puts the best interests of Canadians first would be “straining every sinew” to secure economic recovery and avoid an election.
“That’s Justin Trudeau’s choice. And I hope that his decision doesn’t cost Canadians too dearly,” he said during a press conference.
Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the progressive New Democratic Party who kicked off his campaign Sunday in Montreal, tweeted that Trudeau called the election “because he’s focused on keeping his own job and his rich insider friends happy.”
“You and your family should be the priority,” he said.
The election was called as health officials say the Great White North is experiencing a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, told reporters last week that cases have been increasing after months of decline but deaths have “fortunately” been low due to the country’s vaccination rate.
“Although we are heading into a fourth wave driven by the Delta variant, the good news is that millions of Canadians have rolled up their sleeves to help build a strong wall of vaccination protection,” she said.
Canada now ranks among the world’s most immunized countries, following a sluggish vaccination introduction earlier this year.
According to Oxford University’s Our World In Data project, 64 percent of Canada’s population has been fully vaccinated, with 73 percent having had at least one shot. In comparison, the United States has fully immunized 50% of its population, with 59 percent of the population receiving at least one shot.