As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to be significant across Canada, policymakers at the federal and provincial levels are all focused on vaccinating Canadians. For the federal government, the focus is ensuring that the vaccine is delivered to Canada on time by Pfizer and Moderna. The provincial governments guarantee that the distribution channels are adequately established and determining who gets the vaccine when. All provinces have begun with long-term care residents and staff and frontline health care workers as their priority for vaccination. Still, the provinces will likely differ once they start making decisions about other professions and age groups.
At the federal level, how efficiently the vaccination process goes is top of mind. In Ottawa, there is certainly talk of an election soon. With the federal government planning to table a budget in March, that would be their first opportunity to let the government fall. As in previous minority government situations, they may include “poison pills” in the budget, which are items that other political parties won’t be able to vote for. If all MPs from the opposition parties vote against the budget, it will trigger an election.
However, if the process isn’t going well, the Liberals will likely bide their time until they feel confident with public polling numbers. Most minority governments last 18 months, and we are already nearing that time threshold. The Liberals are indeed looking for a majority government to fulfill some of their campaign promises and agenda. While after the last election in the fall of 2019, they were able to have a good relationship with the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, they have soured since then. The Bloc continues to push against the government at every turn, and the NDP is getting tired of supporting the Liberals’ agenda. The NDP is also biding their time, though, as they continue to have financial and polling issues.
The Conservatives are also becoming more confident with their new leader, Erin O’Toole. While he’s had to deal with some internal caucus issues, he’s been able to deal with them more swiftly than his predecessor, which has helped him save face. The party has also updated its branding, social media presence and has adopted more centric policies.
Finally, if an election doesn’t come out from the budget, we will likely see one in either the summer or the fall. Parties are already busy nominating their candidates for an election and fundraising more than ever. It’s clear to many in Ottawa that an election is in the air, but vaccines will decide when this election happens. Until then, the government has a budget to write for Canada’s economic recovery, and parties have debates to win to position themselves as the best next government.