Don Martin: Quick recoveries in the provinces after election fever became a surprise symptom of COVID-19
OTTAWA -- Of all the COVID-19 symptoms, the most unexpected is election fever.
A third clinical trial ended Monday night, an election suggesting the best treatment for party leaders in these uncertain times is a snap inoculation by their voters.
Delaying the writ drop risks voter rejection as pandemic Band-aids are ripped off to heal unsustainable deficits while allowing real concerns about how governments have handled the pandemic to gain traction.
And so, a trio of solo premier acts has produced a choir of consensus that:
- There’s no price to pay for going to the polls early.
- There are no negatives to campaigning in a bubble, which actually delivers the positive of saving parties a pile of dough in touring costs.
- And platforms can still be safely built on costly pandemic-fighting promises with massive deficits handed to future generations to pay.
Over the weekend, B.C. went from bare NDP minority to such a clear John Horgan win they’re didn’t even wait for mail-in ballots to be counted before calling the majority outcome.
Results so far have boosted Horgan’s share of the popular vote by 10 per cent, this despite a needlessly early election called on the flimsiest of pretexts. Voters just didn’t care.
Last night, Saskatchewan went full-on for a fourth consecutive majority for the Saskatchewan Party under slow-and-steady Premier Scott Moe.
This was not a Horgan-like power grab. Moe merely followed the fixed-election date prescribed in legislation and had a declared majority within 35 minutes of the polls closing.
But his repeat showing confirms the march to victory through the pandemic is a cakewalk. Moe’s opponents knew the writ drop was coming and still couldn’t dent his Saskatchewan stranglehold.
Add those two results to the New Brunswick campaign last month, where minority premier Blaine Higgs called an early vote on a contrived excuse to win a strong majority, as you have an undeniable pattern emerging.
Which brings us to a very different picture of the federal scene, where election fever is still above normal.
There was sobering news for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday night as Liberals endured a tough slog to reclaim two supposedly-safe Toronto seats in the House of Commons.
New Green Party leader Annamie Paul gave Liberal Marci Ien a night of fright before she reclaimed Toronto Centre.
And then came the shocker squeaker result in nearby York Centre which, at this writing, was barely tilting to the Liberals over the Conservatives.
The question confronting Trudeau is whether these were canaries croaking in the pandemic coalmine or simply the usual anti-government bias built into by-election results.
If the provincial elections prove anything, it’s that the voters are reluctant to throw-the-bums-out, even when there’s no compelling reason for an early election.
But those strange by-elections signal deep disappointment with the Trudeau government record.
What’s worse for Trudeau is that a nasty hangover is coming from his binge of deficit spending and program rollouts.
Trudeau will soon have to end the longest stretch in history without a federal budget and produce a fiscal picture that won’t be one bit pretty.
So we’re at a point of confusing indicators on the wisdom of Trudeau seeking a third mandate during a viral rampage.
He might well have pause to rethink his hell-bent hurry to force a ridiculously premature vote by those byelection disappointments.
But it’s more likely Trudeau will take greater comfort from this fall’s all-positive result at the polls in the provinces.
As the world’s most famous patient tweeted during his recovery with a presidential election in the offing: “Don't be afraid of COVID.”
That’s one piece of advice from Donald Trump that an election-fever-infected Justin Trudeau may accept, hoping the pandemic is a vaccine against electoral defeat.
That's the bottom line.