After a gruelling campaign and $600 Million later, parliament remains essentially the same

By Callan Stewart, Political Columnist

Photo credit: Sean Kilpatrick

Compared to American presidential elections, Canada’s month-long election campaign seems miniscule. While Americans endure almost two years of campaigns, advertisements, lawn signs, and candidates incessantly knocking on their doors, this time around, Canadians have condensed all of that drama into just thirty days, the shortest campaign time allowed by law. The campaign, while short, certainly put a tall order to Canadian taxpayers — Reuters reports that the snap election was a prodigious affair of $600 million, or, in other words, $20 million per day. 

Adding insult to injury, the election which took place on Monday, September 20, did very little to alter the parliamentary balance of power. Trudeau was re-elected with a minority government of 159 seats, gaining one seat, as well as regaining former independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould’s seat. The Conservatives meanwhile lost two seats, and the Greens one, while the NDP and Bloc Quebecois each gained a single seat. 

This result was foreshadowed in the rather uneventful night, somehow free of the usual tension of the elections. Perhaps because nobody really wanted this election?

This result was foreshadowed in the rather uneventful night, somehow free of the usual tension of elections. Perhaps because nobody really wanted this election? With voter turnout down a whole five percent from the 2019 election, the numbers would support such a claim. While Trudeau called this election with his eyes on a majority, his polling numbers supporting that goal, he was bitterly disappointed. Although when the election was first called, Trudeau was projected to cross the 170-seat barrier and bring his party a majority, it seems, however, that Canadians were less enthusiastic about a pandemic election, especially in the midst of a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For the Conservatives this election was a terrible loss nonetheless, and it has left the Greens severely damaged. Despite having triggered the snap election, the Liberals failed to meet the 170-seat majority threshold. On the other hand, the Bloc and NDP have essentially gained nothing, even though they also lost nothing (save their financial war-chests). So who won then? Nobody won, least of all the Canadian taxpayers who have to foot the bill for this parade of folly.

With no change achieved in an unscheduled election, during an economic recession, the $600 million cost seems particularly steep. Indeed, the ‘opportunity cost’ of this blunder, in the midst of an international emergency, suggests the question — Instead of the election, what useful things could have been done for our country with that $600 million? 

For a start, given we are in a pandemic, straining the country’s health care system, perhaps an investment in that system would be worthwhile. According to the Globe and Mail, the average cost of an Intensive care unit (ICU) bed in Canada is $1 million per year. We could have funded 600 extra ICU beds for a year throughout the pandemic — a global pandemic during which Ontario has been locked down thrice, as a result of our dismal ICU capacity. These lockdowns have cost our economy tens of billions of dollars. If we were to enter yet another lockdown, could it be because our government misallocated finances that could have gone to saving lives, freedoms, business, money, and saving jobs? Instead, this money funded a vanity project of an election.

So here we stand, with another Trudeau minority, $600 million gone, and not a lot to show for it. The party has been clear that if they did not meet their goal of a majority they would call another election in eighteen months, underscoring its futility. Nothing has been accomplished, and the taxpayers have a $600 million bill.

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