Members of Parliament gather for a group photo in the temporary House of Commons in the West Block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Members of Parliament gather for a group photo in the temporary House of Commons in the West Block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

What’s at stake for the main political parties as an election looms in 2021

Here’s a look at some of the factors at play that could shape how or when that election is called

For all the bluster among federal political leaders about not wanting an election any time soon, the political truth is as cold as a winter’s wind: the potential for one is a reality in 2021.

For now, political parties say getting through the long dark winter without the health-care system collapsing due to COVID-19 is a priority, as is ensuring vaccines quickly and effectively reach all parts of the country.

But running parallel to that is the ongoing debate over how to cushion the economic blow caused by the pandemic.

Who has the best ideas on that score and ought to be entrusted with running the country as Canada builds itself back up is expected to be the dominant ballot box question come the next election.

Here’s a look at some of the factors at play that could shape how or when that election is called.

The Liberals

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laid out the broad strokes of his vision for Canada in the fall throne speech and subsequent economic update. He’ll return to it again in the 2021 budget.

But with a minority government, his desire to “build back better” rests on continuing to get support from other parties for any legislation he seeks to advance.

That the Liberals have survived thus far is largely thanks to the New Democrats who have propped up the government in several confidence votes.

Should Trudeau want to go to the polls to seek a majority mandate — a decision he may make based on public polling suggesting one is possible — he may have to slip a poison pill for the NDP into a confidence motion to ensure they vote him down.

Meanwhile, on their right flank the Liberals will seek any opportunity to jump on comments from Conservative MPs or their leader, Erin O’Toole, that could allow the party to be painted as extremely right wing.

A recent fundraising email to that effect using some of O’Toole’s own comments helped the Liberals hit one of their strongest weeks of online fundraising since the 2019 campaign.

The Conservatives

The goal for the Conservatives in the next election is to form government.

Their path to victory revolves around making the case the Liberals are unfit to manage the post-pandemic recovery, and 2021 will see the Tories roll out their ideas and arguments for why their approach would be better.

Newly minted leader Erin O’Toole — he won the job in August — must become better known to Canadians; while Trudeau spent the lead-up to Christmas doing year-end interviews with major national media outlets, O’Toole’s approach was to avoid most and focus on regional players.

Expanding the party’s reach beyond its loyal and committed base is the primary challenge for O’Toole.

Doing so requires a delicate dance between ensuring card-carrying members of the party see their demands met and not alienating potential voters.

Those two goals may come to a head at the party’s upcoming virtual convention.

What motions O’Toole supports or ignores there will signal which direction he wants to take the party, especially with groups like the anti-abortion Campaign Life Coalition mobilizing to advance its causes on the convention floor.

The New Democrats

The Liberals have hoovered up NDP ideas like Santa eating cookies on Christmas Eve: pharmacare, paid sick days and the cancellation of interest on student loans are now part of the policy package for the government.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said the government must act on those promises to ensure his party’s ongoing support, but they also have other demands, like increased taxes on the “ultrarich.”

The NDP secured concessions from the Liberals in pandemic-response legislation, but a decision to prop them up in a vote over WE Charity raised some eyebrows.

Taking the ethical high ground is a central talking point for the party and painting the Liberals as corrupt friends of the rich is core to the their political strategy.

Singh says he is guided by doing what’s best for Canadians, but how much runaway he has within his own party to keep propping up the government is unclear.

Also of note: in 2021, the party retires its $10 million debt from the 2019 election, allowing the NDP to focus on refilling its coffers for the next run.

The Bloc Quebecois

While their opponents are in the game to win the country, for the Bloc Quebecois, a minority government where they hold a significant chunk of seats is actually a better outcome as it allows them to wield more power than they would in a majority.

The pandemic has put federal-provincial relations under exceptional strain and this is fertile ground for the Bloc Quebecois to till as they position themselves as the only party truly committed to Quebec’s interests in Parliament.

At a recent year-end press conference, Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet accused the Liberals of using the pandemic to seize and centralize power without a care for the provinces.

He also checked off a list of causes dear to Quebec that his party fought for in 2020, including compensation for supply-managed industries and action to force airlines to refund customers who couldn’t travel during the pandemic.

Expect the Bloc to also press back hard against the Liberals’ plan to institute some kind of national strategy to guide long-term care homes, which Quebec has said is beyond the scope of federal power.

The BQ’s main political rival come 2021 is the Conservative party, which continues to insist it is the best placed to achieve actual change for Quebec. Much like the Liberals, expect the Bloc to focus on knocking down Erin O’Toole where they can.

The Green party:

The Greens have appeared poised for an electoral breakthrough for years as Canadians demand more aggressive action on climate change, but it has been a slog to convert national support in the polls to winning seats.

They currently hold three, and but despite best efforts so far, new Green Leader Annamie Paul doesn’t have one.

Increasing her profile is crucial in the coming months, but challenging without a seat in Parliament.

She’s been working the media circuit and holding regular news conferences, but an election would give her a much-needed boost, especially if she is afforded a seat at nationally televised debates.

The Liberals’ goal to focus on a “green recovery” post-pandemic could see the Greens own approach get renewed attention.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

federal election

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Tom Lennox finds peace when he runs in the Cumberland Forest. He hasn’t missed a day in nearly a year. Photo supplied
Cumberland runner nears 366 consecutive days on the trails

Cumberland resident Tom Lennox has been running a minimum of five kilometres… Continue reading

Courtenay’s Ace Brewing Company’s Jet Fuel IPA was chosen for second place in the annual Canadian Brewing Awards. Photo submitted
Courtenay brewery takes silver medal at Canadian Brewing Awards

“It’s huge - they are the biggest awards in Canada that you can get (in the brewing industry).”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

The Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District board is concerned about having to fund more than just hospitals like the one in the Comox Valley. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Strathcona board worried over funding more than hospitals

Island Health points to seniors care to reduce demand at acute care sites

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Courtenay area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy rushed to emergency 3 times after ingesting drugs in Chemainus public spaces

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Most Read