Well folks, it’s now official and let’s put aside any of the pretense about it; Canada’s 44th General Election is on!
It’s been said that the most important steps one takes in a race are the first ones. Getting off to a good start can really set the tone for the steps to come and while a good first day won’t win you the campaign, you sure can lose it on the first day. With that in mind, here are a few bits of what others thought of today’s campaign launches before I get to my own thoughts:
When you compare the launches of the major national parties, it becomes pretty clear who at the best start. The NDP had a great first day of the campaign, especially when it’s compared to the Liberals and Conservatives. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau struggled to justify calling this election to the national media who persistently kept asking for a proper answer. All that Trudeau had to offer was platitudes and a dare for the Opposition parties to explain why they want to deny Canadians a chance to vote right now.
On the other hand, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole struggled to answer serious questions of his own, while standing in front of the assembled media in an empty Ottawa ballroom. He correctly claimed (that Justin Trudeau was “his own personal & political goals above public health” by call this election. Yet at the same time, O’Toole refused to answer for is unwillingness to mandate that his candidates be vaccinated against COVID-19, in essence putting “his own personal & political goals above public health.” That irony didn’t go unnoticed by too many.
Meanwhile, Jagmeet Singh’s launch was a bright, positive and confident event. His poise and happiness to be before the cameras shone through and he showed his natural ease on the campaign trail. Jagmeet loves to campaign, and he is right at the top of my list of most natural campaigner I’ve ever witnessed in person (right alongside Jack Layton). This is Jagmeet in his element, and he glowed as a result. When he was pushed on his positions, he was also much clearer and more direct in his response. He not only pointed out why this election was unneeded and the number of Liberal promises calling this early election left on the vine to die, he presented a positive vision of his own.
What was probably most striking though was that while both Mr. Singh and Mr. Trudeau campaigned in Montreal on Sunday, only Jagmeet planned to show up at march in the Montreal Pride Parade on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. It was oddly notable that Mr. Trudeau ceded the field to Mr. Singh, making him to be the only national party leader to take part in one of the largest social events on Montreal’s summer calendar. It’s especially notable given that only Mr. Trudeau knew for sure when the election was coming, and surely could have planned to be there, right? It all made for a strong contrast and showed a team that’s ready to step up if Canadians decide that the red and blue teams are not up to the job. So while the Liberals and Conservatives came out of their first events with seriously problematic questions still unanswered, Singh came away clear and concise.
But while everything was unfolding at Rideau Hall, something else was unfolding that couldn’t go without being noticed or commented on, and that was the fall of Kabul and effectively, Afghanistan. And a few things about that cannot go without being commented on:
What we’re seeing unfold in Afghanistan is tragic but also shows the impact of a government that has spent the past month preparing for an election instead of governing. For over a month, veterans’ groups and the opposition parties have been calling for the government to move fast to pull Afghans who worked with Canadian Forces out of the country. The fact is that with the Taliban taking over, their lives and those of their families and loved ones are in serious danger. This was something that was seen coming for the longest time, yet this government didn’t move. It wasn’t until Friday that they finally announced that about 20,000 Afghans “who have already left the country” would be resettled in Canada. Those still stuck on the ground in country? That was an open question, as Canadian Forces were on the ground trying to evacuate embassy and diplomatic staff.
Then came this morning, with Kabul falling, our embassy being closed and those Afghans who worked with our troops being stuck on the ground. They have been left to begging and pleading with Canadian journalists they know, trying to get them out of this deadly situation. They hoped that Canada would repay them the loyalty and trust that they put in us. And in there biggest moment of absolute need, our government let them down. They failed.
I don’t use those words lightly, but I don’t know how else to describe the scale of this failure. Our government can’t claim they were caught off guard by this because this was seen coming. They can’t claim they didn’t have the resources and means to do this if they acted earlier, but that’s just not true. The fact is that if this government had moved fast last month, started moving people out of Afghanistan and started to process paperwork and whatever else in another country, this could have been done. The lives of those who served with us could have been saved. It’s hard to separate that failure with what the government had been spending the last month doing instead. Governing is all about priorities, and these allies clearly fell somewhere down that list in this critical moment.
I only raise this because I couldn’t ignore the contrast of the fact that while the UK was recalling their Parliament for an emergency session to deal with this, our Prime Minister went to the GG to get the election he so wanted instead. There are many other examples of important issues and emergencies that I can point to through the same lens right now, but this just happens to be the one slapping us all in the face today. In a moment of crisis, our government should be in governing mode. Instead, because of a selfish choice made by this Prime Minister, our government is in campaign mode. These decisions have consequences folks and raise serious questions about “why” this election must happen “now”, answers to which this Prime Minister doesn’t have. We’ll see how the rest of this campaign goes but now that the writs have been drawn up, there is no going back. We’re in it now, even if we wanted it or not.