Even though federal political leaders have been using some heated, election-style language to snipe at each other in recent weeks, pundits say it’s unlikely Canadians will go to the polls in 2023.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was active during the six-week parliamentary break, making stops in Saskatoon, Windsor, Ont. and Trois-Rivieres, Que. to talk up his government’s accomplishments. He also occasionally took shots at Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and his recent assertion that “everything seems broken” in Canada.
“Crossing your arms and saying ‘Canada is broken’ is not the way to build a better future for Canadians,” Trudeau said.
Poilievre, meanwhile, toured Quebec in an attempt to boost his poll numbers in that province. He also met with Indigenous leaders in Vancouver to discuss a proposed opt-in policy for First Nations to share the revenue generated by resource development on their lands.
The Conservative leader also hit back at Trudeau on Friday during an address to his caucus prior to the House of Commons’ return. He blamed the prime minister for inflation, the recent travel chaos and deficit spending while appearing to goad Trudeau into an election battle.
“If you’re not responsible for any of these things, if you can’t do anything about it, then why don’t you get out of the way and let someone lead who can?” Poilievre said as his MPs cheered and applauded.
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Addressing his Conservative caucus, Poilievre says ‘everything is worse’ under Trudeau
Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre addresses his Conservative caucus and highlights crime rates during Justin Trudeau’s time as prime minister.
Speaking to his own caucus earlier this month, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh touted his party’s confidence-and-supply agreement with the Liberals, saying that the deal was “delivering for Canadians.”
But Singh also indicated that he had his eyes set higher.
“We’re going to fight for every bit of help and hope we can win for Canadians and then I’m going to run for prime minister of Canada,” he said.
But Tim Powers of Summa Strategies said he doesn’t think any of the leaders are itching for an election right now, despite their recent posturing.
“The conditions don’t exist for an election this year,” he told CBC. “I don’t think anybody’s really going to have a breakaway moment.”
WATCH | How do the federal parties stack up as MPs prepare to return to Ottawa?
How do the federal parties stack up as MPs prepare to return to Ottawa?
Shachi Kurl, president at the Angus Reid Institute, and Éric Grenier, writer and publisher of TheWrit.ca, joined Power & Politics Friday to discuss the latest polling data.
Powers said the Liberals are unlikely to seek a new mandate with the threat of an economic slowdown this year hanging over the government’s head.
“We will only have an election this year if Justin Trudeau sees the winning conditions exist for him,” Powers said. “I don’t think the Liberals are yet ready to manufacture an election.”
Sharan Kaur of SK Consulting agreed that an election is unlikely this year. She suggested the Conservatives will still use the economy to needle the Liberals and position themselves as a government-in-waiting.
“I would say the biggest looming issue of 2023 is going to be cost of living, a potential recession, and that will probably be the main pivot point for the Conservatives,” she said, adding that she thinks the Conservative Party is the only one that wants an election this year.
But Powers said Poilievre might be happy to wait and give himself more time to pitch himself to Canadians.
“I think Poilievre is content to have the time to let the Liberals age and build a brand and a platform that can be useful to him,” he said.
If the Liberal-NDP deal holds for its intended duration, the next election won’t happen until 2025.
But the agreement may face a tougher test in 2023 than it did in 2022 because it includes more benchmarks for progress — including a commitment to table pharmacare legislation. Singh also threatened to pull out of the deal if the Liberals don’t address the health-care crisis.
“The confidence-and-supply agreement gets a little bit more muscular [this year],” said Brad Lavigne of Consul Public Affairs.
Snow covers a fence surrounding Parliament Hill, Friday, January 20, 2023 in Ottawa.
Snow covers a fence surrounding Parliament Hill on January 20, 2023. MPs are set to return to the House of Commons on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
NDP MP Daniel Blaikie told CBC News this month that the 2023 federal budget will be a key factor in deciding whether the Liberals are holding up their end of the deal.
But even if the deal falls apart this year, Lavigne said, it wouldn’t necessarily trigger an election.
“If you look back at recent history, [former prime minister Stephen] Harper had minority Parliaments in which he had no such supply agreement with any one opposition party, yet he maintained the confidence of the House for many years,” he said. “That is an option that is open to Mr. Trudeau as well.”
Even if an election doesn’t happen this year, Kaur said she doesn’t expect the political posturing to stop.
“We’re going to see a lot of pandering in the next year, especially around economic challenges, cost of living for people — just like the bread-and-butter issues,” she said.