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An election in September, whether we need it or not

Canadians will go to the polls on September 20th – a full two years before our set election date – at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Few people feel that we need an election in the middle of a fourth wave of the pandemic. But the Liberal party believes this is the moment when they can win a majority, and the election is on.

These are unsettling times, and not just because of COVID-19: the exposure of front-line workers, mass graves of Indigenous children in residential schools, floodgates of anger over racial injustice, and an alarming new United Nations IPCC “code red” warning on the climate crisis. These issues won’t be solved by political leaders on the campaign trail for a quick election.

There is much unfinished business, including the creation of a national pharmacare program that Trudeau promised to deliver in the last federal election. On many other issues, such as electoral reform, truth and reconciliation, climate justice, and a just recovery, the government must be held accountable – for what it has done and what it has not.

A minority government is far more responsive to civil society than one holding absolute power. Canadians have won significant gains during minority governments, with public healthcare being the most famous. On the other hand, it’s been clear how much influence corporate lobbyists have on cabinet decisions on far too many issues, from pipelines to pharmacare and long-term care. And let’s not forget the past promise to fix the broken “first-past-the-post” electoral system that so often delivers false majorities. Democratic change is long overdue.

We shouldn’t be cynical about politics – just very aware of how power is exercised. People have to organize relentlessly, in communities across the country, if we want something better. The Council of Canadians slogan is “People, Planet, Democracy.” The three are absolutely inter-linked and provide a framework for how we view this 36-day election and the vital work that will follow after.

John Cartwright is the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians.