Voting sign, no date, Elections Canada

The Editor’s Desk: Snap election blues

If there was a worse time to call an unnecessary election, it would be hard to find

Dear Mr. Trudeau,

I wanted to write to thank you for calling a snap election today, two years earlier than we were all supposed to head to the polls, according to the fixed election term set out in Bill C-16. That bill received Royal Assent in May 2007, and the legislation sets federal election dates as the third Monday in October in the fourth calendar year after the previous election.

Since the last federal election was in October 2019, the next one was not supposed to take place until Oct. 16, 2023. Of course, my math might be all wrong, because it’s been that kind of a day. As I write this at 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 15, the streets of Princeton are packed, as more than 2,000 people from the Lower Nicola area head through that community on their way to Chilliwack, having been evacuated due to wildfires earlier today.

People in the small community of Cherry Creek have probably just about finished evacuating; they were told earlier today they had to leave. So were people in West Kelowna, because of a wildfire there, and people to the east of Logan Lake, which was evacuated last week. Thousands more people in the immediate area went on evacuation alert today, and are doubtless busy gathering together photo albums, diaries, their children’s trophies and artwork, and the myriad other items they want to have ready in case they have to leave their homes at a moment’s notice. A federal election is so far down the list of things people are thinking about, here, that it’s not even on the list at all.

You see, Mr. Trudeau, we have a lot on our minds right now. Almost everyone around here knows someone who lost their home when the town of Lytton was almost completely destroyed on June 30. We’ve all spent days or weeks on evacuation alerts, and if that’s as far as it went then we’re the lucky ones, because many thousands of people have been evacuated, or are evacuated right now, or will be in the days to come. When that’s the reality all around you, it’s kind of difficult to give much thought to an unnecessary federal election.

In fact, we’ll be doing well if fire season is even over by the time the election rolls around on Sept. 20, so you’ll forgive us if we aren’t giving you our full attention right now. It’s hard to focus on earnest platitudes when you’ve just heard that friends in a nearby community have had to evacuate their home.

To be completely honest, though, even if there weren’t any wildfires to worry about, I think the soaring COVID-19 case count would probably be capturing a lot of people’s attention. They’re calling it the fourth wave, which sounds fine if you’re talking about surfing, but isn’t so great when it’s referring to a potentially deadly virus that’s making a resurgence right now. You probably aren’t all that aware of the fires here, but I’m sure you’ve had a briefing note or two on the COVID situation.

So between the wildfires and the pandemic, there’s not a lot of bandwidth left in these parts to devote to an election, and if you felt that said election might come as a welcome relief, then you didn’t do a very good job of reading the room. In fact, no matter what rationale you posit for your decision (the words “naked power grab” come to mind, although I doubt we’ll hear you come right out and acknowledge that), I suspect you’ve failed to read the room for quite a large number of Canadians.

What this will translate to at the polls when the dust settles on election day is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, I have a helpful suggestion: in the unlikely event that you were planning any campaign stops in the Central Interior of B.C., you might want to change your plans and avoid the area. I have a hunch you won’t be terribly welcome.

Sincerely, Barbara

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter