O’Toole says Trudeau shouldn’t rush into an election with threat of a fourth wave looming


Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said today that, with COVID-19 case counts rising in many provinces as the potent delta strain takes hold, it’s not the right time to plunge the country into a federal election campaign.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 29, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said today that, with COVID-19 case counts rising in many provinces as the potent delta strain takes hold, it’s not the right time to plunge the country into a federal election campaign.

Speaking to reporters at a campaign-style stop in Belleville, Ont., O’Toole said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is only considering an election now — just two years into his mandate — because of his “own self interest.” CBC’s Poll Tracker suggests the governing Liberals have a sizeable lead over the opposition parties in national polling.

“My biggest concern right now is the potential fourth wave of COVID-19,” O’Toole said. “We shouldn’t be rushing to an election. Mr. Trudeau always seems to put his own self-interest ahead of the interest of Canadians.”

While not yearning for an election, O’Toole said the Conservatives are well prepared for a campaign that could start as soon as this week.

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The parties have been busy nominating candidates — the Liberal party declared a state of “electoral urgency” months ago to quickly name candidates in the country’s 338 ridings ahead of a vote — and raising money for an election campaign that can be no shorter than 36 days.

“We will be ready but we do think the health and economic security of Canadians must come first,” O’Toole said, adding the government should be focusing its energies on supporting pandemic-ravaged industries like the tourism sector rather than planning for an election that few people want.

O’Toole said that, in order to address some of the COVID-induced economic disruptions in rural Canada, a government led by him would fast-track the rollout of high-speed internet nationwide to bring reliable connections to all rural and remote communities by 2025.

The federal government has earmarked billions of dollars already to bring speedy internet to rural areas. O’Toole said the current timeline is insufficient.

O’Toole also promised to commit more federal infrastructure spending to rural areas — places he said are central to “Canada’s economy, culture and way of life.”

“Rural Canada has been neglected by the Liberals. With Canada’s Conservatives, help is on the way,” O’Toole said.

After a lull in new COVID-19 cases, a number of the larger provinces have reported an increase in new infections in recent days.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) reported a 43 per cent increase in the number of new cases last week, with 705 cases being reported each day during the week of July 25.

With the current high rate of vaccination coverage, however, the number of new deaths reported is still much lower than it was during earlier phases of the pandemic. PHAC documented fewer than 10 deaths a day during the final week of July, well off the mid-April highs.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh visits the Parkdale Public Market in Ottawa with Angella MacEwen, left, NDP candidate for Ottawa Centre, on Aug. 5, 2021. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the uptick in new COVID-19 cases is a “troubling” development and it should give the prime minister second thoughts about calling an election. Singh said Trudeau’s claim that Parliament has been dysfunctional is simply false; he pointed out that the government was able to broker deals with opposition parties to pass pandemic relief measures and a budget.

“I’ve said I want to make a decision that’s in the best interest of Canadians and you’d think, in a pandemic, the Liberals would think the same way as well. It looks like they’re more interested in power than doing what’s in the best interest of Canadians,” he said.

“I think we should be focused on getting people the help they need and not going to an election.”

Singh said his party will be ready if an early election is called. Compared to the Liberal and Conservatives parties, however, the NDP has far fewer candidates nominated — just over 100, compared to well over 200 for the other two main parties. Singh said his party has much more money to spend on this campaign than it did in the 2019 contest.

“We’re absolutely ready,” he said, adding that the party’s campaign message will be that the “ultra rich” need to pay more in taxes to better fund social programs and pay off pandemic debts.

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