Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery amid the pandemic’s escalating third wave.

Yet despite the high stakes and expectations leading up to Ottawa’s first full spending plan in more than two years, the likelihood of the budget being forcefully opposed — or even outright rejected, triggering a snap federal election — seem remote at best.

“All budgets are political documents,” said Greg MacEachern, a former Liberal political aide and current senior vice-president of Proof Strategies. “But the politics around this one is probably going to be the lack of politics.”

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will rise in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon to present the budget, which the government has portrayed as its vision for shaping Canada’s economy for a post-pandemic world.

The Liberals have promised to lay out a plan to green the economy, create a national child-care system and help displaced workers improve their skills, while provinces, small businesses and others will be looking for aid with the pandemic and beyond.

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget.

Conservative finance critic Ed Fast wrote Freeland last week reiterating his party’s demands the government present a plan for reopening the economy that includes supporting small businesses while keeping spending under control and not raising taxes.

“We will be analyzing your budget for a plan that restores hope and confidence in every region of the country and delivers a road map to re-opening our economy and restoring our prosperity,” Fast wrote.

The NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Greens have also laid out their own demands for the budget, including in phone conversations that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held with each party leader last week ahead of the spending plan.

With a minority of seats in the House of Commons, the Liberals need at least one opposition party to support the budget to avoid a snap election.

Yet the potential for real political drama appears to have been snuffed out already thanks to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s assertion last week that his party will not vote against the budget.

NDP finance critic Peter Julian reiterated that position in an interview on Sunday, saying: “Jagmeet has been very clear: We are not going to vote non-confidence in the midst of this third wave.”

That doesn’t mean the NDP will refrain from criticizing the budget if it does not meet the party’s demands, Julian said, including the need for a national child-care system and universal pharmacare as well as taxes on the wealthy.

“We have taken, I think, the responsible route, which is where Canadians are as well,” he said. “There’s not a single Canadian I’ve met or spoken to or talked to online that believes it would be in Canada’s interest to have an election right now.”

Recent opinion polls, including one conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies for The Canadian Press, back up Julian’s assertion.

Only 14 per cent of respondents to the Leger poll conducted between April 9 and 11 supported a spring election, while 29 per cent want one in the fall. Forty-three per cent said they hoped to see one later, while 14 per cent did not know.

The online survey of 1,504 Canadians cannot be assigned a margin of error because online panels are not considered random samples.

Yet while that would appear to give the Liberals’ carte blanche to roll out whatever measures and promises they want, MacEachern suggested the government should be careful about how far it pushes the envelope.

“Canadians are showing that they really do not have a lot of appetite for partisanship right now, and the government has to show that they’re listening to Canadians,” he said.

And while the Liberals have previously talked about the need for preparing for a post-pandemic world, MacEachern suggested the government needs to be mindful that Canadians are nervous and worried about the third wave of COVID-19.

“Politically, if I was being asked for my advice, I would be careful of large aspirational language and programs right now,” he said.

Trudeau has repeatedly said he does not want an election, but declined to swear off triggering one before the passage of Bill C-19. The bill would amend voting laws to allow for a safe election during a pandemic.

The Liberals could decide to pull the plug themselves, and party insiders suggest that may happen over the summer provided the vaccine rollout continues apace and the pandemic, currently spreading like wildfire once again, is sufficiently doused.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirusfederal budget

Just Posted

Comox Valley medical clinics are all open, including the availability to book face-to-face care (i.e. for a physical examination) as per your clinic’s protocol (most clinics operate a “virtual care first” policy). ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
Northern Health launches virtual primary care clinic

Northerners without a family physician or nurse practitioner will now have access to primary care

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains in the B.C. legislature, May 13, 2019. (Hansard TV)
VIDEO: B.C. to provide 3 days of sick pay for COVID-19 absences

Province will support employers on cost, labour minister says

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

Brad MacKenzie, advocacy chair for the ALS Society of B.C., says having research projects in the province allows people here to have access to cutting-edge treatments now being developed. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds research chair for Lou Gehrig’s disease at UBC

Pandemic has cut off patient access to international projects

Most Read