The Weekly Writ for Nov. 30
A record-setting ballot in Mississauga–Lakeshore; Canadians' views on abortion; a decisive Quebec election.
Welcome to the Weekly Writ, a round-up of the latest federal and provincial polls, election news and political history that lands in your inbox every Wednesday morning.
Last week at the Public Order Emergency Commission headed by Justice Paul Rouleau could have been the beginning of the end for the Liberal government. Not only were cabinet ministers testifying, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was grilled for over four hours. Any one of them could have tripped up.
That didn’t happen. Instead, the Liberals are probably in a better position today than they were a week ago.
The legal questions at the heart of Rouleau’s inquiry are well out of my wheelhouse, so I won’t opine on whether or not Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act to end the occupation in Ottawa met that threshold.
What is in my wheelhouse are the political implications. And these are, arguably, the most important ones.
That’s because they are the only real consequences that can come out of an inquiry like this. If Rouleau finds against the government, there’s really nothing more he can do than publicly scold and shame the prime minister. Whatever he concludes, the consequences of his findings will be left in the hands of Canadians to punish or reward the Liberals at the ballot box in the next election.
On that score, I think the Liberals are pretty safe. As was pointed out this week by Conservative strategist Kory Teneycke on the Curse of Politics podcast, support for the government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act vastly outstrips support for the government itself. Most polls show about 60% to 65% of Canadians are supportive of the decision, roughly twice the amount of people who say they would vote for the Liberal Party today. That makes it a political winner.
There’s little that happened in last week’s testimony that should change those numbers. Rather, Trudeau’s performance is likely to only shore them up. Whether you agree with him or not, Trudeau was calm, consistent and seemed in full command of both his files and the reasoning behind his own decision.
Reasonable people can disagree on whether the invocation was the right move, particularly with the benefit of hindsight. But Trudeau laid out a case that was defensible, that the decision to go ahead with the Emergencies Act was reasonable based on what was known at the time.
It had to be for Trudeau to survive his 4+ hours of testimony. Had the decision been entirely indefensible, nakedly partisan or grossly abused his testimony would have been torn apart over the course of the day. That is why I don’t believe that this first invocation of the Emergencies Act makes future uses of the act more likely — a future prime minister will have to believe that his or her decision can withstand the scrutiny of this sort of inquiry. If it can’t, the prime minister that invokes it will be significantly damaged, perhaps fatally.
That would make any prime minister think twice. The incentive that trumps all incentives in politics — winning the next election — is a powerful force.
Now, let’s get to today’s Weekly Writ.
We start with a check-in on the upcoming federal byelection in Mississauga–Lakeshore and take a tour across the country to see what other byelections are ahead on the electoral calendar.
Our poll this week takes a look at Canadians’ views on abortion, while we finally head outside of Calgary for our Riding of the Week: Alberta Election Edition.
The #EveryElectionProject brings us to a Quebec campaign that might have saved the country. We then finish with a new milestone for the Ontario premier.
Let’s dive in.