OTTAWA – If the prime minister calls an early election amid a looming fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elections Canada says it could end up being the most expensive in the country’s history.
The elections regulator estimates the price tag for the next election could be in the range of $610 million. That’s $100 million more than the 2019 election.
A lot of the cost is due to pandemic safety measures and the expected flood of mail-in ballots.
Elections Canada estimates the cost of the next federal election could be $610-million. It warns the final total cost is unpredictable and will depend on the status of the pandemic at the time of the election. #cdnpoli
— Cormac Mac Sweeney (@cmaconthehill) August 13, 2021
Despite any attempts by the ruling Liberal party to justify the cost, it will be criticized by opposition parties, according to Mount Royal University political scientist Keith Brownsey.
“That this election is unnecessary and it’s very expensive, and do we do we need to do that right now? Spend $600 million in the middle of this pandemic? Couldn’t that money, shouldn’t that money be used for other purposes?” Brownsey said. “The cost of the election will surprise a lot of people, but it will also make it clear that this election may not be necessary.”
What remains up in the air is whether those criticisms will resonate with voters and whether, come voting day, Canadians will punish the incumbents or reward them like they have done in provincial pandemic elections.
Elections in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador had similar results, with incumbents being re-elected, some with majorities.
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Polls have repeatedly shown the Liberals leading with enough support to make a majority government possible, though that could change. The Liberals are 15 seats shy of that majority.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to trigger an election campaign as early as this weekend.
He and opposition leaders have already made several campaign-like stops in key ridings across the country. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh went as far as to release his party’s pre-campaign platform, including heftier taxes on the wealthiest Canadians.