Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called an election for Sept. 20, seeking to retake a majority in Canada’s parliament on the back of polls showing many voters approve of his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Public opinion surveys show his Liberals, in power since 2015, with support in the mid-30 per cent range -- near the threshold they’ll need to regain control of the 338-seat House of Commons.

Trudeau will have to make gains among swing voters in key suburban ridings around Montreal and Vancouver and perform well in Toronto and southern Ontario. The Conservative Party is the Liberals’ key opponent, though the New Democratic Party has pockets of strong support and the Bloc Quebecois remains a political force in Quebec.

Trudeau will campaign on the message that continuity is needed to fight the pandemic and continue the economic recovery. “Canadians need to choose how we finish the fight against COVID-19 and build back better,” the prime minister said at a news conference.

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Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, center, arrives with his family at Rideau Hall
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Bloomberg News.

Half of Canadians believe his government has done a good job of managing the COVID-19 crisis, according to a poll by Nanos Research Group for Bloomberg News. Another 26 per cent are neutral on the question.


Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, center, arrives with his family at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Trudeau will visit the Queen's representative in Canada on Sunday morning to trigger the country's second election in two years, seeking to capitalize on polls showing his Liberal Party with a large enough lead to retake a majority in parliament.


Dan Kelly, the head of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, is among those questioning the timing of the election call, calling it an “unneeded distraction.”

“As we enter a fourth wave and provinces look to prolong business restrictions, it is clear the pandemic is not behind us,” Kelly said in emailed comments. Only one-third of small businesses are back to normal levels of sales and the average small firm has taken on CUS$160,000 (US$127,810) in pandemic-related debt, according to CFIB data. The parties’ platforms should address that problem with support for small business, he said.

Talk of a fourth wave hitting Canada has grown in recent days. The national health agency said Aug. 12 that active cases had more than doubled in the previous two weeks, to 13,000.


New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh attacked Trudeau’s decision to call an election during the COVID-19 crisis, saying it was a power play and not in the best interest of Canadians.

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh responds to questions surrounded by his wife Gurkiran Kaur Sidhu,
local MP Alexandre Boulerice, right, and supporters during a news conference in a park in
Montreal, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson 

He spoke about his economic platform, which includes higher taxes on companies and top-earning individuals. The NDP is proposing to boost the top income tax rate, increase taxes on capital gains and impose a temporary 15 per cent tax on “large corporate windfall profits” during the pandemic.

“We are going to make them pay their fair share and invest that into health care, housing, into justice for indigenous people,” Singh said at a news conference in Montreal.


Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was asked several times about vaccine mandates and whether his party’s candidates would be vaccinated.

O’Toole -- who got COVID-19 last September -- made it clear that he supports vaccines and encourages everyone who’s eligible to get one, but the party’s position is not to make them mandatory.

“I think we can have also have an approach that uses a whole suite of health measures, from rapid testing and screening, mask usage, to have reasonable accommodations for people that may not be vaccinated, whether young children or other people,” he said at a news conference. “We have to use all of the tools and not divide Canadians -- let’s work together to fight the fourth wave.”

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Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole speaks to the media as he launches his election campaign
Ottawa, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Canadian Press/Ryan Remiorz 

Last week, Trudeau’s government said it would impose new vaccine requirements on federal civil servants and transportation workers. It also wants to make vaccines mandatory to travel by commercial air or interprovincial railway in Canada.

That’s viewed by some as a move to increase the pressure on O’Toole, whose party includes some vaccine skeptics.


O’Toole used his opening press conference to push an economic message.

The election isn’t about the next year, but “the next four years,” he said. “It’s about who will deliver the economic recovery Canada needs. It’s about who will take action to protect Canadians from spiraling living costs, from rising taxes, from poorer services.”

Inflation has been above the Bank of Canada’s 1 per cent to 3 per cent range since April, though Governor Tiff Macklem has said Canadians “shouldn’t overreact to these temporary price increases.”


Trudeau was asked by reporters about the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has entered the capital city, Kabul, and American-backed President Ashraf Ghani has fled the country, according to reports.

“We are in close contact with our allies, with the Americans who have increased their troop presence on the ground to secure the airport and green zone around Kabul,” he said. Canada will try to get Afghan interpreters and their families out of the country “as quickly as possible, as long as the security situation holds” and to resettle refugees, he said.