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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

a 75 percent subsidy is being offered for those facing financial barriers in accessing leisure service department opportunities. (District of Kitimat file photo)
Kitimat’s new leisure access program offers a 75 per cent subsidy for persons facing financial barriers

The subsidy will give people facing financial barriers a cheaper opportunity to the leisure programs

The District of Kitimat has announced to continue their free transit fares for all students in kindergarten to Grade 12. The pilot project will continue to run until August 2023, and will be reviewed in 2023 to see if it will be renewed. (Black Press photo)
Free student transit fare pilot project continues in Kitimat

The project was launched in September 2020 and allowed students to board buses for free

Kitimat Search and Rescue was tasked by RCMP on Friday, April 21 2021, requesting help in finding three lost hikers north of the Smith Street hiking trail. Hikers were found and brought back into town at 8 pm. (Kitimat Search and Rescue logo)
Kitimat SAR find three lost hikers

Kitimat SAR issued a warning to locals using the trails

Gates will open at 8:30 p.m. with the first film starting around 9:15 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. (AFFNO file photo)
AFFNO hosts french film in the Kitimat-Stikine and Northcoast Region

AFFNO had to create different approaches this year to set up events

(Clare Rayment photo)
Column: Whether weather correlates to your mood

Nearly nine per cent of people fall into a ‘rain haters’ category

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Colleen Price, Vancouver Island University’s bachelor of science in nursing program chairperson, says she is impressed with how students have persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Next generation of B.C. nurses already showing resilience

University program head says learning had to be adjusted amidst pandemic

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old B.C. bike rider already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read