The federal Liberal Party has triggered its “electoral urgency” rule for nominations, allowing the party to change any protocols governing candidate selection and speed up the pace of nominations.
The rule took effect on Friday, party spokesperson Braeden Caley told The Globe and Mail late Thursday night. Mr. Caley said the decision is a routine administrative move, but with a minority government and an election already widely expected this year, it is likely to add to speculation on the timing of the next vote.
The news comes as a higher-than-normal portion of Canadians say they are open to an election this fall, said Nanos Research founder Nik Nanos, but that election appetite has not cracked 50 per cent.
A Nanos Research survey, conducted between May 30 and June 2, found that 44 per cent of voters support or somewhat support an autumn election. On the flip side, 49 per cent oppose or somewhat oppose the idea and 8 per cent are unsure.
“I think what the numbers suggest is that there’s political licence to have an election, assuming that the vaccinations continue at the same pace and we get back to normal,” Mr. Nanos said.
The hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,029 Canadian adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
On May 25, all parties supported a motion against holding an election during a pandemic, but with the current vaccination timeline, that left open the possibility of sending voters to the polls in the fall.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that he is focused on the economic recovery and getting past the third wave of the pandemic. “We know that we are in a minority situation and we could have elections eventually,” he said. Asked what would lead him to call an election, Mr. Trudeau noted that other parties, but namely Conservatives, have a “very different vision for a stronger and greener recovery.”
Under the Liberal Party’s rules, the national campaign chair can issue a “declaration of electoral urgency,” when “a political situation exists in Canada or in any Electoral District(s),” where the standard nomination timelines would not be appropriate.
In this case, Liberal MP Navdeep Bains and Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly share the responsibility as campaign co-chairs, and in the event of a “state of electoral urgency,” are allowed to change the nomination rules as they “see fit.”
“It’s routine, it’s happened in every election cycle over the course of the last decade,” Mr. Caley said, adding that the point is to change timelines “to make things go faster.”
Nominating candidates is a key element of election readiness, and the Liberals have already nominated people to run under their banner in 162 ridings. At the party’s April convention, senior Liberals tied the next election’s timing to the completion of the vaccination campaign against COVID-19. The government has given itself a deadline to complete all vaccinations in September.
As of Friday, the Conservatives had nominated 215 candidates, the NDP 83 and the Greens 21.
Mr. Caley compared the Liberal Party’s use of its electoral-urgency clause with the Conservative Party’s decision in May to change its rules to allow the party to alter nomination timelines and other rules for picking candidates. However, in the Tories’ case, the extra powers only take effect once an election has been called.
“In the event of a general election being called, national council has authorized the party to change the nomination rules as they see fit, in order to get candidates in place,” Conservative Party spokesperson Cory Hann said Thursday.
Green Party spokesperson Rosie Emery said Friday that the party has no plans to exercise similar rules, noting that the government is still “relatively young.” The NDP did not provide a comment.
Adding to the election speculation, the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion on Thursday that will allow members of Parliament not seeking re-election to make their farewell speeches on June 15.
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