I voted at the advance poll just after the debates. Primarily as a matter of reflection and self-justification, rather than an attempt at persuasion, I will explain my vote.
The Wrong Time
First, I think that the middle of the fourth Covid-19 wave was the wrong time to call an election. In the absence of an election, the government could have focused its attention on persuading Alberta and Saskatchewan to take a more aggressive response.
I don’t think Justin Trudeau’s desire for a parliamentary majority was motivated by personal self-aggrandizement, as Conservative ads would have us believe. Rather, a majority would make it easier to enact the Liberal agenda. However, one can think of a minority government during a pandemic as a government of national unity in the sense that at least some of the opposition parties must be on board with the Government’s agenda.
Finally, calling an election during the fourth wave, rather than a year or two from now when Covid will be better controlled, has created an opportunity for the People’s Party of Canada (PPC) to channel anger, resentment, and Covid-fatigue. I doubt if the PPC would do so well if an election were held when we are past the worst of the pandemic.
Despite my dissatisfaction with the timing of the election, I think it is more important to vote looking forward than to punish the Liberals for this decision.
The Pandemic Election
Two issues matter most to me, the pandemic and climate change.
On the pandemic, I completely agree with the Liberals’ support for vaccine mandates in areas of federal jurisdiction and promise of financial support for provinces implementing vaccine passports. Erin O’Toole’s goal of a 90 percent vaccination rate when he regards vaccination as a personal choice rather than a societal obligation is purely aspirational and lacking any means of enforcement. His glib promise to combine vaccination, masking, distancing, and contact-tracing ignores the fact that vaccination is by far the most effective of the four. His flat-out refusal to require his candidates to be vaccinated makes me wonder whether he is covering for candidates in Ontario and Quebec who aren’t vaccinated or candidates in Alberta and Saskatchewan who are, or maybe both groups. We are now seeing the results of the Conservatives’ approach to the pandemic playing out in Alberta and Saskatchewan. O’Toole’s refusal to criticize Premier Kenny, even after Kenny has admitted the failure of his approach, speaks volumes about O’Toole’s judgment and character.
A Market Incentive or a Bureaucratic Gimmick
On climate change, there are two big differences between the Liberals and the Conservatives. The Liberals are committed to increasing the carbon price to a level consistent with the Paris Accord ($170 per tonne by the end of the decade). The Conservatives will commit to only $50 per tonne.
The current carbon price is a classic market-oriented mechanism that increases the price of gasoline to reduce consumption but leaves the average consumer as well off by rebating most of the revenue collected. As an economist, I appreciate that, in both senses of the word. The Conservatives’ carbon points scheme would require a large bureaucracy to administer, decide on acceptable uses for the points, and monitor redemption of points. Here’s an example. Say that someone driving a gas-guzzling SUV redeems their points by buying a hybrid. Because of their points they are getting the hybrid at a deep discount. Would they be allowed to resell (in real estate market terminology, flip) it and then buy another gas-guzzler?
Politics is Also Local
The constituency in which I live, Don Valley West, is always a straight Liberal-Conservative fight, with the NDP and Greens receiving very few votes. (Its average household income of $216,000 and median household income of $87,000 in 2015 explain why.)
Veteran Liberal MP Rob Oliphant (2008-2011, 2015-2021), in my view, is a model constituency MP. I have accompanied him canvassing and I am impressed at his detailed knowledge of every corner of the constituency. His background as a United Church minister shows in his empathy for constituents and commitment to service. He is a tireless and effective advocate for the constituency.
Reasons of policy (the pandemic, climate change) and personality (Rob Oliphant’s devotion to public service and effective advocacy) explain why I voted Liberal and why I voted for Rob Oliphant.