Will Canada have an election in the coming months?

Shelby Thevenot, Kareem El-Assal
Published: August 11, 2021

Canadian law requires that the government in power will have to call an election by October 16, 2023, but it could be much sooner.

It seems Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is gearing up for a snap election. Media reports suggest Trudeau may call the election within the next one or two weeks and Canadians could head to the polls as soon as September. COVID-19 cases are down, vaccination rates are up, and the prime minister has been handing out funding to various groups across the country. Polls suggest support is on the rise for Trudeau and his Liberal Party.

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Trudeau won a majority government in 2015. Since the previous election in 2019, the Liberal Party has led the country as a minority government, meaning they did not secure more than 50 per cent of the seats. There are 338 seats in the House of Commons where elected representatives from all over Canada form government. Liberals have 157 seats. Although there are more Liberals in power compared to any other party, all the other parties together out number them. Its opposite is a majority government where the party that is leading the country is also the most represented in the House of Commons.

This is likely why the Liberal Party is gearing up for an election now, in hopes of securing a majority government. Even though leaders of opposition parties have called on Trudeau not to hold an election, the Liberal Party leader is ahead in the polls, especially for his pandemic management. From the Liberal standpoint, it could be advantageous to open up an election while they are ahead.

At the moment, the House is in recess, meaning there are no activities going on. If Trudeau calls an election, Governor General Mary Simon will dissolve Parliament, and election season will begin.

Political parties, leaders, and immigration

Here is an overview of federal party leaders, their platforms, and followers. Public opinion data come from a recent Angus Reid poll.

Liberal Party 

Lead by Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party is generally situated centre to centre-left on the political spectrum.

Since winning a minority government in 2019, the Liberals have increased immigration levels, introduced new immigration streams for essential workers and international graduates, Hongkongers, and refugees, and made immigration policy more flexible among the coronavirus pandemic. For example, at the outset of the pandemic, they announced a number of exceptional measures so that temporary residents can remain in Canada and so that immigration candidates have more time to submit their applications. However, they have yet to make good on their promises to get rid of citizenship fees, and create a Municipal Nominee Program.

Supporters of this party are most likely to believe current immigration targets are the right amount, which makes sense since it was the Liberal party that set them.

Conservative Party

The leading opposition party generally sits centre-right on the political spectrum.

The Conservatives are the only other federal party to govern Canada, most recently between 2006 and 2015. It is the biggest opposition party to the Liberal government. When last in power, Conservatives also increased immigration, focusing more on economic class immigration. For instance, they introduced the Express Entry system.

Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole has called immigration “critical to (Canada’s) success.” Also, he has repeatedly won elections in immigrant-dense ridings.

One quarter of past Conservative Party voters agree the current immigration targets are good. These voters are the most likely to say the Liberal party's targets are "far too high" and the least likely to say targets are "far too low."

NDP

On the political spectrum, the NDP generally sit further left than the Liberals.

The NDP has only ever led provincial levels of government. The party's leader Jagmeet Singh is popular among immigrants, visible minorities, and young people. Singh's popularity is said to be making the NDP a strong contender to become the official opposition.

In the 2019 election, Singh campaigned to prioritized family reunification, tackle immigration backlogs, and support the resettlement of refugees.

The majority of past NDP voters agree that the Liberal's immigration targets are just right.

How might an election impact Canadian immigration?

Should an election be called, there will likely be little immediate impact on Canada’s immigration system. The Liberal Party will continue to govern during the election campaign, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will continue to implement the Liberal’s policies including the Immigration Levels Plan 2021-2023.

Once an election has been decided, these policies will continue to be pursued until the new government has been formed and the new cabinet has been unveiled. Following the 2015 and 2019 elections, a new cabinet was introduced before Christmas, and then the new government began to implement its immigration mandate shortly after.

Canadian immigration should remain fairly stable for the rest of the 2021. The immigration policy priorities that the Canadian government will pursue in 2022 and beyond will be determined by the outcome of a potential upcoming election.

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