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On Sept. 23, the Liberal government in Ottawa will introduce a speech from the throne to lay out its priorities, and there are rumblings that could lead to an early federal election.

Following the Speech from the Throne, there will be a vote of confidence. And if the current minority government loses that vote, we could all soon be heading to the polls.

Let’s just say that might not be such a great idea.

It would be the height of foolishness and irresponsibility to have an election during the Covid-19 pandemic.

An election means rallies, campaigning door-to-door, glad-handing by candidates and, of course, millions of people heading to voting places. That is just the kind of thing to be avoided in a pandemic.

Of course, campaigning could be moved mostly online and voting could be by mail, but we know that many people will still want to do the things they have always done during an election, pandemic or no pandemic.

We hope the political parties in Ottawa – the governing Liberals and all the opposition parties – will use some common sense in this situation. However, politics can sometimes be a strange game, and it is possible that an election might happen.

If the opposition parties see some political advantage in defeating the Liberals, they might just go ahead and do it. Political opportunism might be stronger than what’s good for the country.

And the Liberal government’s handling of Covid-19 would be bound to become an election issue.

That would be unfortunate because the country’s response to Covid-19 has been relatively successful and largely free of politics because it has been based on science, good public health policies and co-operation among the territorial, provincial and federal governments, which represent several different political parties. The opposition parties in Ottawa have also treated Covid-19 is a responsible manner, even though they have rightly done their job and asked the questions that need to be asked.

It would be a shame to see that generally unified response shattered by a federal election.

We have to look no further than the United States to see what can happen when a pandemic becomes politicized.

President Donald Trump has been holding re-election rallies, where it has become a political statement by many not to wear facemasks as a precaution against Covid-19. And the response by the federal and state governments in the U.S. has often been disjointed and disastrous, and a cause for debates, rallies and protests along a left-right divide.

Luckily, there has been little such political division in Canada over Covid-19, although there has been some.

The American Constitution mandates the date of that country’s election, so it will be happening on Nov. 3 come hell or high water. And the opportunities in the United States for even more Covid-inspired divisions are immense.

With our parliamentary system, Canada has control over the date of a federal election, because it is not written in the stone of a constitution.

We hope that our federal politicians will use their better judgment and realize that a pandemic is not the time to go to the polls.

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Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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