Leaders Who Are Beating the Virus Are Winning Elections in Canada
(Bloomberg) -- The battle against Covid-19 is proving to be a winner for politicians in parts of Canada that have avoided the worst of the outbreak.
Voters in two western provinces, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, have re-elected incumbent governments with large majorities. On Monday, Premier Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan Party won 63% of the popular vote, with mail-in ballots still to be counted. That followed a resounding victory in B.C. for Premier John Horgan’s New Democratic Party, which earned another term in power by sweeping most seats in metro Vancouver in an Oct. 24 election.
The small eastern province of New Brunswick also held an election during the pandemic, with Premier Blaine Higgs winning a majority government in September.
All three provinces have had fewer than 6 virus deaths per 100,000 people, better than every U.S. state and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The election results will be carefully watched by political leaders in Ottawa: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government lacks a majority in parliament, meaning a national election could be held at almost any time.
The numbers have emboldened the prime minister, who last week dared opposition parties to defeat his government in a confidence vote in the House of Commons. New Democrat members decided to back him, preventing a snap election for now.
“Most people want some degree of predictability and stability. You’re going to default to, ‘Don’t fix something that’s not broken,’” Greg Poelzer, a political scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, said in an interview. “Incumbents have a massive advantage right now in this pandemic. It’s fundamentally a stability issue.”
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Provincial governments are on the front lines of fighting the virus in Canada. They bear responsibility for many aspects of the health care system, including hospitals, and make most of the decisions around closing businesses or schools to contain the spread of the virus.
It’s not unusual for the public to rally around government leaders in times of acute crisis, but Canada’s proximity to the volatile situation in the U.S. may also benefit Canadian politicians, said Kathryn Harrison, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia.
Both countries have seen a surge in new Covid-19 cases this fall, but Canada’s overall health numbers have remained better. The country has seen about 2,700 new cases per day over the past seven days, or about 7 per 100,000 people. The current U.S. rate of new infections is about 21 per 100,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
“Canada’s looking better simply by virtue of being next door to the U.S.,” Harrison said. “We’ve got politicians who accept basic science. That’s a low bar.”
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