By ALI RAZA, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Residents won’t be heading to the polls in a snap election, after the federal Liberal minority government survived a vote of confidence earlier this week.
The close call of a federal election during the COVID-19 pandemic came following a motion introduced on Oct. 21 by Conservative Party and official opposition leader Erin O’Toole, who was calling for the creation of a special committee on anti-corruption to investigate the federal government’s pandemic spending, alleged conflicts of interest, and the WE Charity controversy.
“This committee would have given all parties the ability to uncover the full details of the Liberal government’s pandemic spending and blatant favouritism,” O’Toole said in a statement after the motion was defeated.
The Liberal Party considered the motion to be a confidence vote, as it holds a minority government in Parliament.
Beaches-East York Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith said the Liberal Party welcomes a committee to investigate pandemic spending, as the party supports the creation of such a committee.
“A committee to scrutinize pandemic spending makes sense,” he said. “The pandemic has brought extraordinary spending and parliamentary scrutiny should be applied.”
Alleged conflicts of interest and the WE Charity controversy, he said, were already under a months-long investigation by the ethics and finance committees which produced dozens of witnesses, hours of testimony, and thousands of documents in response to allegations.
“The frustration is, given the level of disclosure and testimony that’s available, they [Conservative Party] need to come forward to specific questions they want answered,” Erskine-Smith said, adding that the existing committees are well-suited to hold individuals accountable for conflicts of interest.
“Nobody wants an election, I heard that loud and clear from constituents,” he added.
The motion was defeated 146 for, and 180 against. The Conservative Party and Bloc Quebecois voted for the motion, while the Liberal Party, NDP, the Green Party, and Independent MPs voted against it.
The NDP and the Green Party reiterated their parties’ votes did not reflect support of the Liberal government, but instead said they voted to prevent an election during the pandemic’s second wave.
Former NDP candidate for Toronto-Danforth Min Sook Lee, who ran in the 2019 federal election, reiterated that her party’s vote was not reflective of support of the Liberal Party.
“The most important thing right now is not to force Canadians into an election,” she said, arguing that the pandemic is exacerbating challenges for Canadians. “NDP has its own autonomy and its own capacity to challenge the Liberal Party to hold it to account.”
“No one wants an election, everyone said that,” she said. “But nobody had the capacity to pull together a strategy to properly look at the allegations of conflict of interest related to the WE scandal.”
“We can conduct oversight without calling an election,” she added, calling the threat of election a “Liberal power grab.”
She praised NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s decision to prevent an election and argued the House needs to “rise above petty partisanship” in the face of the pandemic and corruption allegations.
Toronto-Danforth Liberal MP Julie Dabrusin, who defeated Lee in last year’s election, chose not to make a statement on the matter.
“She is focused on working for the community and ensuring important programs are reaching the people in our riding who need them most,” her office said in response.
An alternative committee proposed by the Liberals, which did look at pandemic spending, was rejected by Parliament. Erskine-Smith said it forced the “unlikely open-ended question of an election.”
A second Conservative motion, to be voted on Monday, Oct. 26, will order up documents on testing equipment, PPE, vaccines, and other COVID-19 spending. The Liberal Party has stated it will not consider that motion of a vote of confidence.
- Ali Raza is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.