OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made clear for the first time on Friday there could well be an election this year, indicating his government is preparing for a vote he insists he does not want.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party only controls a minority of seats in the House of Commons, which means he needs the support of opposition parties to govern and can be brought down if they unite against him.
Trudeau, who says his priority is tackling the coronavirus epidemic, has previously sidestepped questions about an election, saying merely that one was theoretically possible.
“Obviously, we are in a minority government, and that could well happen,” he told Montreal’s CHOU 1450 AM radio station when asked about the chances of a vote in the coming months.
“Our priority as a government is going to be helping people get through this pandemic … it’s not in our interests to have an election,” he added. The last election was in October 2019.
Asked about the prime minister’s comments, a government official said Trudeau had made clear many times that he “doesn’t necessarily get to chose when an election is going to come. Canadians want to see their government there for them and that’s what we’re focused on”.
The official requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the situation.
A string of recent opinion polls suggests that the Liberals, while ahead of their Conservative rivals, would most likely fall short of winning a majority.
Liberal insiders told Reuters last month that a snap election was likely at some point in 2021 rather than at the scheduled end of Trudeau’s four-year term in 2023.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Nick Zieminski)