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Sunday, August 7, 2022

Demagogy, half-truths and lies dominate Canada’s pandemic election

Demagogy, half-truths and lies are invariably the stuff of bourgeois election campaigns. Invariably, because the political representatives of the ruling class, whether nominally “left” or “right,” have a dual task. They need to muster votes from workers and middle-class people, which compels them to make appeals, however convoluted or distorted, to popular sentiment and grievances, and demonstrate to the ruling class that their party is the best instrument for defending and advancing its mercenary interests.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, visits the Pfizer pharmaceutical company in Puurs, Belgium, Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Frederic Sierakowski)

In 1974, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the father of the current prime minister, Justin Trudeau, returned his Liberals to power with a majority by campaigning against a Conservative plan to implement a 90-day wage and price freeze—only the next year to impose a three-year, wage-cutting wage-and-price control program. During the 1993 election campaign, Jean Chrétien ridiculed the Conservative government for its “fixation on the deficit,” then as prime minster implemented the greatest social spending cuts in Canadian history.

Nonetheless, the sheer breadth and brazenness of the demagogy and lies in the current campaign for Canada’s September 20 federal election are unprecedented.

Justin Trudeau, whose six-year-old Liberal government lost its parliamentary majority in the regularly-scheduled October 2019 election, called a snap election on August 15 even though public health officials had conceded, in the preceding days, that Canada was in the initial stages of a Delta variant-driven fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Monday, August 30, Canada’s seven-day average of daily new COVID-19 infections stood at 3,214, more than four-and-a-half times the average recorded on August 1. And this is before the reopening of most of the country’s schools over the next ten days. With a quarter of the Canadian population having yet to receive a single vaccination dose—including close to five million children aged 11 or under—medical experts warn that the highly contagious and more lethal Delta variant risks spreading like wildfire, resulting in hospitals being overwhelmed and a new wave of mass death.

Yet Trudeau and his Liberals, using the disastrous state of the pandemic in the US and Britain as a convenient foil, continue to point to Canada’s “high vaccination” numbers to claim that Canada has weathered the pandemic better the most western countries and that, in any event, “the worst is behind us.”

The reality is that Canadian capitalism’s response to the pandemic, overseen by Trudeau and his federal Liberal government, has been and continues to be ruinous, as attested by the more than 26,900 officially-recognized COVID-19 deaths. Throughout the pandemic, Canada’s governments have prioritized corporate profits over saving lives, with public health measures systematically diluted and sabotaged so as to keep non-essential businesses and schools open. As a result, Canada has been ravaged by successive pandemic waves, with workplaces and schools serving as the most important vectors of transmission in both the second and third waves.

Trudeau has forced a pandemic election upon the country, in the process cavalierly throwing aside a proposed government bill to mitigate the risks by expanding mail-in-voting and extending voting over multiple days. Yet he and his Liberals have not refrained from cynically seeking to exploit as a “wedge issue” the Conservative official opposition’s refusal to support mandatory vaccinations for federal workers for fear of alienating their far-right anti-vax and anti-mask supporters.

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