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Canadian PM Trudeau calls Sept. election for public input on COVID-19

Canadian PM Trudeau calls Sept. election for public input on COVID-19
Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau called a snap election for Sept. 20. File Photo by Valerie Blum/EPA-EFE

Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called a snap election, stating his Liberal government requires a new mandate to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

From Rideau Hall in Ottawa, Trudeau, leader of the center-left Liberal Party, announced during a press conference Sunday that the early election would be held Sept. 20.

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"Everyone understands that we are really at a pivotal moment in history of our country," he said. "This is a moment where Canadians can and should be able to weigh in on what we're going through and how we're going to build a society that is stronger and better."

The prime minister made the announcement after asking Governor General Mary Simon for approval to dissolve Parliament, which she assented to.

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"[Simon] signed the proclamations to dissolve parliament and call a general election, carrying out one of her constitutional duties as The Queen's representative in Canada," her office said.

The governor general performs mostly a ceremonial role in Canada, a former British colony.

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Trudeau, who was first elected in 2015, framed the new election as an opportunity for Canadians to have their voices heard about the country's direction in exiting the COVID-19 pandemic, what recovery should look like and what the country should be for future generations.

"The decisions your government makes right now will define the future your kids and grandkids will grow up in," he said. "So in this pivotal, consequential moment, who wouldn't want a say? Who wouldn't want their chance to help decide where our country goes from here?"

The expected snap election was announced less than two years after Trudeau won a second term in 2019. He had roughly another two years before the next election was required.

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Trudeau, who has led with a minority government since his second election, is betting that enough Canadians support his COVID-19 exit and recovery plan and approve of his handling of the pandemic to secure him a majority government and the ability to no longer need other parties to pass legislation.

"Canadians need to choose how we finish the fight against COVID-19 and build back better," he said. "We believe the government's most important responsibility is to keep Canadians safe and thriving, and that's what we'll continue to do."

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Opposition leaders criticized him for holding the election amid the health crisis.

Erin O'Toole, leader of the right-leaning Conservative Party, said a leader who puts the best interests of Canadians first would be "straining every sinew" to secure economic recovery and avoid an election.

"That's Justin Trudeau's choice. And I hope that his decision doesn't cost Canadians too dearly," he said during a press conference.

Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the progressive New Democratic Party who kicked off his campaign Sunday in Montreal, tweeted that Trudeau called the election "because he's focused on keeping his own job and his rich insider friends happy."

"You and your family should be the priority," he said.

The election was called as health officials say the Great White North is experiencing a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, told reporters last week that cases have been increasing after months of decline but deaths have "fortunately" been low due to the country's vaccination rate.

"Although we are heading into a fourth wave driven by the Delta variant, the good news is that millions of Canadians have rolled up their sleeves to help build a strong wall of vaccination protection," she said.

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Following a slow vaccine rollout earlier this year, Canada now ranks among the world's most vaccinated.

According to Oxford University's Our World In Data project, Canada has fully vaccinated 64% of its population, with a total of 73% having received at least one shot. The United States, for comparison, has fully vaccinated 50% of its population with 59% of its population having received at least one dose.

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