Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has denied suggestions that he wanted to trigger a snap election to cash in on good polling numbers during the coronavirus pandemic, saying he was glad he dodged that prospect by surviving a confidence vote this week.
“I am happy we will not have elections. I think everyone is happy we will not have elections,” Trudeau said in an interview with French language broadcaster TVA, which was taped Friday and aired Saturday.
“No one wanted elections during the pandemic,” said Trudeau, who has presided over a minority government for the past year.
Trudeau warned early this week that he would call early elections if opposition parties in parliament passed a bill creating an anti-corruption committee to probe a case touching him and his family directly, in addition to the government’s COVID-19 spending.
Trudeau said such a panel would paralyze the work of the government just as Canada deals with a second wave of virus cases.
But the opposition and some commentators said they suspected Trudeau’s threat was actually a ploy aimed at triggering elections to take advantage of his good approval rating for his handling of the health crisis.
On Wednesday, the House of Commons held an unusual confidence vote on creating the investigative committee.
Had Trudeau’s Liberal government lost, early elections would have been triggered, but the motion was defeated thanks to support for Trudeau from the New Democratic Party.
In the interview, Trudeau denied acting with a political agenda in mind.
“The only calculation I made was to help more people, how are we going to be there to support families around the country,” he said.
The committee proposed by the Tories would have looked into a contract awarded to the WE Charity to distribute roughly Can$1 billion (US$760 million) in pandemic relief to young Canadians.
Concerns were raised over the contract after it was revealed that the charity paid Trudeau’s wife, brother and mother a combined Can$300,000 for speaking engagements.
The deal was ultimately cancelled and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who also had links to the charity, resigned in August.
The committee would have also investigated the government’s purchase of ventilators and lobbying by the husband of Trudeau’s chief of staff.
The latest polls give the Liberals a lead of almost seven points over the Conservatives.