Oh, Canada. You’ve gone and got yourself a new, better looking boyfriend. Sure, you might make a cute couple when he’s not falling down sets of stairs, but will he actually be good for you?
While it’s too soon to tell much of anything about what the new, possibly improved, Canada is going to look like, it’s certainly different. The Harper years concludes with the advent of a majority Liberal government, whose opposition consists of 99 Tories, 44 New Democrats, 10 Bloqs, and 1 Green (Victoria’s own Elizabeth May). What does that mean? Well, the opposition now has a significant percentage of representatives who are ideologically inclined to the majority position. Watching the NDP and Green concession speeches, the resignation and disappointment was cut with thinly disguised relief. And only in Canada could you have a separatist party with more in common with the leadership than with one of their opposition mates. Now, the Conservatives still claim the Leader of the Opposition (who, having resigned as Conservative Party leader following the election, will not be former PM Stephen Harper), and enough seats to override their compatriots, but the diverse make-up might make for some interesting question periods.
Canada also now boasts a record-high number of indigenous Members of Parliament (admittedly, it’s a paltry 10, but still more than ever before), and the number of female representatives likewise jumped to a record 88. While neither of those numbers hits the 30 per cent benchmark necessary to exert discernible influence in the House of Commons, it at least moves the demographic make-up towards less of an old-white-dudes direction.
Meanwhile, the provincial governments generally seem pleased. In our federal system, having the support of the provinces can’t be understated: in order to do just about anything in this country, the federal government needs the cooperation of the provinces. Our current premierships are something of a mixed bag, with 2 NDP, 1 YP (Yukon Party), 1 SP (Saskatchewan Party), 1 Conservative, 1 Independent, 1 non-affiliate, and 5 Liberals, one of whom is B.C.’s Christy Clark. While Clark hasn’t commented at time of writing, and in fact has been noticeably mum for the entirety of this long electoral process, other leaders have already expressed support and hope for improved federal/provincial relations, including embattled Alberta Premier, New Democrat Rachel Notley. We’ll see if the optimism holds.
As for policy, this campaign saw a lot of promises: three years of deficits for infrastructure, legalizing marijuana, tax increases for the top 1 per cent, bringing in more refugees, staying away from military entanglements against Islamic states, and forgiving student debt (up to a point) are just some of the highlights. Without knowing which of these points will be addressed first, or indeed addressed at all, the tenor of prime minister-designate Trudeau’s acceptance speech suggests a return to “Canada the Good”: a nation of unity through diversity, with a Government of Canada instead of a government of the prime minister (recall the Harper Government was always referred to as such), one whose international presence focuses on efforts of peace and diplomacy, and a nation focused on improving its relations with indigenous peoples. How all these ideals pan out is yet to be seen; for now the most we can say is that we have a new house of representatives, a new designate PM, and a new standard for world leader attractiveness. With any luck, that won’t be all Canada is known for during the next four years.