In recapping this past election, we must find a new point of reference
Where do we go from here? This is the question that would have been on the minds of many Canadians as they woke up following the 43rd federal election. But where exactly has this election left us, and what is the impact of Canada’s latest expression of democracy?
Ending election night with 157 seats, Justin Trudeau stepped up to the podium in his home riding of Papineau, Quebec, assured of the Prime Ministership. However, it is not all “sunny ways” ahead for the Liberal leader — at the end of the day his party not only lost seats, but fell well short of the 170 needed for a majority.
The Liberals will limp into Parliament with a minority and no representation in Canada’s energy centres of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the Conservatives achieved a virtual sweep (save for one NDP seat in Edmonton-Strathcona). Trudeau must now commence negotiations with either the New Democrats (NDP) or the Bloc Quebecois, who won 24 and 32 seats respectively, to pass legislation.
Jagmeet Singh has expressed the NDP’s openness to working with the Liberals as long as their key demands such as national pharmacare, increased action on climate change, and investment in affordable housing, are met. While the Bloc and their leader Yves-Francois Blanchet have kept their strategy secret, they can be expected to try using their resurgence as leverage to gain support for key Quebec issues; however, a day before the election, Blanchet stated that he is not interested in being part of a coalition.
With the last coalition government in Canada formed all the way back in 1917, a coalition is not a likely outcome of these negotiations — Trudeau himself ruled out the possibility a few days after the election. While a confidence and supply agreement with the NDP — where the NDP would support Liberal budgets and confidence motions in exchange for key concessions — is a possibility, Trudeau could also attempt to pass legislation without formal support, knowing the appetite for a fresh election campaign is low.
Meanwhile, Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives were unable to take enough advantage of the pitfalls of the Trudeau government (namely the blackface and SNC-Lavalin scandals) to force a change in Parliament. While their rallies against the carbon tax and the Liberals’ failure to push the Trans Mountain pipeline through allowed for the virtual sweep of their traditional power bases in Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as large gains in British Columbia and New Brunswick, the Conservatives were ultimately unable to sway majorities of voters in Ontario and Quebec.
In fact, despite their much-touted win of the popular vote, the Conservatives were unable to garner much in the way of new support in Canada’s two largest and most critical provinces — while they were able to gain three seats in Ontario, they lost two in Quebec. The Conservatives must now decide if Andrew Scheer is to remain as party leader, as some analysts blame the loss on his socially conservative outlook and disappointing showings in the French language debates.
The New Democrats and Jagmeet Singh will likely have mixed feelings about their results in the 2019 election. On the one hand, the party suffered a complete collapse in Quebec, where they lost 14 seats amid a resurgence of the Bloc Quebecois. On the other, with many experts predicting that the party might suffer a nationwide collapse and dip below the 12 seats needed for official party status, the NDP will be happy to have held onto their base in British Columbia and finish with 24 seats.
Additionally, the NDP will likely hold the position of kingmaker in the new Parliament as the most likely partners of the Liberals. Through this, they will be able to push key platform promises on issues such as healthcare, affordable housing, and climate change. However, this may be hindered by the issues the NDP have recently faced with regard to fundraising, which might force their hand in supporting the Liberals without negotiation due to their inability to afford another election campaign.
The Bloc Quebecois have emerged from the realm of the (nearly) forgotten. With only 10 seats at the dissolution of the last Parliament, many wondered whether the Bloc were done with as a force in Canadian politics. With 32 seats won in the 2019 election, Yves-Francois Blanchet and his party have proven the critics wrong and regained their presence as a key proponent for the addressing of key issues facing Quebec. The Bloc surge came from their ability to capitalize on the NDP’s downfall in Quebec as well as their positioning on issues such as Quebec’s want for autonomy over immigration, and the defense of Bill 21.
Elizabeth May’s Green Party and Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party (PPC) have both seen harrowing results and will likely struggle to find pathways moving forward. The Greens failed to take advantage of the “climate election” and only increased their seats by one, while the PPC will struggle to continue their existence as a party due to their failure to win any seats — including the loss of Bernier’s own seat.
Ultimately, the 2019 election will be remembered as one of division and polarization, for the return of the BQ due to controversy over key Quebec policies, and for the Conservative sweep of Canada’s energy heartlands which has been followed with talks of separatism by some Albertans due to their disenchantment with the Liberal government.
The new government will have to find some way of reconciling this regional disenchantment; if not, Canadian unity will take a beating over the coming years. Regardless of the outcome, Canada can expect tumultuous and trying times to come in the halls of Parliament.