A Critical Affair: The Fragile Balance Between Federal Division and Unity

The government’s ability to find common ground among parties will determine the next few years of policymaking

PM Trudeau and Sophie take part in election celebrations in Montreal October 22, 2019. (flickr)

The election happened. It’s over. We have a Liberal minority government with four other parties and an independent candidate in the House. Everyone has a different idea of how the country should be run, but none of the parties have as much power to make it happen as they would if they held a majority.

So what now?

Now that the ballots are all counted, what’s actually going to happen moving forward?

In minority government situations, it becomes much more likely that a governing party needs to find support from one or more of the other parties in order to successfully pass legislation. Many people are predicting that the Liberal minority could find some of that support in the NDP, at least on a few issues like housing affordability and addressing environmental concerns. There are some issues, though, that may not end in happy compromise among parties.

Like the provincial NDP here in B.C., the federal NDP oppose the construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which the previous Liberal government purchased for $4.5 billion in 2018. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also voiced his support for a reform of Canada’s electoral system, saying that the current first-past-the-post system does not accurately represent all Canadian voters, and that “the [election] results show a broken electoral system” he feels we need to amend. The Liberals promised to implement this type of reform prior to being elected in 2015, but backed out on following through later.

The parties don’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to healthcare spending either. While the Liberals promised an extra $6 billion over a four-year term to be invested in pharmacare and mental health service accessibility, the NDP pledged $10 billion and promised to extend healthcare coverage to dental plans as well.

However, there are a number of issues that the parties can probably find commonalities in. For example, even though the parties stand opposed on implementing a nation-wide carbon tax and paying more for pharmacare, the Liberals and Conservatives both agree that having an immigration target of about 350,000 new people in the country would be ideal. They also both support the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline and would likely agree on the importance of updating policies established in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois also have a few general alignments in their proposed policies such as highlighting the need to address the world’s environmental concerns as well as housing and affordability issues.

For what it’s worth, the Green Party, which only has three seats, would likely support the Liberals’ federal carbon tax and investments in green energy technology and electric vehicles.

Independent candidate Jody Wilson-Raybould said that most of her policy leanings match up with what the Liberals have planned, which makes sense seeing as she was a member of the party up until earlier this year.

For however long this minority government lasts, it will need to spend some time focusing on the meta-game of party politics in order to navigate the tangled web of policy compatibilities and incompatibilities between parties, many which are still subject to change in the future.

And moving forward, the ability to find compromises between the parties is going to be critical if the government wants to remain effective and efficient at passing legislation.

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