The Liberal-NDP agreement could solve top Canadian issues

Federal parties working together is a good thing but is there still room for skepticism

PM Trudeau meets with Jagmeet Singh in West Block. November 14, 2019.

PM Trudeau meets with Jagmeet Singh in West Block. November 14, 2019.

Understanding politics is a complicated and dire necessity in today’s world. It is not just about knowing the basics but examining the underlying dynamics that drive parties to take their chosen actions. Recently in Canada’s federal scene, the Liberal and New Democratic Parties have officially joined together in a supply-and-confidence agreement that will ensure the government remains in power until 2025.

Let it be known that this is absolutely not a coalition government and that “coalition” is not interchangeable with “supply-and-confidence.” 

NDP MPs will not be joining the cabinet in any capacity rather we are seeing a “quid pro quo” or a “favour for a favour” in action on confidence issues, budgets, and money bills, thereby saving the government from losing the House’s confidence and triggering an election, something the Conservatives would like to see happen. 

In return, the Liberal government will work with the NDP opposition on policy issues of “… climate change, health care spending, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, economic growth and efforts to make life more affordable.”

Some cry foul at this as an “undemocratic power grab” by opportunistic partisans looking to inject Canada with  “backdoor socialism.” Others will extol the virtues of this deal as “co-operation amongst adversaries” who are putting ideology aside for the sake of the country. I am a centrist in this debate and say that it is a little from Column A and a little from Column B. 

We live under the Westminster model of governance, a parliamentary government that has procedures for operating a legislature and a multi-party legislature. Inter-party alliances may not be common in Canada’s context, but it is not hard to find countries with the same system where supply and confidence and coalitions are as common as rocks in a gravel pit. 

In fact, there is precedent for such a government in Canada as a result of Sir Robert L. Borden’s Union Government of 1917. Also, parties in power prefer to stay in power. They have agendas they want to put into play, which is impossible from the opposition benches. 

So, if another party with a somewhat similar set of values offers to prop your minority government up in exchange for a couple of legislative favours, you have to do it. Imagine a similar situation, except it’s the Conservatives and the PPC. If you say the Tories would never ever go through with that deal, then I applaud you for your faith and optimism.

Cooperation between the Liberal and NDP parties is welcomed as it has the potential to get substantive policy through Parliament. However, folks must be wary of the degree to which the Liberal party will fulfil those key policy areas.

After almost seven years of Liberals as the party in charge, many progressives have been forced to get accustomed to half- or non-measures being enshrined as law. The NDP are ambitious with what they want, and it is up to the Liberals to live up to their end of the bargain.

There is still uncertainty about the NDP’s ability to push for their policies. They absolutely will fight, but will they be able to fight effectively? The NDP seems fairly principled yet missing that necessary bite that a progressive political party. 

This arrangement would work to solve issues such as climate change, health care spending, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and economic growth. While there are worries to be had, I doubt the country will collapse.