Like His Father Before Him, Trudeau Has An Indispensable Lieutenant

Justin Trudeau has found his Marc Lalonde.

Lalonde was famously his father Pierre’s indispensable cabinet minister, serving in a variety of portfolios as each in turn became critical to his government between 1972 and 1984.

Now more than forty years later, Trudeau the son has found a counterpart in his own cabinet.  Chrystia Freeland, who has been moved from Foreign Affairs to Intergovernmental Affairs, and made Deputy Prime Minister as well, is the Lalonde of this generation of Liberals.

Marc Lalonde and Pierre Trudeau forged their political relationship after Trudeau was elected to Parliament in 1965 and was named Parliamentary Secretary to then Prime Minister Lester Pearson.  Lalonde was already working in the Prime Minister’s Office and he and Trudeau soon became allies – so much so that when Trudeau succeed Pearson as Prime Minister, he made Lalonde his Principal Secretary.

Four years later at Trudeau’s urging, Lalonde was elected to Parliament and immediately went into cabinet. Medicare was then in its infancy, a source of controversy with various provincial governments and to some extent with the medical community.

As now, the Liberals had gone from a majority to a minority. Into one of the toughest portfolios, Pierre Trudeau inserted Marc Lalonde as Minister of Health. After the Quebec Election in 1976 that brought the separatist Parti Quebec to power, Lalonde was handed that hot potato.

He was named Minister for Federal – Provincial relations and Minister of Justice.

In the 1980’s the pattern continued.  When the oil pricing fight with Alberta was at its height from 1980 to 1982, Trudeau made Lalonde Minister of Energy.  With the economy in the tank in 1982, Lalonde was suddenly Minister of Finance.

Marc Lalonde retired from elected politics along with Pierre Trudeau in 1984. The Prime Minister and his indispensable lieutenant left public life together.

Pierre Trudeau and Marc Lalonde worked their partnership for sixteen years.  The partnership between Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland is much younger, but has room to grow.

After he became leader of the then third place Liberals, Trudeau recruited Freeland to run in a by-election in downtown Toronto. When the Liberals took power in 2015, he named her Minister of International Trade.

As a former international journalist with the Financial Times, Freeland seemed born to the job. And  when Trudeau moved to her to Foreign Affairs, he left her with the responsibly for the re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The NAFTA negotiation was the most important issue of the first Trudeau government.  It still awaits ratification in the United States Congress, and tellingly, Trudeau has left the responsibility for bringing the deal to its final successful conclusion with Freeland, even though her hands will be more than full in her new job at Intergovernmental Affairs.

As was the case in 1980, in the recent federal election the Liberals went from a majority to a minority government. And as was the case then, the governing party has no Members of Parliament from either Alberta or Saskatchewan.

Similarly, the energy industry and the economic health of Alberta in particular, are central to the dispute. In 1980 the issue revolved around how to cut up what seemed like a never ending growing pile of money as Arab oil producers in the Middle East kept driving the international price of oil.

Now the dispute is over getting pipelines built at a time when there is wide spread environmental concern over climate change, and when the Alberta oil sands and Canadian oil and bitumen from the oil sands are selling at a discount to already depressed oil prices.

In 1980 the fight between Ottawa and Alberta lead to the formation of groups calling for the separation of the Western provinces from the rest of Canada. Similar groups have been forming recently, although separation now seems more problematic than it did then.

These are the problems Freeland is now taking on. Finish the re-negotiation of NAFTA. Solve the problem of Western Alienation. Sounds like the kind of job that requires a Marc Lalonde.

Don Newman is Senior Counsel at Ensight and Navigator Limited, a Member of the Order of Canada, Chairman of Canada 2020 and a lifetime member of the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery.

Don’t look for entertainment value in U.S. impeachment hearings

This editorial first appeared in the Toronto Star on Sunday, November 17, 2019.

On Wednesday, the first public hearings began in an impeachment process that seems to have been crafted for our era of reality television.

Watching the testimonies of Bill Taylor, George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch, I was struck by the soap-opera nature of the hearings.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her House Democrats have, it seems, learned important lessons from the Mueller hearing.

The criticisms of that process were many: it was too lengthy, too convoluted and, in the end, too boring to convince Americans of the president’s wrongdoing.

And so the war over optics has shifted.

First, the wise decision to act swiftly. Rather than a drawn-out, process-obsessed approach, the Intelligence Committee has moved, in a matter of weeks, to bring the matter onto television.

Second, Democrats have changed the cast of characters. The unfortunate reality of the Mueller hearings was that their main witness, the special counsel, was unconvincing, overly cautious and boring.

Over the coming weeks, Mueller will be replaced by diplomats, civil servants and security officials. Some more colourful than others. Some more persuasive. But there will be enough of them, with enough years of service and individual and collective credibility to dispense with the trope of a “deep state” determined to overthrow Trump.

Ambassador Yovanovitch spoke vividly of gunfire and attacks endured during placements in Mogadishu and Tashkent. Her words remind us that if soldiers are “diplomats in armour,” diplomats are often “soldiers in suits.”

The arrival of decorated military officials like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman will further complicate Republicans’ efforts. If Vindman arrives in uniform, Purple Heart medal and all, it will surely not be lost on the reality TV president.

And, third, there is another substantive shift, one designed to tightly control the narrative. Watch for the democrats to avoid secondary characters like Rudy Giuliani in order to focus on the star of the show, Donald Trump.

Finally, another clever tactic. No more Latin.

After months of “quid pro quo,” Democrats have swapped the phrase for “extortion” and “bribery.” Simple, clear and perhaps most importantly, eye-catching as a chyron on CNN or MSNBC.

Donald Trump has caught wise to the Democrats’ strategy and has, in turn, worked to emphasize that the hearings are simply too dull to deserve Americans’ attention, going so far as to say he has not watched one minute of the hearings.

Republicans, including the president’s son and leading members of Congress, have piled on and roundly described the first hearing as “boring,” uninteresting and a “#Snoozefest.”

Journalists and media networks have taken the bait, publishing headlines that focus on process rather than the substance of the testimony.

“Consequential, but dull: Trump impeachment hearings begin without a bang,” announced Reuters, while NBC News declared, “Plenty of substance but little drama on first day of impeachment hearings.”

True, most of the testimony had already been divulged in closed sessions. And, to be sure, there were fewer fireworks than we saw in the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh or even the 40-day Benghazi hearings. But of all things to say about the opening sessions of only the fourth presidential impeachment proceedings in U.S. history, is “boring” really a newsworthy one?

To be sure, it’s important for the proceedings to draw Americans’ interest. Otherwise, what effect will they have outside the D.C. Beltway?

But it is not the job of Adam Schiff or anyone else in Congress for that matter, to entertain. Impeachment, as much as it may feel like one, is not a reality show. It is a crucial, albeit often tedious, process of gathering, evaluating and sharing evidence.

Of course 24-hour television and social media have brought greater spectacle to politics. Some commentators pilloried Reuters and NBC for their flippant headlines, arguing that “journalists wanting more entertainment in politics, is what gave us Donald Trump.”

But the fact remains that spectacle should be the by-product, not the purpose of this most solemn and consequential of political acts. Otherwise, our democracies face the same fate as the declining Roman republic, in which voters were placated not with serious governance, but panem et circenses — bread and circuses.

In the era of reality television, streamed to your mobile 24 hours a day, that is the most frightening reality of all.

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist. He is a freelance contributing columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @jaimewatt

It’s time for Andrew Scheer to overcome his pride about Pride

This editorial first appeared in the Toronto Star on Sunday, November 10, 2019.

Since the launch of the federal election, which feels like an eternity ago, Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has been dogged by variations on the same question:

Will you attend a Pride parade?

Do you believe homosexuality is a sin?

Why did you compare equal marriage to a dog’s tail?

Never mind, some would say, that the questions themselves can seem unfair. Until Global’s David Aiken pressed the other leaders this week with the same question, Justin Trudeau, who professes to be a Catholic, the same as Scheer, and Jagmeet Singh were not asked their views about what’s sinful; adjudicating sin not generally being within a prime minister’s job description.

Yet the questions could not have come to Scheer — or his advisers — as a surprise. Every conservative leader before Scheer has also faced this line of questioning, and every one has been able to rebut it more effectively.

That Scheer has been unable to muster a good enough answer has become a primary criticism from those who would rather see someone different lead the party into the next federal election.

I am personally sympathetic to Scheer. As a gay man of my generation, I have known many friends and colleagues, and especially many conservatives, whose own opinions have evolved and progressed over time.

For many, it has been a prolonged journey, which I have found personally painful to witness. But for most, the destination has been one that has come to transcend acceptance to become one of inclusion.

That’s why it is so difficult to understand how Scheer can profess respect for all Canadians but be unable to categorically state that homosexuality is not a sin.

All that said, it is not too late for him to have his own come-to-Judy moment.

Premier Doug Ford staged a quiet evolution of his own this past summer. After a lifetime spent skipping Pride parades in favour of the family cottage, the premier made a low-key appearance at the York Pride Parade. He was enthusiastically welcomed; marching in parades has come to be in the job description of every politician at every level.

Whether Ford’s decision represents a change of heart or a political calculation in a province where 1-in-15 residents participate in Toronto’s Pride Parade, the gesture meant the same thing: Ford is prepared to be the premier for all Ontarians, regardless of his views about their sexual orientation.

Conversely, that Scheer cannot bring himself to make the same token gesture sends a different message to not only each and every LGTBQ Canadian, but to their family and friends as well: his religious beliefs are so deeply held, they outweigh even his desire, as a career politician, to win the most important race of his life.

To many Canadians, this decision reads not as pious adherence to devout religious belief, but an irrational prejudice so overwhelming he puts it before good optics, good politics, even basic common sense.

Even if by now, Scheer’s pride about Pride prevents him from backing down from his position, there are concrete policies that would have assuaged these concerns. The Conservatives could have vowed to end the blood ban; they could have outflanked the Liberals on the matter of LGBTQ refugees — in 2009, then-immigration minister Jason Kenney introduced special measures to admit gay Iranians as refugees; the list goes on.

Adopting any one of these would have been smart politics. It would have allowed Scheer to say that while Trudeau is about shallow optics, he is about real action.

No doubt the party will continue to litigate the matter internally. If Scheer survives the April leadership review, he will need to find a way to answer those nagging questions.

In doing so, he may find it worthwhile to engage with Eric Duncan, the newly elected 31-year-old MP for Stormont — Dundas — South Glengarry. Duncan is openly gay and has never been to a Pride parade. But in a deeply rural riding, he won more votes than nearly any other Ontario Conservative, very nearly eclipsing veteran MP Peter Kent.

Duncan is living proof: There is a path to victory that runs through honesty, sincerity and genuine inclusion. What’s more, we have decided, as a country, that it is a Canadian path.

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist. He is a freelance contributing columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @jaimewatt

Transit deal a win for Toronto as well as the premier’s new style

This editorial first appeared in the Toronto Star on Sunday, November 3, 2019.

This week saw Toronto City Council endorse, by a wide margin, a new transit plan proposed by the Ford government. Federal support is expected soon to follow. This is good news for the residents of Toronto — but also for the Premier’s Office, a vindication of its newly adopted, collegial tone and a sterling example of the fruits that might be borne of it.

A recap for those who no longer follow the twists and turns of transit-building in Toronto: last spring, then-Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek proposed the Ontario Line, a 15-station stretch of subway that broadly followed the contours of the much-needed Downtown Relief Line, as well as two additional stops along the Scarborough subway.

Because the announcement came on the heels of a simultaneous plan to upload control of the subway from the TTC to the province, and because it proposed to use an unspecified, new technology that did not accord with the rest of the subway system, the Ontario Line was greeted with derision. It was a “finger painting,” drawn on the back of a napkin and most of city council was adamantly opposed to the proposed subway upload, even though they had no real say in the matter.

As it happens, all this derision toward the transit lines themselves was never justified. The Ontario Line plan was conceived by experts at Metrolinx, and the route is sensible, even preferable to the Downtown Relief Line, whose only advantage was that it was marginally more advanced in the early planning stages.

The Ontario Line makes more liberal use of above-ground tracks, a far cry from the underground-subways-only mantra from Ford of yore. By extending further north and further west, it will provide greater relief to the congestion epicentre that is Bloor-Yonge, funnelling riders from a wider area. As for Scarborough, a single-stop subway never made sense to begin with.

How, then, did this so-called finger painting go on to win an overwhelming majority of votes in city council?

The simplest explanation is to follow the money. Under the terms of the new agreement, Toronto won’t be on the hook for the Conservative government’s $28-billion transit plan. That means subways north to Richmond Hill and the Eglinton West LRT, at no cost to the city and political advantage to PC MPPs from those ridings. Relief-line diehards should have been pleased with reimbursement for sunk costs, though three such councillors still voted against the plan. The agreement also frees up substantial amounts of city cash to spend instead on more pressing matters, like repairs and upkeep of the existing subway system.

But money alone does not account for this victory. Historians of this government will recognize it emerged at the beginning of a new era — AD, or After Dean. The deal’s origins can be pinpointed approximately to the cabinet shuffle that saw Yurek moved to the Ministry of the Environment, with Caroline Mulroney inheriting the transit file.

Though some viewed it at the time as a demotion, Mulroney has evidently delivered within her first few months on the job. During that time, she has worked quietly and assiduously, negotiating in good faith with City of Toronto staff.

Whether the subway upload was proposed as a shrewd negotiating tactic, always intended to be disposed of at the right moment to seal the deal, or another ingenious way to stick it to Toronto City Council, by all accounts the turning point in negotiations came when the province agreed to drop the idea.

Compromise, conciliation — these are novel ideas to a government that has relied up to this point on aggressive negotiation. Mulroney herself deserves credit. She personifies the softer touch and collegial approach to governing that the Premier’s Office now hopes to adopt on all fronts.

In the meantime, the residents of Toronto should applaud the fact that provincial and municipal governments have learned to play nice. If all goes according to plan, the Ontario Line will be completed by 2027. That may be optimistic, but it was optimistic also to expect that these two levels of government would ever learn to get along in the name of progress. Yet here we are.

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist. He is a freelance contributing columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @jaimewatt

In this election, small campaigns earned only small victories

This editorial first appeared in the Toronto Star on Sunday, October 27, 2019.

So, just what happened on Monday night and how did we end up with the most divided and regionalized Parliament we have seen in recent memory?

In my view, it was the utterly predictable outcome of the campaign our leaders chose to run.

The result? For some Canadians, this was the “Seinfeld” campaign — a campaign about nothing. To others, it was a campaign about everything, except what mattered. And for still others, it was a campaign about micro items designed to help you get ahead or to allow you to have your turn.

What it wasn’t was a campaign around big ideas for a better future, for a more cohesive union or a more prosperous, just and responsible society.

And so, Canadians listened to what was put on offer by their leaders and voted accordingly. When they did, they voted in their narrow, parochial and regional interests rather than in the interests of the country as a whole or, aspirationally, for what Canada could be.

In short, they voted for what was best for them; not what was best for us. The consequence? A map of virtually irreconcilable differences. At the same time, by handing Justin Trudeau a minority government, voters took away many of the tools a government could have used to heal these divisions.

The prime minister’s first order of business — a tax cut for the middle class — is unlikely to face serious resistance in the house but from there on out, things will only get more complicated.

Consider other Liberal priorities. An assault weapons ban, higher carbon reduction goals and a potential increase in immigration. Each will enrage a different part of Canada where tensions are already reaching a breaking point.

The complications will only continue to worsen. The Liberals will need to rely on the support of the NDP caucus to govern, the very MPs who are staunchly opposed to the steps needed to effect Western reconciliation. Even beyond pipeline politics, that informal partnership will frustrate the government’s outreach to Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Faced with a minority house, the temptation will be for each party leader to bring a laundry list of asks and for the horse trading to begin. This will simply result in more of what we have now: small, incremental policies that are the result of back room dealing and electoral trade-offs.

What’s more, their continued focus on regional issues will only serve to exacerbate the divisions that were revealed on Monday. And even worse, as Canadians see their politicians delivering for the narrow interests of other constituencies, they will expect the same.

Then there is the increasingly urgent need to deal with the growing issue of “Wexit.” The anger and anxiety that propels those feelings is not going away anytime soon, and it is up to Trudeau to show Albertans their place in his vision for Canada.

At the same time, he will need to deal with the priorities of a newly resurgent Bloc Québécois and all that means. Not to mention the economic development challenges of Atlantic Canada and the increasingly high priority of matters green in B.C.

Many doubt that balancing all of this will even be possible, but the prime minister certainly has to try. He knows, all too well that the project of Confederation is too fragile, too hard-won and certainly too important to be allowed to fall to the whims of our current politics.

And so, the Liberals have their work cut out for them.

As a returning government, they have much to do to complete initiatives from their first mandate. But as a new government, they will have to acknowledge that Canadians have sent them back to work with both a different set of expectations and a different set of tools.

Many doubt that balancing all of this will even be possible, but the prime minister certainly has to try. He knows, all too well that the project of Confederation is too fragile, too hard-won and certainly too important to be allowed to fall to the whims of our current politics.

And so, the Liberals have their work cut out for them.

As a returning government, they have much to do to complete initiatives from their first mandate. But as a new government, they will have to acknowledge that Canadians have sent them back to work with both a different set of expectations and a different set of tools.

And that means looking at the map of Canada in a way they have not had to before. And seeking to find those ideas, initiatives and policies that will reach across the divisions that were exposed on Monday night.

The government’s — and the prime minister’s — ability to do just that will be the biggest predictor of their success in the polls next time out and in the history books yet to be written.

Jaime Watt is the executive chairman of Navigator Ltd. and a Conservative strategist. He is a freelance contributing columnist for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @jaimewatt

Ensight’s Analysis of Canada’s 43rd General Election / L’analyse d’Ensight sur la 43ème élection fédérale canadienne

Canada’s 43rd General Election_Ensight Analysis

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L’analyse d’Ensight sur la 43ème élection fédérale canadienne

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Learning What Levers to Pull in a Minority Government

We’ve already looked at the mechanics of how a minority government could operate. We also know the players and can guess at the expected length of a Liberal government supported by the NDP, perhaps occasionally others. But how do stakeholders newly interact with government now? What levers can be pulled? And how do stakeholders get heard?

Minority governments tend to get a bad rap and are viewed as inherently fractious, but in reality, using the right levers, minority governments force parties to work together. That can be advantageous for stakeholders depending on the issue. Here are a few levers for stakeholders to consider as they plan their government outreach to Canada’s new government:

1. Opposition MPs Matter – It goes without saying that your public affairs activities need to keep Liberal MPs front and centre, but with the Bloc and NDP each carrying enough weight to act as the balance of power, you need to make sure that you have some agreement on both sides of the aisles. Although the Conservatives and Liberals often have an us vs. them mentality, the Conservatives can’t simply vote against everything in a minority government. Simply, relationships matter. Today’s backbencher is tomorrow’s Cabinet Minister. Get to know the critics from all parties and read all the party platforms and look for points of intersection to move your agenda forward.

2. Committees as Masters of their own Domain – At the dissolution of the last Parliament, there were 30 parliamentary committees. All had Liberal majorities, which effectively meant that committees were controlled by one party’s MPs. Committees reflect the same makeup as Parliament, which means for this upcoming government, the party with the most seats, the Liberals, will no longer carry the majority on committees. This means that committees can truly be the ‘masters of their own domains’ and set their own agendas. It leaves rooms for stakeholders to directly engage with committee’s MPs from all sides, whether that be requesting specific studies, appearing as a witness or just educating MPs. Most importantly though, all government legislation goes through a committee process, which means that changes are more likely to be made at the committee level.

3. Speech from the Throne – Any new government kicks off the
beginning of the parliamentary session with a Speech from the Throne. It’s a speech delivered by the Governor General that outlines the priorities of the government. The Liberals will be focusing their first speech on their campaign commitments, but they also need to be cognizant, as this is a confidence measure, they will need the support of other parties, which means the speech will have to be designed to appeal to at minimum the NDP or Bloc. Stakeholders should be reviewing the party platforms for items they can immediately support to show that they can be seen as trusted partners. Generating goodwill now will help you achieve your goals
later.

4. Stakeholder Relations – Every Minister, and every party in
Parliament for that matter, will have a team of people dedicated to
stakeholder relations. These are the staffers that you need to get to
know. Meeting with Members of Parliament directly is key, however, so is meeting with the staff who can often arrange meetings with MPs, provide helpful advice, and work to champion your asks.

5. Private Members’ Bills – In a majority government it is
exceedingly rare for a Private Members’ Bills to pass that are not
sponsored by an MP from the governing party. This no longer holds
true in a minority government. Backbenchers, those MPs not in cabinet or Parliamentary Secretaries, will have more freedom to introduce legislation. At the beginning of Parliament, a lottery will be held to hand out spots to MPs to introduce legislation (simply so you don’t have 300 MPs introducing bills all at once!). Stakeholders should work to identify supportive MPs that could sponsor a bill that achieves your goals. Note that Private Members’ Bill can’t spend money but can still serve to move your issues forward.

6. Engaging with the Executive – Despite being a minority
government, Canada’s executive level of government, the Prime
Minister and Cabinet, remains controlled by the Liberals. Now that the Prime Minister has discounted the notion of a formal coalition
government, all Cabinet Ministers will in fact be liberal. Liberal Cabinet Ministers and the full Cabinet itself, will still have their full constitutional powers to make administrative decisions and regulate. Cabinet Ministers will obviously need to make sure that any legislation they sponsor for their departments will garner support from other parties, but that’s a political calculation and one that will be borne out at the legislative level. Stakeholders will still want to meet with Cabinet Minister directly to champion their goals. And as was done in the past, we expect the Prime Minister to release the mandate letters for each Minister, which outline the objectives they need to achieve. These are helpful documents for stakeholders to review as it spells where the government is headed and where you can align your goals.

An Inside Look At Gender in Canada’s 43rd Parliament

The results of the gruelling 40-day federal election campaign have not granted an absolute win for any of Canada’s political parties, with the exception of the Bloc Québécois. Canadians demoted Liberals down to a minority government. Conservatives lost and lost big in the Ontario and Québec regions they were fiercely pushing to win. The NDP didn’t gain ground, instead dropping down to 24 seats. The Greens in no way capitalized on the growing environmental concerns among Canadians with a ‘historic’ win of only 3 seats. However, small wins can be gleaned from the outcome of Election 43, including a record number of women being elected into the House of Commons.

Ninety-eight women will be coming to Ottawa, an all-time high. Although, this means only 29% of elected officials in total are women. On the plus side, Canada elected more women in total, considering 2015’s federal election brought the last Parliament only 88 women MPs.

Some of the challenges that parties face include putting women in ‘winnable’ ridings as well as the percentage of women who are putting their name forward that are unsuccessful. While the Liberals will have 52 women sitting in Parliament, a total of 116 women ran for the Liberals in this election. The Conservatives will have 22 women sitting on their side of the House of Commons, which jars against the record number of women the Conservatives nominated as candidates at 106. The party that fell behind throughout the election in naming candidates in a timely way was the NDP. Their Leader Jagmeet Singh said this was largely due to his party ensuring that enough women and minorities were putting their name on the ballot. The NDP eventually nominated 104 women to run for the party, which resulted in only nine winning a seat. The Greens picked up one additional seat in Atlantic Canada, resulting in now having two Green women MPs out of three – however, their party had the highest number of women candidates, running 129 women in total across the country. Lastly, the Bloc Québécois nominated 20 women out of 78 seats, culminating in a win for 12 women BQ MPs.

With the highest number of women MPs elected under the minority Parliament-leading Liberals, what does this mean for the shape of their government? Although only 33% of the new Liberal caucus is women, like the last Liberal mandate, these women will continue to fill at least half of the roles in cabinet, committees and key special advisory roles for the Prime Minister. During their campaign, the Liberals promised to continue to have a gender-balanced cabinet and maintain using a “Gender-based Analysis Plus” lens when working at all policy, decisions and government programs. They recommitted to that today during the Prime Minister’s first press conference. This will mean that all policy in each Department across government will be put through the GBA+ lens, federal budgets, and fiscal updates will be vetted by this standard.

Women’s caucus traditionally meets as a group within each party and are expected to once again form when Parliament returns. Those spaces will be used to talk about the topics that matter most to women across Canada, while bringing in experts across various sectors to further educate and challenge parliamentarians on gender and social issues. Returning big-name women Liberal MPs include previous Liberal Ministers: Chrystia Freeland, Catherine McKenna and Dr. Carolyn Bennett – and are all expected to again receive cabinet positions. On the Opposition fronts, Conservative MPs Candice Bergen and Michelle Rempel, NDP MP Niki Ashton, and, of course, the Leader of the Greens Elizabeth May will also be returning to Ottawa.

Along with those strong women voices, it’s now a waiting game on which newly elected women MPs across parties will be the trailblazers in the 43rd Parliament. However, when looking at the resumes of the 98 women elected to the House of Commons, the expectations and excitement are high from Canadians watching this, and in particular for the roughly 18.5 million Canadian women. All eyes will be on this group of women parliamentarians, and the new Liberal government to find out what their plan is on the issues the majority of Canadian women care about most, including healthcare, equal employment, childcare and the environment.

Scheer May Have Been Right About One Thing – The Future of a Liberal/NDP Partnership

“The Liberal-NDP coalition you can’t afford”, warned Andrew Scheer. This may have been a wedge, but also served as an unintentional sales pitch. Innovative Research put out a poll on October 17 that showed 40% of Canadians hoped their votes would result in a minority Parliament. Canadians consistently say they support the idea of more cooperation among parties.

Andrew Scheer pointed to his win of “the popular vote” (34%) repeatedly. This number is ultimately meaningless in the Canadian parliamentary context, which only relies upon the confidence of the majority of those in the House of Commons to decide its government. Governments, whether in a minority or majority Parliament, are still legitimate, despite partisan protests to the contrary.

In this case, 55% of Canadians in total voted for progressive parties, federalist ones at least, thereby excluding the Bloc.

This concept of progressives as a collective being the majority has put wind in the sails of switch-voters who believe in more NDP-style approaches to policy issues but want a Liberal government to inject some reality into implementation.

While the Prime Minister today formally denounced a coalition, where cabinet posts could have gone to NDP caucus members, the Singh and Trudeau-led parties are still the most natural dancing partners on offer.

Singh, recognizing this, laid out his conditions or priorities for negotiations with a future government during the campaign:

  • A national, single-payer universal pharmacare plan and a national dental care plan;
  • Investments in housing;
  • A plan to waive interest on student loans;
  • A commitment to reduce carbon emissions, to end subsidies for oil companies and to deliver aid to oilpatch workers to transition them out of fossil fuel industries;
  • The introduction of a “super wealth” tax and a commitment to closing tax loopholes;
  • Reducing cellphone bills.

Of those, there are natural dovetails from the Liberal platform on affordable housing to make it a top priority. From there, climate action is a natural connection that Liberals could move more quickly on. Both are easy, political wins for both sides.

Liberals would also say they have plans that achieve similarly aimed
goals on student debt, reducing cellphone bills, closing tax loopholes,
ending fossil fuels subsidies, clean job retraining, and national pharmacare.

The NDP suggested universal, single-payer pharmacare could be done in 1-year under their leadership through a combination of threats to uncooperative provinces and public shaming. The Liberals compared it more to the implementation of medicare, a ten-year track, phased in, cost shared with the provinces and territories, and keeping public opinion onside around deficit management.

This is a difference, but they do share the goal of universal in principle.
The differentiation points are not easily litigated during a fractious election campaign.

Giving credit to the NDP for any of these listed above will add to their
narrative of promoting good policy, riding along in the sidecar. This may
help the NDP long-term, but there are also risks to ideological junior
partners to more centrist governments.

More hardened partisans hold strong to their principles and do not like seeing their party be conciliatory. Nobody likes the taste of water in their wine, and Liberals are going to have to ground some fiscal and logistical reality into the NDP’s “super wealth tax” panacea that would, clearly, fail to work.

Measuring the Trudeau Liberals against Singh’s priority list of absolutist policies is folly. Trudeau wants to uphold a brand of solid management and stickhandling divergent interests. Plus, Jagmeet Singh has no leverage to threaten Liberals to go back into a campaign where his party would be underfunded and disorganized.

Liberals can likely govern with an effective majority by pulling on NDP and Green support for things that all those parties naturally agree upon. Trudeau could even be able to wedge a few pipelines or increasing CBSA funding into the mix by shaming the Conservatives, although they seem to be chomping at the bit for a redo of the 2019 campaign already. Conservatives have more money in the bank than other parties at present.

The story of this election may have on the surface seemed like the ‘Revenge of the Regions’, specifically Québec and the Prairies. However, it may be truly a story of progressive policies getting a double down.

For progressive-minded voters struggling with Liberal pragmatism, the Liberals now have NDP-partnership excuses to move in an interventionist, social policy-focused direction if they choose to.

Take a Bow Yves-François Blanchet – How the Bloc Québécois Changed Canada’s Political Landscape

Take a bow Yves-François Blanchet. Two days ago you changed the political landscape in Canada by changing the political landscape in Quebec.

Almost singlehandedly you revived the Bloc Québécois, taking it from ten seats to thirty-two and making it the third largest party in the House of Commons. And by doing that, you blocked the Trudeau Liberals hope of gaining more seats in Quebec to make up for seats they knew they would lose in other parts of Canada. Today Justin
Trudeau is still in power, but he is now in charge of a minority government that cannot alone control the House of Commons, having to search for at least one party to partner with on votes to get anything done.

The most likely partner for the Liberals going forward is the NDP. On the face of it, the NDP and its leader Jagmeet Singh should be furious with you Mr. Blanchet. First, you campaigned on the provincial legislation in your home province that bans wearing religious symbols when working in jobs in the public service in Quebec. Most Canadians in other provinces see this as a curb on religious freedom and contrary to the Charter of Rights. Some Quebec groups are challenging the law in the courts, but most Francophone Quebeckers support the legislation and see it as a legitimate way of maintaining their culture. For Mr. Singh, a turban wearing Sikh, it should be a particular personal affront, although for political reasons and the hope of support in Quebec, he and all the party leaders have soft pedalled their opposition.

But there can be no soft-pedaling the political impact of the Blanchet resurgence of the Bloc Québécois. In the election of 2011, it was the sudden emergence of Jack Layton and the NDP in Quebec that overnight lead to the virtual oblivion of the Bloc. In that election support for the Bloc collapsed and it all went to the NDP. That year the party won fifty-nine seats in the province, propelling them into the rarefied atmosphere of the Official Opposition in the House of Commons.

By 2015 things were partially returning to normal. The Trudeau led liberals won forty-five Quebec seats in Quebec and the NDP were down to fifteen. Then came this Monday night. In addition to the thirtytwo Bloc seats, the Liberals had thirty-four and the Conservatives ten. And the NDP? Just two elections after the “orange wave” and the fiftynine seat break-through, the NDP managed to save only one seat in the Province.

Now you might think the NDP and its leader would be livid at the Bloc and Mr. Blanchet, but they are not really. Although the party is almost wiped out in Quebec, finishing this election with twenty seats fewer than in 2015 and sitting in third place in the Commons to the resurgent Bloc, because of the results in Quebec, the Liberals are now in a minority and the NDP’s remaining 24 seats are just what they need to get legislation through the Commons and to control Parliamentary committees.

That means that even in their diminished circumstances, the NDP will have more clout in the House of Commons than at any time since 1973 and 1974. That is the last time a Liberal Prime Minister named Trudeau found himself in a minority situation and had to turn to the NDP for support.

Now history is repeating itself. Jagmeet Singh isn’t exactly steering the car, but he is in the front seat and he has brought his map.

The Bloc Québécois breakthrough on October 21st had some people worrying about a resurgence of separatism in Quebec. Those worries are overstated. For the most part, Quebeckers realize they have the best of both worlds; a Canadian passport and access to the world as Canadians, and something close to Sovereignty Association at home.
Besides, with the examples of Brexit and Catalonia in Spain, they have evidence of just how difficult leaving can be – particularly when any gains are either marginal or non-existent.

But the re-emergence of the Bloc Québécois means that going forward minority governments like the one created by this week’s election are likely to become the norm rather than the exception. The implications for that are far reaching and as yet uncertain.

In the meantime, take a bow Mr. Blanchet.