Looking at the results from this year’s election it seems as Canada is more divided now than ever, but this time it is more region against region than party against party. When the numbers started to roll in from polls in Atlantic Canada, social media started to light up. With comments coming from those in the heart of the energy sector of Canada out West pointing their finger at those In Atlantic Canada for voting Liberal red. With the early results in Atlantic Canada it was soon understood that Trudeau’s Liberal Government would win a minority and what some were expecting to be a blue Conservative wave across Canada, turned out to be little more than a splash with the Bloc soaking up most of the votes in Quebec.
Trudeau’s Liberals captured 157 ridings, 36 more seats than the second-place Conservatives, lead by Andrew Sheer, but 13 short of a majority, which could prove to offer a more stable government than many were expecting after the polls closed.
The Bloc Québécois under the leadership of Yves-François Blanchet had the best showing with the party capturing 32 seats, up from only 10 before the election was called. Jagmeet Singh and the New Democratic Party captured 24 seats, down 15 from the 39 seat they had prior to the election, losing the second most seat, with the Liberals losing 20 seats from the results of 2015.
The Bloc Québécois and New Democratic Party might have finished third and fourth in the polls, but both parties now control enough votes to be deal makers in the House of Commons. Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet said he was uninterested in being anyone’s formal partner, but would collaborate any legislation that he deemed good for his province. Jagmeet Singh, who revived the NDP’s swagger during the campaign, even though he lost 15 seats, which most going to the Bloc in Quebec, listed pharmacare, affordable housing, eliminating interest on student loans, a cap on mobile-phone bills, ending oil subsidies and taxing the “super wealthy” as his priorities.
“Canadians sent a clear message they want a government that works for them, not the rich and powerful,” Singh said in his post-election speech.
It will be interesting in the months to come what parliamentary alignment will take place. It will be hard for Singh and the New Democratic Party to demand too much. As for energy projects, The Bloc’s Blanchet said he opposed new oil pipelines in Quebec, not British Columbia; so we might see the Bloc’s support the Liberals on this front as it would come at a much lower price than teaming up with Singh and the New Democratic Party. Plus do not forget that the Sheer lead Conservatives could simply team up with the Liberals to block any legislative effort to reverse existing pipeline construction as it would be a win for both parties in what most likely set the stage for another election in eighteen to twenty-four months.
The Liberals are well aware of the feeling towards their party in the West with Trudeau saying, “You are an essential part of our great country,” about Alberta and Saskatchewan, which rejected every Liberal candidate. “Let us all work hard to bring our country together.” If Trudeau truly means what he is saying than the Liberals best look at some of the Conservative’s election platform, and not just the wish books of the Bloc and the NDP.
During the election, Scheer said he would have called a meeting of First Ministers in January to start work on an enhanced internal free-trade agreement; Trudeau could do the same, as the Liberals also promised to get serious about erasing trade barriers between the provinces.
However, it’s unclear if Trudeau and Scheer along with their respective parties are capable of working together. On election night, Trudeau broke convention and began his victory speech in Montreal minutes after Scheer had begun addressing his supporters in Regina, denying the opposition leader a moment on live television, which might be a sign of things to come in the “can we all get along” political picture that now exists in Canada.
The Liberal platform features numerous items that are similar to promises made by the Conservatives and the NDP. The question then, is whether the 338 newly elected members of Parliament are humble enough to work together? Trudeau would have to acknowledge that the Conservative Party won the greatest share of ballots cast with 6,155,662 votes, or 34.4 percent of the popular vote.
Trudeau is not in this alone as Sheer would also have to acknowledge that 65.6 percent of the popular vote is looking for a stronger stance on climate change, not just the 5,915,950 voters representing 33.1 percent of the popular vote in Canada that was secured by the Liberals. But also the 2,849,214 votes or 15.9 percent of the popular vote that went for the NDP, the 1,376,135 votes or 7.7 percent of the popular vote for the Bloc Québécois, the 1,162,361 votes or 6.5 percent of the popular vote for the Greens, the 292,703 votes or 1.6 percent of the popular vote for the People’s Party and the 71,854 votes or 0.4 percent of the popular votes for Independents and last but not least the 18,816 votes or 0.1 percent of the popular vote that went to the Christian Heritage Party.
Scheer was quick to say that “Conservatives have put Justin Trudeau on notice,” but he should also realize now the voters endorsed parties that support a carbon tax, which Scheer said he would scrap, so the Conservatives have also been put on notice.
There was also more than just a geographic division in the votes, the Conservatives find themselves equally blocked in their ability to appeal to younger voters, to the university-educated, to women. The climate change debate is just one example of an issue where the party has passed on a chance to expand its base in favour of appealing to its existing supporters.
This was a winnable election for the Conservatives, with a battered leader in Justin Trudeau and a divided left. The fact the Conservatives did not get a minority will start the calls that there should be a change in leadership for the Conservatives and more importantly prompt calls for a change of approach with voters. Yes, people can say that votes going to go the People’s Party took away from the Conservatives, but they still would have been short of the approximately 40 percent of the popular vote needed to form a majority government.
As for the other parties, the NDP can take solace in having exceeded expectations, but little else: though they emerged as “winners” from the campaign, they took fewer seats and a smaller share of the vote than in the “defeat” of 2015. The Greens, conversely, will be disappointed they did not take more seats, given the momentum with which they entered the campaign. But they doubled their previous best performance in terms of the popular vote, and tripled their seat count to 3, but we might also see a call for a change of leadership for the Greens also.
The most unambiguous winners were the Bloc, who like the NDP had been all but given up for dead before the election. They have returned as a force in Parliament, with their best performance in more than a decade, which says a lot about the leadership of Yves-François Blanchet.
With the resurgence of the Bloc, and the pipeline-ambiguous Liberals returned to power with three parties to their left pushing them to block all further pipeline construction and the Conservatives to the so called right wanting these energy projects to move forward as the Western Provinces, primarily Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the Liberals won only three seats, start to show that they are willing to dig in against Ottawa and fight for a better transfer agreement with even some calling for a possible “Wexit” just being what is need to push the Liberals and Conservatives closer than ever.
All we know is that the next eighteen to twenty four months are going to be interesting and given the current political landscape we might not see anything happen for a full four years, but time will tell and of course a move in the popularity polls can also change that in a hurry.
by Greg Rodman