Editorial: Winning a minority government a humbling victory for the Liberals and Justin Trudeau

While ending up with the most seats in the 2019 federal election Oct. 21 wasn’t exactly a resounding victory for the Liberal party under leader Justin Trudeau, given that they have fallen from having a majority to being a minority government, but it does seem to indicate that either scandals like the SNC-Lavalin affair and the revelations that he dressed up in blackface and brownface as a teenager and adult were perhaps less important to voters than they were to the media and political pundits.

It could also simply mean that the alternative presented by the Conservatives under leader Andrew Scheer wasn’t appealing enough to entice enough swing voters to cast their votes for his party this time around.

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That said, Canada is clearly a bit of a divided nation right now. The Liberals won the most seats, but they didn’t win as much of the popular vote as the Conservatives, though some of this can probably be explained by the Conservatives winning by big margins in most of Canada’s west, particularly the Prairie provinces and the rural regions of B.C. In Quebec, the separatist Bloc Quebecois made a comeback to capture the third-most seats in the country, while the NDP only picked up about 25 seats, despite having half as much of the popular vote as the Liberals. Some of their support also bled off to the Green party, which elected three MPs, an indication that there are voters out there willing to consider an alternative to Canada’s major parties, only two of which – the Liberals and the Conservatives – have ever formed the national government.

In Northern Manitoba, the NDP’s Niki Ashton rebounded from a close vote in 2015 to end up in the position she is more accustomed to - taking more than half of the votes cast in the riding. And while it may seem like a bit of a hollow victory, with her party having fallen to fourth-place status in the House of Commons, the fact that Trudeau’s Liberals are about 15 seats shy of a majority may actually end up giving the NDP more clout in the upcoming term than they had in the previous one despite having the third-most seats. Presumably, the Conservatives aren’t going to be voting alongside the Liberals most of the time, while the Bloc Quebecois is generally only interested in doing so when it furthers the interests of Quebec. The Greens remain too few in number to push the Liberals over the edge, so it is possible that a coalition – formal or informal – between the Liberals and the NDP will be formed.

While the Liberals would undoubtedly be happier with a second majority, not having the ability to push through whatever legislation they choose could actually be beneficial for the country, since the government should be forced to adopt some of the smaller parties’ ideas and policies in order to gain their support. Of course, this may result in the occasional bit of bluffing and brinksmanship, as parties teeter on the precipice of forcing the government’s downfall in order to extract as many concessions as possible.

Given that minority governments tend to last only two years or so historically, the next term of government may possibly a short one. What that will mean for the legacy of the second Trudeau to hold the position of prime minister of Canada, and for the parties whose support he will need to enact legislation, will be interesting to see.

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