A ‘sta­ble and work­ing mi­nor­ity’ gov­ern­ment

Af­ford­abil­ity is­sues and fight­ing cli­mate change of­fer com­mon ground

The Peterborough Examiner - - FRONT PAGE - BRUCE CAM­PION-SMITH AND ALEX BALLINGALL

OT­TAWA—Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau re­turned to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal Tues­day to be­gin plan­ning for his sec­ond term as Lib­er­als ex­pressed con­fi­dence that com­mon ground with op­po­si­tion par­ties on af­ford­abil­ity is­sues and cli­mate change ac­tion will pro­duce a “sta­ble and work­ing” mi­nor­ity Par­lia­ment. And NDP Leader Jag­meet Singh, a po­ten­tial po­lit­i­cal dance part­ner for the Lib­er­als, said his party is open to all pos­si­bil­i­ties: a for­mal deal to prop up the Lib­er­als, a power-shar­ing coali­tion, or to sim­ply pres­sure them on their pol­icy wish list on a vote-to-vote ba­sis.

“This mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment gives us the chance to be able to fight for the things that we’ve laid out all along this cam­paign,” Singh told re­porters at a Burnaby, B.C. ho­tel Tues­day.

“The New Demo­cratic Party will be con­struc­tive, will re­spect the choices that Cana­di­ans have made, and we’ll ap­proach build­ing the new par­lia­ment with open minds and an open heart,” he said.

Lib­er­als won 157 seats in Mon­day’s elec­tion, more than the 121 seats won by the Con­ser­va­tives but short of the 170 seats needed for a ma­jor­ity. That means the Lib­er­als will need the sup­port of op­po­si­tion MPs to move for­ward on their agenda in the mi­nor­ity Par­lia­ment.

Trudeau didn’t speak with jour­nal­ists on Tues­day. He’ll hold a post-elec­tion news con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day. How­ever, in his elec­tion night com­ments, Trudeau called the re­sults a “clear man­date” to act on af­ford­abil­ity is­sues, cli­mate change, gun con­trol and “in­vest­ing in Cana­di­ans.”

As they weighed the re­sults Tues­day, Lib­er­als felt con­fi­dent they could win the sup­port of the New Democrats, with 24 seats, or the Bloc Québé­cois, at 32 seats, on an is­sue-by-is­sue ba­sis.

“There’s def­i­nitely po­ten­tial

for a sta­ble and work­ing mi­nor­ity that works with other par­ties and de­liv­ers on our pri­or­i­ties,” said one strate­gist, who spoke on back­ground. “There’s a num­ber of other par­ties whose pri­or­i­ties are not that dif­fer­ent from ours.

“We’ll try to find a good way to work to­gether and lis­ten to all sides,” he said.

Al­most two-thirds of Cana­di­ans cast a bal­lot for the Greens, Lib­er­als, NDP and Bloc, sig­nalling strong sup­port for ac­tion on pro­gres­sive is­sues, he said.

But he cau­tioned too that a mi­nor­ity Par­lia­ment re­quires the sup­port of op­po­si­tion par­ties. “It’s not just the gov­ern­ing party that has to be co-op­er­a­tive and put their hand out to work with oth­ers,” he said.

Be­ing able to hold lever­age in the mi­nor­ity Par­lia­ment is a sil­ver lin­ing for Singh, who sur­passed ex­pec­ta­tions in this cam­paign but still saw his party lose 13 seats.

Singh said Tues­day that he hasn’t spo­ken with Trudeau about the dy­namic of the in­com­ing mi­nor­ity par­lia­ment. But he had out­lined his party’s “ur­gent” pri­or­i­ties in the fi­nal days of the cam­paign, as he tried to lure pro­gres­sive vot­ers by pledg­ing to push a mi­nor­ity par­lia­ment to the left.

With his di­min­ished cau­cus of 24 MPs, Singh said he will pres­sure the Lib­er­als to spend more on health care, af­ford­able hous­ing, stu­dent aid and Indige­nous in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices.

He has also called for a new one per cent “su­per wealth tax” on the value of an in­di­vid­ual’s as­sets that ex­ceeds $20 mil­lion, as well as a hard cap on cell­phone and in­ter­net bills and can­cel­la­tion of sub­si­dies to oil and gas com­pa­nies.

Singh would not dis­cuss any spe­cific con­di­tions for his sup­port of the Lib­eral mi­nor­ity.

Still, there are ob­vi­ous ar­eas of po­ten­tial co-oper­a­tion. For ex­am­ple, the Lib­er­als and NDP com­mit­ted to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a na­tional phar­ma­care pro­gram.

The Lib­eral plat­form also pledged fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for af­ford­able hous­ing and stu­dent aid, an in­crease to Old Age Se­cu­rity pay­ments for those over age 75 and more gen­er­ous ben­e­fits for chil­dren un­der the age of one, all is­sues that would likely find sup­port from the NDP.

The New Democrats and Green party have made ur­gent ac­tion on cli­mate change a pri­or­ity. Trudeau him­self has said that more ac­tion is re­quired. But the aide cau­tioned that any strategy on cli­mate change has to be “doable.”

One flash­point is the Trans Moun­tain pipeline. The Lib­er­als bought the line in a bid to spur its ex­pan­sion to bet­ter move Al­berta oil to the west coast for ship­ment to over­seas mar­kets. But New Democrats op­pose the project, rais­ing the ques­tion whether the mi­nor­ity Par­lia­ment means the project is now in jeop­ardy.

Singh re­fused to say whether he would try to use his new­found power in par­lia­ment to can­cel the multi-bil­lion-dol­lar ex­pan­sion of the pipeline.

“Ev­ery­thing is on the ta­ble. I can say that much, that we are not rul­ing out any­thing. But we’re not go­ing to ne­go­ti­ate that here,” Singh said.

There’s a fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive for the par­ties to work to­gether and avoid a snap vote. With spend­ing al­lowances of just over $29 mil­lion each for the ma­jor par­ties in this elec­tion, mount­ing an­other bud­get­strain­ing cam­paign in the near fu­ture could be a chal­lenge.

Trudeau got an early start Tues­day morn­ing when he went to a Mon­treal sub­way stop to greet com­muters, as he did af­ter his 2015 win. Then he hit the road for Ot­tawa and the de­ci­sions that will shape his next gov­ern­ment: whom to ap­point to cabi­net and to work in his of­fice and when to re­call Par­lia­ment.

In 2015, just over two weeks passed be­tween the elec­tion and the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony at Rideau Hall.

Be­yond the chal­lenges of nav­i­gat­ing a mi­nor­ity Par­lia­ment, the elec­tion re­sults hold a jar­ring mes­sage for the Lib­er­als, de­spite their win. Com­pared to the 2015 re­sults, they were down just over a mil­lion votes. They lost 20 seats from their pre-elec­tion stand­ing. The party has no MPs in Al­berta and Saskatchew­an.

And turnout was also down slightly at 66 per cent com­pared to 68 per cent in 2015, sug­gest­ing voter dis­sat­is­fac­tion with this elec­tion.

That mes­sage too has been heard in the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice, the strate­gist said.

“He has heard it loud and clear to lis­ten to Cana­di­ans, to work with other par­ties,” he said.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau waits to greet com­muters at a metro sta­tion in his Mon­treal rid­ing Tues­day morn­ing.

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