Wilfrid Greaves, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, shares his projections for political parties in Canada following the 2019 federal election.
Sputnik: Experts are seriously discussing a possible coalition between the Liberals, NDP, or Bloc Québécois. What do you think, is it possible for them to cooperate and what could we expect from it?
Wilfrid Greaves: There will not be a coalition government (in which members of more than party serve in the Government/Cabinet), and I doubt there will be a formal cooperation agreement (which is currently the case in the province of British Columbia). Instead, as happened during the periods of minority government from 2004-2011, we will likely see the Liberal minority seek support from the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois on an issue by issue basis. In particular, the Liberals will likely try to pass legislation on climate change and the environment, housing, public transit, urban crime, and expanded social benefits that receive support from the other opposition parties, isolating the Conservatives in the House of Commons and demonstrating that they are alone on the right wing of Canadian politics and that even under a minority government a majority of Canadians are on the left and centre-left of the political spectrum. The most challenging issue in this respect for the Liberals will be the question of the Transmountain pipeline and other potential fossil-fuel energy projects that will not receive any support from the other opposition parties, but which the Conservatives will likely have to support in Parliament.
Bottom line: on energy and tax reform issues, the Liberals will likely win support from the Conservatives, on environmental and social issues, the Liberals will likely be able to win the support of either the Bloc or the NDP (and the Greens, though they’re too few to matter much).
Sputnik: What can be expected from the Conservative Party in the next four years? What major issues might cause confrontations between the Conservatives and Liberals?
Wilfrid Greaves: The next four years (or however long this government survives) will be interesting for the Conservatives. In some ways this election has only deepened their electoral problems by demonstrating that they are the overwhelming party of choice in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but are out of step and quite unpopular with the rest of the country, notably Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia, which have a majority of the national population and federal seats in Parliament.
Until the Conservatives make themselves more appealing to socially moderate and climate-concerned voters in Canada’s major cities and populous suburban areas, their chances of forming another federal government are quite low, and winning very high levels of popular support in a few provinces does not help them win more seats, and may actually hurt them in the rest of the country. This is a major problem for the party, because Mr. Scheer is very socially conservative in his personal views, and is not trusted by many voters to support Canada’s legal status-quo on abortion, same sex marriage, and human rights protections; and opposition to climate change policy has become one of the cornerstones of conservative parties across Canada. This means that major changes – both in terms of their leader and their party platform – are probably necessary before the Conservatives are returned to government.
The Conservatives will take every opportunity they can to disagree with the Liberals and undermine their government, but the Liberals will make this difficult by enacting policies that are popular with Canadians, especially those urban and suburban Canadians that Conservatives need to win over (such as federal money for public transportation, housing, pharmacare, and climate change policy). Liberals will likely also get Conservative support for major legislation such as the ratification of the new NAFTA agreement and income tax reductions. The Conservatives will likely try to keep up their narrative of Trudeau’s ethical problems and shallow nature, and if the Liberals and Justin Trudeau make more errors they will make this easier for them (as they did on numerous occasions in the last four years, such as Trudeau’s two ethics law violations, embarrassing India trip, the SNC Lavalin affair, and blackface scandal).
Sputnik: Is there a chance that the Conservatives will form a coalition against Trudeau? Who might enter it? And how powerful could such collaboration be?
Wilfrid Greaves: No, it is virtually impossible the Conservatives will be able to form a government without another election. The Liberal majority is too strong, and the Conservatives would need the support of both the Bloc and the NDP to win the confidence of the House of Commons. This is not going to happen, as the Bloc and NDP are both socially liberal and have strong voter support for climate policy. The Conservatives must win more seats themselves to have a chance at government (they are 49 seats short of a majority in this election). The only route to a Conservative minority government would be if the Bloc held the balance of power in the House sufficient to give the Conservatives confidence, which they currently do not.
Sputnik: According to an investigation by Canada's ethics commissioner, Trudeau violated ethics law in the SNC-Lavalin case. Do you think this case could develop further? Should the public expect other Trudeau-related scandals during his tenure as prime minister?
Wilfrid Greaves: I think it is unlikely that much more will happen on the SNC file unless new information comes out. Even if more information does come out, it may not make a political difference, as Canadian voters evidently factored the SNC affair into their decisions and many still chose the Liberals. Politically, neither the Liberals nor the Bloc want to do any more damage to SNC as a company or villainize Quebec any further. Criminal charges might make a difference, but, again, I think this is unlikely at this point in time. While it is certainly possible there will be new ethics scandals during this Liberal minority government, one hopes that Justin Trudeau might have learned at this point that ethics are a weakness for him personally, and proceed more carefully.
Certainly, it is a major vulnerability for the Liberals if there continue to be series ethical violations involving the Prime Minister or the government, and after the significant damage done to their reputation due to poor ethics during the last four years, this is one of the issues the Liberals should be more cautious about. Unfortunately, since they were re-elected to a likely minority government, it is also possible that the Liberals will not have learned the right lessons from these experiences and will believe that ethical issues don’t matter to Canadians.
That would be a mistake, and if the Conservatives were to have a more effective leader in the next election then I believe many voters would be prepared to punish the Liberals for further ethics violations by voting for another party and making a Conservative government more likely.
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