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The players who would be king: A look at six scenarios for a minority government after the federal election

 Clockwise from top left: Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May, Yves-François Blanchet, Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau.
Clockwise from top left: Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May, Yves-François Blanchet, Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau. - Post Wire Services

Since the start of the election campaign , the Liberals and Conservatives have virtually been tied at the polls, with each party forecast to get slightly under 35 per cent of seats. So with just a week to go before Canadians cast their ballots, the prospect of a minority government appears to be more than likely.

In that scenario, with clear ideological differences between the parties, how will the winning party rally support from another party in a minority Parliament? Will the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh stick to his pledge not to support a Conservative government? How will a Liberal minority government work with the separatist Bloc Québécois party? Vanmala Subramaniam spoke to a number of political strategists — some of whom advised previous minority governments — about how six of the following scenarios might play out:

A Conservative minority government working with the NDP

On the eve of the French-language debate, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh reiterated his pledge not to support a Conservative government , a stance that stems from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer ’s past comments against same-sex marriage that were made in Parliament in 2005.

But in the unlikely scenario that Singh backtracks from this position, Conservative strategist Rachel Curran, former director of policy to Stephen Harper, says that the NDP and Conservatives could end up aligning on issues related to affordability. “Both parties are concerned with affordability and have campaigned on affordability, even though they are positioning the issues differently. If the Conservatives are in a position to implement tax reductions on lower-income groups, this is something that won’t be difficult for the NDP to support,” Curran said.

Tim Powers , vice-president of Summa Strategies, says that the NDP and Conservatives could also align on housing reform. “The Conservatives will want to change the mortgage stress test, perhaps diminish it. Doing that may be appealing to all parties, including the NDP.”

The NDP has not clearly outlined where they stand on the stress tests, introduced by the Trudeau government, but have said that they would like to re-introduce 30-year term mortgages, which would essentially lower monthly costs.

Powers points out that during the Conservative minority government of Stephen Harper, the NDP and the Liberals supported a volunteer firefighters tax credit brought about by former finance minister Jim Flaherty. “Most of where these two parties can perhaps reach a compromise will be issues around tax reform,” he said.

A Liberal minority government working with the NDP

Jagmeet Singh has ruled out endorsing a Conservative government and laid out six commitments he said the NDP will refuse to compromise on, a message presumably directed at the Liberals in the event they form a minority government.

These include a national, single-payer universal pharmacare plan, a national dental care plan, investments in housing, a plan to waive interest on student loans and a commitment to reduce emissions by delivering aid to transition oil patch workers out of the fossil fuel industry.

“This is a likely scenario. It feels a bit like 2004 when (former prime minister) Paul Martin had come in holding a majority and people were frustrated with the Liberals but weren’t quite ready to kick them out,” Powers said. Martin, for instance, worked well with former NDP leader Jack Layton and reached an agreement with the New Democrats in 2005 that included a $4.6 billion boost to social program spending that earned him support for his minority government’s budget.

Ideologically, the two parties overlap significantly on issues regarding affordability and taxes, but Liberal strategist Scott Reid points out that Singh has said he will not work with anyone that is going to pursue resource development or expand pipelines.

“He has said that is going to be demand number one. That puts the Liberal government in an awkward spot. Will the NDP be willing to compromise based on the rigour and extensiveness of additional consultation [of the Trans Mountain pipeline]? Will the Liberals be willing to mothball the project?” Reid said.

Reid believes the Liberals will probably align more with the Conservatives on issues related to pipeline development. “I think you may have a circumstance where for both the Conservatives and the Liberals it becomes difficult to compromise with any of the other parties at all on pipelines.”

A Conservative minority government working with the Green Party

Both Curran and Powers agree that the prospect of a Conservative minority having to find compromise with the Green Party will be a tough. “The problem with these two parties are that their positions on climate change in particular are virtually irreconcilable,” Curran said. “The carbon tax will be a real sticking point for the Greens, because their platform is essentially transitioning away from oil and gas development very quickly and that is a no-go territory for any Conservative government,” she added.

In the first English-language debate last Monday, Green Party leader Elizabeth May told Scheer that he will not be elected as prime minister, signalling a dismissal on her part as to the prospect of any future collaboration.

Powers says the only common ground the two parties could have is on conservation. “Harper had tons of common ground with all the parties on conservation. The initiative to plant trees is something that they can get around and in fact conservatives have always concerned themselves with conservation in order to seek out common ground with the opposition parties,” he said.

A Liberal minority working with the Green Party

With the Green Party on track, according to most polls, to gain more than 10 per cent of seats in the House of Commons, any party that forms a minority government will probably have to conduct some sort of negotiation with the environmentalist party at some point in its tenure.

The Green Party’s platform is naturally centred around eliminating all fossil fuel emissions and turning Canada into a nation where most homes and businesses will be powered by renewable energy, and all vehicles emitting little to no carbon. The Liberals, too, have said that they want to turn Canada into a carbon neutral nation by 2050, but the key difference is they have committed to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which is a no-go zone for the Greens.

“I think it’s six to one and half a dozen of the other in terms of the Liberals working with the NDP or the Greens,” said Reid. “They do align on issues like healthcare — mental health and suicide prevention for instance — and affordability, but the fundamental question for the Greens comes back to pipelines and the climate, so this is going to be a tough one.”

A Conservative government working with the Bloc Québécois

One of the most contentious issues during the election campaign so far has been Quebec’s Bill 21, a provincial decree that bans public servants in Quebec from donning religious headgear or symbols. On that front, a Conservative minority government under Scheer has already made it clear that the federal government will not intervene on the ban, which for the separatist Bloc Québécois could be a key sticking point.

“The Conservatives and the Bloc are aligned on Bill 21. We saw that in the English debate. So that’s a given,” said Powers. “Mr. Scheer could bring forward a budget that talks about a separate uniform tax code for Quebec. The Bloc will not oppose that, so that’s where a deal could be made,” he added.
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The Quebec provincial government has asked federal leaders for a commitment to a single income tax return for Quebec, which is a demand that the Bloc is aligned with. “Scheer has already said that his party is the only party that’s prepared to work with Quebec on that,” said Curran. “And so the Conservatives are pitching themselves as the party that is going to respect provinces which is the Bloc’s ultimate objective.”

Where both parties might find themselves at loggerheads with each other is on Scheer’s proposed national energy corridor that would cross through Quebec. It has perhaps been one of the leading reasons why Conservative support is waning in the province, in favour of the Bloc.


Inform your vote: Full coverage of Vote 2019 in Atlantic Canada.


A Liberal minority working with the Bloc Québécois

There is clear left-leaning support in most of Quebec, given that the Liberals are currently holding 40 of Quebec’s 78 seats, and gunning for another 10.

“You’ll find that there is actually lots of room for discussion between the Liberals and the Bloc, and actually most other parties on issues like national pharmacare, a federal minimum wage and workplace safety,” said Reid.

“The Bloc… are the party to watch as a spoiler for the Liberals. A potentially reinvigorated Bloc in a minority parliament makes the governing coalition calculus more complicated,” Nanos Research Chairman Nik Nanos said in a recent Reuters interview.

Where Trudeau might perhaps come to a head with the Bloc is on Bill 21. The former prime minister has used varied language with regards to the bill, first saying that he, like Scheer and Singh would not intervene, but then shifting his position slightly saying that a federal government “might” have to intervene on it.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019


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