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Back to work. That needs to be the operating principle of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s re-elected and slightly strengthened minority government.

It’s time to deliver results.

Although the NDP criticism failed to translate into seat gains, the truth is that the Prime Minister has seen a gap between what TS Eliot called the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act. It’s time to get things done.

Fire up the deal-making machine and get childcare agreements in place, funding flowing and spaces opening. Cut ribbons and kiss babies.

Get shovels in the ground for transit projects and get the ones in construction moving faster. Visit construction sites for mid-term progress reports. Announce every milestone of every project. When I worked in government, I used to push back on caucus criticism that “we’ve announced this already” by asking “have you announced it this week?”

End the remaining boil-water advisories on First Nation reserves.

Deliver meaningful relief for first-time home buyers and student-loan holders.

The Liberal government needs not only to get things done, but also to communicate how it is getting things done, every step of the way, day after day. Progressives have a real challenge between idea and implementation, communicating not only ambition but the tangible, slow but steady progress being made. The re-elected government needs to focus on telling its own story and showing how progress is being advanced.

Do it in partnership with the provinces and municipalities. Recognize that the big provinces face provincial and municipal elections in the near future, and they’re motivated to get stuff done too.

There is a pent-up demand for achievement, and as we emerge from hopefully the worst of COVID-19, now is the time to fire on all cylinders. Take the mandate you’ve been given and put it to work to accomplish the things you said you would.

Tweak the cabinet, elevating some backbenchers who are work horses, not show horses. Focus on delivering results every day. Focus on driving the ball down the field. On climate and especially green infrastructure. On childcare. On First Nations reconciliation. Tie it all together with a focus on jobs and the economy, and just a smidge more fiscal discipline.

It’s possible that we are in for a new generational political order of minority governments, European style. So long as the Bloc takes up roughly half of Quebec’s seats, it’s nigh on impossible to win a majority, unless the West were to become a multi-party region for the first time in generations. That means Trudeau could govern if he works at it for, if not the full four years, than something more in the realm of three.

If he’s interested in succession planning, he should start. I don’t think it’s Chyrstia Freeland. And it also isn’t simply about the leader of the party – it’s also about ensuring cabinet ministers and those working hard to join them get airtime and a chance to grow in their roles. There’s a lot of talent in the Liberal caucus. Put it to work. The odd “special assignment” wouldn’t hurt, either.

This re-election is an opportunity to buckle down and focus on delivering. I’d say the PM should roll up his sleeves, but he practically wears long-sleeve shirts solely for the purpose of rolling them up.

Get things done, be seen to get things done, and then get more things done. That’s my advice for the re-elected government.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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There have been many complaints about the necessity of the 2021 Canadian election. But it may finally prove more important in retrospect.

The latest federal contest at least raises an intriguing question. Are voters, or growing numbers of political activists at any rate, increasingly demanding a more collegial and co-operative incarnation of Canada’s parliamentary democracy?

There have been, for instance, eight federal elections so far in the 21st century. Three of them, in 2000, 2011, and 2015, have returned majority governments.

Five elections, however, have returned minority governments, where no party had at least 50% plus one of the seats in the elected parliament — in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2019, and now 2021.

All five recent minority governments have finally had to co-operate with their oppositions in some degree, to get key legislation and government budgets through the House of Commons.

All told there have been 15 minority governments in Canada since 1867. A new Progressive Party complicated the struggle between Liberals and Conservatives in the 1920s. The New Democratic and Social Credit parties had a parallel impact in the 1960s.

The latest minority governments of the 21st century are arguably tied to two historical events. One is the election of 1993. The other is the introduction of fixed date election legislation by the minority government of Stephen Harper’s new Conservative Party of Canada in 2007.

The 1993 election was the first in which the sovereigntist Bloc Québécois ran candidates. In this and other respects it “gutted the Canadian political structure like no other,” in the sharp words of journalist Lawrence Martin.

The 2007 fixed date legislation —  requiring that each election take place on the third Monday in October, in the fourth calendar year after the preceding election — echoed similar early 21st century action in Canadian provinces and elsewhere.

The legislation adapted an ancient practice of Democracy in America to Canada’s somewhat different “Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom,” as prescribed in what we now call the Constitution Act, 1867.

Because of this the 2007 legislation includes the crucial sentence: “Nothing in this section affects the powers of the Governor General, including the power to dissolve Parliament at the Governor General’s discretion.”

This provision is integral to our kind of parliamentary democracy, where a government can last only as long as it retains the support of a majority in parliament. It also legitimizes so-called snap elections called by prime ministers who effectively appoint governor generals.

This has meant that since the 2007 fixed date legislation was passed Canada has had only two elections the prescribed four years apart (2015, 2019), and three snap elections at shorter intervals (2008, 2011, 2021).

One potentially intriguing feature of the 2021 federal campaign has been a novel claim that the minority government elected in 2019 should have carried on with the people’s business, until the next legislated fixed date election on the third Monday in October, 2023.

The September 20, 2021 election on this view was unnecessary and even “unlawful”! And the argument is logically accompanied by a parallel claim that our party politicians should increasingly behave with more collegiality and co-operation.

Some have urged as well that in the very similar results of the 2019 and 2021 elections the Canadian people have voted as if our current electoral system were “proportional representative” instead of “first past the post.” And this further implies some increasing popular demand for less partisan and competitive politics in Ottawa.

The fate of the 2021 minority government could begin to tell us just how much of a future this point of view might have. Even former Trudeau advisor Gerald Butts has suggested that the new government might just try to last the fixed date term of four years.

A government that succeeded in or at least came very close to doing this would almost certainly be a more collegial and co-operative government than in the past. (And it would require much greater co-operation from opposition parties too.)

At the same time, already other expert voices are arguing that the Trudeau Liberal minority government elected in 2021 is unlikely to last too long. And this brings a more traditional perspective to bear on the issue.

It is also possible that the real wave of the future is the 2011 and 2015 elections. Liberals and Conservatives at least may not be all that likely to give up on the longstanding quest for more partisan and competitive majority governments any time soon.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.