Advertisement

Liberal minority government: How will the party’s strategy need to shift?

Click to play video 'Federal Election 2019: Justin Trudeau FULL victory speech' Federal Election 2019: Justin Trudeau FULL victory speech
WATCH ABOVE: Justin Trudeau FULL victory speech – Oct 22, 2019

The votes have been counted, and Canadians have re-elected Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party. However, unlike in 2015, the Liberals find themselves in a minority situation, having only captured 157 seats.

The number is 13 seats shy of the 170 needed to form a majority in Canada’s 338-seat House of Commons and is also significantly less than the 177-seat majority the Liberals held before Parliament dissolved last month.

Now, the Liberals will be reliant on support from another party if they want to pass legislation.

How will the party need to shift its strategy now that it finds itself in a minority position?

Here’s what experts have to say:

READ MORE: What the parties have said about working with a Liberal minority government

Story continues below advertisement

In his victory speech delivered early Tuesday, Trudeau said his party would be heading back to Ottawa to govern with a “clear mandate” from Canadians.

“Thank you for having faith in us to move this country in the right direction,” he said. “And to those who did not vote for us, know that we will work every single day for you. We will govern for everyone, regardless of how you cast your ballot. Ours is a team that will fight for all Canadians.”

However, former Liberal strategist and lead of strategic communications at Earnscliffe Strategy Group, Elly Alboim, says that for the Liberals, the “message on election night was clear.”

“This election was largely a referendum on the prime minister,” he said. “So there are lessons to be learned.”

Click to play video 'The 2019 federal election in six minutes' The 2019 federal election in six minutes
The 2019 federal election in six minutes – Oct 22, 2019

Alboim says that given this is the first government in history to be elected with 33 per cent of the vote, the party needs to be seen as “listening” and “try to include others.”

Story continues below advertisement

“I think there will have to be an opening for the NDP — probably not a formal one — but they’ll have to give them some wins.”

Alboim says he suspects the NDP will be the most aggressive when it comes to climate change, stiffening government regulations and increasing oversight of companies.

“It’ll be a little tougher for companies to do business with this government,” he said.

How does a minority change how the Liberals govern?

According to Liberal strategist and managing director at McMillan Vantage Policy Group, Richard Mahoney, in a minority situation, one party usually becomes a “bit more supportive” of the governing party’s agenda than the others.

“It’s usually the case that you can almost go bill by bill, legislation by legislation, or policy by policy and find support in the House of Commons on that.”

READ MORE: Trudeau won the most seats, but not a majority. What now?

He added that a minority government doesn’t mean the party can’t achieve things but that it just makes it “more challenging.”

Mahoney says such a government changes the way a party governs Parliament and develops its legislative agenda.

Story continues below advertisement

Where could the Liberals run into difficulty?

Sean Simpson, vice-president of Ipsos, says he sees the energy file and the Trans Mountain pipeline posing the largest challenge for Trudeau now that the Liberals find themselves in a minority position.

“Pipelines and the energy file just got much more complicated,” he said. “Because the NDP does not like pipelines, and the government just bought one.”

READ MORE: ‘Incredibly excited’ — Singh gives celebratory speech despite NDP drop in seats

Simpson added that any energy project that has to go through Quebec is “pretty much a non-starter at this point.”

“How the prime minister is now going to move ahead with his multibillion-dollar investment in the pipeline industry is going to be a significant challenge for him,” he said.

What should the NDP strategy be?

However, according to Alboim, the NDP also finds itself in a difficult situation, having lost a substantial amount of seats.

The NDP was only able to capture 24 seats in Monday’s election, a stark decrease from the 39 it held before Parliament dissolved in September.

The party now sits in fourth place, with less representation in the House than the Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc Québécois, who hold 157, 121 and 32 seats, respectively.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video 'Federal Election 2019: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks following election win' Federal Election 2019: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks following election win
Federal Election 2019: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks following election win – Oct 22, 2019

According to Alboim, having lost seats and money, the NDP cannot afford to be thrown into another election.

“Its leverage is relatively small,” he said.

He added, though, that the Liberals require the party’s support at least on a case-by-case basis.

“If you want more co-operation and less partisanship, if you’re a Liberal, then you need to give the NDP some room to show that it’s influential to save face.”

READ MORE: Four in 10 voters say a minority government is best but most prefer a majority, Ipsos poll says

He says the more dismissive the Liberals are, the more aggressive the NDP will have to become.

“They have to show that despite the losses, they’re a strong force, ” he said. “I think the next few days and weeks are critical as they try to jockey around each other and try to establish those positions versus each other.”

Story continues below advertisement

In his concession speech early Tuesday, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said New Democrats are going to Ottawa to work with other parties and “fight for Canadians.”

Singh once again outlined the party’s commitments, which include creating a national, publicly delivered single-payer pharmacare system, address housing affordability, putting a cap on cellphone bills, making sure the wealthiest Canadians pay “their fair share” and taking “real and urgent action” on climate change.

Finding common ground

According to Mahoney, moving forward, Singh should focus on issues on which the parties share a common cause.

“For example, climate change and, potentially, pharmacare and others,” he said. “And push those through and be seen to get credit for pushing those through.”

He said the NDP needs to show the public and its supporters that the party is more than just an opposition party but that its members “can actually do real things for people.”

“And I suspect that’s what they’ll do,” he said.

What have other parties said?

The Liberals could also seek support from the Greens, however while on the campaign trail, leader Elizabeth May made it clear that Greens would not prop up any government that supports pipelines.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Trudeau won the most seats, but not a majority. What now?

Similarly, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet said his party would not formally prop up any minority government.

“If something is proposed in Parliament which is good for Quebec, we will vote in favour of it,” he said following one of the leaders’ debates. “If something is proposed which is not good for Quebec, we will go against it.”

— With files from Kerri Breen