The Liberal/NDP coalition is much ado about nothing

Saffron Blaze [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A lot is being made of this week’s NDP/Liberal supportive arrangement. It’s a sort-of coalition government, though not officially.

The idea is that the Liberals will be supported in confidence motions and budget approvals by the NDP, and in return the NDP will gain support for its pharma and dentistry plans.

The result, if the pact holds is, that the Liberals will be in power until the next required election in 2025.

It’s similar to a couple giving their relationship a test by living common-law without marriage. The couple has common ground, there are benefits and can easily split after a period of time if it’s not working out. History tells us that not all relationships, especially political ones, last long stretches. The benefits are more short-term which is the case for this Liberal/NDP agreement.

The Conservatives should be thanking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh for this public showcase of collaboration to buy them time, but instead they have fallen into the typical doldrums of political hackery. It’s predictable and unfortunate.

The reality is that these two parties have been working together through the past two minority governments, giving people on the left side of the aisle what they want. In my opinion, to make it “official” changes very little for how Canada will be governed between now and 2025.

The Conservative Party is currently embroiled in its third leadership race in five years as it tries to discover the elusive secret sauce of beating the Trudeau Liberals. The party that is leaderless at the moment is in no shape for an election. Its future place on the political spectrum is undetermined, and the party will need to solidify cross-Canada support before any election.

All of that requires time.

In the last two elections, Conservatives spent the majority of their time fixated on Prime Minister Trudeau and the result with two different leaders has been a flop. The party needs to have its own plan, its own agenda, and find a conservative spark in voters that really matter in winning a Canadian election.

The Liberal/NDP pact can be broken just as easily as it was formed. Trudeau has virtually eliminated most runway for the NDP, outside of Indigenous issues or pharmacare. Climate policy and fiscal policy are in lock-step between the two, and so finding differences has become much harder over time. I am actually more curious in the reason to make this marriage “official” instead of just holding the “unofficial” course as they have been the past few years.  Some political pundits have noted that the first test of this collaboration could be the liberals intention to raise military spending.

This coalition-style government is very common in countries, such as Sweden, Germany, and others. For many Canadians seeing members of parliament or parties cooperate is not offensive.  The policy outcome may be for some conservatives but the agreement should not be in my opinion.

It’s true that in minority governments you need a dance partner to hold power and continue to govern. NDP leader Singh has used his leverage for the moment; the Liberals feel like they are free to govern and the Conservatives have been bought time to get their house in order for the next election.

Some of us may not like the policies this marriage fosters but this week’s events are not abnormal. I’ll pass on the outrage for the time being.

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