Desperate by the state of the Canadian government | Opinion
The “confidence and supply” agreement between the Liberals and the NDP, under which the NDP will provide support to the minority Liberal government on key issues until 2025, is certainly nothing new. The same parties entered into a similar arrangement when Father Trudeau was in the minority and this allowed him to introduce several policies, such as pension indexation and the creation of the state-owned Petro-Canada, which he did not might not have been able to implement otherwise. That doesn’t mean, however, that this latest deal is likely to have a similar positive outcome.
There is no doubt that the Liberals welcome the agreement with the NDP. Trudeau has not had an exceptional record as head of government. He seems unwilling – or perhaps unable – to make tough decisions. Witness the continuing saga of sexual harassment in the military and RCMP, the lack of real power of its front benches (with the possible exception of Mrs. Freeland), its inability to resolve supply difficulties in all areas, from national defense to housing. So he needs support.
Given Trudeau’s obvious desire to create a legacy with social programs such as affordable child care, universal dental care, and drug coverage, he now has the option to phase all of these programs into several years before the next election.
For the NDP, these short-term benefits are important. He was unlikely to ever form the federal government, but the alliance with the Liberals now gives them realistic hope that Canada will have, by 2025, a working child care program, a targeted drug and dental coverage, even though these programs will greatly encroach on provincial jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, the opposition Conservatives are in the midst of a campaign to choose a new leader, their precedent having been deemed insufficiently bloodthirsty. The dominant characteristic of the federal Conservative caucus is decidedly hard-right. They hate the carbon tax and the Liberal leader and they would like to restrict abortion, balance the budget, cut taxes and prevent new social programs from being put in place.
Predominantly rural in composition, the Conservatives won more votes than the Liberals in the last federal election, with massive majorities in the Prairie provinces and in rural eastern and central Canada. But, in major urban centers like Montreal, Greater Toronto and Vancouver, they were nearly wiped out.
The voters who will pick the next Conservative leader are mostly a tight-knit group of right-wingers unlikely to choose a moderate candidate they would say is too lenient on budget deficits, taxes and social policies. Pollsters and political commentators are convinced that maintaining a far-right stance will sink the Tories in suburban constituencies in the next election, sending them back into perpetual opposition.
The question therefore arises as to who will provide the salutary discipline needed to either reduce expenditures or raise taxes to cover the desired and necessary expenditures. The sad prospect we face is that Canada, as a result of both this pact between the federal left parties and the Conservatives’ drive for self-immolation, will continue to run substantial deficits, increase relations fractured provincial-federal, will suffer a declining federal credit rating and continue to underinvest in National Defense
As regular readers of this column know, I have recently despaired of the present and future stability – as well as the effectiveness – of the United States government. I am now discouraged by the future governance of Canada. We need more effective leadership, with both the vision and the ability to set aside partisanship and solve the real problems.
I see few things that lead me to expect this in the next few years.
David Bond is a retired banking economist living in Kelowna.