By Maisie Marston
In the face of much adversity, Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party have narrowly held onto power in Canada.
Upon his landslide election victory in 2015, Trudeau promised Canadians “sunny ways” which was to include the legalisation of cannabis nationwide and the welcoming of Syrian refugees into the country, a divergent position compared to its neighbour, the US. The Liberal Party’s 2019 election manifesto included promises to help students afford college and university, to plant two billion trees over the next decade, cut taxes for middle-class families, lower phone bills, and increase the amount of Canadian land and oceans that are protected to 25% by 2025.
However, during the run-up to the election, Trudeau’s popularity declined rapidly as a consequence of a number of scandals. Old pictures of him in blackface surfaced, his handling of a corporate corruption case was criticised, and he advocated for the expansion of an oil pipeline after positioning himself as a candidate committed to tackling climate change.
As a consequence of these controversies in the run-up to the election, Mr Trudeau and the Liberal Party lost support overall. Now the party only possess a minority government so will become reliant on the New Democratic Party (NDP) to push through legislation. With the NDP’s influence, Canadian government policy could begin to lean further to the left. Among the NDP’s pledges is ceasing the oil pipeline development Trudeau advocates for, as well as making housing and healthcare more affordable. Their leader, Jagmeet Singh, has said: “I’m hoping that Mr Trudeau respects the fact that there’s a minority government now, which means we’ve got to work together.”
In Canada, minority governments have rarely lasted more than a couple of years, so the opposing Conservative Party is waiting with bated breath to take over. In their concession speech, the party’s leader Andrew Scheer warned Trudeau that “when [his] government falls, [the] Conservatives will be ready, and we will win.” Overall, Scheer’s party made gains of 2.5% and won the popular vote by 1.5%, whereas the Liberals made a loss of 6.5%, but gained 157 of 338 seats. Scheer told supporters in Saskatchewan “Let’s remember this feeling, coming close but falling just short.” Just days before the election occurred, some polls showed the Conservatives winning the most seats.
Notably, the far-right did not fare well in Canada’s 43rd election which is at odds to what is happening in various other developed countries around the world. The People’s Party of Canada denounced multiculturalism by promising less immigration and also questioned established climate change science, but failed to win a single seat. As Trudeau remarked in his victory speech; “From coast to coast, Canadians rejected divisions.”
In Quebec, the Bloc Québécois separatist party more than tripled their seat count from 10 to 32. In the previous two elections, the party had not proven popular, but a new leader, Yves-Francois Blanchet, managed to help it recover. The cause of this is thought to be a change of focus to environmental and progressive policies instead of Quebec separation. Unfortunately for Trudeau, the party opposes some of his policies including the oil pipeline development and disagrees on the controversial secularism law. This law, known as Bill 21, prohibits judges, teachers, police officers and public servants holding some positions wearing religious symbols at work.
If one thing can be taken from these recent elections, although Trudeau continues to hold on to power, his reputation has likely been irreversibly damaged.