NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and his wife Gurkiran Kaur wave to supporters on stage at NDP election headquarters in Burnaby, B.C. on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

‘Issue-by-issue parliament’: Expert says Liberals need to placate NDP to be effective

Scandals, social issues, racism defined 2019 federal election, SFU prof says

All things considered, the Liberal Party should be happy it held onto power Monday night, according to a political science lecturer at Simon Fraser University.

Stewart Prest said given the scandals that seemed to dominate the news cycle for Justin Trudeau, it’s impressive they held onto power at all.

“They do need to come away from this realizing that something has to change,” Prest said.

Some pundits have blamed the party’s loss of 25 seats since last election on its record on climate change: buying the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but keeping carbon taxes. But Prest disagreed.

In a campaign that’s been described as nasty throughout, he said the Liberals provided plenty of non-policy targets such as the photos of Trudeau wearing racist makeup and the SNC-Lavalin affair.

“Every government collects baggage along the way, but this government collected a lot of it in a very short amount of time,” he said.

The Conservatives shouldn’t feel too good about growing their seat total from 22 to 121, he added, because they were unable to take capitalize on Trudeau’s scandals.

Scheer was dogged by his own social missteps, which started when he did not apologize for a 2001 video clip that surfaced of him comparing same-sex marriage to counting a dog’s tail as a leg.

He was also noticeably absent from gay pride parades across the country, and failed to disclose he held dual Canadian-U.S. citizenship despite disparaging other Canadian political figures in the past who also held dual citizenship.

READ MORE: ‘Wexit’ talk percolates day after Liberals returned to power with minority

For the NDP, Prest said the votes they lost in Quebec to the Bloc Québécois are telling.

“The difficult question to ask is whether it had to do with [leader Jagmeet Singh’s] appearance,” Prest said.

In one instance, while campaigning in Montreal, a man asked Singh to remove his turban to look “more Canadian.”

The leader’s response to the man, as well as to Trudeau’s blackface photos, only added to his star power and polling numbers.

“I think people started to really warm up to him but it seemed like it was too little, too late.”

Cara Camcastle, another political science instructor at SFU, agreed that the NDP didn’t create enough momentum to shift the polls in time for voting day.

“I’m not sure how much surging there was. [The] NDP went from 16 to 19 per cent, so I think it was exaggerated.”

READ MORE: Singh calls for reform of ‘broken’ voting system after NDP falls short in Quebec

Camcastle said both the NDP and the Greens have an opportunity to affect decision making in the minority government.

“They’ll have a more prominent role… but at the same time, it’s a dangerous time for parties that don’t want to sell out on promises made to their supporters.”

All parties will have to learn to cooperate better than they did on election night itself, she noted, when Trudeau broke with tradition and began his victory speech before the other parties had finished their concession speeches on live TV.

Prest said the Liberals will likely bend to NDP pressure on social issues like Pharmacare and daycare before they let go of the Trans Mountain expansion.

“The pipeline is a sticking point, but the NDP will have to make a choice: Do they care so much about the pipeline issue they’re willing to withhold support on those other priorities?” Prest said.

“I think there will be a little of a dance and it may be an issue-by-issue parliament.”


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