Tuesday, November 1, 2016

One Year Later, the Election and Trudeau Government

Two weeks ago the anniversary of the 2015 federal election passed and in three days the first anniversary of the Trudeau government will pass. A great deal has changed (or not) since October 19th and I think it might be valuable to reflect on where things currently stand. Let's begin with the Liberals.

For the Liberals and their supporters there are a lot of things to celebrate still. The Liberals are sitting high in the polls, the Trudeau honeymoon seems to be continuing, the media continues to gives positive coverage and around the world Canada and its shiny, new PM is mostly seen as positive. In my opinion many of the voters who supported the Liberals were motivated by two main factors: the desire for the removal or Harper and the desire for a change in tone. The Liberals beat the NDP as the anti-Conservative Party and that is why they are in government today. Liberals supporters may remain in line as long as the new government does not come to resemble the old government.

While writing that I could hear the old progressive refrain rattling in my head "Liberal, Tory, same old story." In recent weeks the Trudeau government has placed support that may be showing very little difference between itself and its predecessors. The LNG pipeline in BC was approved in British Columbia and Aboriginal representatives are beginning to feel betrayed by this government on a number of issues. Prime Minister Trudeau recently caused a controversy by seemingly backing away from his commitment to electoral reform and there is a long list of promises that the Liberals have failed to keep.

The Liberals made, according to Trudeaumetre.ca/, 219 promises. Of those 34 have been kept, 64 are in progress and 26 have been broken. The Liberals overburdened themselves in their platform and it is likely that the most sensitive voters, or one-issue voters, may peel off and return to the Greens, Conservatives and NDP. For example, Bill C-51 was a major issue in Toronto, yet no amendments have been moved. There is no sign that the Liberal coalition is fracturing, but it seems a growing risk for them.

A year after the defeat I think it is hard to say that the Conservative Party was utterly routed. The Conservatives have a strong core in the House of Commons. In the first by-election of the forty-second parliament the Conservatives managed to gain on their wins a year previous in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. This is Conservative territory, but a stronger Liberal support would be a healthy sign. There are fourteen candidates running for the Conservative leadership. The healthy number suggests that there is a great deal of interest and that it is a prize worth having. The Tories still have strong fundraising and the parliamentary leadership has been solid in confronting issues that matter to their supports: spending and the economy.

While Trudeau's popularity seems unassailable at the moment, Stephen Harper will not be on the ballot next time. A new Conservative leader will be well poised to make at least limited gains.

The fortunes of the Green Party are unclear. Elizabeth May had to do battle over the soul of her party this year when they adopted a strong anti-Israel stance. May was most effective as a critic of the Harper government. Most of her focus has been on the electoral reform committee. The success of the committee will dictate to a great degree the future of her party.

Finally, the New Democratic Party. The future of the NDP is unclear at the moment. Since the election the party kicked out Tom Mulcair, though he remains on as interim leader. The party seems uncertain if it wants to contest for power still or return to the role of third party and conscience of the Parliament. Fundraising has plummeted since Mulcair was removed as leader. I think much of that is the membership sitting on their hands, saving for a leadership contest, or to see what the party will do next. Unfortunately, and very worryingly, there are no declared candidates for the federal race. However, it appears that Peter Julian (NDP - New Westminster-Burnaby, BC) will enter, and there are a few others in the wings. Mending the party between moderate and leftist and French and English will be a daunting challenge.

There is opportunity for the NDP. The Liberals ran on a fairly left-wing platform, but appear to be governing from the centre. Progressive voters will be disappointed. There is plenty to criticize, so just as the Conservatives are minding the pennies the NDP should be minding the broken promises to young people, Aboriginal Canadians, etc.

It has been a dramatic year since the election and the formation of the Trudeau ministry. I assume that things will have stabilize as we enter the second year, but by this time next year the Conservatives and NDP will have new leaders and once again the stage will be set for the future going forward.

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