Less than two years ago the Justin Trudeau-led Liberal government received a limited mandate – a minority government. The record shows that the government was able to operate quite effectively with the support of the opposition New Democratic Party.
The advent of the COVID pandemic allowed Prime Minister Trudeau to take the high road and got a free hand in winning the approval of his programs. A majority of Canadians liked what they saw and battened down the hatches while the government acquired vaccines and protected the economy from going into a free fall. Trudeau extended financial benefits to workers who lost their jobs, promised spending on housing for the homeless and the working poor who were priced out of the housing market. These programs gained the approval of the majority of Canadians.
Yet Mr. Trudeau asked the Governor General to dissolve parliament, and called an election that occurred last Monday. Up to the last days of the campaign Trudeau could not give a clear reason for calling an election. Polls show that a substantial majority of Canadians were satisfied with the government’s performance and stated clearly that they did not want an election.
So in the middle of a pandemic and $610-million (the cost of running the election) later, Canadians, weathering the storm of a mean virus, went out and gave the Trudeau Liberals precisely the same minority government they gave them less than 24 months ago. The plain truth was that the hubristic Mr. Trudeau simply wanted a majority; apparently negotiating with the other parties in Parliament was not to his liking.
Trudeau’s was a progressive platform – $10-a-day child care, a climate change plan, an ongoing all out attack to end the COVID-19 pandemic. He pushed a strong vaccine campaign which made the vaccine compulsory if one wanted to fully participate in the basic activities of living. A troubled nation gave him the nod.
Progressives did not like what Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives offered; particularly their comparative lax approach to mandating the use of vaccines and gun control, not to mention their less generous day care funding promise. Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats, although generally indistinguishable from The Liberals, are still not allowed to get beyond third party status. Even so, Trudeau, as he had to in the last Parliament, must depend on the NDP to get his bills through the House.
The Canadian electorate is historically of a liberal political tendency, so this third Trudeau minority mandate may be just what the doctor ordered. But Canadian voters usually don’t give a leader a fourth mandate; and if that leader forgets and tempts fate he’s shown the door. Remember what happened to Stephen Harper in 2015?
Assuming that Trudeau understands this and, like his father, takes a walk in the snow and leaves at a time of his choosing, the next few years our prime minister would want to advance his “legacy projects.” That is all to the good.
We do not expect Mr. Trudeau to come up with new ideas because there are enough old promises that remain unfulfilled. And for ease of reference here are some of them: lock in the $10-a-day day care funding; deal honestly and expeditiously with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action; address the issue of the graves of the Aboriginal children; fix the water problems in First Nation communities; start building affordable homes; fund more public transit projects; make an honest effort to deal with climate change; relentlessly attacked racism; oppose Quebec’s racist Bill 21.
There should be no excuse this time; these projects are quite doable because they are also high on the NDP’s list of priorities. So, Mr. Trudeau, just quit the emoting and get on with your legacy.