The last five months have been very eventful in the realm of Canadian politics. This article will be a brief summary of all major provincial and federal political events that took place since the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
Ontario general election and Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Government
On the 7th of June 2018, Ontarians across the province went to the polls to elect a new Ontario Legislative Assembly. The four major parties’ running candidates in the election were the Progressive Conservative, led by former Toronto City Councillor Doug Ford, the Liberals, led by Premier Kathleen Wynne, the New Democrats, led by Andrea Horwath, and the Greens, led by Mike Schreiner. In an incredible, but expected, rebuff of the former governing Liberal Party, the PCs won a majority 76 seats, thus allowing them to form Government. The NDP won 40 seats, forming the Official Opposition. The Liberals, massively unpopular with the Ontarian, won only 7 seats, down from the prior 58 seats, and the Green Party won 1 seat, which marks the first time a Green Party member was elected to the Ontario Legislative Assembly.
Furthermore, Doug Ford’s new government “For the People” implemented several notable policies after their election. Ford’s government repealed the 2015 sexual education curriculum enacted by the Wynne Liberals, calling the curriculum’s content into question and requesting a rewrite after further parental consultations. The PCs also cancelled several environmental programs introduced by their predecessors, including the cap and trade carbon tax, and they pledged to support Saskatchewan in a court case against the imposition of a federal carbon tax by the Trudeau Liberals. Ford’s government has also formed an independent commission to investigate the alleged mismanagement of funds under the Wynne Liberals.
Resignation of Maxime Bernier from Conservative Caucus and formation of the People’s Party of Canada
Maxime Bernier, once considered a rising figure in the Conservative Party and leadership contender in 2017, crossed the floor from the Tories to become an independent on August 23rd, 2018, coinciding with the opening ceremonies of the Conservative National Convention being held in Halifax. Bernier’s resignation was the result of months of brewing tension between the prominent Quebecer and party leader Andrew Scheer, who narrowly defeated Benier in the Conservative Party leadership race in 2017. Bernier, a vehemently anti-dairy supply management libertarian, blamed his defeat on “fake conservatives” who voted for the pro-dairy supply management of Scheer with the financial support of the dairy lobby. Bernier would go on to further divide the party with the publication of his memoir, which blamed the “dairy cartel;” this, in turn, got him dismissed from a critic position. This fall from grace, along with other disagreements with the Conservative Party led Bernier to leave the caucus and form his own populist conservative party, the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), on September 14th, 2018. The PPC is expected to be mildly influential in the 2019 federal election, especially amongst Quebecers; it is not expected to win many seats, as conservatives fear the “division of the right” into two disagreeing parties, which would allow the governing Liberal Party to potentially more easily form a minority government. Many libertarians see the PPC as an opportunity to merge their ailing Libertarian Party, led by Tim Moen, into a more mainstream party, in the hopes of making libertarian politics more conventional in Canadian politics.
New Brunswick General Election, 24 September 2018 and Political Uncertainty
On September 24th, 2018, New Brunswick residents went to the polls to elect a new government. The major players in the elections were the Premier Brian Gallant Liberals and the Blaine Higgs Progressive Conservative Party. Two other third parties were also major players in the elections: the People’s Alliance, an anti-bilingual populist conservative movement led by Kris Austin, and the Green Party, led by David Coon. The results are as follows: the Liberals won 21 seats, down from 24; the PCs won 22 seats, up from 21; the People’s Alliance won 3 seats, up from nil; and the Greens won 3 seats, up from 1. However, none of the parties won a majority of 25; this created great uncertainty as to which party would form the minority government. The PC declared victory, explaining that their plurality gave them a mandate to rule. The Gallant Liberals clung onto power as, by convention, the Premier is the first person who can attempt to gain the confidence of the House needed to form government. It is likely that the Liberals will lose the confidence of the House, currently in favour for a coalition of the PCs and the People’s Alliance. This will not be possible; however, until any party nominates a speaker, without whom the House may not convene and permit a party from gaining the confidence of the House. The problem with nominating a speaker is that, by convention, the speaker is a non-partisan role, and, therefore, the PCs and Liberals would be losing their pluralities and the third parties would be losing their leverage as the deciding votes. The Lieutenant-Governor has declared that no new election shall take place. Until one party gives up a member to become the Speaker of the House, this political stalemate shall remain.
Update: The Brian Pallister Liberal government was defeated in a vote of no-confidence following the throne speech, with the Blaine Higgs PCs forming government on November 2, 2018 with the cooperation of the People’s Alliance
Quebec general election, 1 October 2018 and François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec Government
On October 1st, 2018, Quebecers went to the polls to elect a new National Assembly, Quebec’s provincial legislature. Quebec elections, which tend to resemble the multi party European elections rather than the two party Canadian model, had four major parties vying for power: Premier Philippe Couillard’s federalist Quebec Liberal Party (QLP), the broadly autonomist and conservative François Legault Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), the sovereignist centrist Parti Québecois (PQ) led by Jean-François Lisée, and the socialist sovereignist Québec Solidaire led by Manon Massé. The emergence of the CAQ, formed after a merger of the previous CAQ with the Action Démocratique Québecois, as a viable party in Quebec politics that does not address the question of independence has been indicative of a demographic shift since the tumultuous 1980s and 90s of independence referendums to that of a preference for more autonomy under a Canadian federation. In what has been considered a massive, although wholly expected, rebuke of the status quo dichotomy between the PQ and the QLP since the dissolution of the Union Nationale, the CAQ was elected into a majority government with 74 seats while reducing the former governing Liberals to a measly 31 seats, down from their previous 68 seat majority. The emergence of another party in Quebec politics, the social democratic Québec Solidaire, exemplifies the discontent shown by young sovereignists towards the PQ that has abandoned its traditional socialist roots; Québec Solidaire won 10 seats, up from 3, and reduced the PQ to 10 seats, down from 28. The election of a CAQ government, led by François Legault, rejuvenates the previously negligible conservative politics, and harkens back to the Union Nationale. Legault has promised to implement several conservative policies in Quebec, such as the imposition of a French language and Québecois values test on new immigrants and the banning of all religious attire from public sector workers.
Signing of NAFTA’s Replacement: United States Mexico Canada Agreement and the Supply Management Controversy
On September 30th, 2018, the governments of Canada, the United States, and Mexico announced that a deal had been reached regarding the President Trump-initiated renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. This new deal, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), among many things, extended intellectual property durations, car manufacturing quotas and allows for further penetration of the Canadian dairy market by American producers. One of the hot-button issues President Trump had with NAFTA, and Canada, was the supply management system in place that, according to the CBC, “allows specific commodity sectors - dairy, poultry and eggs - to limit the supply of their products to what Canadians are expected to consume in order to ensure predictable, stable prices” and is based on three pillars: “production control, pricing mechanisms and import control.” Production control sets quotas to prevent overproduction. Pricing mechanisms ensure that the prices of the commodities do not fall below a level that would be detrimental to Canadian farmers. Import control restricts the amount of foreign products that can be imported tariff free; any more product is subject to immense tariffs in order to prevent cheap, foreign products from flooding the market and to encourage Canadians to buy domestic products. It is this quota of tariff free that is of main concern to President Trump. While both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Leader of the Official Opposition Andrew Scheer are opposed to the elimination of the supply management system, Canada has compromised and agreed to allow more US dairy in tariff free, while ensuring the competitivity of Canadian products.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s About Face on the Carbon Tax
On October 3rd, 2018, Manitoba PC Premier Brian Pallister dramatically changed course on his government’s view on the federally mandated carbon tax. Pallister had been previously in support of a flat, Manitoba-made, carbon tax of $25 per tonne of carbon. However, this plan was not approved by the federal government as being within the guidelines set and the federal government was not willing to compromise on its plan to start the tax at $10 per tonne of carbon in 2018, rising $10 each year until a $50 per tonne carbon tax in 2022. Preferring a provincially levied tax over a federally imposed tax, Pallister withdrew from the carbon tax scheme, joining a loud chorus of provincial premiers like Premiers Ford, Moe, and Notley, who are currently suing the federal government to stop the imposition of a carbon tax. Pallister may decide to sue the federal government to overrule Ottawa’s levy of a higher carbon tax.
As can be judged by the sheer amount of important political changes, the past five months of Canadian politics have been eventful and decisive. This is all leading up to the most important electoral campaign, the 2019 federal elections. Justin Trudeau’s falling personal approval ratings and the failure of his signature carbon tax policy have dampened the few successes of his government. Andrew Scheer has so far failed to impress Canadians, although that might be his strategy: to portray himself as an ordinary Canadian rather than the rich, flashy, former son of a Prime Minister.