- The Washington Times
Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to move farther left on issues including higher taxes on wealthy Canadians, climate change and expanded health care programs now that his Liberal Party needs the votes of a more left-wing political party to govern.

Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals claimed victory in Monday’s national vote despite a rocky campaign that saw the party lose its parliamentary majority and have to depend on the support of the leftist New Democratic Party. The vote reflected a rocky, scandal-plagued first term for the 47-year-old Mr. Trudeau, whose party failed to win a single seat in the western oil-rich provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan in Monday’s vote.

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democrats, said Tuesday that he had already spoken with Mr. Trudeau on NDP priorities, including a program to pay for all prescription medicine through the country’s national health care system, capping cell phone bills, waiving interest on student loans, “ending fossil fuel subsidies and reinvesting in clean, renewable energy,” he said.

When Mr. Singh told his audience in British Columbia that he would make sure Mr. Trudeau raised taxes on the “super wealthy,” his audience erupted in loud cheers and chants of “Tax the rich! Tax the rich!” By contrast, Mr. Trudeau said little about his second term plans in his victory speech beyond a vague commitment to “fight climate change” and “get guns off our streets.”

In Monday night’s election, Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party won 157 of the 338 seats in Canada’s Parliament followed by 121 seats for the Conservative Party, 32 for the Quebec-based Bloc Quebecois, 24 for the NDP and 3 for the Greens.

Patrick Gossage, chairman of Media Profile Communications, said the NDP will push Mr. Trudeau to pass a prescription drug subsidy bill as one of their first priorities.

“It will be really expensive but it will be very popular,” Mr. Gossage said.

John Wright, a partner of Dart C-Suite Communicators, said alienation in Canada’s west and pressure from the left could drag Canada into a national unity crisis similar to the rise of Quebec separatism in the 1970s.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and, to a lesser extent, British Columbia have been hard hit by Mr. Trudeau’s failure to build a pipeline to take oil to sea ports on the coast and by China’s $1 billion cut in its purchase of Canadian canola as a result of the legal battles over Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou. In the next government, the Liberal Party will have just one representative west of Ontario.

Canada’s Conservative Party actually won more votes than Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals, but because their support was heavily concentrated in the less populated west, they elected fewer representatives. According to Mr. Wright, what doomed Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer was his boast just before Election Day that he would win a majority government.

Mr. Trudeau “used that to spook progressive voters to vote Liberal instead of for the NDP or Greens to stop Mr. Scheer,” Mr. Wright said.

Mr. Gossage also predicts Canada faces a polarizing political environment, with a government tacking left, rising conservative opposition, and Quebec sovereignists pushing to make their province a semi-autonomous state within Canada.

The challenge for Mr. Trudeau will be balancing the many political and economic forces pulling at Ottawa from different directions.

“He needs to display a maturity he has so far had difficulty in showing,” Mr. Gossage said. “He has to reinvent himself and take more serious advice if he wants to get through the next two years.”

Jared Wesley, political science professor at the University of Alberta, said the left must be careful not to overplay its hand. The NDP cannot afford another election and so they must support the Liberal government, Mr. Wesley said. Mr. Trudeau can govern as if he has a majority government and turn his second mandate into one that advances social programs that benefit people across the country.

But the Conservative opposition said it was ready to exploit any sign of weakness in Mr. Trudeau’s second term, given the declining vote share for the Liberals.

“Conservatives have put Justin Trudeau on notice,” Mr. Scheer said. “And Mr. Trudeau, when your government falls, Conservatives will be ready, and we will win.”

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.