With just a week to go until election day, Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives appear to be in a dead heat with Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
As of Oct. 14, The CBC’s Canada Poll Tracker, an aggregation of all publicly available polling data, has the Conservatives slightly ahead with 32.4% of the vote to the Liberal’s 31.7%.
The Poll Tracker has the New Democrats trailing in third place at 16.5 per cent support. They are pulling away from Elizabeth May and the Greens, who are running at 9.6 per cent.
While the Poll Tracker finds that the Liberal vote is somewhat more efficient than the Conservative vote because of the Conservatives overwhelming support in Alberta and the prairies, it suggests neither party is even close to winning the 170 seats needed for a majority. The Poll Tracker seat projection as of October 14 suggests 141 seats going to the Liberals and 134 going to the Conservatives. The NDP, Bloc and Greens have roughly another 60 seats between them. Maxime Bernier may win his own seat but that seems to be about it for the People’s Party
In summary, with a week left until the October 21 election, most pollsters see the two parties essentially tied with a very good chance of a minority government.
The question then becomes: Whose minority government?
What is the most likely post-election governing scenario?
In determining which party has the best chance of forming a minority government, several factors come into play.
First, there is at least an even chance that the Liberals will end up having the most seats – although if they do, it will likely be a very slim plurality.
Second, the Liberals are the incumbents. That means by convention in a minority situation, the Governor General would give Trudeau the first chance to try to form a government – even if his Liberals are a few seats behind the Conservatives.
Third, if the Conservatives don’t have the seats to form a majority government (the CBC Poll Tracker gives them only a 6% chance of getting a majority), they may not have a willing partner to even discuss a possible governing arrangement with. This is because the conditions for support being set down by the NDP and Greens would seem to be antithetical to the Conservative platform.
Then there is the Bloc – which could possibly end up electing as many as 35 seats in Quebec. However, it is very hard to see either the Conservatives or Liberals entering into any sort of governing arrangement with a party whose principal aim is to take Quebec out of Canada.
So what is the most likely post-election scenario and what might the policy agenda of a new government look like?
First, the Greens are unlikely to win more than 2 or 3 seats in addition to leader Elizabeth May’s B.C. seat. So it does not look like the Greens would have nearly enough elected MP’s that when combined with the Liberals, would guarantee a stable governing arrangement.
In contrast, the Poll Tracker suggests the NDP could easily win 30 seats – Mr. Singh has gained significant momentum since the English language debate. While again, the Poll Tracker has the Liberals at only 141 seats, there is good chance that the two parties will take just enough seats to allow them to put together some sort of governing arrangement. Remember, 170 is the magic number.
So the most likely scenario? A Liberal minority government with some sort of a governing arrangement with the NDP.
The possibility of a coalition government was raised Sunday when NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said he would “absolutely” consider forming one with the Liberals if it meant keeping the Conservatives out of power.
And Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is not ruling out a possible coalition government if no party wins a majority of the seats in the Oct. 21 election.
“My focus is on electing a progressive government and stopping Conservative cuts,” Mr. Trudeau said in Windsor, Ont., Monday, not giving a direct answer in response to questions about what options he would consider if the Liberals fall short of a majority.
What the NDP wants to support a minority government
On Oct. 10, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh announced that his top priorities in supporting a minority government would be:
Universal, public pharmacare for all Canadians and public dental care for those who earn less than $70,000 per year. The NDP platform promised $10 billion per year to work with the provinces to set up a system to cover prescription medication for all Canadians by the end of 2020.
More affordable housing. The NDP has called for an extra $5 billion in the next year and a half to start building 500,000 new affordable housing units.
Waive the interest on federal student loans and cap cellphone and internet bills.
Include more stringent targets for emissions reduction, the immediate elimination of federal fossil fuel subsidies, and help for workers transitioning out of these industries.
Implementation of the NDP’s wealth tax. The NDP wants a new 1 per cent tax on all wealth — property, stocks, income and more — that exceeds $20 million.
Singh also said his party will continue to push for reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations and for proportional representation.
Major Liberal platform items Trudeau would want included in a minority government deal
However, the Liberals have their own agenda which would obviously figure prominently in any policy agenda negotiated as part of a governing arrangement with the NDP.
For example, under a Liberal government, the federal carbon price will go up in April 2020, from $20 a tonne to $30 a tonne (or about 7 cents a litre of gasoline). The NDP would likely be fine with this.
They also have a range of emission related policy planks that while not quite as ambitious as the NDP’s, are certainly close enough to cut a deal on.
Then there are the Liberal affordability measures.
The big Liberal affordability platform item is a tax cut implemented by raising the basic personal exemption limit over the next four years until the first $15,000 of income is tax-free for most Canadians, which will save the average taxpayer roughly $292 a year.
For seniors, the Liberals are promising to increase Old Age Security payments for those 75 years and older and enhance Canada Pension Plan (CPP) survivor benefits for single seniors.
The Liberals have proposed $6 billion in new spending for health care with the goal of giving every person in Canada access to a family doctor.
For new parents, the Liberals are promising to make all maternity and parental employment insurance (EI) benefits tax-free at source. They will also make the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) more generous in the first year of a child’s life.
For students, the Liberal plan includes a boost to post-secondary grants so that they’re worth up to $1,200 more a year.
For workers, the Liberal plan includes a federal minimum wage boost to $15 an hour and a new Career Insurance Benefit that will supplement existing EI payments when someone loses their job.
The NDP would be generally supportive of all these measures but would likely push the Liberals to go a little farther in a number of them as part of discussions leading to a governing arrangement.
A Liberal-NDP governing arrangement is certainly possible but there are obstacles along the way
So there are many areas the NDP and Liberals could agree on.
However, there are potential deal breakers in the policy mix as well.
Perhaps the most difficult issue is the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
B.C. based Singh has come out strongly against the controversial pipeline expansion, which would significantly boost tanker traffic off the B.C. coast.
The Trudeau government, of course, paid $4.5 billion to the previous owner, Kinder Morgan, to have the pipeline built. Some sort of understanding about how to treat the two parties’ diametrically opposed positions on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would have to be worked out to make a governing arrangement work. It won’t be easy.
Secondly, while the Liberals are supporting some undefined version of pharmacare, they are not committing to a universal, government funded model such as that being proposed by the NDP.
This is because they doubt that conservative premiers such as Ontario’s Doug Ford’s and Alberta’s Jason Kenney, would support a 100% government funded pharmacare program. In Canada, health is a provincial responsibility and a provincial government would have to approve the pharmacare model being introduced in their province even if the federal government was paying for a good part of it.
And there other potential deal breakers.
Singh explicitly mentioned his wealth tax in his October 10 announcement regarding his expectations of a minority government. While Trudeau would probably accept it if he had no choice, it is probably not his preferred approach to raising revenue. The NDP remains far more comfortable than the Liberals when it comes to taxing the rich.
And then there is proportional representation – something Singh also mentioned as a priority in his October 10 announcement. Proportional representation, of course, was a 2015 campaign promise the Liberals reneged on in their very first year of government.
Talk in the party backrooms is going to be real interesting when the final results are in on election night!