(Ottawa) In mid-August, Justin Trudeau called an early election amid the pandemic. His goal was to obtain a majority mandate. But these elections deemed unnecessary by many people turned into a referendum on the Trudeau era.
On Monday evening being given a second minority mandate, almost identical to the previous one, Justin Trudeau is forced to undertake a deep reflection about his future. During the campaign, many Liberal candidates were told by going door-to-door that their leader was no longer the man for the job. “This is his last election,” even argued a Liberal candidate in the Ottawa area when he heard the harsh criticism of the Liberal leader.
In short, Justin Trudeau, after six years in power, has become a drag on his party. The attrition of power has done its work, even though the Liberal government he leads received good marks for its management of the pandemic, especially with regard to the supply of vaccines.
This call to the ballot box will not have changed much in the composition of Parliament. The political forces that will occupy the benches of the House of Commons in a few weeks will be essentially the same ones that were there before Justin Trudeau met with Governor General Mary Simon to ask him to dissolve Parliament. This democratic exercise, which ended in the status quo, still cost taxpayers $ 612 million.
Never in the country’s history has a prime minister tried to win a fourth term after leading two minority governments.
Of course, the Liberal troops are not going to push Mr. Trudeau out the door. The Prime Minister will be given the time necessary to decide on his future, especially since many files are already on his desk. The fourth wave of the pandemic is gaining momentum in the country. The economic recovery is fragile. The Canada-US border is only partially open. Traditional allies are pushing Canada aside in creating new alliances. The repatriation of Afghan refugees has suffered some setbacks. The provinces are calling for an increase in health transfers.
Trudeau … and the other chefs
But already behind the scenes, liberal strategists are starting to talk about post-Justin Trudeau. Some see Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland as the worthy heiress. She could thus become the first woman to take the helm of the Liberal Party. But other candidates will be in the running. The Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, will be among the number. Liberals will also try to convince former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney to finally make the jump into politics. Others mention the name of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Anita Anand.
Still, by winning another minority mandate, Justin Trudeau will be able to protect what will become one of the main legacies of his reign: the creation of a national network of child care centers.
Before the election was called, the Trudeau government had signed agreements on this program with seven provinces and one territory. Only Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick are missing to complete this major project inspired by the Quebec model. Negotiations can resume with these three provinces within a few weeks.
Justin Trudeau will not be the only one to examine his conscience. After having imposed a centrist turn on his party on issues such as the fight against climate change, abortion and the return to a balanced budget, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole risks facing criticism from a fringe from its base, especially in the West. Its turn was not enough, especially in Ontario, to allow the Conservative Party to supplant the Liberal Party.
Elected barely a year ago, Mr. O’Toole will have to submit his leadership to a vote of confidence at the next Conservative convention following the federal election. This congress should take place next year. Small consolation: the Conservative Party won the popular vote again, as in 2019.
The leader of the Bloc Québécois, Yves-François Blanchet, will also have to ask himself a number of questions. On the second day of the campaign, he set an ambitious goal: to win 40 seats in Quebec. The harvest was well below its own expectations, even as the Bloc increased the percentage of its vote on Monday night.
The leader of the New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, is the only one who saw his party make gains on Monday night. But they are significantly lower than the calculations of New Democrat strategists. The NDP generally shows patience with its leaders. Former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who was shown the exit door by his troops after the 2015 election, is the exception that proves this rule.
One thing is certain, Annamie Paul’s days at the head of the Green Party are numbered. She led her troops to their worst electoral result in nearly 20 years. She had already hinted that she would resign if she did not win in Toronto Center.
The election campaign once again highlighted strong regional tensions. The Premier of Quebec, François Legault, interfered in this federal campaign by inviting Quebecers not to vote for the Liberal Party or the NDP because of their centralizing tendencies “dangerous” for the powers of Quebec.
In about a month, Alberta will hold a referendum on the federal equalization program. Jason Kenney’s government will ask Albertans if they want this program, which has been the source of discontent for years in the West, to be removed from the Constitution. The referendum will be held at the same time as the municipal elections in the province. A resounding yes is expected. The federal government will have to take note of the Albertans’ verdict. Ignoring it could heighten the feeling of alienation even more.
National unity was put to the test during this campaign. It will be just as important in light of the results of the federal election.