For the NDP it’s time to build a real progressive alternative
The votes have been counted, and while lukewarm for most, they certainly don’t look great for the New Democrat Party(NDP). The Liberals held onto the government, the Conservatives won the popular vote, and both the Bloc and the Green party increased their number of seats.
The parties that could potentially hold the balance of power in the Liberal’s minority government had very different takes on Thursday’s Throne speech when they responded in the House of Commons, Friday.
While the separatist Bloc Quebecois stood in defence of Quebec’s autonomy, the New Democrats assumed their traditional role as defenders of the poor and marginalized.
Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet took particular issue that the speech lumped Quebec in with provinces and territories as one of “the regions of Canada.”
“Let’s make something clear. Quebec is not a region of Canada. Quebec is the land that the Quebec nation shares with a number of First Nations,” Blanchet told the House of Commons, reminding MPs of his party’s raison d’etre.
“Although we may not be aiming specifically for this… Quebecers know that the Bloc is a party based on the concept of independence.”
Blanchet also said that in defending Quebec’s autonomy on matters of healthcare and environmental assessments, “The Bloc is not only representing the national assembly of Quebec but also the voices of the other provinces.”
The separatist party leader also said that Quebec voters turned to his party “because they can’t identify with any federal party.”
“They’re not all sovereigntists, but they’re nationalists,” he said.
Bloc support at the polls tripled their seat count (10-32) in the Commons while the number of NDP candidates were nearly cut in half, from 40 down to 24.
New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, whose enclave was relegated to fourth party status after October’s election in a Bloc-surge, accused Liberals for “profiting off student debt” while waiving government loans to corporations.
Singh was also skeptical about the Throne speech’s promise to lower the cost of telecommunications services by 25 percent.
“In Canada we pay…some of the highest cellphone and internet fees in the world. It’s not a coincidence because the government has allowed the telecoms to do this,” said Singh.
“Access to the internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity…(and) the cost of cell phone and internet services are impeding people in their everyday lives.”
Affordable and available housing, as well as making good on a national pharmacare plan that consecutive Liberal governments have paid lip service to, also formed Singh’s response to the Throne speech.
“Across Canada people are making difficult choices every day, about cutting their pills in half or going without the life-saving medication that they need,” he said.
“What is it going to take for the Prime Minister to keep his word and to deliver pharmacare that covers all Canadians?”
The New Democrat leader also suggested that Trudeau talked the talk on indigenous reconciliation, which also prominently featured in the Throne speech, but that the government’s actions fell short of walking the walk.
“I can’t wrap my head around it,” said Singh. “(They) ignore a human rights tribunal ruling, delay the funding to end the discrimination and continue to take indigenous to court.”
At the beginning of October, the federal government filed for judicial review of a Canadian Human Rights tribunal ruling ordering $40,000 in compensation to First Nations children taken from their communities under the on-reserve child welfare system.
New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh made a bold statement directed at Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer on Wednesday, stating that the federal election was proof that you can’t be both a social conservative and serve as prime minister.
Singh told reporters that abortion is “between a person and their health care provider and no one else has any business being involved in that,” going on to criticize Scheer for his personal views on gay marriage rights, according to HuffPo Canada.
“You cannot have Mr. Scheer’s beliefs and be the prime minister of Canada. It’s pretty clear,” Singh said.
Singh made the comments during the NDP’s first post-election caucus meeting, a meeting which had 15 less familiar faces than at this time last year. The New Democrats went from 39 seats to 24 in the last federal election, a result that Singh says he isn’t satisfied with. “I’m not going to be satisfied until we form a New Democratic government. … If Mr. Trudeau wants to deliver something that’s national and that’s progressive, he needs to work with us.”
Scheer’s stance on the matter, of course, contrasts Singh’s. Scheer told the Canadian Press that it’s indeed possible to hold socially conservative values and also lead the country as prime minister.
“I believe you can have both of those positions: you can have a personal view and you can acknowledge that in Canada, the prime minister does not impose a particular viewpoint on Canadians,” he said. The Conservatives, while increasing their seats from 95 to 121, failed to form government in 2019, leading to murmurs from Conservative MPs as to whether the leader is fit to lead the party.
Longtime New Democrat MP Brian Masse survived his party’s election wipeout last week and despite the NDP shedding 20 seats coast-to-coast, the member for Windsor West says the caucus is still behind its leader Jagmeet Singh.
“It’s solid,” Masse told The Post Millennial of New Democrat-elects’ confidence in Singh, whose party’s loss of 15 seats in Quebec alone means Singh will return to the House of Commons as leader of the fourth party, behind a resurgent Bloc Quebecois.
“There’s no doubt we would’ve liked to have had more seats but the way that our voting works, despite having nearly 17 percent of the vote, we only have 24 seats.”
By comparison, 7.7 percent of the popular vote garnered the Bloc 32 seats in Quebec.
But even in southwestern Ontario, a manufacturing and agricultural hub where local union membership has bolstered New Democrat support in the past, Masse watched as veteran NDP colleague Cheryl Hardcastle (Windsor-Tecumseh) was beaten by Liberal Irek Kusmierczyk.
On the other side of Windsor, incumbent-New Democrat Tracey Ramsey (Essex) went down to Conservative challenger Steve Lewis.
Masse blames Ramsey’s loss on an anti-Trudeau vote, while noting he was in tough against former Ontario Liberal MPP and cabinet minister Sandra Pupatello, for whom Windsor Star seemingly ran daily bugles, touting her return to politics.
But after the 43rd Federal Election dust settled, where Masse chalked up his sixth consecutive general election win, he believes Singh “was the star of the campaign”; a battle Masse said was fought with an inferior war chest and little preparation time.
“Jagmeet’s campaign was a good campaign given our resources and given the short runway that we had from transition of leadership, to the House of Commons to campaign mode,” said Masse.
New Democrat members selected Singh as their leader in October of 2017, but Singh led the party from outside of Parliament until he won the Burnaby South by-election in February 2019.
According to 2018 financial reports from the three main parties, Conservatives had $24 million in assets, Liberals had $21 million and the NDP were hovering close to $4 million.
But Canadian federal politics, particularly minority governments, never fail to surprise, and even with Singh’s NDP loss, the party held on to enough seats to potentially hold the balance of power.
“The Liberals have promised a lot when it comes to single-event sports betting,” said Masse, whose riding is a casino destination.
“Liberals also promised a lot when it comes to auto investment. And they’ve promised a lot when it comes to having a seat at the table; expectations are now for the deliverables the Liberals have promised.”
With potential leverage the New Democrats could have in a minority government, Masse wants Liberals to follow through on rebating tariff charges to companies affected by the United States steel tariffs briefly imposed on related Canadian product.
“(Local manufacturers) are in much more dire straights than just abatement of U.S. steel tariffs at the moment. It’s the amount of businesses that are actually exiting contracts or bidding,” said Masse.
“Companies will not bother going after certain types of business because it’s just not worth the risk and part of this is the unpredictability and the government not following through on its promises.”
The Windsor West MP also wants to see the government take a stronger approach to China, given its diplomatic aggression towards Canada – two Canadians detained over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou last December remain in custody and agriculture embargoes continue.
Meanwhile, back in August the federal government lifted steel tariffs against cheap Chinese steel – provocation for US tariffs against Canadian steel as Chinese product was moving stateside via Canada – to fast-track to LNG projects in B.C. worth $40 billion.
“I think we’re going to have to take a tougher line eventually because there’s no consistency,” said Masse.
“There needs to be a much more cohesive strategy with China rather than just one-offs. Whether it be steel, telecommunications or whether it be manufacturing or energy policy. We need to have a comprehensive approach, not one that’s based on the crisis of the moment.”
While Singh’s rambling, quasi-victory speech in the wake of a losing campaign, caught flack from pundits and politicos alike – particularly the New Democrats who lost in Quebec – uttering calls from the peanut gallery for him to step down, Masse sees the possibility of a resurgence.
“I’ve been around long enough, it feels similar to 2008; it was the solid campaign of Jack Layton that propelled us to basically a breakthrough in 2011,” said Masse.
In 2008, Layton had been NDP leader for four years and added seven seats to the NDP count in what was Conservative Stephen Harper’s second minority government.
Three years later, Layton would lead the party to a stunning victory, making the NDP Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition for the first time in its history.
“I feel quite confident in Jagmeet’s approach to politics and approach to the campaign and I think he’ll have a much stronger footing in the House of Commons. It’s unfortunate that we have fewer seats.”
After the NDP’s abysmal results in the 2019 federal election, party leader Jagmeet Singh has argued that it is neither his, nor the country’s fault that the NDP did so badly, but instead it’s the fault of the current electoral system.
According to Global News, Jagmeet Singh will start campaigning for electoral reform after his party finished fourth behind the separatist Bloc Quebecois. Singh will suggest that Canada alters its electoral system from first-past-the-post (similar to the USA and the UK) to proportional representation, which significantly benefits minor national parties.
The NDP leader spoke on Tuesday, declaring that “the results [has shown] a broken electoral system and it’s certainly clear we need to fix it. I’ve long called for and will continue to call for true electoral reform.”
Jagmeet Singh’s NDP won 16 percent of the popular vote which translated into 24 seats— a disastrous showing for the social-democratic party. Alternatively, the Bloc Quebecois received 7.7 percent of the popular vote and yet managed to receive 32 seats. Through this, it is easy to empathize with Singh’s frustration.
Nevertheless, democratic countries that utilize the proportional representation system often suffer instability when forming a government. This is due to the ability of smaller parties to gain a large number of seats. In Northern Ireland, for example, a government has not been formed in two years. Likewise in Israel, the proportional representation system has led to a total failure of the leading parties to form a government, creating deep polarization amongst the electorate.
In 2015, Justin Trudeau pledged to get rid of the current first-past-the-post system due to perceived representational deficiencies. This promise, however, never materialized.