The NHL trade deadline came and went last week with a few notable moves, but Justin Trudeau ended up making the biggest deal of the day. Though TSN’s TradeCentre missed the news, CBC was quick to break the story of the Liberal and NDP agreement.
While details on the cost of promises are light, both sides have proudly communicated their excitement around advancing progressive policies. The deal even attracted international attention, with former Presidential candidate and well-known Senator Bernie Sanders voicing his support for the agreement (specifically, the advancement of universal dental care). These lofty promises are a flashback to the 2015 Justin Trudeau with his sunny ways vision for Canada that has since been clouded by the realities of governing.
Not everyone in Ottawa, however, is happy with the agreement. The Bloc Québécois and the leaderless Conservative Party united in their opposition against the deal. The Bloc, the government’s frequent dance partner when it’s looking for support on legislation, said that the agreement is a “false majority” and that the government does not have the jurisdiction to introduce national dental and pharmacare plans.
Once the Conservatives picked their jaws up off the floor, they were quick to attack the deal, calling it a “coalition”. While not technically true (the NDP has no formal role in the government) that did not deter the Tories in their labeling of the “socialist agreement” that was formed between the “NDP-Liberal government”. The incorrect terminology may anger civics experts, but the prospect of a coalition (even an informal one) has many card-carrying Conservatives beside themselves.
Raising the alarm around coalition governments is well-worn ground for Conservatives. In 2008, Prime Minister Harper used the prospect and uncertainty of an NDP, Liberal and Bloc coalition government to prorogue parliament. The coalition narrative was also a running theme in the campaign that resulted in the Tories winning a majority government in 2011. Drawing contrast between themselves and the governing left as worked for Conservatives before, and with a leadership race underway, it is no surprise that they responded in familiar fashion.
While the public posture is one of concern and outrage, not all Tories are looking at the deal as a detriment. Some conservative strategists see this as an opportunity to properly prepare for the next election; it gives the Party time to unite behind a new Leader, set their vision, and brand themselves against a Liberal government that may be ten years in power by the time of the next vote. While the thought of another three years of a Liberal-led government fills many in the party with dread, this prep time presents an opportunity for the Conservatives that is not typical in a minority parliament.
The absence in that prep time may have proven to be a factor in the last election, with only one year between the election of former Leader Erin O’Toole and the 2021 snap election campaign. With longer runway and a more predictable election date, the new Tory leader has a chance to brand themselves, fundraise, formulate policy, recruit strong candidates and attract new voters.
Whether Conservatives like it or not, the Liberal government is here to stay – at least for a little while longer. But playing the long game may benefit the Tories, and by 2025, Canadians may finally be ready for a change.