A Supply of Non-Confidence?

3 minute read

Cracks in the supply and confidence agreement between the Liberals and the NDP continue to emerge, triggering speculation about a potential collapse. Recent clashes over critical policy areas like pharmacare and the environment have strained a once-cohesive partnership, signalling a potential rupture that could impact the political landscape in Canada. Is this political posturing, or is the agreement really at risk?

The agreement was established to support the minority Liberal government in crucial parliamentary matters, granting the Liberals the necessary backing to maintain power despite not holding a majority in the House of Commons. In return for this support, the Liberals made policy concessions to reflect some of the NDP’s priorities. Key issues covered under the agreement include commitments around healthcare, environmental protection, and housing.

The fracture in the alliance came to the forefront when the NDP backed the Conservatives’ motion to pull the carbon price off all home heating until after the next election. It led to a standoff in Question Period between Jagmeet Singh and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, with the latter accusing the former of deceiving progressive voters by supporting the Tories.

In addition to the squabbling over environment and affordability, there are growing concerns over shared healthcare priorities. For instance, one of the initial agreed-upon policies in the supply and confidence agreement was the implementation of a universal pharmacare plan by the end of 2023. Singh acknowledged that pharmacare was unlikely to be included in tomorrow’s fall economic statement, as the NDP could not agree with one of the major elements of the proposed bill. However, he was quick to pour cold water on any concerns, noting that the NDP still expected legislation to be introduced before the end of the session.

The inability to find common ground on these pivotal matters has certainly strained the agreement. This week may give Canadians a glimpse into the sustainability of the agreement. The NDP has called on the governing Liberals to use the FES to focus on affordability, including lower rents and the cost of groceries. Finance Minister Freeland has already said that affordability will be a significant focus in the fiscal update, but will it be enough to satisfy the NDP’s concerns? 

The uncertainty surrounding the partnership and the parties’ inability to work together on key issues has contributed to a sense of instability and dissatisfaction among Canadians. This is reflected in recent polling numbers, with Liberal and NDP numbers falling to the Conservatives.

While there may be some fractures forming, the agreement is still intact. Just last week, the federal Labour Minister, Seamus O’Regan, introduced Bill C-58, which would effectively ban replacement workers during a strike or lockout. This has been a long-standing priority for the NDP and something Singh has been seen working on with the Liberals. 

The days following the fall economic statement will be crucial for the future of the supply and confidence agreement. Efforts to salvage the partnership will likely continue as both parties engage in discussions to find common wins – like pharmacare – and growth in the polls.

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