Canada: A weakened Trudeau and a divided nation
In his second term in office, Justin Trudeau will face “not only a divided House of Commons but a dangerously fragmented country,” said the Montreal Gazette in an editorial. The Canadian prime minister’s Liberal Party is no longer in the majority following last week’s general election, in which it won 157 seats in the 338-seat commons, down 20 from the last vote in 2015. The Conservative Party took 121 seats (a gain of 26) and actually beat the Liberals in the popular vote, 34.4 percent to 33 percent. The leftist New Democratic Party won 24 seats (down 15), and the Green Party three seats (up one). But the real story is the rise of separatism. The Bloc Québécois made great gains, bringing to Ottawa 32 parliamentarians—22 more than in 2015—“who do not have the Canadian national interest at heart.” And in the oil-rich Western provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where Trudeau’s Liberals took not one seat, some politicians are muttering darkly about the prospect of a Western secession, or Wexit.
Western Canadians are understandably furious with Trudeau, said Rex Murphy in the National Post. His “overdramatization of climate change” is strangling their region’s oil and gas industry. In his first term, he pushed through a law that smothers new pipeline projects with red tape, and he constantly flaunted his green credentials, posing for publicity shots with teen activist Greta Thunberg and TV scientist Bill Nye. The game is stacked against us in the sparsely populated West, said Ted Morton in the Calgary Herald. You need 170 seats to form a federal government, and Ontario and Quebec have a combined 199 lawmakers. The three Western provinces—Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia—together have only 90 seats, leaving the West “vulnerable to fiscally predatory Liberal Party politics and policies.” Indeed, since 2010, the government in Ottawa has pulled $15 billion a year out of Alberta to lavish mostly on Ontario and Quebec. No wonder separatist sentiment is rising.
But this is Canada, so what’s going to happen is compromise, said Stephen Maher in Maclean’s. Rather than form a coalition with parties to his left, Trudeau has wisely decided to govern in minority, partnering with left or right as needed issue by issue. For example, two-thirds of Canadians voted for parties that support a carbon tax, and two-thirds voted for parties that support an upgrade to the pipeline that carries crude from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia. We will now get the tax and the pipeline project because “this is a democracy.”
To make these deals, though, Trudeau will have to come home and govern, said François Cardinal in La Presse. He can no longer be “a dilettante who prefers glad-handing” abroad to sitting through stuffy policy meetings. The Liberal leader will have to go to the House more often and negotiate personally with other party leaders. He will have to sit down with the provincial premiers and listen to their concerns. “In short, he must keep both hands on the wheel”—or see his minority government crash. ■