Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his re-elected minority government will face calls from the NDP for new taxes on the “ultra-rich” and calls from the Bloc Québécois for billions in new spending on health and seniors after Canadian voters denied the Liberals the free reign of a majority mandate.
But both Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who Mr. Trudeau will need to turn to for support in the House of Commons, are pledging to make the new Parliament work.
Monday’s election results will produce a Parliament that is virtually identical in terms of party standings to the one that existed a little more than a month ago when Mr. Trudeau triggered a snap election.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Liberals were leading or elected in 158 seats, followed by 119 seats for the Conservatives, 34 for the Bloc Québécois, 25 for the NDP and two for the Greens. The People’s Party of Canada did not win any seats and PPC leader Maxime Bernier finished a distant second to the Conservatives in the Quebec riding of Beauce.
The Liberal gain of one will likely change as the 158 seats include Kevin Vuong in Spadina-Fort York, who currently has a narrow lead over the NDP candidate. The Liberals disassociated themselves from him late in the campaign after a dropped sexual assault charge was revealed. Mr. Vuong has denied wrongdoing. Should he win, he will likely sit as an independent, but the Liberal Party did not immediately comment on the situation when asked Tuesday.
The statistics that stand out the most in Monday’s results are the projected seat changes compared with party standings in the House of Commons before the election. As of Tuesday, the Liberals are up one seat (including Mr. Vuong), the Conservatives are down two, the Bloc is up to two, the NDP is up to one and the Greens are down one.
The Liberals fell short of the 170-seat threshold required to form a majority government. As was the case in the previous Parliament, the Trudeau government will need the support of at least one of the three main opposition parties – the Conservatives, the Bloc or the NDP – in order to win votes on bills and motions in the House of Commons. In the previous Parliament, the Liberals often relied on the NDP for key confidence votes on issues such as budget bills.
Another minority Parliament also means that Liberal MPs will remain outnumbered on House of Commons committees. The opposition had become increasingly forceful over the past year in using committee powers to demand the production of internal government documents, in spite of vociferous objections at times from the government.
Mr. Blanchet, the Bloc leader, has said his party will prioritize two spending requests in exchange for its support in Parliament. The Bloc will push the demand from Quebec and other provinces for a major increase in federal health transfers. The Bloc also wants changes to the Liberal government’s plan to boost Old Age Security benefits by 10 percent, starting in July 2022. That increase would only apply to seniors aged 75 and up. Mr. Blanchet has repeatedly said this is unfair and should be extended to all seniors aged 65 and over. The NDP has also criticized the Liberal government’s plan as a “two-tier” benefit.
Mr. Blanchet’s request for more health care funding would cost $28-billion in the first year alone, according to his party platform. His proposal to extend seniors’ benefits would cost $1.6-billion next year and $6.6-billion or more in subsequent years.
The Bloc leader restated those priorities in his election night speech and said his party will also push for action on the environment and advocate for issues raised by Quebec’s National Assembly. However, he also struck a conciliatory tone and pledged to make the minority Parliament work.
“Over the coming days, I will contact all of the other party leaders in the House of Commons. I think we have the responsibility to have a good-faith discussion so that Parliament can function,” he said. “We are still in a pandemic. This Parliament needs to have an acceptable length. And I say with candor, we will need to leave some of our disagreements in the past. Because that’s clearly the wish that has been stated by Quebeckers and Canadians.”
At a news conference in Vancouver on Tuesday, Mr. Singh vowed to stay on as party leader. He also said that when he congratulated Mr. Trudeau on election night, he signalled the NDP’s desire to work on common policy areas of concern such as pharmacare and child care.
“He knows my priorities, so we didn’t get into those details,” he said.
Mr. Singh also restated his position that the public cost of the pandemic should be offset by new taxes on high-wealth individuals and corporations.
“We remain resolute that it should be the ultra-rich, the billionaires, that pay their fair share,” he said.
The NDP campaign platform promised dramatically more spending than what the Liberals proposed, and also outlined several major tax increases aimed at the “ultra-rich” and corporations. Mr. Singh has said that his top demand in a minority Parliament will be a wealth tax, but that could be a contentious proposal. The Liberals have not supported a wealth tax, which would mark a significant departure from the foundations of Canada’s current approach to taxation.
The NDP proposed an annual wealth tax of 1 percent on families with a net worth in excess of $10-million. Wealth would be measured as the total estimated net value of assets such as property and investments.
Several countries in recent years have abandoned wealth taxes, including France, concluding that they were ineffective as high-wealth individuals found ways to avoid them.
In a costing estimate prepared during the campaign, the Parliamentary Budget Officer stated that even after accounting for efforts by affected individuals to avoid the wealth tax, the proposal could still bring in more than $10-billion a year in new federal revenue.
The PBO noted that such revenue estimates are uncertain because of the challenges in predicting how high-wealth individuals would respond.
“There is also uncertainty surrounding the magnitude of administrative costs,” the PBO said, in reference to how the Canada Revenue Agency would be able to assess the total value of a family’s wealth.
The NDP also pledged to increase the capital gains inclusion rate to 75 percent, raise the top marginal tax rate by two points and impose a luxury goods tax.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is scheduled to hold a news conference late Tuesday afternoon.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with commuters Tuesday morning in Montreal but did not hold a post-election news conference Tuesday.
In his election night speech, Mr. Trudeau said voters gave the new Parliament a clear direction.
“You are sending us back to work with a clear mandate to get Canada through this pandemic and to the brighter days ahead, and my friends that’s exactly what we are ready to do,” he said.
“I hear you when you say that you just want to get back to the things you love, not worry about this pandemic or about an election. That you just want to know that your members of Parliament of all stripes will have your back through this crisis and beyond.”
The new party standings mask the fact that parties saw some incumbents defeated but made up for that with gains elsewhere.
For instance, two Liberal cabinet ministers were defeated. Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan lost to the Conservatives in the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore-St. Margarets, and Women and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef lost to the Conservatives in Peterborough-Kawartha.
Yet the Liberals may have made two notable gains in Alberta, where it had been shut out entirely in 2019. Liberal candidate George Chahal won the riding of Calgary Skyview, while Liberal Randy Boissonnault currently has a very narrow lead in Edmonton Centre.
Given the need for regional representation, at least one of the two Liberals from Alberta would be promoted to cabinet. This however would create challenges for Mr. Trudeau’s efforts to have a gender-balanced cabinet.
Unlike in past elections, it will take a few more days until the final results are known. Elections Canada received more than one million mail-in ballots this year, which is far higher than normal. The option was promoted as an alternative for Canadians who did not wish to vote in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elections Canada spokesperson Matthew McKenna said the counting of those mail-in ballots will begin Tuesday.
“We expect the vast majority to be counted and posted by tomorrow (Wednesday), but there may be further delays in some ridings,” he said in an e-mail.
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