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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Nov. 14, 2019. The Liberals and New Democrats have reached a tentative deal to keep the Liberal minority government in power through to 2025, media reports say.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that a deal has been struck with the NDP to prop up the minority Liberal government until 2025 (the year of the next planned federal election) in exchange for parliamentary co-operation and progress on key NDP policies, including an income-based dental care program, and issues such as housing and climate change.

In an early morning news conference on Tuesday to announce the deal, the Prime Minister cited the global and economic instability caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the results of last September’s federal election as catalysts for the new Liberal-NDP arrangement.

“This supply-and-confidence agreement starts today and will be in place until the end of this Parliament in 2025,” Mr. Trudeau said. “The government can function with predictability and stability, present and implement budgets and get things done for Canadians.”

Since the announcement, many are wondering about the key terms of the deal, and whether this agreement can be considered a coalition. Here’s everything we know so far.

What is the Liberal-NDP deal?

The NDP have promised to pass the next four Liberal budgets and help defeat non-confidence measures proposed by the other opposition parties. The government has promised to consult the NDP on legislation and to make senior civil servants available for briefings on policy and legislation.

Mr. Trudeau outlined several areas of policy focus that will result from the deal, including a new dental program for low-income Canadians, climate change and Indigenous reconciliation. Ottawa will also proceed with its 2021 election campaign promise to tax big banks and financial institutions, an idea strongly supported by New Democrats.

“We know that delivering for Canadians needs to, at the same time, reassure them that democracy is strong and that government is being held to account and that’s exactly what this agreement is focused on. ... We should be able to work constructively together and not have Parliament be obstructive,” Mr. Trudeau said.

In terms of formal co-operation, the deal says Mr. Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh will meet at least once each quarter and there will be regular meetings of the party house officers. There will also be a monthly “stock-take” meeting by an oversight group made up of staff and politicians.

They have also struck a deal to control parliamentary committees to block the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois from launching inquiries that are uncomfortable for the Trudeau minority government.

The deal will run until June 2025 and cover a period of four government budgets. The deal says the parties agree to a guiding principle of “no surprises,” suggesting that the government will inform the NDP of major developments. The NDP also agrees not to move any motions of non-confidence in the government during this period.

Is the Liberal-NDP deal a coalition?

No. The deal between the Liberals and the NDP falls short of a formal coalition government because it would not involve NDP MPs sitting in cabinet.

A coalition government is when members from more than one party share positions in cabinet. The only formal coalition government at the federal level in Canada was formed in 1917 under Prime Minister Robert Borden, during the First World War.

This Liberal-NDP pact is a “confidence and supply” agreement, Mr. Trudeau said Tuesday. This kind of agreement generally involves an opposition party agreeing to support the government on confidence motions and budget or appropriation votes for a certain period of time.

The current talks appear to be inspired by precedents at the provincial level, which have allowed minority governments to continue for periods of time with the support of smaller parties, in exchange for policy concessions.

Examples of this include Ontario’s Liberal minority government, which remained in power from 1985 to 1987, thanks to an agreement with the NDP.

More recently, in British Columbia the NDP and the Green Party struck a deal after the 2017 provincial election that saw the NDP form a minority government even though it had two fewer seats than the incumbent Liberals. That written agreement between the NDP and the Green Party was called a confidence-and-supply agreement, meaning the Green Party agreed to vote with the government on confidence matters.

What are the key promises of the Liberal-NDP deal?

The seven main actions the Liberal and NDP parties agree to prioritize within the deal are:

  • A better health care system;
  • Making life more affordable for people;
  • Tackling the climate crisis and creating good paying jobs;
  • A better deal for workers;
  • Reconciliation;
  • A fairer tax system;
  • Making democracy work for people.

One of the key parts of the deal is to bring in a dental care program for low-income Canadians, beginning this year for children under 12 years old. It will be expanded to children under 18, seniors and people with disabilities in 2023, and fully implemented in 2024 for those with incomes under $90,000.

The agreement also promises to continue progress toward a universal national pharmacare program by passing a Canada Pharmacare Act by 2023, and then tasking the National Drug Agency to develop a national index of essential medicines and a bulk purchasing plan by the end of the agreement.

The deal mentions that work with the provinces on “additional ongoing investments” is needed to address health systems that have been stretched because of the COVID-19 pandemic: “We will work with the provinces and territories to determine how together we can deliver better health outcomes for Canadians, including more primary care doctors and nurses, mental health support, aging at home and better data.”

The plan also tackles housing and childcare proposals to make “life more affordable,” such as extending the Rapid Housing Initiative for an additional year and introducing an Early Learning and Child Care Act by the end of 2022. As well, it features actions to prioritize reconciliation, including making a significant additional investment in Indigenous housing in 2022.

Read the full list of actions outlined within the Liberal-NDP deal.

What’s the reaction from the NDP?

At a news conference, Mr. Singh described the deal as a starting point and that his caucus will be pushing for additional policies over the course of the agreement. He also emphasized that his party retains the right to pull its support if the Liberals do not honour their commitments.

“If they fall short on what we’ve agreed to, then the deal doesn’t continue. That’s why we’ve got this deal in front of us. If they don’t deliver on what we have fought for, if they don’t deliver on what Canadians need right now, then they have not held up their side of the bargain. ... But I’m going into this with a strong conviction that we can get this done. I’m going into this with a strong belief that we are going to continue to fight hard and we are going to force these results for Canadians. We’re going to make sure people get the support they need.”

Mr. Singh said the NDP won’t stand in the way of higher military spending to confront the Russian threat – or block purchases of new equipment for the Canadian Armed Forces in the upcoming federal budget – provided it does not come at the expense of the billions in new social programs such as health and dental care that were promised in Tuesday’s deal.

What’s the reaction from the Conservatives and the other federal parties?

Conservative Party interim leader Candice Bergen initially commented on the agreement Monday evening on Twitter, saying: “God help us all.”

She then issued a more detailed statement.

“The NDP-Liberal coalition is nothing more than a callous attempt by Trudeau to hold on to power,” she said. “Canadians did not vote for an NDP government. This is little more than backdoor socialism. … With rising inflation, out-of-control cost of living, and national unity at stake, Trudeau knows he is losing the confidence of Canadians.

“His answer is to stay in power at all costs including implementing the even harsher and more extreme policies of the NDP.

“If this NDP-Liberal coalition stands, Canada is in for a very rough ride.”

More reading:

Opinion: With his deal with the NDP, Justin Trudeau gets to go back to sunny ways

Under Liberal-NDP deal, Singh won’t oppose higher defence spending in exchange for billions on social programs

What the Liberal-NDP deal will mean for health care

Opinion: Opportunity lies ahead if Conservatives can get their act together

New Liberal-NDP dental plan could benefit millions. But what will it cover and when?

Opinion: Trudeau makes a deal to solidify his legacy on the left

Justin Trudeau announces pact with NDP to keep Liberals in power until 2025

Liberals reach deal with NDP to stay in power until 2025

With files from Bill Curry, Robert Fife, Kristy Kirkup and The Canadian Press.

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