It is time for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet to deliver their minority report.
Neither can expect to be prime minister after next week’s election, but one or both of them might be in a position to dictate some priorities to the government – and possibly even dictate who will govern.
This is no small matter. These two leaders should tell us what they will do about it. What bottom-line conditions will they set for supporting a minority government?
Mr. Blanchet can never be PM, but he also seems to feel he can get off scot-free from any accountability in a minority Parliament, making airy assertions that his party will do what is best for Quebec. You’d think Quebeckers deserve to know what he will demand before supporting any government.
The question is even more important for Mr. Singh. He tells voters they can’t afford more of Justin Trudeau’s government, just told a journalist Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is worse and won’t say what he’d do faced with a minority. But he has a duty to do express his sine qua non. It might be good tactics, too.
Mr. Singh has released a platform promising a plethora of multibillion-dollar programs such as pharmacare and dental care, and to raise taxes on wealth.
So would Mr. Trudeau or Mr. O’Toole have to commit to do one or more of those things in order to get an NDP vote of confidence? Would Mr. O’Toole have to pledge that he will not tear up the multibillion-dollar child-care agreements with seven provinces and territories? Would Mr. Trudeau have to commit to raising taxes on capital gains?
Ask Mr. Singh, and you will hear the stock answer that the NDP has been using for such questions since the late Jack Layton became party leader. Mr. Singh used it again on Monday: “I’m running to be prime minister.”
The truth is, that answer has only really worked well for the NDP one time, in 2011, when people really started to actually believe Mr. Layton could win the election. Usually, the Liberals have tried to squeeze out the NDP by arguing that a vote for New Democrats will help elect the Conservatives. Often, it works.
This time, polls suggest the NDP is substantially behind the other two. The latest tracking results from a survey of 1,200 Canadians conducted Sept. 10 to 12 by Nanos Research and sponsored by The Globe and Mail and CTV found 33.2 per cent would vote for the Liberals, 30.2 per cent for Conservatives and 18.6 per cent for the NDP.
(The survey has a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked: “Which party would you vote for if an election were held today?” A methodology report can be found at globeandmail.com.)
The poll doesn’t predict what will happen next week. But it does suggest a minority government is likely, that it would be either a Liberal or Conservative minority, and that either the NDP or Bloc, or at the very least both together, will hold enough seats to prop up the government.
So we should expect the NDP and the Bloc to treat a minority Parliament as a realistic possibility – and tell us if they will set any hard-and-fast conditions.
The Liberals, for example, will be telling voters that if the Conservatives win, Mr. O’Toole will tear up those child-care agreements with provinces. But Mr. Singh is in favour of subsidized child care, and Mr. Blanchet insists the deal should be honoured. But would they insist?
Will Mr. Singh make demands about climate-change policy? If Mr. Trudeau seeks to form a government, will Mr. Blanchet demand a commitment for higher health care transfers to provinces?
Sure, the leaders of both those parties will want to keep some room for potential negotiations in case it comes to that. But if they aren’t willing to tell voters now which things they will stick to no matter what, maybe there isn’t anything. When Canadians cast their ballots, some will probably want to know how it would count in a minority Parliament.
Follow the party leaders and where they stand on the issues this election campaign by signing up for our Morning or Evening Update newsletters.
For subscribers only: Get exclusive political news and analysis by signing up for the Politics Briefing.