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Hey! It’s Samantha and Jack, the editors of Well-Versed. We’re happy that you’re joining us.

We know you signed up for a newsletter aimed at getting you informed on key political topics before the election. But it’s just as important to have an understanding of what an election result means – and what comes next. That’s why, in this edition, we’ll delve into what you can expect from a minority government, where the parties stand in the postelection cool-down period and how this election has raised some key issues for Canadians.

What questions do you still have about the election result? What do you want to see from the new Liberal minority? Write to us, and you could be featured in a coming edition of Well-Versed. Include your name, age, and city if you feel comfortable.

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If you’re reading this through a browser, you can subscribe to the newsletter.

Going a bit deeper on the results

When all was said and done after the election, the Liberals won a minority government with 157 seats (there are a total of 338 in the House of Commons). The Conservatives took 121 seats, the Bloc Québécois 32, the NDP 24 and the Greens 3. One independent was elected – former attorney-general and minister of justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, ejected from the Liberals for her stand on the SNC-Lavalin affair.

This represented a significant shift in seats in the House of Commons from the last Parliament: the Liberals lost 20 seats while the Conservatives gained 26. The NDP lost 15 seats and the Greens gained an additional one. The biggest winner was the Bloc, which surged in Quebec, gaining 22 seats and more than tripling their representation in the House from 10 seats to 32. Much of the Bloc’s gain came at the expense of the NDP in Quebec.

The Liberals held their territory in the Toronto area and many of their ridings in British Columbia, despite Conservative and NDP efforts to break through in Ontario’s strategic 905 region. The Conservatives, meanwhile, dominated Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the Greens gained their first seat in Atlantic Canada.

And there were some notable upsets. During the campaign, The Globe’s election team identified 21 ridings that were especially close or consequential. Most of those ridings stayed with the same parties that were elected in 2015, if not always the same candidate. But there were seven upsets of note (not including Wilson-Raybould):

  • Calgary Centre (Alta.): Conservative Greg McLean unseats Liberal Kent Hehr
  • Regina—Lewvan (Sask.): Conservative Warren Steinley takes the riding once held by Erin Weir, an NDP MP ousted from the party caucus
  • Kenora (Ont.): Conservative Eric Melillo unseats Liberal Bob Nault
  • Milton (Ont.): Liberal Adam van Koeverden unseats Conservative Lisa Raitt
  • Trois-Rivières (Que.): The Bloc’s Louise Charbonneau unseats the NDP’s Robert Aubin
  • Fundy Royal (N.B.): Conservative Rob Moore, who held the riding previously, unseated Liberal Alaina Lockhart
  • St. John’s East (N.L.): The NDP’s Jack Harris, who held the riding previously, unseated Liberal Nick Whalen

You can read more in The Globe’s explainer on the results. If you really want to get into the data, you can run through detailed breakdowns of elections in each riding and use a Globe map tool to see how the results played out from coast to coast to coast. And from Adam van Koeverden’s star power to Maxime Bernier’s populism, there were some decisive winners and losers among personalities and political movements on Oct. 21. Read Eric Andrew-Gee’s look for a less numbers-driven analysis.

A minority government, no coalition and the spirit of co-operation

Federal politics can be really complicated (that’s one of the reasons we’re here, after all). The Globe put together an explainer on what exactly a minority government is and how it will work, which will be updated as a continuing guide. Much of our explanation here draws from that.

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A government needs the confidence of the House of Commons, which means being able to marshal a majority of the votes for key legislation from its MPs and from allied parties. If one party has more than half the seats – which, in this 338-seat Parliament, is 170 – that’s easy. That’s a majority government. Most federal governments have been majorities because the first-past-the-post electoral system puts smaller parties at a disadvantage.

But if the leading party has fewer than half the seats, as the Liberals do now (they have 157), that’s a minority government, also called a hung Parliament. Opposition parties can defeat a minority by:

  • Holding and passing a vote of no-confidence, an explicit statement that the parties don’t have faith in the government
  • Defeating a Throne Speech, budget or other confidence question

If the government falls, a new election is likely to be triggered. The last time that happened federally was in 2011, when the Liberals, NDP and Bloc supported a motion finding Stephen Harper’s minority Conservatives in contempt of Parliament for not releasing budget-related documents. But that happened three years after the previous election, when the parties’ campaign war chests had been replenished and the main opposition party had chosen a new leader.

Speaking to Globe reporter Kathryn Blaze Baum, University of Moncton professor Donald Savoie, the Canada research chair in public administration and governance, said that “[Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau will have to be sensitive to what the opposition parties will be looking for, but it’s in the interest of no one in Parliament to force a quick election.”

“Everybody will make this work for at least two years.”

One way to prevent the collapse of a minority Parliament is the formation of a coalition government, in which two or more parties who can hold majority status together make a formal power-sharing deal. Those are rare in Canada: The last time it happened federally was during the First World War, and the rise of the Bloc Québécois in the 1990s made the idea of coalitions seem politically toxic.

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In his first remarks after the election, Trudeau ruled out the possibility of a coalition government, saying his party would govern issue by issue rather than negotiating a formal arrangement with a smaller party to win confidence votes.

But co-operation will be necessary. In fact, it’s possible that an (albeit, weakened) NDP could wield more influence than their diminished position would suggest as natural allies with the Liberals on progressive change such as pharmacare. And Yves-François Blanchet, leader of the Bloc Québécois, said last week that he’s willing to work with a re-elected Liberal government.

Let’s talk about the popular vote

There’s been quite a bit of chatter about the breakdown of the popular vote, which is simply the total percentage of votes cast for a particular party across all ridings. (In other words: it’s not the way our current first-past-the-post system works.) Here’s how the six main parties fared this election, in order:

  • Conservatives: 34.4 per cent
  • Liberals: 33.1 per cent
  • NDP: 15.9 per cent
  • Bloc Québécois: 7.7 per cent
  • Green Party: 6.5 per cent
  • People’s Party: 1.6 per cent

These numbers are part of the reason why Scheer’s concession speech pointed to a strong base and what he predicted would be an impending parliamentary takeover, despite a significant margin of defeat in seats. “More Canadians wanted us to win this election than any other party,” he assured his supporters.

But Globe columnist Adam Radwanski points out, “[The Conservatives’] best numbers on election night – the popular-vote edge – likely had as much to do with declining turnout among Liberal voters as the fairly modest increase in Conservative votes.”

The popular-vote breakdown also has many lamenting the limited success of the Green Party, who were only elected in three ridings despite a sizable percentage of Canadians willing to put their vote behind climate action this election. While the Bloc only obtained 1.2 per cent more of the popular vote than the Greens, the Quebec party elected 32 MPs.

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But Canadians succeeded in demonstrating their values at a widespread level – doubling the Green Party’s share of the popular vote in 162 ridings – even if it didn’t pay off in seat totals.

Western alienation

The election results have also prompted a renewed discussion of Western alienation and stoked the fires of Alberta separatism.

The premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan warned Trudeau about growing Western discontent in the wake of an election that saw the governing Liberals lose all four of their seats in the two provinces. Jason Kenney and Scott Moe also renewed their demands for the fast tracking of pipeline construction and the end of Liberal policies such as the federal carbon tax.

In his remarks after the election, Trudeau pledged to push through the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and spoke specifically to voters in Alberta and Saskatchewan, calling on people in those provinces to “work hard to bring our country together.”

“Know that you are an essential part of our great country. I’ve heard your frustration and I want to be there to support you,” he said.

As for Kenney, he announced that he’s convening a panel that will travel the province to consult with Albertans on how their province could get a better deal from Confederation. The Premier himself conceded that these meetings could turn into town halls on separatism, though he has said he doesn’t believe separatism is the answer.

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Gary Mason, The Globe’s national-affairs columnist based in Vancouver, wrote that this posturing is “more about making sure the rest of Canada gets a taste of the anger in the province than it is about mining for new ideas. One can already imagine the cameras rolling as speaker after speaker talks (or rages) about how much better off Alberta would be if it went it alone. There will also be plenty of opportunities for Trudeau bashing – a favourite sport.

“It will all make dramatic fodder for national newscasts. One can only guess how much investment it will scare off.”

What’s happening with the other parties?

  • With no allies, the Conservatives aren’t in the best strategic position to form a strong opposition to the left-leaning majority. But Scheer is still using confident rhetoric – in his concession speech, he said that “Conservatives have put Justin Trudeau on notice” – and remains convinced that it’s possible to be prime minister while holding socially conservative views. “I believe you can have both of those positions: you can have a personal view and you can acknowledge that in Canada, the prime minister does not impose a particular viewpoint on Canadians,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press on his opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. The Conservatives also have an incredibly strong base of support in Saskatchewan and Alberta to work with.
  • Despite a significant drop in the number of NDP seats, the party’s loyal supporters say that a minority-government situation could be a prime opportunity for New Democrats to have more influence. Jennifer Howard, party leader Jagmeet Singh’s national campaign director and chief of staff, said the NDP will push for co-operation. “We want to make sure we are being a constructive voice in that Parliament,” Howard said. Since the election, Singh has continued to express opposition to TMX, but said it’s too early to say what the NDP would want in exchange for supporting a Liberal minority government, and has declined to discuss his plans for talks with the Liberals. Singh’s party overall seems to be pleased with him – especially the way he appealed to progressive young voters this election – but it remains to be seen what an NDP future looks like in Quebec, where they were reduced to a single seat.
  • Bloc Leader Blanchet says that the party will co-operate with the various parties based on their policies, and will consider legislation on a case-by-case basis with Quebec’s well-being in mind. As part of that, he said, he is not closed off to working with the Liberals, despite saying he disagrees with the pipeline. He also said that he won’t push for Quebec separation. When Parliament resumes, Blanchet says one of his priorities will be ensuring that the government keeps its promise to compensate agricultural producers affected by trade deals.
  • This will be Green Party Leader Elizabeth May’s last election. (To be fair: the only reason she ran this time around was because she hadn’t found a suitable successor.) After a disappointing set of results on Vancouver Island, where they already have a two-seat stronghold but thought they could secure more, the Greens will be re-evaluating their campaign strategy, which May says didn’t include a strong counteroffensive to NDP tactics. That being said, the party’s breakthrough east of B.C. – all the way in Fredericton, in fact – could be very promising, and signal a spark in eastern support. With the success of the new Liberal minority government hinging on allyship, May is now encouraging Singh to use cancelling the Trans Mountain pipeline as a condition for co-operation with the Liberals.
  • Without a single victory, including the defeat of Leader Maxime Bernier, many are saying that Canadians have rejected the fledgling People’s Party of Canada’s brand of right-wing populism. But in his concession speech, Bernier promised, “This is only the beginning for the People’s Party of Canada.”

What questions do you still have about the election result? What do you want to see from the new Liberal minority? Write to us, and you could be featured in a coming edition of Well-Versed. Include your name, age, and city if you feel comfortable.


  • The police were called after a vulgar slur was spray-painted on the front of Liberal MP Catherine McKenna’s office. McKenna has had an occasional security detail since earlier this year after experiencing verbal harassment. Various high-profile political figures have spoken out in defence of the Environment Minister. “It isn’t about me. It’s about what kind of politics we want in our country,” she said.
  • The Liberal government says that the expanded TMX could fund $500-million a year in cleaner sources of energy and projects that pull carbon out of the atmosphere.
  • B.C. has introduced legislation, drafted in consultation with Indigenous leaders, to align its laws and policies with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The proposed law, Bill 41, is being hailed as a landmark for reconciliation in Canada as it provides greater influence to First Nations over lawmaking – including resource development.

If you’re a Globe subscriber, be sure to also sign up for our regular Politics Briefing newsletter, written every weekday by deputy politics editor Chris Hannay. He will be ramping up his election coverage of all the big headlines and campaign trail news to keep you informed.

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