Election leaves Canadians deeply divided between hope and discontent

22 October 2019

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

A deeply divided electorate after the Oct. 21 federal election has left some Canadians bitterly disappointed and others hopeful that a minority government may force Canadians and the federal parties to work together in the spirit of cooperation.

“I agree with some of the commentary from election night that what we will be seeing is that the parties are going to be forced to work together and there will be a need for more dialogue and more public involvement in making decisions,” said Natalie Appleyard, a socio-economic policy analyst with Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ).

The CPJ is a Christian organization that advocates for social and environmental justice in Canadian public policy with a focus on poverty, ecological justice, and refugee rights.

It sees a Liberal minority government that will need the support of the NDP and Green parties at times to get anything done as possibly good news for action on some of the key issues the CPJ focuses on, Appleyard said it is also important not to dismiss the opinions of those who voted for other parties such as the Conservatives.

“It is important to hear what conservative voters have been saying and not just ignore that,” she said of the path ahead for Canada’s newest government. “Their needs and concerns must be taken seriously and not ignored.”

Activists gathered at Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Oct. 17 to demand that whichever party forms the next federal government make the eradication of poverty a top priority of their government. The gathering on Oct. 17 was tied into the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

The Oct. 21 election results that left the Liberals in power as a minority government can be analysed in many different ways. With 157 seats, the Liberals won the most seats but the Conservative Party and its 121 seats actually had more votes (34.4 per cent Conservative to 33 per cent for the Liberals). However, the so-called “progressive vote” of the Liberals, NDP and Greens taken together was 55 per cent.

The Bloc vote in Quebec is harder to categorize, as that party’s platform lines up on many environmental issues with the “progressive parties” but the Bloc’s strong stance in support of Quebec’s controversial religious symbols law Bill 21 and the vote in that province further drives home that the anti-religious symbols sentiment is deep and wide in that province.

Daniel Weinstock of the Faculty of Law at McGill University in Montreal said at the outset of the election that the dynamics among voters in Quebec would play an important role in the election results.

“The Quebec electorate is quite volatile,” Weinstock said. “SNC-Lavalin and Bill 21 play very differently in Quebec as opposed to other parts of the country. How the federal leaders and local candidates negotiate this will be a fascinating angle of this election.”

Indeed, Canadians who were hoping the federal election result could play a role in how a future federal government would address religious freedom issues in Quebec in light of Bill 21 do not have anything to cling to in the aftermath of the election.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were the only federal party to indicate on the campaign trail a willingness to possibly challenge Quebec’s Bill 21. With a minority government and the vote result in Quebec indicating strong support for Bill 21 in that province, the chances that a minority government would fight that battle are slim.

And that is added to the discontent of many western Canadians in Alberta and Saskatchewan who voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Conservative Party and where the “progressive parties” barely made an impact.

In his victory speech, Trudeau emphasized his new government would govern for all Canadians regardless of who they voted for but then emphasized the progressive nature of what his government would advocate.

“You have asked us to invest in Canadians, to reconcile with the indigenous people and make it a priority and to show even more vision and ambition where we are fighting against the biggest challenge of our times, climate change.

“It is exactly what we will do, we know there is a lot of work to do, but I give you my word, we will continue what we started,” Trudeau said.

For many conservative-leaning Canadians, that is not a happy prospect.

The pro-life Campaign Life Coalition issued a blistering critique of the re-election of the Liberals, albeit as a minority government.

Under his previous tenure, Justin Trudeau legalized euthanasia, discriminated against Canadians who didn’t adhere to his pro-abortion views, expanded abortion access in Canada, and committed billions of Canadian tax dollars to funding and advocating for abortion overseas,” the Campaign Life Coalition said in a post-election statement.

And the coalition also took a swing at Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer for abandoning social conservatives in the campaign.

“The opposition Conservatives led by Andrew Scheer might have formed government if they had not alienated so much of their natural base of social conservatives, with their cynical but ultimately ineffective campaign to diminish the importance of moral issues, and to put on a socially-liberal face,” said Jeff Gunnarson, national president of the Campaign Life Coalition.