On the final day of the 2019 election campaign, the outcome is uncertain; pollsters cannot predict with any confidence which party will be in a position to govern after the ballots have been counted later today. The Liberals and Conservatives find themselves neck and neck in this race, with neither seemingly able to garner enough support to form a majority government. The surging support for the NDP and Bloc Quebecois is a surprise to most, the result of strong campaign performances from both leaders, and the Green Party continues to be competitive in multiple ridings.
Amidst political uncertainty, one thing has become clear in the 2019 federal election campaign – Canada’s 43rd Parliament will be deeply fragmented, reflective of a divided country.
Unlike in 2015 when Justin Trudeau was able to rally millions of Canadians around his vision of Canada’s future, a future where “better was possible”, no party has been able to appeal to great swaths of the electorate. The prairie provinces and parts of Ontario will overwhelmingly support the Conservative Party; the Liberals can expect support in central and eastern Canada and pockets of British Columbia; the Bloc Quebecois is projected to more than double their seats from last Parliament; the NDP will beat the early forecasts of a near demise, with support concentrated in British Columbia and Ontario; and the Green Party is looking to expand their support from British Columbia to eastern Canada.
A united country we are not.
Canadians are divided along geographic, demographic and ideological lines. Canadians have clashing views on key policy issues like climate change, taxation, resource development, immigration, housing, and healthcare. Even on issues like climate change, where there is agreement by a majority of Canadians that we need to do more, there is a splintering of votes amongst the different plans on offer from the parties. It should therefore be no surprise that, given that Canadians can’t agree on the path forward for the country, our Parliament will reflect that fragmentation. The real question then becomes – can the parties work together to move Canada forward?
Governing under a minority government requires compromise and collaboration amongst the parties. The real test for the Liberals and Conservatives may not be election night, but indeed their ability to form alliances and identify common ground with other parties. Canadians expect the parties to put aside differences and find ways to work together (4 in 10 Canadians say they prefer minority governments in a recent poll), but the nasty tone of this election, and the parties’ divergent views on multiple issues will make compromise and collaboration difficult. However, the parties must be wary of public backlash if they are not seen to make genuine effort to work together, in the public interest.
Our next Parliament will reflect a divided country with divergent views on key policy issues. Despite that, and no matter the outcome today, the goal of the next government must be to build bridges – and a compelling vision of the path forward for our country – in the interests of making Parliament, and Canada, work.