OTTAWA – The Liberals and New Democrats have reached an agreement that would see the NDP support Justin Trudeau’s minority government through to 2025.
The deal is a “confidence and supply” agreement effective immediately, Trudeau said Tuesday.
This kind of agreement, a version of the deal the British Columbia NDP struck with the Greens in that province in 2017, generally involves an opposition party agreeing to support the government on confidence motions and budget or appropriation votes for a certain period of time.
During a news conference announcing 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 of the new arrangement.
The Liberals failed to win a clear majority in the election and currently hold 159 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, while the NDP has 25 MPs.
“The message from Canadians was as clear as the mandate they gave Parliament: work together to put people and families first, deliver results and build a better future,” Trudeau said.
“What this means is that during this uncertain time, the government can function with predictability and stability, present and implement budgets and get things done for Canadians.”
Trudeau said the deal would focus on issues on which the parties agree, rather than disagree, including action on dental care, pharmacare, climate change, housing and paid sick leave.
He added that on areas where the Liberals and NDP do not agree, such as a potential increase in defence spending in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, such situations will be managed on a case-by-case basis. He added the NDP does not have a veto.
“In the areas where there is not agreement, we will continue to do the things that the Liberal Party was elected to do,” he said. “And we’ll look for support from other parties as necessary as we move forward.”
Singh was scheduled to address reporters later Tuesday morning.
Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen, whose party is in the midst of a leadership race, blasted what she described as a “backroom deal that would see Justin Trudeau get the majority power that he tried desperately to get last fall in the last election, but he failed to get.”
Bergen proceeded to accuse the Liberals of having effectively given the reins of power to the NDP, which she alleged would lead to massive government spending and the death of Canada’s oil and gas industry.
“All of which, for Canadians, means more debt, more inflation, more jobs lost, more uncertainty, and frankly, more polarization,” she added. “This is not a good day for Canadians.”
While he also condemned the deal for giving the Liberals a “false majority,” Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said the agreement would not change his party’s approach in Parliament.
“The Bloc will keep doing exactly the same thing: if it’s good for Quebec, we will vote in favour. If it’s bad for Quebec, we will vote against,” he said.
Blanchet said he spoke briefly to Trudeau on Tuesday morning before the prime minister announced the deal publicly, but that he was not asked to join the arrangement.
However, Blanchet did raise the spectre of increased support for Quebec independence if the Liberal-NDP arrangement consistently works against the interests of Quebecers.
The Bloc’s public support for a proposed coalition government orchestrated in 2008 by then-Liberal leader Stephane Dion and NDP counterpart Jack Layton was partly responsible for scuppering the effort to replace Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government.
If it works out, the deal announced Tuesday will spur progress on NDP policies, which the party can cite as a track record in the next election, said Karl Bélanger, president of Traxxion Stratégies and former interim national director of the NDP.
Because the deal isn’t a formal coalition, the NDP will be able to continue to operate as an opposition party with its own identity, he said.
“The key battle between the Liberals and the NDP will be about who will be able to take credit for these initiatives. It has not always worked out for the NDP in the past,” Bélanger said.
The deal will also buy the NDP time to build up its war chest for the next election, and show that the party is relevant in the meantime, he said.