Trudeau Minority Government Next?

The Liberal Party is trailing in the polls, and based on history our natural ruling party will do whatever it takes to shore up support prior to the federal election on or before October 21, including throwing Western Canada’s oil industry under the bus yet again.

The Liberals’ “progressive coalition,” key to its 2015 election win, is in tatters, with the Green Party gaining traction and the New Democratic Party (NDP) taking increasingly extreme positions, especially on the environmental front.

To counter this threat from the left, we should expect the Liberals to pass their tanker ban and an eco-friendly version of Bill C-69 by the end of June — assuming neither are quashed in the Senate — and punt a decision on Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) until after the election.

This likely won’t be enough to win the Liberals another majority government, but it could be enough to keep the Conservative Party from winning a majority, possibly the only way they can govern given the ideological bent of the Liberals, NDP and Green Party, and the rising importance of climate change to the Bloc Québécois (BQ).

It’s the environment, stupid

Energy may be the top of mind issue in Western Canada, given the damage Trudeau government policies have caused the oil industry, especially in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but it is no more than an afterthought for Canadians as a whole. Only nine per cent of respondents cited energy/natural resources as one of their two most important issues of concern in an Angus Reid Institute (ARI) poll published on May 3, placing it in 10th place. In contrast, environment/pollution was the number one issue for Canadians, at 27 per cent.

As one would expect, environment/pollution was the most important issue to respondents planning to vote Liberal, NDP and Green in the next federal election, at 47 per cent, 40 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively, whereas only five per cent of respondents planning to vote Conservative said the same.

According to ARI, the treatment of key issues such as environment between ideologically similar parties opens the door to strategic voting, especially when voters are “not entirely committed to their current party choice.”

Strategic voting

And based on ARI polling results, the door is open for the Liberal Party to steal potential votes from the NDP and Green Party. The Liberals have lost twice as many 2015 voters to parties on the left than to the Conservatives.

In addition, only 11 per cent of current Green Party supporters said they were “absolutely certain” about their vote for the upcoming federal election and a quarter of current NDP supporters, compared to 37 per cent of respondents planning to vote Liberal and a whopping 71 per cent of those planning to vote Conservative.

Finally, the poll found over a third of decided and leaning voters were already planning to vote in a strategic fashion — to block a certain party from gaining power, rather than being attracted to the policy platform of their chosen party. Forty per cent of Conservative and Liberal supporters said this to be the case, but less than 30 per cent of NDP and Green Party supporters.

Paradoxically, this could contribute to a significant shift to the Liberal Party on Election Day, given the latter two parties are to the left of the Grits. ARI wrote:

 “The fact that voters who support the NDP and the Greens do so more out of love for those parties than out of a desire to block others may be encouraging to partisans, but it also represents a potential weakness. If the 2019 election appears to be a choice between the Conservatives and one left-of-centre party, will these individuals put aside their favourite party and vote strategically in order to prevent an even-less-desirable outcome?”

Minority Liberal government?

Based on CBC’s Poll Tracker, an aggregation of all publicly available polling data, the Conservative Party currently has a 37 per cent probability of forming a majority government in October, compared to a mere eight per cent chance for the Liberals. The Conservatives also have a 33 per cent chance of winning the most seats but not a majority, while the Liberal Party has a 21 per cent probability of achieving the same.

Poll Tracker presently has the Conservatives with 36 per cent of the committed vote, the Liberals with 30 per cent, and the NDP, Green Party and Bloc Québécois with 16 per cent, 10 per cent and five per cent, respectively — similar results to ARI’s most recent poll.

Based on current projections, the Conservative Party would win 161 seats in the next federal election, nine short of a parliamentary majority, whereas the Liberals are projected to win 129 seats, the NDP 28, the BQ 16, and the Green Party the remaining four seats.

The BQ as much as kept Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s two minority governments in power from 2006 to 2011, and would have the potential of doing the same for Andrew Scheer based on this seat count. But BQ support for the Conservatives is not a slam dunk given the Bloc’s strong policy position on climate change, an issue the Conservatives hold in relative disregard, especially after massive floods again this spring in Quebec — the second “hundred year” flood in three years.

Anyways, it could be a moot point, as the Liberals should be able to poach enough popular vote from the NDP and Greens between now and October to win an additional eight seats in ridings where they are running neck and neck with the Conservatives — whereas another 41 seats to form a second majority government is a pipe dream.

As discussed above, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals simply need to pander to current supporters of the NDP and Green Party on issues of greatest importance to them, such as the environment, to garner additional votes. This should not be a stretch for the Liberals given the Trudeau government’s anti-oil industry policies to date and the Liberal Party’s history of screwing Western Canada’s oil industry.

For example, after the fact, Marc Lalonde, one of the key architects of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s infamous National Energy Program (NEP), admitted the key goal of the 1980-85 program was “to transfer wealth from Alberta to Central Canada.” Ontario and Quebec have been the Liberals’ traditional base of support and springboard to power.

Of course, a minority Liberal government with the NDP and possibly the Greens as coalition partners is the ultimate nightmare scenario for the western Canadian oil industry, especially with New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh recently swearing off fracking as well.