The confidence and supply agreement reached between the Liberals and the NDP three months ago changed the dynamics of the House of Commons, even in parliamentary session, which will be mostly remembered for firing another Conservative leader and further polarizing Canadian politics. convoy against pandemic restrictions.
The agreement, however, means MPs go to summer barbecues and parades without having to prepare for a known or potential federal election in the fall for the first time in four years.
The NDP and liberals describe the agreement as a success to date. For the Conservatives and the Bloc Québec, this agreement was a source of frustration, depriving them of the opportunity to participate in many of the negotiations in the House of Representatives, because the Liberals no longer had to guess which opposition party would be their dancing partner.
Under the agreement announced on March 22, the NDP offered support to the government on most votes of confidence, and the Liberals agreed to cooperate on some of the NDP’s priorities.
In the months that followed, the NDP effectively voted with the government on no-confidence bills, including the budget, as well as a number of no-confidence issues. NDP MPs helped the government limit debate on some bills and push others, including controversial changes to the Broadcasting Law, through the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The Liberals did change some of the NDP’s priorities, including including a national dental care program and some housing programs in the federal budget.
House Leader Mark Holland on Wednesday downplayed the impact of the deal, saying the main impact is to “ensure parliament’s stability.”
“In fact, there is so little in the supply and trust agreement,” he said.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said on Wednesday that he believes the agreement has worked out as he had hoped and is confident that it will continue to meet NDP priorities in the coming months.
But he warned that if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed, he would be prepared to withdraw support for the NDP’s minority liberal government. He said he intends to push the government hard to provide more to help Canadians struggling with the burden of near-record inflation.
“We have made it clear that we also need more support,” he said. “The agreement defines gender … but does not set a ceiling on what we can ask for or what we can fight for.”
Singh and Trudeau have met several times, as required by the agreement, and they say cooperation and information sharing between the parties has been good.
Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, said he saw the deal as energizing Trudeau and the Liberals, who could move on with their priorities without the constant threat of defeat.
“I think it made his step a little springy,” Oliphant said in an interview. “I can see that he’s really been busy the last couple of months, although there were a couple of months where I wasn’t sure if he was that busy.”
Oliphant said the agreement had the opposite effect on conservatives, causing them to “go with the flow”.
“What it does is knock the wind out of the sails of the conservatives because they know they can’t beat us easily,” he said. “And I think they don’t know what to do about it.”
Opposition House leader John Brassard expressed somewhat similar sentiments in a showdown with journalists on Tuesday.
“It definitely, I have no doubt about it, has changed the whole dynamic of our particular leadership team,” he said.
Conservatives characterize the confidence-and-supply agreement as an NDP-Liberal coalition government, effectively giving the Liberals the majority they failed to win in the 2021 elections.
It also meant the end of any discussion between liberals and conservatives, Brassard said.
“The official opposition was effectively shut down,” he said. “We were the last ones to hear about a lot of the things that were going on in the House of Commons because the Liberals just went to the NDP and said ‘this is what we want to do’ and got their consent.”
From time to time, there have been signs of cooperation between more than one party: all MPs voted for legislation to ensure that older people who receive a guaranteed income supplement and COVID-19 benefits do not receive their money back.
Against this backdrop, the Conservatives were all involved in internal strife as their third leadership race in six years exposed some deep divisions within the party.
Erin O’Toole was elected leader in a caucus in early February, just as a column of Canadians blocked the streets around Parliament Hill and several border crossings, demanding everything from an end to all COVID-19 restrictions to Trudeau’s expulsion.
Throughout 2022, the column has colored much of the political landscape. Ongoing investigations and committee hearings over the government’s decision to enforce the Emergency Act are heightening tensions.
The government has been accused of withholding information that could explain the validity of the Emergency Situations Act. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino got into trouble for claiming that the police asked for the act to be enforced, a claim denied by both the police and his own colleague, Emergency Management Minister Bill Blair.
Movement on liberal bills was slow. Only four major bills were passed between Christmas and Wednesday, and one of them, the fall economic announcement, took so long that Canadians had to wait weeks for tax refunds that couldn’t be processed until some new tax breaks became official.
Both the budget bill and the new legislation, which was expedited in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling to use heavy intoxication as a felony defense, are expected to be passed before the summer break begins.
— Mia Rabson, Stephanie Taylor and Marie Wolfe, The Canadian Press.