Brace yourself, Canada. If you thought the whining and wailing from truck-loving Conservatives about freedom and democracy was bad before, watch how they respond to the deal Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh just struck. It will be portrayed as equal parts fascism and socialism, and it will kick up a populist fuss the likes of which we’ve never seen in this country. And in the end, it will be worth it.
That’s because the confidence and supply agreement, which will see the NDP support the Liberal government on key votes until 2025, gives Canadians the stability and certainty they need from their government. It will buy the feds space and time to deliver on big files like pharmacare and dental care without worrying about whether there’s an election around the corner. And it will almost certainly allow Trudeau to pass his leadership baton to a successor without forcing them straight into an election.
The deal is an obvious win for the NDP, which gets to take credit (deservedly) for the introduction of key new social programs. But it’s an even bigger one for Trudeau, whose legacy as prime minister is now clear — and secure. In addition to expanding the social safety net and enhancing the role of government in our lives, the deal pours concrete onto the climate policies that have been Trudeau’s signature achievement over the last six-plus years.
The government can continue moving forward with the important work of decarbonizing the economy without having to constantly fight rearguard battles about the carbon tax and rebate or the emissions coming from the oilsands. As University of British Columbia professor Kathryn Harrison tweeted, “I’s a hugely important time to have climate policy certainty as Canada adopts key regs and solidifies carbon pricing over the next 2-3 yrs (which most CPC leadership candidates would roll back.)”
Here, Trudeau clearly learned from the experience (and mistakes) of Paul Martin, who put forward ambitious plans on child care and Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples only to see them scuttled by a 2005 confidence vote that Jack Layton’s NDP refused to support. This time, Trudeau has taken that arrow out of the NDP’s quiver, ensuring it cannot bring down his government if and when the opportunity presents itself. For a politician who is often accused by his opponents of being an intellectual lightweight, this is a very smart strategy.
Conservatives, of course, are portraying it as an undemocratic affront to the freedoms and liberties of Canadians. Never mind that there’s nothing undemocratic about a formal coalition in our system (which, to be clear, this isn’t), or that a similar agreement was struck as recently as 2017 in British Columbia between the NDP and Green Party. Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen summed up the panicked mood in her party when she tweeted: “Right now all I can think is: God help us all.”
But perhaps the Conservatives are the authors of their own misfortune here. Maybe, after watching the party embrace the anti-democracy convoy that descended on Ottawa and seeing some of its members give comfort and aid to people advocating for a coup, the Liberal and NDP members on Parliament Hill decided they needed to do something.
Now, Canadians get to see the country governed in their best interests. Not the noisy minority that opposes progress, resists change and trades in misinformation and conspiracy theories, but the mostly silent majority that wants to avoid handing power over to the sort of paranoid populists that are poisoning other western democracies. For the next three years, at least, they don’t have to worry about that.
It’s entirely possible that come 2025, the Liberal government is defeated and that this agreement plays a role in that outcome. But if that’s the cost of progress on so many key files and issues, it’s one the Liberals should be comfortable paying. Putting country above party is what political leadership is supposed to look like, after all. Maybe the Conservative Party of Canada can learn a thing or two from watching it unfold in front of them over the next three years.