Canada is a big country with little imagination, politically speaking.
Many Canadian politicians and pundits prefer it that way, as predictability is often seen as synonymous with stability. And stability is often seen as a virtue in a cautious country with little affinity or enthusiasm for imaginative thinking, politically speaking.
So when the ruling Liberal Party, led by a battered and vulnerable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, agreed last week to reach an entente with Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the so-called socialist New Democratic Party (NDP), Canada became a little more interesting, politically speaking.
Distilled to its core, the Liberal-NDP pact asks Singh to support Trudeau’s minority government until 2025. In exchange, Trudeau will try to find the money in post-pandemic budgets to relieve hard-pressed Canadians from high costs to take care of their lives. teeth and buy prescription drugs.
Trudeau gets what he wants: to remain prime minister for longer than most observers, yours truly included, thought possible. Singh gets what he wants: credit for helping people who need help that could pay dividends over time.
To be clear: this is not a coalition, where Singh and company would be forced to sit, knee to knee, in a room full of apostate liberal cabinet ministers. Instead, Singh has exploited the NDP’s grip on the balance of power in parliament in what amounts to a “light coalition”.
Much more importantly, he has won, on paper, commitments, not promises, from Trudeau to do what the prime minister has so far been reluctant to do.
On a stubborn and practical note, Singh knows it will take years for the NDP to replenish its empty coffers before it can even contemplate funding an expensive federal election campaign. As such, Singh’s decision to act as Robin for Trudeau’s Batman until 2025 is a necessary byproduct of the party’s faltering balance sheet, as well as a genuine attempt to help Canadians in need.
Unfortunately, the Trudeau-Singh axis, negotiated in secret by a handful of advisers, had just the right dose of backroom deals and intrigue to trigger a hysterical backlash among outraged conservative politicians and commentators who were so horrified they prayed to God for help. Twitter to save Canada from being disfigured beyond recognition or, worse, destroyed by a couple of Fidel Castro-loving revolutionaries.
As a general rule of thumb, I think if excitable conservative politicians and columnists turn to the sky as part of a raging tantrum that Canada is about to morph into a slightly nicer version of North Korea, then someone, somewhere , you’ve earned a big round of applause for doing something right.
While I have some questions about how the Trudeau-Singh pact and the unelected bureaucrats who put it together came to be, any time a government makes what appears to be a binding promise to help people who need help, that is, to any extent , a good thing.
Still, the confirmed cynic in me wonders not only whether Trudeau will be around long enough to keep his word, but whether Singh might also have gotten more out of a government eager to avoid a no-confidence vote and another federal election.
Having worked on Parliament Hill decades ago, I can assure you that the mistrust and enmity between the Liberals and the NDP once ran as deep as any Himalayan crevasse.
A good deal of that distrust and enmity persists. It was born, in large part, from the Liberal Party’s historical habit of veering to the left when the prevailing winds blow.
This has meant that the party of Canada will do and say anything to win an election, openly stealing the programs that the NDP championed when it was a real socialist party and not a fake one. (These days, true to milk toast form, so-called socialists have banned the word “socialist” from their party constitution.)
Understood in this context, Trudeau’s apparent appetite for playing deal with Singh confirms, once again, a defining liberal trait and the parochial calculation of a wounded prime minister to remain in office rather than any permanent need to serve. to the public interest.
Given the NDP’s traditional skepticism and mistrust (I’m charitable) of the Liberal Party’s intentions and motivations, Singh may have thought it prudent to engineer, reportedly for months, a deal with Trudeau in private and only consult with his meager group. of 25 members after the fact to prevent potentially fatal leaks.
For a party that professes a quasi-religious devotion – hand on feigned socialist heart – to transparency and “grassroots” democracy, Singh’s behind-closed-doors deal with Trudeau is the antithesis of those so-called solemn conventions.
In any case, the Trudeau-Singh pact makes clear the thin daylight between Canada’s liberals and would-be socialists on foreign and domestic policy. Indeed, Singh was elected NDP leader as a fiery rebuttal to a fiery prime minister.
This may go some way to explaining the woeful failure of Singh and his life advisers to fight, for example, fairer and fairer amendments to a series of inflexible and inhumane liberal foreign policies as a tangible reciprocity for the NDP’s marriage of convenience. and some conviction.
Chief among them is Trudeau’s evangelical support for Israel. This, despite a library of reports from human rights groups that Canada’s ally in the Middle East who can never do anything wrong is guilty of apartheid as it continues to methodically evict, imprison, traumatize, maim and kill children, women and men whenever you want, for whatever reasons you want, for as long as you want.
I’m sure conservatives and their hyperbolic apologists find considerable comfort in that.
But their frantic pleas to God to save them from the Trudeau-Singh axis may reflect a sober admission that if, one day in the perhaps not too distant future, the NDP and the Liberals move, possibly, from an entente to a merger, then the prospects of the Conservatives forming a future government may be reduced to zero.
The numbers in this score are absolute.
In the 2021 election, more than 8.5 million Canadians voted for Liberal and NDP candidates combined, or the equivalent of nearly 50% of the popular vote. The 2019 election results were almost identical to the percentage point.
Canadians vote center left. If even a slice of soft or disenchanted Liberal voters were to break through, the Conservatives would face a herculean task, given the country’s unshakeable loyalty to elective government through the first step, to defeat a Liberal-NDP union.
The Conservative Party has veered back to the far right, joining its rabid ideological brethren to the south in embracing a litany of imagined grievances masquerading as “freedoms” as the dominant governing principle and flirting with crazed conspiracy theories.
While devoting time and energy to what seems destined to be a divisive and grueling leadership contest between the lunatic right and the not-so-lunatic right, the Liberal-NDP deal may prove agreeable to voters already leaning to the center- left.
By 2025, that could mean, in the wise words of that immortal sage, Bugs Bunny, “that’s it, folks” for the Conservative Party.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.