Not your father’s minority government

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government is not like his father’s. When Pierre Trudeau won minority government in 1972, he didn’t have the support of opposition parties. The government only lasted 1 year, 221 days. His minority government introduced the unpopular Petro-Canada Crown Corporation that reminded Albertans of the despised National Energy Program. Petro-Canada’s reddish-coloured headquarters in Calgary were tagged “red square.”

P.M. Lester Pearson. Image by Nobel Foundation, Associated Press

Given the bluster from the United Conservative Party of Alberta, you wouldn’t think that the Liberals have any support from the Conservatives until you consider that they both want the Trans Mountain pipeline built.

Consider the following, suggests my Calgary friend:

“I think the conservatives and liberals are not that far apart on the pipeline issue. If the liberals make good on our 4.5 Billion dollar investment in the TMP they will get no support from the NDP or the BLOC but the conservatives would be foolish not to support it.”

Wouldn’t that be something to behold? If the NDP or the Bloc Québécois opposed a pro-pipeline bill, how could the Conservatives not support it without appearing hypocritical? And the NDP and Bloc could then wash their hands of the project that offends environmentalists.

Justin Trudeau has consistently said that he is going to build the Trans Mountain pipeline. He repeated that goal after the October 21, 2109, election.

While reactions to the federal election have focused on a divided country, I see Justin Trudeau’s Liberals offering something for everyone.

The Liberals and the Bloc Québécois can work together on social policy and the environment. The Bloc Québécois has made it clear that they intend to support this Liberal minority government. BQ Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said that the Liberals should do “what it takes” to make Parliament work. He added there’s a law stating that government mandates are supposed to last four years. I’m not sure that’s true for minority governments but Blanchet’s support is clear.

Who knows, if successful, Trudeau’s minority government could be re-elected as was a minority government in 1965, one before Pierre Trudeau’s.

The NDP and the Liberals have the common goal of implementing Pharmacare. Both parties campaigned on bringing the much-needed plan into reality.

Canada is an anomaly among nations. We are the only industrialized country with a universal public health care system but no Pharmacare. Every study of Canada’s health care has identified the lack of Pharmacare as a major gap in our system. Medicare without drug coverage doesn’t even make sense. What good is a health care system that prescribes drugs but doesn’t cover them?

Justin Trudeau’s minority government should look to the accomplishments of minority governments before his father’s. Lester Pearson’s Liberals implemented universal health care with the cooperation of the NDP. And his minority government was so successful that it was re-elected as a minority government with back-to-back Liberal minority governments following elections in 1963 and 1965.

How fitting is it that this minority government complete the Medicare program started by minority governments, a goal not attempted by his father.

Sunny ways are here again

A new day is dawning across the land. Stephen Harper is banished to the shadows and “sunny ways” are peeking into the windows of the blue riding of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo.

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Justin Trudeau, in his victory speech, chose not the words of his famous father but Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. Laurier had characteristics that many regard as distinctly Canadian: a conciliator and compromiser, one of the longest serving prime ministers in history from 1896 to 1911.

Laurier once said, when resolving conflict: “If it were in my power, I would try the sunny way… of patriotism, asking… to be just and to be fair, asking… to be generous to the minority, in order that we may have peace among all creeds and races.”

Sunny ways are infusing the defeated Conservatives. After the election, Harper lieutenant Jason Kenney told the national press that the Conservatives had been too negative. “I think our obvious weakness has been in tone, in the way we’ve often communicated our messages. I think we need a conservatism that is sunnier and more optimistic than we have sometimes conveyed.”

Reelected MP Cathy McLeod echoed the sentiment. “One of the things Jason Kenney said — sunnier ways — perhaps would have been more enticing,” she told Kamloops This Week.

As well as getting used to being in opposition rather than in government, McLeod is going to have to get used to expressing her own opinions rather than echoing the party line. As a former nurse, I’m sure she has a lot so say about protecting and improving our public health care system. Now she can happily champion health care –that’s the new way.

After being under the thumb of Harper for so long, the new freedom will require some adjustment. But McLeod might be more effective in opposition than she ever was in government.

While sunny ways may seem a bit Pollyannaish, Canadians are ready for a return to true Canadian values; distinctly different from the thuggish ways of Harper’s Canada.

Jaime Watt, political analyst and panelist on CBC’s The Insiders, characterizes what sunny ways look like:

“In electing Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to a majority government, Canadians are seeking a return to the values they believe have traditionally defined our society: civility, kindness, inclusion, collaboration. This quest to feel good about ourselves will inform how the new government’s policies and actions, in every sector, will be judged.”

Watt’s research firm, Ensight Canada, conducted focus groups across Canada before and after the election. They found that Canadians were not necessarily rejecting Conservatives but instead Harper. “Rather, they were repudiating a leader and a tone that did not align with who they aspire to be. That was particularly true for first-generation citizens who expressed a strong sense of what it means to be Canadian.”

Harper’s brand of Conservatism has been an aberration. His iron fist brought Progressive Conservatives and the prairie populist Reform Party together with a cost. The Harper government was neither progressive nor grassroots.

The only way the Conservative Party can regroup is under a banner that recognizes Canada as an open and caring society.