Trudeau’s gamble sealed O’Toole and Paul’s fates
Despite similar results, new Parliament will bring major changes to power dynamics

Justin Trudeau has been re-elected for his third consecutive term after a snap election heavily criticized by the public. Trudeau will face an uphill battle in Parliament with yet another minority government very similar to the one he was working with previously. This has left pundits wondering if this was nothing but a $612-million cabinet re-shuffle. In the meantime, Erin O’Toole’s future as leader of the Conservative party is on a tightrope after disappointing election results caused his caucus to lose key seats.

Despite the fact that early polls heavily favoured the Liberal party, the party’s campaign trail quickly became a battleground with the Conservative party, which gained support rapidly. What was a comfortable lead quickly became a tight race after Trudeau failed to explain why the election was called. Instead, Trudeau filled the gaps with wedge issues on matters all major parties supported, and these attempts at distraction turned the election into nothing more than a re-run of 2019. Nonetheless, Trudeau described these results as a “clear mandate” from Canadians to continue working on a post-pandemic response.

Trudeau might not be going anywhere anytime soon, but the election results reflect the discontent of Canadians following the snap election. The Liberals were not the only party that fell short of achieving its electoral goals — in fact, no party got what they wanted.

Leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Jagmeet Singh aimed to form the first NDP federal government, but only increased his seat count by one member of Parliament. Further, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet fell short of his 40-seat goal. Despite such low improvement that resulted from expensive campaigning, senior party officials and supporters from their respective parties are expected to continue supporting Singh and Blanchet for at least another two years. On the other hand, O’Toole might not be facing the same fate.

O’Toole and his centrist campaign were able to win the popular vote for the Conservative party but unable to translate that support into parliamentary seats. Despite doing considerably well in Atlantic Canada, Conservative support fell by roughly 14 per cent in Alberta — a Conservative stronghold. This was likely due to the lack of a coherent pandemic response from the current United Conservative Party Premier Jason Kenney.

Conservatives were also affected by the rise in support for the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), whose “social-conservative” proposals against pandemic mandates and pro-conversion therapy stance tilted certain voters to the far right. Despite not winning any seats in the House of Commons, the PPC vote split played a tie-breaking role that allowed the Liberals to win certain ridings. O’Toole faces an uncertain future as members of the Conservative party are calling for a leadership review.

O’Toole has argued the review will allow the party to evaluate its flaws after decreasing its seat count by two MPs. However, one question for the Conservatives remains: was moving to the centre the right path?

On the other hand, Paul — whose campaign was filled with controversy from the start — ended up fourth in her Toronto Centre riding. The Green party, which was blooming under Elizabeth May’s leadership, regressed to only two MPs. As a result, Paul officially stepped down as party leader despite her short run in the position.

As the newly elected parliamentarians head back to Ottawa, the Liberals have a long list of campaign promises to fulfill and they can’t do it without support from opposition parties. Trudeau, who branded his party as the only viable progressive option, will have to schmooze with the NDP or Bloc Québécois to turn his promises into action.

Singh promised in his concession speech to continue pushing for the expansion of health care to include dental services, the creation of universal pharmacare, an end to for-profit long-term care and viable solutions for the housing crisis. The NDP has also vowed to continue fighting to provide Indigenous communities like Neskantaga with clean water — a promise Trudeau failed to keep after his victory in 2015.

While Blanchet and the Bloc Québécois have said they’ll support anything that benefits Quebec, they have tended to support progressive policies that emphasize taxing high-income earners and support environmental protection.

This means we can expect the Liberals to swing more to the left in this Parliament.

On the other hand, O’Toole said he will fight for unity and will be putting Canada first while leading his caucus. He also emphasized rebranding the Conservative party. However, the Conservative party is facing an uphill battle with the uncertain future of its centrist leader and lack of allies inside Parliament to make significant contributions.

With big promises to keep on the housing crisis, reconciliation, the climate emergency and a post-pandemic recovery, parliamentarians should be more than busy. The policy determined in this Parliament will be a threshold moment in history.