Canada held its second election in less than two years and all we got was more of the same, or did we?
As far as federal elections are concerned, the 44th Election was one of the least eventful I can recall in my 30-plus years of monitoring and working on campaigns; this despite the fact that it took place during the fourth wave of the COVID pandemic. In fact, I suspect that most Canadians will have forgotten about yesterday’s election before all the mail-in ballots have been counted. With barely one-third of the country supporting the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau will form the next government and continue to be Canada’s Prime Minister for the foreseeable future. Many pundits will argue that nothing of consequence was accomplished during this election, with only small changes to the number of seats for each party and a deja-vu minority Parliament that will continue with business as usual until the Throne Speech.
However, I would argue that something important did happen during this campaign – Canadians now know who Erin O’Toole is and he has a solid base of supporters on which to build his next campaign.
Of course, this simple fact does not mean that Mr. O’Toole becomes the Prime Minister in waiting, but it does mean that he may quickly become a viable alternative to Prime Minister Trudeau if his support holds, which can be a powerful factor in any minority Parliament. I expect the next parliamentary session to be a lot more heated than the one previous and threats to bring down the government will hamper the Liberals from accomplishing many of their election promises.
It would be easy for the Liberals to take this win as an endorsement of their plan and their government and continue with their agenda. That would be a mistake. I suspect the smart people around Prime Minister Trudeau (and he has many) will be arguing for a “reset” of their agenda and communications efforts, as well as an injection of humility given the fact that the vast majority of Canadians voted for a party other than the Liberals. I would watch for a balanced Throne Speech and a spring Budget with a “sprinkling” of NDP policy ideas included to ensure the Budget Bill passes.
With respect to Erin O’Toole, assuming his caucus continues to support his leadership, he can now focus on building his base of support across the country, raising money, differentiating himself from the Liberals and ultimately finding the right time to bring down the minority Liberal government and signalling the start of the 45th general election.
Bliss Baker is former chief of staff to the northern development and mines minister in addition to being an advisor to two Prime Ministers and various elected officials. Bliss also has extensive private sector experience as Vice President of the Canadian Bankers Association, public relations experience in the pipeline industry, President of a national industry association, and various leadership positions in the public affairs arena.