The ‘Browning’ of Canadian Politics

Justin Trudeau’s second coming may not be as rosy as the first time around. After losing the majority vote, Trudeau is faced with some challenges. Will his charm offensive see him through another term?

Background 

While Justin Trudeau has cause to celebrate, as he will continue to be the Prime Minister of Canada, he has enough cause that this win was not all that was.  Political speculations had suggested that Trudeau might not win another term as the sheen had worn off the “internet’s boyfriend.” This time around Trudeau faces some significant challenges from an increasing nationalist movement in Quebec, the struggling energy sector in Saskatchewan and Alberta and the resurgent popularity of the Conservative party.

An aspect that was interesting is the role of kingmaker being played by second-generation Indo-Canadian Jagmeet Singh of New Democratic Party (NDP).

Analysis 

Scion of a powerful political family, his second inning was not assured by his political credentials.  There was a strong anti-incumbency wave and his support for immigration were considered against national interests. His political correctness came under a cloud and on issues of racial integration, he came across as too superficial and at times hypocritical.

Justin Trudeau will be at the helm in a minority government (156 seats) with the support of NDP (24 seats).  Short of 13 seats, Liberal Party has been able to just about cobble together a ruling majority.  Jagmeet Singh, a 40-year old human rights lawyer and practising Sikh, is the first person of colour to lead a political party in Canada’s history.  The NDP is historically known to occupy the left of the political spectrum. 

The partnership between the NDP and the Liberal party is fraught with conditions. On the NDP’s agenda are some issues that are on high priority such as affordable housing and a national pharma-care plan which attempts to tax the ultra-rich to make it feasible.  The Liberal Party has a poor record of climate change policies and it supports the extension of the $4.5 billion Tran-mountain oil pipeline both of which are opposed by the NDP.   

Trudeau also faces significant challenges in keeping Canadian unity in-tact with growing demands for autonomy in Quebec. The Bloc Québécois a party committed to the cause of Quebec has gained prominence in this election and is willing to cooperate with the Liberal party. However, while doing so the recently elected party leader Yves-Francois Blanchet’s has not diluted his commitment to Quebec sovereignty. 

Climate change issues which demand action on part of the highly influential oil industry are another cause for political friction.  The oil and energy sector, faced with falling prices, is losing in its revenues due to tighter environmental laws.  This has affected the Liberal Party’s electoral base in Western Canada, namely Saskatchewan and Alberta provinces-the home of the oil industry who feel that they were marginalised during the election campaign. Huge companies like Husky Energy Inc have laid off many of its employees post the election result. 

The Conservative party won a higher vote share but secured only 122 seats.  Clinching the popular vote was a moral victory for its leader Andrew Scheer who was under the scanner for his insurance deals and the fact that he has dual citizenship- Canada and US.  But it bodes well for the party in the next elections.

When voted to power for the first time, Trudeau was the poster boy of Canadian politics.  Inheriting a huge budget deficit and falling oil revenues, a principal source of Canada’s revenue, Trudeau represented a refreshing alternative to the incumbent Conservative Party.  At the time, Canada was facing a huge refugee crisis and Trudeau promised to take in at least 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the crisis. As of today, Canada still struggles with the refugee influx, from illegal border entries. 

The Trudeau led leadership is also to be credited with some major legislative achievements such as legalising marijuana and putting in place an effective Carbon Tax. 

There have been some major dents to his seemingly flawless image as well, the biggest of which was the SNC- Lavalin scandal, where it was alleged that Canada’s first indigenous attorney general was sidelined because she refused to undermine the independence of her office by granting a politically well-connected firm a pass on corruption charges. 

Trudeau was also a source of great embarrassment in Canada for dressing in an outlandish outfit while touring India. Most recently, the TIME magazine published photographs depicting Trudeau dressed in an Aladdin costume, painted in a brown face. The ‘brown face’ controversy dogged him throughout his campaign.

Assessment 

  • The second time around, Trudeau will have use considerable political manoeuvring to ensure legislative action on any matter. The dependence on Left parties with some conflicting agendas will make this a very tough term. 
  •  Historically, a minority government in Canada has had a shelf life of less than 24 months, in all likelihood, Canada may head back to polls within the next two years.  A minority government to survive will require negotiation with other parties and this may deter Canada’s international operations such as peacekeeping. 
  • The rise of the Conservative party is an aspect that the liberal party needs to be aware of.  Trudeau must deliver on a lot more than he did the last term and the Canadian voter may have just given him a second lease but may not be as tolerant as previously. Trudeau is most likely to face the heat of a judicial inquiry in the SNC-Lavalin scandal during this term. 
  • The Canadian Premier must rework his public image. His inherent charm is wearing off and he must be more cautious while putting on a costume lest he is branded as a racially insensitive, cultural appropriator who puts on a gimmick to keep the voters happy.    

India Watch

The Sikh community in Canada has a strong support base for Khalistan. The community, despite its small size, has sent 18 MPs to the parliament in this election. There are reports that on various occasions, Jagmeet Singh has been a supporter of the Khalistan movement. With increased influence in the functioning of the Government, this may have a negative impact on Indo-Canadian relations which even today can best be described as lukewarm.

Image Courtesy: livemint.com

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