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The Liberal-NDP deal changed the dynamic on Parliament Hill


A confidence and supply agreement reached between the Liberals and the NDP three months ago changed the dynamic of the House of Commons, even in a parliamentary session that will be remembered mainly for the impeachment of another leader conservative and the increased polarization of Canadian politics by a convoy against pandemic restrictions.

The deal, however, means MPs head out for the summer barbecue and parade circuit without having to prepare for a known or potential federal election in the fall for the first time in four years.

The NDP and the Liberals describe the agreement as a success so far. For the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois, the agreement was a source of frustration, excluding them from many negotiations in the House because the Liberals no longer had to wonder which opposition party would be their dancing partner.

Under the deal announced March 22, the NDP has offered to support the government on most confidence votes and the Liberals have agreed to cooperate on some NDP priorities.

In the months that followed, the NDP did vote with the government on confidence bills, including the budget, but also on a number of non-confidence issues. New Democrat MPs have helped the government limit debate on some bills and push through others, including controversial amendments to the Broadcasting Act in the House and Senate.

The Liberals followed through on some NDP priorities, including including a national dental program in the federal budget and some housing programs.

On Wednesday, the Leader of the Government in the House, Mark Holland, played down the effect of the agreement, saying the main impact is “to ensure the stability of Parliament”.

“There is so little in the supply and confidence agreement,” he said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday he believed the deal was working as he had hoped and was confident it would continue to deliver on NDP priorities over the coming months.

But he warned that if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failed to deliver on his promises, he would be prepared to withdraw NDP support for the minority Liberal government. He said he intended to push the government to do more to help Canadians struggling with the brunt of near-record inflation.

“We made it clear that we also needed additional support,” he said. “The agreement sets a floor…but it doesn’t set a ceiling for what we can ask for or what we can fight for.”

Singh and Trudeau met several times, as required by the agreement, and the cooperation and information sharing between the parties would have been good.

Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, said from his perspective the deal energized Trudeau and the Liberals, who could push forward on their priorities without the constant threat of being defeated.

“I think it spurred her on a bit,” Oliphant said in an interview. “I see him really engaged in the last two months, whereas there were a few months where I wasn’t sure he was that engaged.”

Oliphant said the deal had the opposite effect on Tories, setting them “adrift”.

“What this does is it cuts the wind from the Conservatives’ sails, because they know they are not in a position to defeat us easily,” he said. “And I think they don’t know what to do with it.”

Opposition House Leader John Brassard expressed somewhat similar sentiments in a scrum with reporters on Tuesday.

“There’s no doubt about that in my mind, it definitely changed the whole dynamic of our particular management team,” he said.

The Conservatives are characterizing the confidence and supply agreement as a coalition government of the NDP and the Liberals, effectively giving the Liberals the majority they failed to win in the 2021 election.

It also meant the end of any discussions the Liberals had with the Conservatives, Brassard said.

“The official opposition was effectively excluded,” he said. “We were the last to hear about a lot of things happening in the House of Commons because the Liberals would just go to the NDP and say, ‘This is what we want to do’ and get their agreement.”

There have been occasional signs of cooperation between more than one party, with all MPs voting in favor of legislation ensuring that older people receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement and COVID-19 benefits do not have money. recovered.

Amid it all, the Tories were embroiled in internal strife, as their third leadership race in six years laid bare deep divisions within the party.

Erin O’Toole was elected caucus leader in early February as a convoy of Canadians blocked streets around Parliament Hill and multiple border crossings, demanding everything from an end to all COVID-19 restrictions to the ousting of Trudeau.

The convoy has colored much of the political landscape throughout 2022. Ongoing investigations and committee hearings into the government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act add to the tension.

The government is accused of withholding information that could explain its rationale for the Emergencies Act. Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino is in hot water for saying that the police had asked for the law to be invoked, which was contradicted by both the police and his own colleague, the Minister of Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair.

Movement on Liberal bills has been slow. Only four major bills passed between Christmas and Wednesday, and one of them – the fall economic statement – ​​took so long that some Canadians had to wait weeks for refunds. tax that could not be processed until new tax credits were made official.

The budget bill and new legislation that has been fast-tracked in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling on the use of extreme intoxication as a criminal defense are expected to pass before the start of summer recess.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 23, 2022.