Sunday 6 October 2019

An economist speculates on politics

A Trudeau minority government may do some good things. But claims that such a minority would achieve all the goals of the smaller parties to whom it would be beholden are unfounded. I repeat the brief case I made in a twitter stream on October 6, 2019.

Tweet thread of October 6, 2019

I frequently hear claims that NDP and Green MPs will force a post-election minority Trudeau government to cancel TransMountain Pipeline Expansion, implement proportional representation, and rapidly intensify national climate policies. I am not a political scientist, but this thinking seems delusional to me.

Polls consistently show that either the Liberals or the Conservatives will lead the next government. Two out of three Canadians support one of these parties. And both parties support TMX and are unlikely to implement proportional representation without holding a referendum first.

If Canadians elect a minority government October 21, to survive it will most likely (1) negotiate on a bill-by-bill basis to prevent losing a confidence vote (like the Martin government of 2004-06 and the Harper government of 2006-11) or (2) negotiate a confidence agreement with a small party (like today’s governing agreement in BC between the NDP and Greens).

Federally, these types of agreements will not enable smaller parties representing just one third of voters (NDP, Greens, Bloc) to impose their will on the two parties who represent two thirds of voters. Why? Because the Liberals and Conservatives can join forces as necessary to prevent the smaller parties from getting their way on TMX, prop-rep and a radically more ambitious climate effort.

A Liberal minority, to maintain enough NDP and/or Green support to stay in power, might intensify its climate effort and agree to hold a referendum on proportional representation, just as in BC the NDP gave these concessions for Green support. But it is unlikely to halt TMX, just as the BC NDP didn’t halt the Site-C dam or LNG development in spite of Green opposition.

If the NDP and/or Greens make TMX their line in the sand for supporting a Trudeau minority, they risk triggering another election, which could produce a Conservative or Liberal majority. The Greens in BC understand this, which is why they sustain a gov that has done many things they support, in spite of its continuation with Site-C and LNG. 

Federal Greens and NDP might make strong, uncompromising statements now while campaigning in an election. But after an election their tone will change as they weigh the benefits of influencing policy under a minority Trudeau government versus the risk of forcing a second election that the Conservatives might win.

It is interesting to look at detailed opinion polls on these three key issues: TMX, proportional representation and climate policy effort. The percentage of Canadians intending to vote Liberal or Conservative is similar to the percentage who support TMX, who don’t support proportional representation, and who don’t seem to want to pay extra for more ambitious climate efforts (as indicated by current support levels for Conservatives and Liberals).

Sorry folks, but if Trudeau forms a minority government thanks to support of NDP and/or Greens, you still won’t get him to reverse the big decisions that so angered you – at least not until more Canadians adopt your views. That’s democracy.