Prominent Liberals and New Democrats in the Northwest Territories said this week that a new agreement forged between the two national parties should be positive for Northerners with prospects for a more stable Parliament.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on March 22 that he had reached a supply-and-confidence agreement between his 160-seat minority government and the 25-seat New Democratic Party.
The deal will see Trudeau’s Liberal party backed with enough support from the NDP to defeat any non-confidence vote, allowing the government to remain in place into 2025.
Michael McLeod, MP for the NWT, said there’s enough overlap and mutual interest on several items proposed by his government that both parties have recognized the need to work together to deliver what residents want.
“I think this agreement is going to allow us to advance some of our key policies, so I’m very pleased to see that,” McLeod said. “These two parties (NDP and Liberal) have had the support of the majority of Canadians, especially from Northerners since 1988, with either a Liberal or NDP member of Parliament being sent to Ottawa. Working together on shared policies and pathways can only result in better outcomes for Canadians.”
Two of the most important policy objectives for McLeod have been improving housing and advancing Indigenous reconciliation. He also mentioned the need to implement child care, pharmacare, dental care and address climate change.
With so much work to be done and with most minority parliaments only lasting 18 to 24 months, he said it only makes sense to maximize the amount of time to deliver results.
“I hope we can work together in good faith for the next few years. Canadians aren’t looking for another election any time soon,” he said.
McLeod said his support for the arrangement is in line with his preference and familiarity with consensus government in the North, where it isn’t rare for people of different backgrounds to work collaboratively to maintain government.
“Why not take the uncertainty out of the minority Parliament — take it out of the picture — and work together?” he asked.
Dennis Bevington, McLeod’s predecessor who represented the NWT as NDP MP from 2006 to 2015, sat in two minority parliaments during his tenure.
He called the arrangement “a growing up of our politics in the House of Commons,” but admitted he was glad to see that the Bloc Quebecois, a separatist party, was not part of the deal.
In 2008, Bevington was part of a brief movement among opposition party leaders Stephane Dion and Jack Layton, with the support of Gilles Duceppe, to collaborate on enough seats to defeat the minority Conservative government in a non-confidence vote.
That effort, he admitted, was poorly managed and led to the proroguing of Parliament and an election call, which Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won.
He also pointed out that Justin’s father Pierre Trudeau as Prime Minister implemented most of his progressive policies while working with then-NDP leader David Lewis in a minority parliament from 1972 to 1974.
With the two parties working together this time, it may bring more of a progressive, philosophical focus to the Liberals, who Bevington says are usually driven by polls and focus groups.
“I think one of the reasons maybe why this agreement was announced right now is because there’s a budget coming out,” he said. “Certainly, in the budget that the Liberals produce, there will be evidence of whether they’re meeting or matching up to NDP expectations.
“I think we’re going to have stability in government for a while and I think that’s going to be a positive thing. We’ll just see how well the Liberals behave on this.”
Shane Pike, president of the NWT NDP, said the agreement is positive for the Northwest Territories and Canada. It allows his party to use its influence to force the Liberals to act on progressive policies that they have promised in the past, he suggested.
“Two of the key things that come out of this agreement are two key planks that we actually campaigned on and that was pharmacare and dental care,” he said. “So I think this agreement actually delivers on our campaign promises and I do see that this will benefit people in the Northwest Territories, especially when you consider there are a lot of people in the territory that don’t have coverage for medicine and dental.”
Pike said he has fielded questions already from supporters and constituents as to whether the NDP can remain effective as an opposition party to the government in light of this new arrangement. He said that that’s a fair concern but he remains optimistic that the party can still retain that role.
“It’s not a coalition, and it’s not an accord,” he pointed out. “It is an agreement that we have in place to try and essentially provide stability… We’ve heard from people last fall during the general election that they don’t want an election and they don’t want on a whim the government to be able to just pull the pin at any time.”