With exactly 10 months until Canadians head to the polls, MJPS has rounded up some of the most important election-shaping events from the last month, along with a preview of what to expect in federal politics over the next month. Parliament has adjourned for the holidays, making next month rather slow. Luckily, last month gave us plenty of political spice to savour. The House will return on January 28, 2019.
1. Trudeau passes legislation forcing Canada Post workers back to work (November 26, 2018)
On November 26th, 2018, the Senate passed Trudeau’s Bill C-89, which ordered Canada Post employees back to work following their five-week rotating strike. The Canadian Union of Postal Workers is now challenging the federal government’s bill in court.
Large factions of Canada’s organized labour supported the Trudeau Liberals in 2015 in a strategic move to block the Harper Conservatives. By turning his back on organized labour in a way that is reminiscent of the Harper government in 2011, Trudeau risks losing the support of this important electoral coalition in 2019.
2. NDP crashes in Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes by-election (December 3, 2018)
On December 3rd, Conservative candidate Michael Barrett easily won a by-election in Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. The Conservative win was not surprising considering that Barrett was running to replace the recently deceased and highly popular Conservative MP Gord Brown.
Perhaps the more interesting story here is the NDP’s plummet in the vote share. In 2015, the party won 8.3 percent of the vote in the riding, which was already significantly less than its second-place finish in 2011. In this month’s by-election, the NDP won just three percent of the vote and garnered only 24 more votes than the Green party. If this by-election indicates anything, it’s that the federal NDP is in trouble heading into 2019.
3. PM Trudeau looks to ending arms trade with Saudi Arabia (December 16, 2018)
Following outcry over Saudi Arabian human rights abuses and the recent murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi, Trudeau has publicly considered ending Canada’s $15 billion arms trade deal with the country. On December 15, Trudeau told CTV that his government is exploring avenues for ending the sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
Pressure has been mounting against Trudeau, both to preserve the arms deal and to dismantle it. This high-profile situation puts Trudeau in a tough position, as the arms deal symbolizes Canada’s commitment to human rights or lack thereof. The highly public and the nature of the arms deal debate predicts its appearance over the course of the 2019 election. Whether the Liberals or the opposition parties own the issue may depend on Trudeau’s ultimate decision.
4. Results of B.C. Referendum on Electoral Reform released (December 20, 2018)
Results released yesterday reveal that British Columbians have, for the third time, rejected a move to shift the electoral system to proportional representation. 61.3 percent of ballots cast were in favour of maintaining the first past the post (FPTP) electoral system in place in the province, while the remaining votes were split among several alternatives presented to voters.
The results may have finally put to rest the question of changing the electoral system in British Columbia, with deputy premier Carole James announcing that “electoral reform is finished.” Consequently, the outcome may dampen the debate at the federal level. Reduced attention on the electoral reform debate would benefit Trudeau, who made electoral reform a key campaign promise in 2015 before abandoning the pledge less than two years later.
5. Alberta cuts to oil production take effect (January 1, 2019)
On December 2nd, 2018, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley announced cuts to oil production in the province. The new policy, which will cut production by roughly 8.7 percent, is set to take effect in January 2019. Premier Notley argues that the production cuts will help close the gap between the amount of oil the province is producing and the amount it can move to markets.
Notley’s new policy is a bargaining chip in the fight with Ottawa to put shovels to the ground on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion. Justin Trudeau faced mixed reviews after his controversial purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. If Notley continues to effectively criticize the Liberals’ alleged inaction on the pipeline, it could hurt Trudeau’s popularity among those in support of the pipeline, and in the West more generally.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and they do not reflect the position of the McGill Journal of Political Studies or the Political Science Students’ Association.
Feature image by Ishmael N. Daro, via Flickr Creative Commons.