Is Jagmeet Singh a traitor? Two weeks ago, the federal New Democratic Party leader was visiting the campaign headquarters of a Peterborough NDP candidate running in the current Ontario provincial election. As he emerged from this building he was accosted by a group of very angry and very aggressive men and women who sought to block him from getting into his car.
They hurled verbal, racist abuse at him, screaming profanities in his face. CBC film of this altercation picked up protestors yelling Youre a fking piece of st, youre a traitor, I hope you die.
This counts as political discourse now in Canada, at least from some of those on the extreme right. Singh eventually made it to his car unhurt but local police warned that the behavior exhibited by these protestors bordered on the criminal.
And why was he called a traitor? Because these protestors were enraged at the Liberal-NDP supply and confidence agreement signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Singh in March.
I wrote about this development in federal politics in a recent Political Insights column. As I noted then, these parties now will work together to improve federal policies in seven key areas including health care, climate change, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and election reform.
Both parties have also consented to maintain this arrangement until the summer of 2025, providing this Liberal minority government with political stability for the next three years.
Conservatives from Candice Bergen, interim leader of the Conservative Party, to Conservative Party leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre, to the protestors confronting Singh, have slammed the deal as an NDP-Liberal attempt at government by blackmail. This deal is said to be undemocratic, unconstitutional, and the establishment of a socialist-liberal coalition of power.
None of this is true.
I dealt with the coalition issue in my earlier article. Here, its important for people to understand how and why minority parliaments, those when no single party has a majority of seats in the House of Commons, can arrive at such agreements between two or more parties to create the conditions whereby a minority government can survive for a set period of time, while developing policies and programs desired by these parties.
When people elect a minority parliament, as we did for the second time in a row last fall, its a sign that we voters, collectively, are unwilling to give one party a majority government. But its also a sign that many expect like-minded parties to make a minority government work for the interests of Canadians.
Hence such confidence and supply agreements. And this recent federal example is not unique in Canadian political history.
While such agreements are rare because minority governments are rare, they have been witnessed in various provinces. In 1985, in Ontario, a provincial election saw the governing Progressive Conservatives reduced to a minority government. Within weeks of this vote a Liberal-NDP Accord was struck whereby these parties would vote non-confidence in the Conservative government, leading to the creation of a new Liberal government committed to progressive social and economic policies. This agreement lasted for 24 months and was widely popular with Ontarians.
In 2017, in British Columbia, a similar development transpired after a provincial election resulted in a minority Liberal government. But here, the NDP and the Greens came together to establish an accord that would see the establishment of a New Democratic Party minority government rooted to support from the Greens. Again, this agreement, designed to last four years, witnessed the promotion of a host of progressive policies supported by a majority of British Columbians.
In all these cases, such political agreements are legal, constitutional, democratic, and fully in keeping with parliamentary government. Its very sad today when we see some ordinary Canadians, and certain political leaders who should know better, use misinformation and deliberate ignorance as political weapons in their quest for influence and power.
Dr. David Johnson, Ph.D., teaches political science at Cape Breton University. He can be reached at [emailprotected]
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