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After two years, what future for the PLC-NPD agreement?

Photo: Don Mackinnon Agence France-Presse and Adrian Wyld The Canadian Press, Editing: Le Devoir

Two years after the conclusion of a “support and confidence agreement”, the Liberal Party of Canada (PLC) and the New Democratic Party (NDP) are still benefiting from it: almost all demands of the New Democrats have been carried out or are being carried out, and the Trudeau government can continue to govern in complete peace for another year.

Signed in March 2022, the agreement ensures the minority Liberal government the support of NDP MPs during confidence votes, including that on the budget. In exchange, the PLC agreed to implement a list of NDP priorities.

Behind the scenes, a NDP source close to the discussions believes that, although negotiations with the Liberals have often been “frustrating” and “tense”, his party has managed to hold its own until NOW. “It’s definitely been profitable overall. It allowed us to seek results and demonstrate what a New Democratic government could look like,” she says.

According to the compilation of Devoir, only 3 demands out of the 27 included in the original agreement have still not received a response from the from the Trudeau government.

Among the biggest pieces that were called for by the NDP: a bill on pharmacare and a national dental plan that will extend to low-income Canadians by 2025. agreement on this first point was an important condition for maintaining the understanding between the two parties, which must end in June 2025.

The Quebec government hastened to claim its right to withdraw with compensation from the drug insurance plan – and to receive its share of federal money “without conditions” -, arguing that health care is a of provincial jurisdiction. Quebec also refused to join Ottawa's new dental care program.

Negotiations on pharmacare had been particularly heated, with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh describing the exercise with the Liberals as an attempt to “catch eels covered in oil.” The bill was finally tabled in the House on February 29.

The agreement also led to the deployment of numerous policies, such as 10 days of paid sick leave for all federally regulated workers, the introduction of an anti-scab bill or further investment in Indigenous housing.

“The New Democrats can claim a number of victories, things that Canadian citizens and taxpayers might not have achieved had the deal not been reached.” indicates François Rocher, professor at the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa.

The member for Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, Alexandre Boulerice, the only elected New Democrat in Quebec, does not hesitate to promote the measures resulting from the agreement on his website. Several links lead to reports dealing with recent government announcements on housing or the popularity of the dental insurance plan in Quebec.

Breaking the deal

Despite progress on the majority of issues, the NDP intends to maintain pressure to ensure the realization of the remaining demands, such as the development of a law on the security of long-term care for seniors. This is a “big piece that hasn’t even been started,” points out the NDP source. “We haven’t even seen the draft of the law. »

Even if the party recognizes that calling early elections could compromise the success of many policies it supports, it now feels less hesitant to break the agreement. Last month, Jagmeet Singh threatened to cut ties with the Liberals if the bill on a universal drug insurance plan was not presented before March 1. He also issued an ultimatum to the Trudeau government to respect its commitment regarding the dental care program.

“In 2023, the long-term dental care program was not in place. So it was more difficult to leave the agreement. We would have lost the opportunity to implement it, explains the NDP source. As our [requests] are pretty much all started [now], there are fewer reasons to hold us back if we ever need to [leave the agreement]. »

The next federal election is scheduled for October 2025, but could be called before that date if the NDP ceases to ensure the survival of the Trudeau government.

Three years of stability

No Liberal spokesperson wished to grant an interview to Devoir to discuss the results of the support and confidence agreement with the New Democrats.

In the opinion of Professor François Rocher, there is no doubt that the agreement benefited the NDP more. The Liberals have especially been able to enjoy peace of mind since the last elections, he explains. “The initial objective of the Trudeau government was to ensure a certain stability in the House of Commons and to ensure that it would not be defeated in a confidence vote. We can say that it worked, and there is nothing to indicate today that it will work in the coming months. »

In fact, next month the Trudeau government will become the second minority government in Canadian history for sustainability, after that of William Lyon Mackenzie King in the 1920s.

The Liberals have been in free fall in national polls for several months, while the NDP has roughly managed to maintain the support it garnered during the 2021 general election. So, if elections were held today, 41% of voters would vote for the Conservatives, compared to 23% for the Liberals. The PLC's support is comparable to that of the NDP, which would obtain 19% of the vote.

According to the latest Abacus poll, Pierre Poilievre's conservatives are still ahead of the liberals by 17 points. The Liberals and New Democrats therefore have no interest in plunging the country into elections any time soon.

“There is a political cost to bringing down the government if Canadians don’t want an election. I don’t think we’re there at the moment,” argues François Rocher.

Before the holidays, Prime Minister Trudeau declared that the next campaign would follow the fixed-date election schedule and would take place in the fall of 2025. But it is still possible that the New Democrats will benefit from a major blunder by the Liberal government to put an end to the agreement between the two parties. “Right now the NDP has nothing to gain, but if the Liberals do something very unpopular, the New Democrats can take their chance by telling Canadians that they can no longer allow this government to govern,” adds Professor Rocher.

The NDP's withdrawal from the agreement would not automatically trigger early elections. The party would then evaluate each policy individually before voting, as the Bloc Québécois already does, which has more seats than the NDP in the House of Commons.

Even if he does not regret the agreement reached with Justin Trudeau two years ago, Jagmeet Singh has already ruled out the possibility of forming a coalition government with the Liberals if no party obtains a clear majority in the next federal election.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116