Now What?

Welcome to our special issue on the results and aftermath of the 2019 election, probably the most bothersome campaign of the modern era, which produced one of the most interesting outcomes—a minority Parliament in which no single opposition party holds the balance of power.

The unveiling of the Liberal-minority ministry on November 20 was more like a Cabinet shuffle than the swearing-in of a new government—with one exception, the emergence of Chrystia Freeland as a uniquely powerful second-in-command.

As deputy prime minister and minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Freeland is clearly “At the Centre”, as we say in the caption for our cover package, in which our fascinating lead articles are focused on her.

It wasn’t long before Freeland was meeting provincial and territorial leaders to hear them out on challenges facing the second Trudeau government. Far from the “sunny ways” proclaimed by Justin Trudeau in 2015, the numbers of the new Parliament reflect linguistic and regional divisions as old and profound as Confederation itself—English and French, East and West.

It’s a situation made for a leader like Freeland—an Alberta girl born and raised, she now represents Toronto Rosedale, perhaps the most cosmopolitan neighbourhood in the country. Along the way, she’s studied at Harvard and Oxford, worked at the upper levels of global journalism in Moscow, London and New York as well as Toronto, written bestselling books and raised three children to adolescence.

And she wasn’t long on the new job when her retained responsibility for Canada-U.S. relations came to the fore with the re-signing of the updated North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Mexico. Expanding on an agreement reached only last year with the Trump administration, the new deal could be called NAFTA 2.5. There was Freeland, “At the Centre” of it all. 

Our lead foreign affairs writer, Jeremy Kinsman, has known Freeland for a quarter century, from their overlapping posts abroad, he as ambassador to Moscow and high commissioner to London, while she was creating a remarkable career in journalism. As Kinsman writes: “it’s worthwhile to look back at who she is, where she’s from, and what she’s done.” He’s got the whole story.

Veteran Liberal strategist John Delacourt writes that with the newly updated NAFTA, “Freeland’s political capital is both affirmed and enhanced around the cabinet table.”

And the opposition Conservatives, since Andrew Scheer’s sudden resignation in mid-December, find themselves in a real leadership race, a story fast developing over the holidays. Yaroslav Baran looks at the way ahead, and the one behind where Scheer was let off at the side of the road.

Tom Axworthy knows a lot about the difference between majority and minority governments, having worked in both categories in Pierre Trudeau’s office during the 1972-74 Liberal minority, and during the subsequent Trudeau majority of 1974, followed by the Joe Clark Conservative minority of 1979. When the Liberals regained majority territory in 1980, Axworthy stayed on as Trudeau’s principal secretary from 1981-84. Of minority governments, Axworthy writes: “Representation of the regions is crucial, but so, too, are policy outcomes.”

Robin Sears looks at the history of minority governments and concludes that the 1963-68 Liberal-NDP alliance set the standard for progressive and productive legacies. The partnership between Lester B. Pearson and NDP Leader Tommy Douglas was about nation-building, resulting in achievements such as Medicare, the Canada-Quebec Pension Plan, new federal-provincial fiscal arrangements, and the Maple Leaf Canadian flag. 

Graham Fraser writes of the similarity between François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government, conservative nationalists along the lines of Maurice Duplessis, as the model for Yves-François Blanchet’s Bloc Québécois deputation rather than the former sovereigntist-leaning Bloc.

Sarah Goldfeder, a former U.S. diplomat in Ottawa, writes that “Canada’s reliability as a partner and ally is often taken for granted. But that is no small part of the intrinsic value of Canada to the United States—that it acts predictably in the best interests of North America.” 

Investment executive Chand Sooran writes that the Liberals have promises to keep with Indigenous Peoples on social procurement, and points to a well-developed system in the U.S. under the federal Small Business Administration and states such as New York.

Finally, columnist Don Newman looks at the issues on the bonfires of Trump and Brexit, and takes comfort from the fact that we’ve been here before.

In Canada and the World, we offer a thoughtful article on our changing political environment from Chamber of Commerce President Perrin Beatty, adapted from Western University’s Thomas d’Aquino Lecture.

Elizabeth May’s column offers a situational update on climate change—from Paris to Madrid. And in a notable Verbatim, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney looks at the many current challenges of the environment and says: “There still is place for daring in the Canadian soul.”