Deal between federal NDP and Liberals could have political implications in Sask., expert says

Politicians and an expert from Saskatchewan are weighing in after the Liberal Party of Canada announced a supply and confidence agreement with the federal New Democratic Party (NDP). 

Federal agreement might become a problem for provincial NDP, says U of R prof. emeritus

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Politicians and an expert from Saskatchewan are weighing in after the Liberal Party of Canada announced a supply and confidence agreement with the federal New Democratic Party (NDP). 

The Liberals agreed to launch a new dental care program for some Canadians and advance some other NDP priorities in exchange for support until 2025. The agreement was presented to NDP MPs for a vote late Monday night.

According to a release from the prime minister's office, the proposed dental program would start with under-12-year-olds this year, then expand to under-18-year-olds, seniors and persons living with a disability in 2023. Full implementation would be rolled out in 2025.

The federal deal would also see a Canada Pharmacare Act passed by the end of 2023.

"The different policies will play out differently with different groups," said Howard Leeson, professor emeritus of political sciences at the University of Regina.

"I suspect that those people, young parents for example who are thinking about dental care, would be in favour of this."

The federal agreement is not a coalition deal, and no NDP MPs will sit at the cabinet table.

The dental program was a key plank of the NDP's 2021 campaign platform.

"We should realize that this kind of deal-making goes on in a minority parliament all the time," said Leeson.

However, the NDP's agreement neither to move a vote of non-confidence nor to vote for a non-confidence motion put forward by other parties during the term of the arrangement makes this deal different, he said.

'A vote for Jagmeet Singh is a vote for Justin Trudeau,' says Conservative MP in Sask.

The agreement will give the federal government more stability, said Leeson, and might mean a longer wait for another federal election for the Conservative Party.

"It still remains to be seen," said Andrew Scheer, former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

"We can't control what other parties decide to do or what other leaders decide to do. But what we can control is our message to voters."

The MP for Regina—Qu'Appelle said on Tuesday his party will focus on policies, however long the current parliament will last.

Andrew Scheer is the MP for Regina—Qu'Appelle in Saskatchewan and the former Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. (Laura Sciarpelletti/CBC)

Scheer also criticized the NDP for its deal with the Liberals, saying the agreement will further alienate Western Canada from Ottawa and disappoint NDP voters.

"If I were an NDP voter, I'd be especially upset," he said. 

"What this tells people in Saskatchewan is that if you're upset at Justin Trudeau's treatment of our province …  then you can no longer even consider the NDP because the NDP will just prop it up. A vote for Jagmeet Singh is a vote for Justin Trudeau."

Reactions from Moe and Meili

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe first reacted to the deal with a comment on Twitter, connecting the federal agreement with the Saskatchewan NDP's leadership race.

"I see @Sask_NDP  has its new leader…Justin Trudeau," wrote Moe.

Leeson said the response was very partisan but not unexpected in the context of Saskatchewan politics.

"For the NDP provincially, I think, there may be a bit of a problem," he said.

"The Saskatchewan Party will be able to brand them, if you will, with any federal policy that they dislike."

This might become a longer term problem for the Saskatchewan NDP, added Leeson.

Talking with reporters at the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, Moe called the federal deal a "quiet takeover" of the NDP by the Liberals, and that the New Democratic Party has "given Justin Trudeau specifically what Canadians did not provide him with in the last election, and that's a majority government."

Moe said he is also concerned about the federal government mingling in provincial affairs, saying dental and drug programs are areas of provincial jurisdiction.

Leader of the Opposition Ryan Meili spoke with reporters on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. (CBC Saskatchewan)

Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Ryan Meili said he doesn't know if the decision will be good for the NDP in the long run, adding it's a decision that was made at the federal level without him.

Both Meili and Leeson agreed that historically the smaller party in these kinds of political agreements often doesn't do well in following elections. 

"The difficulty for the smaller party is that it's kind of a short-term gain for long-term pain," said Leeson.

While Meili supports certain policies such as pharmacare or dental care, the Saskatchewan NDP does not always agree with the federal NDP, said Meili.

"If you look at Saskatchewan politics these days, there's only really one party that takes their marching orders fully from Ottawa," he said. "That's the Sask Party. Whether it's Stephen Harper or Andrew Scheer or Skippy [Pierre Poilievre], whatever they say. If they say, 'Jump', Scott Moe says, 'How high?'"


Theresa Kliem


Theresa Kliem is a journalist with CBC Saskatoon. She is an immigrant to Canada and loves telling stories about people in Saskatchewan. Email

With files from Catharine Tunney and Laura Sciarpelletti