Singh distances himself from coalition talk as campaign enters final week
'Our focus is on electing a progressive government, not a progressive opposition,' says Trudeau
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh appears to be stepping back from the idea of putting together a formal coalition government as the federal election campaign heads into its critical final week.
Asked by reporters on Sunday whether he'd "cobble up a coalition" with Justin Trudeau's Liberals in a minority government scenario, Singh replied, "Oh absolutely, because we're not going to support a Conservative government."
When asked the next day if the coalition talk was premature, Singh said, "That was not my position."
"My focus is not on a coalition. My focus is on this: If you vote New Democrat, you're going to get someone on your side," he said from Vancouver.
"I'm not negotiating the future today. Today I'm telling Canadians what they can do, and what they can do is this: If you vote for a New Democrat, you know our priorities and where we stand."
Singh, whose party is enjoying momentum in the polls, has been openly floating the idea of working with the Liberals if the incumbent party wins the most seats in the election but fails to secure a majority. That has stirred up a campaign conversation about coalition governments.
Opposition parties have supported minority governments on an issue-by-issue basis in past Parliaments, but formal coalitions are rare in Canada.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was repeatedly asked about Singh's pitch during a stop in NDP-friendly Windsor, Ont. Monday, but wouldn't publicly entertain the idea of a coalition government.
"Our focus is on electing a progressive government, not a progressive opposition, and ensuring that we stop Conservative cuts," he said.
"I think it's very clear to Canadians what happened under Stephen Harper when we had a strong NDP, when we had a strong Bloc — cuts to culture, cuts to services, cuts to veterans, nothing done on climate change and indeed a retreat from Kyoto."
According to CBC's Poll Tracker, an aggregation of all publicly available polling data, both the Conservatives and the Liberals are tracking below 33 per cent support countrywide — and it's looking increasingly unlikely that either party will be able to win enough seats to form a majority government.
Tories stir up coalition fears
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer quickly dismissed talk of a coalition government when questioned in Winnipeg today.
"My message to Canadians is this — only a Conservative majority government can prevent a government with Justin Trudeau as the spokesman but the NDP calling the shots," said Scheer.
"The choice is clear. It's between a Trudeau-NDP coalition that will drive up taxes, drive out jobs and cost you thousands of dollars more every year, and a new Conservative majority government that will lower your taxes and put more money in your pockets."
Scheer also appeared to rule out any formal coalition with the Bloc Québécois, which is experiencing a bump in the polls.
"I don't need to work with the Bloc Québécois to deliver results for Quebec," he said. "I can work with Premier [François] Legault to do that. We would not enter into any type of negotiations with the Bloc."
One of the most recent examples of a formal Canadian coalition existed in Saskatchewan back in 1999, when three Liberal MLAs were given portfolios in NDP Premier Roy Romanow's cabinet.
The Green Party in British Columbia helps to prop up the NDP government through a "confidence and supply agreement," meaning a guarantee of support for any budgets or confidence motions.
In 2008, the NDP and Liberals talked about forming a majority coalition with help from the Bloc in the hopes of toppling Stephen Harper's Conservatives on a vote of non-confidence a few weeks after the Oct. 2008 federal election.
However, that vote never happened because Harper requested, and was granted, prorogation of Parliament. Once Parliament reconvened in the new year, the Liberals distanced themselves from the deal.