The House

The election is over - what happens next?

This week on The House, defeated cabinet minster Ralph Goodale talks about where the Liberals went wrong and what's next for him. Three party strategists walk us through the workings of a minority Parliament. And we talk to three MPs about how pipelines and the environment will factor into this session.

With a minority government heading to Parliament Hill, how will the parties work through the tough issues?

Ralph Goodale was defeated in Monday's election. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode49:18

Goodale calls for Liberal outreach in Western Canada 

Former Liberal cabinet minister Ralph Goodale says his party has a lot of urgent work to do to prove to western provinces that the Trudeau government understands their needs.

Goodale, who has served as an MP on and off since 1974, lost his Regina-Wascana seat on Monday night as the Liberals were swept out of much of Western Canada while hanging on to a minority government.

Conservatives say the fact the Liberals were rejected in those regions shows the party has failed to connect with western voters. In an interview with The House  Goodale said the party does have a problem west of Ontario.

"We need to really go to work on that very issue," he said.

"It's not healthy for the country to have a major national political party without elected representation across one region of the country."

Ralph Goodale was first elected to parliament in 1974 and went on to hold several key cabinet positions in the governments of Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Justin Trudeau. For 25 years he represented a Liberal bulwark in the prairie provinces. That ended Monday night when he was defeated. Chris Hall sits down with Ralph Goodale to talk about the election results, Western alienation and what’s next for the veteran politician. 9:01

The Conservatives swept all 14 seats in Saskatchewan and took all but one of the 34 in Alberta. No Liberal MPs in those provinces means no elected representatives from that region will be in cabinet. The Liberals may have to resort to other options to add regional representation, such as appointing a senator to cabinet.

After the election, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer laid the blame for Canada's east-west division at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's feet and told residents of Alberta and Saskatchewan that the Conservative Party hears them and will "fight" for them.

With few practical options to bring a major part of the country into government, Goodale said, Liberals must "take the time" and open up lines of communication in the West at the local riding level and with provincial governments. Consultations, conversations and cabinet representation should follow, he said.

"The more important thing will be getting to the issues that need to be addressed and demonstrating ... that Western Canada is having an impact and being listened to and being responded to appropriately," he said.

Minority Parliament machinations

From left: Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer, New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May (CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau struck a conciliatory tone when he faced the media this week a few days after his Liberal government was reduced to a minority.

"I think Canadians expect us to work together, to listen to each other, to figure out a way to move forward," he said.

That may be true, but during periods of minority government in Canada's Parliament, partisanship is never far from the surface, said Yaroslav Baran, who served in several senior roles when Stephen Harper led consecutive minority Conservative governments between 2006 and 2011.

"What happens in Canada when we have a minority is that the parties don't down tools, they don't become more co-operative, more conciliatory. It actually has the opposite effect," he told The House.

With the 43rd federal election ending in a minority for the Liberals, what happens next? As the other parties jostle to hold balance of power, three political strategists join Chris Hall to talk about the delicate deal making that happens in a minority parliament and the pitfalls of not handling it properly. 9:21

"Everybody stays on a war footing because nobody knows when the next election is going to be. So, ironically, counter-intuitively, in a minority setting you tend to have more partisanship in the House of Commons rather than less partisanship. Stuff gets done, deals get made behind the scenes to advance agendas, but on the surface, it's more of a fevered pitch."

Baran and two other people with inside experience in navigating minority governments — Michele Cardario, deputy chief of staff to Paul Martin, who led a Liberal minority government between 2004 and 2006, and Bob Gallagher, who served as Jack Layton's chief of staff during the same era — joined host Chris Hall for a discussion of minority government machinations.

Cadario said she thinks the current situation could last for up to four years.

"I think there's an expectation from Canadians that they elected these people and they should try and make it work. I think that there's an agenda that can be brought about and I don't think that some of the other parties are in any position to want to go to the electorate anytime soon," Cadario told The House.

Gallager agreed the current minority government could be stable for some time — because defeating it would require the Conservatives, New Democrats and Bloc Québécois to all agree at the same time that going to the polls is in their best interests.

"I can't imagine that happening in the next few years, unless there is some kind of absolutely major Liberal scandal which we can't predict at this point," Gallagher told The House.

'A winnable election' for the Conservatives and the opportunity ahead

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer addresses supporters after he lost to Justin Trudeau in the federal election in Regina, Sask. on Oct. 21, 2019. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

The Conservative Party failed on Monday to win an election that was within its reach, said Rachel Curran, director of policy under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.

"I do believe this was a winnable election," she told The House.

But several issues prevented that from happening, she said, citing the Conservatives' decision to make affordability a central issue of the campaign.

"It's true that voters are concerned about the cost of living. But the Conservative Party in particular is never going to win that battle with the Liberals or the NDP, because they're not willing to run up the deficit to $50 or $60 billion," she said. "So I think that was a pretty serious strategic mistake."

Curran also said the party should have anticipated questions about Andrew Scheer's positions on abortion and same-sex marriage.

"Why did these things land like a bombshell in the middle of the campaign when they could have been dealt with earlier?" Curran said.

Some observers say this election was the Conservatives' to lose and they hold Andrew Scheer responsible. What must the party do to create a compelling vision for Canada in order to form government again? Chris Hall speaks to Rachel Curran, who served as policy director to former prime minister Stephen Harper. 7:27

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