Results reflect ‘healthy democracy’: de Clercy

It was a win for all the major parties – in large or small ways – and for Canadian democracy itself. That’s how Political Science professor Cristine de Clercy frames the results of Monday’s federal election, as the Liberals attained a minority-government mandate.

The New Democrats, with 24 seats, have said they will work with the 157-seat Liberals to help pass some NDP priorities, while the Conservatives, with 121 seats, made important inroads with a rookie leader.

Importantly, de Clercy said Tuesday, Canadians rejected outright the polarizing vision offered by Maxime Bernier and the People’s Party of Canada.

“This election is a vote for the virtue of moderation in Canadian politics,” said de Clercy, an expert in Canadian politics and leadership.

Where others might see in the numbers a nation divided by region and by rural/urban split – and where seat count doesn’t reflect the popular vote ­– de Clercy said Parliament can still serve national interests well.

“Given the constellation of seats and the balance of forces, and the political agendas on the table, it will actually be a subdued minority government in the next year as the parties recover from the election.”

In her analysis, even where the main parties didn’t see the gains they may have wanted, they have reason for optimism:

  • The Liberals and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau couldn’t have expected the same level of support as in 2015 – second-term governments rarely do – and, “in light of justifiable questions about his leadership and his judgment, his party did well. He managed to come back with a pretty substantial minority representation. His party went in and fought the good fight and did pretty well in some key regions.”
  • Conservatives, led by first-time leader Andrew Scheer, polled well in areas that weren’t traditional Tory strongholds and held their own elsewhere. “(The party) not only increased its margin over 2015, it secured gains in areas like Atlantic Canada where the Conservatives were entirely shut out in last election.”
  • New Democrats saw a drop in its seat count from the 44 they won in 2015. “At the same time, they most likely will be the minority supporter in the new government. There are many areas where (NDP leader Jagmeet) Singh and Mr. Trudeau are similar in their policy approach. They differ in the fine details – and his supporters have been shut out of power for a while – so this is a new opportunity to advance some of the policy goals that Mr. Singh and his supporters hold near and dear.”
  • The Bloc Québecois won 32 seats, more than triple the number they attained in 2015. Had the election taken place a year ago, before Yves-François Blanchetbecame leader, polling suggested the party would have returned no seats, de Clercy said. Their success this time isn’t an indication separatism is back on the table, but it does signal a higher priority for federal/interprovincial talks.
  • The Green Party and Elizabeth May won three seats, including a new one in New Brunswick. “(May) and her supporters managed to inject environmental concerns into the national policy conversation. That’s a perspective that’s not necessarily measured in seats ­– but hopefully from her perspective, it ought to endure over the next Parliament.”

de Clercy also drew encouragement from the voter turn-out of 66 per cent and the fact that millions of people were involved in the process as candidates, volunteers and voters representing 17 registered political parties.

“It’s worth appreciating that this election, if nothing else, represents the health of Canadian democracy and the seriousness with which its citizens take their democratic responsibilities.

“That’s a good thing and that’s one of the most reassuring stories out of this election. That we have a very competitive and healthy democracy. Certainly citizens and politicians can disagree on things but in the end the system works.”