No one will remember Brian Pallister’s nearly decade-long career in Ottawa as a backbench Conservative member of the House of Commons as particularly distinguished.
Over the course of eight years, Pallister never once served as a minister in former prime minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet. His most pivotal moment, until tonight, may have come in 1998 when, as a rising legislator in Manitoba’s provincial assembly, he waged a challenge for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. He lost handily to former prime minister Joe Clark. Pallister eventually transitioned to federal politics as a legislator for the Canadian Alliance, a more socially conservative and western-based alternative to the Progressive Conservatives — and a party that ultimately effected a merger with the Canadian Alliance in 2003 under Harper’s leadership.
Pallister returned to provincial politics in 2012, winning an uncontested leadership bid for Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives, and for the past four years, that’s meant playing the role of inoffensive alternative to Manitoba’s premier, Greg Selinger, who angered even his own party’s caucus when in April 2013 he reversed a campaign pledge and raised the provincial sales tax from 7% to 8%.
Tonight, however, Pallister becomes the first leader of a provincial Conservative or Progressive Conservative party to win power in the era of prime minister Justin Trudeau. He’ll join another small-c conservative, Brad Wall, who two weeks ago won reelection to a third term as premier of Saskatchewan under the banner of the center-right Saskatchewan Party.
He’s bespectacled, he’s boring and he certainly fits a stereotype of a practical prairie square, campaigning across his province in a Chevy pickup truck.
In the era of Justin Trudeau selfies, Brad Wall doesn’t even have an Instagram profile. In a world that seems to have polarized into ideological extremes and eschews the ‘establishment,’ he is running on an avowed platform of ‘more of the same.’
With Liberals ascendant at the federal level and Liberal or leftist governments in power in each of Canada’s other provinces, he leads the only conservative government left across his country.
But on Monday, when Saskatchewan voters go to the polls, they are almost certainly reelect Wall and his ‘small-c’ conservative party, the provincial Saskatchewan Party, to a third term — probably by a nearly two-to-one margin over the nearest opponent, the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP). Polls give Wall’s party nearly 60% of the vote and with it a chance to retain or even increase its 49-member caucus in Saskatchewan’s 58-member Legislative Assembly.
Wall, who consistently ranks as Canada’s most popular premier, is in some ways a throwback to the pragmatic Progressive Conservative Party of the 20th century, a conservative focused squarely on business-friendly policies with a healthy share of humility about government’s ability to effect sweeping change. In his first term, Wall took pains to acknowledge that Saskatchewan’s boom had more to do with global commodity prices than with his own wizardry. Voters, facing the pinch of low oil and gas prices in a province that depends on natural resources, seem willing to give Wall the benefit of the doubt now that Saskatchewan’s economic fortunes are slumping though.
In his first two terms, Wall, personally and politically the personification of prudence, deployed $2 billion in revenues, on top of his government’s budget surpluses, into the province’s Growth and Financial Security Fund. Under Wall, Saskatchewan has reversed a population decline — so much so that it’s now attracting residents at some of the highest levels in the county. Wall has also been careful to place Saskatchewan’s priorities over ideological concerns, going out of his way to maintain official neutrality in the last federal election, though it must have been clear to anyone that Wall’s views aligned most naturally with then-prime minister Stephen Harper.
Among his peers, Wall is perhaps the most powerful defender of Canada’s oil interests, more so than even oil-rich Alberta’s NDP premier Rachel Notley, elected last May. He’s defended Canada’s projected oil pipeline projects and promoted Canada’s energy economy with such vigour that Maclean’s last month dubbed him ‘Alberta’s other premier,’ acknowledging that Wall has become, and will be for some time, the most powerful and influential voice of the Canadian right in national or provincial government. That’s not to say that Wall is a climate change-denier, and he has even shown that’s he open to small steps toward reducing carbon emissions, if not the sweeping kind of carbon tax that Alberta’s Notley is implementing. (Wall is nonetheless careful to add that any tax measures on the largest carbon emitters should take effect only after Canada’s recession, not today.) Continue reading Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall is Canada’s unofficial opposition leader→
The headline across Newfoundland and Labrador is that it will, once again, have a center-left government after a widely anticipated Liberal rout led by the incoming premier Dwight Ball.
The headline across Canada, however, is that the Liberal Party (or provincial-level Liberal parties, some of which have greater or lesser affiliation with the national party) now controls every provincial government in Canada with two exceptions — Saskatchewan, where premier Brad Wall’s center-right Saskatchewan Party dominates politics and will likely return to a full third term after provincial elections in April; and Alberta, where premier Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party ousted a 44-year Progressive Conservative Party in May.
The November 30 provincial election leaves no Conservative or Progressive Conservative government in any of Canada’s provinces.
Ball’s Liberals won 57.2% of the vote to just 30.1% for the Progressive Conservatives, who even narrowly lost in the provincial capital of St. John’s, the Tory stronghold. It was the strongest Liberal victory in the province in 49 years (though not as strong as former premier Danny Williams’s Progressive Conservative rout in 2003), and it marked the most dramatic swing in the province’s electoral history.
In any event, though Newfoundlanders have been expecting a return to Liberal government for a while, it marks something of an apogee for the Canadian left just over a month since the country elected prime minister Justin Trudeau and a majority Liberal government. The most immediate post-election Forum poll from mid-November gave the Liberals a whopping 30-point lead — 55% of voters support Trudeau’s Liberals to just 25% for the Conservative Party and a staggering 12% for Thomas Mulcair’s New Democratic Party.
So the Trudeau honeymoon period is well underway, as he grapples with climate change in Paris with other world leaders and begins to implement a new policy direction for Canada.
Ball, a former pharmacist who lost his first attempt to win a seat in the General Assembly in 2003, subsequently won a by-election contest in 2007 by a margin of just 18 votes in the northern electoral district of Humber Valley. After the Liberals failed to win the 2011 provincial election, Ball was appointed as interim leader, and he won the permanent leadership in the December 2013 leadership race. Ball’s platform included a promise to end Davis’s plan to raise the provincial sales tax from 13% to 15%, even though revenues are set to decline with global oil prices and, accordingly, the province’s newly found oil wealth. Continue reading Liberals sweep Newfoundland and Labrador→
Among the new faces taking power today in Ottawa, perhaps none is more important to prime minister Justin Trudeau’s success or failure in office than his finance minister, the 53-year-old Bill Morneau, a Bay Street executive who was only just elected to parliament for the first time in 2015.
Morneau’s announcement as finance minister was the most consequential of many key personnel decisions announced this morning when Trudeau was sworn in as Canada’s 23rd prime minister, taking a job that his father, Pierre Trudeau, held from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984.
Justin Trudeau’s cabinet is smaller than the outgoing cabinet and, with 31 members, it is comprised of 16 men and 15 women and includes someone from every province (and the territory of Nunavut).
Finance Minister Bill Morneau
A rookie MP elected for the first time on October 19 from the Toronto Centre riding, Morneau comes to the finance ministry as the former head of Morneau Shepell, Canada’s largest human resources firm (and a firm founded by Morneau’s father) and as the former chair of the C.D. Howe Institute, a relatively centrist economics think tank based in Toronto. In 2014, he was part of a panel appointed by Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s Liberal premier, to examine her plan to introduce an Ontario-based pension plan that supplements the federal pension plan.
Trudeau, whose Liberals were languishing in third place in most polls all summer long, gained traction among voters when he pledged in September that, in he face of a recession across the country, his government would pursue a more expansionary fiscal policy to develop infrastructure and boost demand for jobs — including taking on $25 billion in debt for three years before a return to balanced budgets in 2019-20. For a country where fiscal restraint has been gospel, not only for the past nine years of Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s government, but throughout the preceding 13 years of Liberal rule under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, promising to engage openly in deficit spending might have been a risky move.
Instead, it galvanized centrist and left-of-center voters that had previously been split between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP). With NDP leader Thomas Mulcair pledging balanced budgets in what would have been Canada’s first NDP-led government, Trudeau’s bold policy stand in favor of deficit spending convinced voters that the Liberals represented the more convincing agents of change. Trudeau, earlier in the campaign, promised to implement a modest tax increase on Canadians who earn more than $200,000 annually and a modest tax cut for middle-class Canadians.
Morneau’s most important task as finance minister will be finding a way to translate Trudeau’s plan into an actionable budget. But as a former businessmen with ties to Bay Street, Morneau is a natural choice to assuage the fears of Canada’s business community, and his status as a novice politician brings an element of new blood to a cabinet that has both old and new faces.
Morneau’s selection is also a victory for Wynne, who was a vocal supporter of the federal Liberal Party and of Trudeau’s campaign. Wynne often clashed with Harper, who essentially instructed his government in Ottawa not to cooperate with the pension supplement plan that Wynne pushed through Ontario’s legislative assembly last year.
He joins a growing group of rookie finance minster with more experience in the private sector than in parliamentary or governmental circles, including Greece’s Yanis Varoufakis, the Czech Republic’s Andrej Babiš and Israel’s Yair Lapid.
Morneau will also have a hand in several hot-button issues that will affect the Canadian economy, including relations with the United States, a decision about whether the trans-Canadian Energy East pipeline should proceed and finalizing the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-country free trade pact linking North America, South America and East Asia.
Treasury Board President Scott Brison
One of those is Scott Brison, who will be the next president of the Treasury Board. In that role, Brison will work very closely with Morneau as a behind-the-scenes official in charge of running much of the Canadian government. If Morneau is tasked with selling the Trudeau government’s economic policy, it will be Brison who is largely responsible for carrying it all out– and then some.
Brison, born and raised in Nova Scotia, has been an MP since 1997, is openly gay, began his career as an investment banker, and he started off in politics as a rising star in the center-right Progressive Conservative Party. He’s only 48 years old, is known to be a close personal friend of Mark Carney, the former governor of the Bank of Canada who, in 2013, became the governor of the Bank of England.
Brison was one of five candidates in the 2003 Progressive Conservative leadership race, though he was eliminated on the second ballot when Jim Prentice (a short-lived Alberta premier, former environmental minister and Harper consigliere) outpaced him by three votes. Just days after the Progressive Conservatives voted to merge themselves into Harper’s more dominant, western-based Canadian Alliance to form the Conservative Party of Canada, Brison switched parties. Within months, then-prime minister Paul Martin had already appointed Brison to the cabinet as public works minister. Brison, who ran for and lost the Liberal leadership election in 2006, has served as the Liberal’s chief finance critic, a role he’s often used to attack Conservative budgets with caustic energy, and he heartily supported Trudeau’s near-coronation to the leadership in 2013.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion
Stéphane Dion, who authored the Clarity Act in 2000 that sets forth the terms of any future secession referendum in Canada, and who garnered international headlines as Canada’s activist environmental minister (who once named his dog Kyoto), led the Liberals to disastrous result in the 2008 election after a merciless campaign that saw his professorial manner dismissed as not “prime ministerial enough” and his English language skills savaged in the media.
But Dion is a serious parliamentarian who has much to offer the next government and, as a former leader, he follows in the footsteps of former British Conservative leader William Hague, former French prime minister Alain Juppé and even US secretary of state John Kerry as a foreign affairs minister. His first test will come later this month at the Paris climate change conference, where he will join a Canadian government now much more engaged than the previous Harper government on climate change. Dion is suited like a glove for the event, but he will also bring thoughtful and diligent experience of nearly 20 years of government service to Trudeau’s cabinet.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan
Harjit Sajjan, the newly elected MP for Vancouver South is, like Morneau, a newcomer to the House of Commons, to say nothing of ministerial service. But the Punjab-born Sajjan, who moved to Canada as a five-year-old, will serve as Canada’s first Sikh defence minister after three tours of duty in Afghanistan and a military career as a highly decorated veteran.
Sajjan defeated Conservative incumbent Wai Young to take the riding in October, a riding once held by former British Columbia premier Ujjal Dosanjh and home to one of the largest immigration populations in the country, including many Indian Canadians and Chinese Canadians. After his military career, where he reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel, Sajjan served as a Vancouver police officer.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau
Marc Garneau, a Montreal-based MP since 2008, was once himself considered leadership material, and he waged his own campaign in 2013 (stepped down as Trudeau’s inevitability became apparent). The first canadian in outerspace, Garneau served as the president of the Canadian Space Agency from 2001 to 2006 before turning to politics. As transport minister, he will face more policy issues about trains and highways than about space shuttles, but with infrastructure spending tops on the Trudeau agenda, Garneau could play an important role in choosing the projects to prioritize and administering those projects.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale
Ralph Goodale, who last served as Liberal finance minister in Paul Martin’s government between 2003 and 2006, was first elected as prime minister in 1974 when Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister. He lost his bid for reelection in 1989 and turned to provincial politics as the leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party, a venture that saw little success. Returning to parliament in 1993, he served as one of the Liberal’s most prominent westerners in government as agriculture minister, natural resources minister and public works minister before his elevation to the finance ministry. At age 66, Goodale joins Dion as one of the most experienced members of the Trudeau cabinet. LIke Garneau, the incoming public works minister will work to identity and administer the infrastructure spending that Trudeau wants to use to juice the Canadian economy back out of recession.
International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland
A writer, former deputy editor of The Globe and Mail and a former managing director and editor of Thomson Reuters, Chrystia Freeland returned from a promising journalistic career in New York to run in a by-election in Toronto to replace Bob Rae two years ago, the retiring interim leader of the Liberal Party. Freeland, who easily won reelection in October, is a proponent of free trade and, presumably, as minister of international trade, will work with Trudeau to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership just weeks after Harper’s government signed the landmark trade accord. Though Trudeau hasn’t fully endorsed the TPP, he made it very clear throughout the campaign that the Liberal government would be friendly to free-trade accords.
Environmental Minister Catherine McKenna
Nowhere does Liberal policy shift more fully from the Harper era than on the environment and climate change. Beyond the Paris conference, the next Canadian government will have a handful of decisions to make about a handful of energy pipelines, including the transcontinental Energy East pipeline. The 44-year-old McKenna, with a career as a human rights attorney, is also a newcomer to parliament, winning her riding in Ottawa Centre for the first time last month.
House of Commons Leader Dominic LeBlanc
Dominic LeBlanc, who has represented the Beauséjour riding from New Brunswick since 2000, is only three years older than McKenna, but he might be among the most knowledgeable Liberal ministers about how to navigate government. The son of former senator and governor-general Roméo LeBlanc, Canada’s new leader of the House has been friends with Trudeau since childhood, and he has long been a key adviser to the new prime minister. Though he’ll be one of the highest-ranking cabinet officials from Atlantic Canada, he is also very much Trudeau’s man in the House of Commons.
So far, the race to succeed Stephen Harper as the next leader of Canada’s Conservative Party has been notable for the level of disinterest it’s drawn — not a single candidate has yet announced a campaign for the leadership.
Despite wild speculation about who might want to take the reins of Canada’s soon-to-be opposition, some of the most well-known potential contenders have already ruled themselves out of contention — former Québec premier Jean Charest (himself a one-time leader of the old Progressive Conservative Party), former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord, Saskatchewan’s wildly popular two-term premier Brad Wall, former foreign minister John Baird.
But there’s one potential candidate who isn’t being coy about her intentions.
It’s Michelle Rempel, a 35-year-old MP from Calgary who’s been in office only since 2011. Born in Winnipeg and of partial French Canadian ancestry, she worked in development at the University of Calgary before jumping to politics, winning the by-election when Jim Prentice left federal politics for the private sector (and before Prentice returned to provincial politics for a disastrous run leading Alberta’s government). She quickly made a splash in the House of Commons and in 2013, Harper recognized her talents by appointing her as a junior minister for western economic diversification.
In an odd — and at turns, confident, caustic and compelling — Twitter rant in the middle of the night on October 22, Rempel made the case for her potential leadership, sometimes making the case against casual misogyny in everyday politics that would make Hillary Rodham Clinton proud.
Next week, for the first time since 2002, Stephen Harper will neither be Canada’s prime minister nor opposition leader.
At the same time that Stephen Harper was on stage conceding defeat to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, he announced (via a statement) that he would indeed be stepping down as leader of the Conservative Party, a position that he has held since 2003 when the party first came into being.
In the days ahead, the Conservative Party will decide how to appoint a caretaker interim leader pending a full leadership election to choose the party’s second leader.
Harper leaves behind a mixed legacy, like any prime minister.
For Canada’s conservatives, Harper wasn’t just a three-term prime minister, though his nine-year tenure will be longer than all but five prime ministers in Canadian history. He’s the tribune who led the Canadian right out of the wilderness of opposition and the man who brought the Canadian west back into the national conversation that had focused too long on Toronto commercial matters, constitutional crises, bilingualism and appeasing the Quebeckers.
In retrospect, it’s amazing that it took just three years for Harper to take power after engineering the December 2003 merger between his Canadian Alliance, the upstart prairie and western movement that brought a more full-throated, US-style, socially conservative attitude to national politics, and the more troubled Progressive Conservative Party. By the 2000s, the PCs were a relic of the eastern elite, and the party never fully recovered from the 1993 election, when it lost all but two seats in the House of Commons.
Incredibly, as the Conservative Party looks to choose Harper’s successor in the weeks and months ahead, he is the only leader that the current Conservative Party has known — not counting, of course, the two living former Tory prime ministers Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney, neither of whom ever completely warmed to the Calgarian warrior from the west.
At just 56 years old, Harper certainly didn’t look or act like a leader (or prime minister) in a hurry for retirement. He looked mostly like someone who believed, until too late, that leftist and moderate voters would split between the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP), giving the Conservatives yet another path to government by plurality vote. To his misfortune (and to the NDP’s), that didn’t happen.
Post-election reports reveal that Harper was considering a pledge not to seek a fifth term after 2015. But having only won his first majority government in 2011, Harper might have easily stuck around to run for a fifth mandate if he’d survived October 19. But in shooting for a fourth consecutive term, Harper knew well that he was facing long odds attempting to repeat what only Conservative John Macdonald and Liberal Wilfrid Laurier accomplished before.
Imagine a North America with three, not two, countries north of the Rio Grande — the United States, Canada and… Newfoundland.
Newfoundland!? That’s right. The Canadian outpost in the north Atlantic. Imagine today a proud population of nearly 530,000, now basking in the proceeds of a thriving offshore oil market, growing interest in summer tourism and a historical reliance on fisheries.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds — and if not for the votes of 7,000 Newfoundlanders on this day in 1948, the proudly sovereign country of Newfoundland and Labrador might exist today as a strategic Atlantic hub.
With an area slightly larger than Bangladesh or Greece, and with a population similar to that of Luxembourg and larger than the populations of Iceland, Belize, Brunei or Malta, the Canadian province today has a GDP per capita of nearly $68,000, in Canadian dollars (as of 2013) — much higher than the Canadian average of nearly $54,000.
On July 22, 1948, nearly 150,000 Newfoundlanders voted in the second of two fiercely contested referenda. They decided, however narrowly, in favor of confederation with Canada. On April 1 of the following year, Newfoundland and Labrador became the 10th Canadian province. The referendum brought to an end 15 years of uncertain status — that’s because in 1934, the essentially independent ‘Dominion of Newfoundland’ reverted back to colonial status after a financial crisis left the country unable to service its debt.
Sound familiar? Relations today between Greece and the rest of the eurozone (most especially Germany) are as strained as ever. With a third bailout effectively ceding control of Greek fiscal policy from prime minister Alexis Tsipras to European authorities, Newfoundland’s example holds instructive lessons on sovereignty and debt. The referendum — and the failure of the pro-independence campaign — also provides a data point for aspiring nations like Scotland and Catalunya.
For the first time since 1935, Albertans will have a government that is led neither by the Progressive Conservative Party or by its socially conservative and agrarian predecessor, Social Credit — and in its place will be a social democratic government that will not be quite as friendly to the province’s oil industry.
Ironically, when the Progressive Conservative government was supposed to lose an election in Alberta in April 2012 to the upstart right-wing Wildrose Party, it actually won a landslide victory instead, delivering a mandate to then-premier Alison Redford. When the New Democratic Party of British Columbia was projected to win a victory in Alberta’s neighboring province of British Columbia, would-be NDP premier Adrian Dix actually lost seats to Liberal premier Christy Clark in the May 2013 provincial election.
Pollsters took their hits for both Alberta’s 2012 vote and British Columbia’s 2013 vote. But they were correct in Alberta’s 2015 election, which brought to an end a record 44-year streak in government for the center-right Progressive Conservative Party.
But instead of Wildrose, it was Alberta’s New Democratic Party (NDP) that emerged victorious in a landslide ‘orange wave,’ validating late polls that gave the NDP a runaway win. It’s a staggering victory for a party that’s never held more than 16 seats in the province’s 87-seat legislative assembly.
It’s also a staggering victory for Rachel Notley, who’s served as the NDP leader only since October 2014, but whose father, Grant Notley, was a popular NDP leader between 1968 until his death in an airplane crash at the age of 45 in 1984. Notley’s death came just two years before his party became the official opposition for the first time in Alberta. Sharp-tongued and competent, Notley held her own in a leader’s debate last week, demonstrating to Albertan voters that she could be trusted as their next premier.
With oil prices still depressed at around $60 per barrel, Progressive Conservative premier Jim Prentice previewed a pre-election budget that called for tough spending cuts and income tax increases in response to an anticipated $5 billion deficit for the budget. His call for snap elections now seems like a moment of hubris for a new premier that returned to politics after four years in the private sector. The decision will push the Progressive Conservatives into third place, truncating Prentice’s potential premiership by a year.
Without a doubt, Prentice will become the first political victim of the massive drop in oil prices in the past nine months.
But Prentice had always based his career in federal politics as a minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, not in Albertan politics. By the time he returned, he was running at the head of a badly tarnished Progressive Conservative brand in the province after Redford was forced to resign amid scandals over the level of her spending as premier. After Redford and her predecessor Ed Stelmech seemed to pale in comparison to Ralph Klein, the 14-year premier, Prentice appeared like a return to form — especially after Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and eight other Wildrose MLAs crossed the aisle to join the PCs in support of the Prentice government. Smith, who failed to win re-nomination among the voters of her new party, will leave politics; her successor as Wildrose leader, Brian Jean, has surpassed Prentice’s PC to become the leader of the opposition. That’s an amazing result for a party that was written off as a zombie movement just months ago.
‘Grim Jim,’ as he became known in the final days of the campaign, had already conceded that Alberta is in store for a fiscal adjustment — voters decided, however, that they preferred Notley’s version to Prentice’s. Moreover, after 44 years, the damage to the PC brand in the post-Klein era was already done long before Prentice, a capable public servant, took the reins of government. Prentice, in brief remarks after the outcome, resigned not only as Progressive Conservative leader, but also as the newly elected MLA from the Calgary-Foothills constituency just minutes after Canadian news networks declared him the victor.
Notley’s NDA is expected to pursue slightly more progressive policies than the Progressive Conservatives, and they will still have to face a tricky budget deficit. With a plan to raise corporate taxes from 10% to just 12%, and with a plan to resurrect a royalty review (last enacted by Stelmech) to determine whether Alberta’s government should be entitled to a greater share of the province’s mineral wealth. In contrast to the rhetoric that painted Notley and the NDP as wild-eyed leftists, the plan is only marginally more progressive than the PC budget. Nevertheless, Notley will struggle to achieve a balance among placating business interests, raising revenues to plug the budget gap and stimulative spending as the oil-dominated economy stumbles. She’ll begin by facing a skeptical opposition, especially among Wildrose stalwarts, that believes there is still plenty of room to cut Alberta’s budget before raising taxes on corporations or individuals.
Everyone expected the NDP to do well in Edmonton, but in the tripartite nature of Albertan politics, polls as recently as 10 days ago showed that the Progressive Conservatives would hold ‘fortress Calgary’ and Wildrose would dominate in the rest of Alberta in largely rural constituencies. The reason that Notley will lead a majority government is due to the inroads that she was able to make against the PC in both Calgary and the rest of Alberta.
Notably, Notley’s opposition to the ‘Northern Gateway’ pipeline, the issue that tanked Dix’s hopes to lead an NDP government in British Columbia, didn’t harm her in Alberta. Onlookers in the United States will note that she’s ambivalent about the construction of the Keystone XL, too — while she doesn’t necessarily oppose its approval by the US government, she’s made clear that her government will not prioritize Keystone, instead focusing on the Energy East and other more feasible pipelines. Nevertheless, the promise of tighter scrutiny on the oil industry will mean a tougher regulatory environment.
Provincial politics, as a rule, are much different than Canadian federal politics, and provincial results don’t necessarily predict future national results. Prentice’s defeat is a minor blow to Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, who appointed Prentice as one of his top ministers until Prentice resigned from federal politics in 2010. Moreover, it leaves Newfoundland and Labrador as the only province with a Conservative or Progressive Conservative premier — and Paul Davis’s Tories are trailing by 20 to 30 points in polls as the September 2015 provincial election approaches.
It will certainly bring to an end speculation that Prentice could one day succeed Harper as the federal Conservative leader. Taken together with foreign secretary John Baird’s resignation in March, it’s good news, perhaps, for Peter MacKay, the justice minister and former defence minister.
But the NDP, which is now the official opposition at the national level, has fallen behind both Harper’s Tories and Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party. So many provincial factors contributed to the NDP victory in Alberta, including a presumably wide swing from Alberta Liberal Party supporters to Notley, mean that you should draw with caution any conclusions from the Alberta election for the October federal vote.
As usual, the supporters of Rob and Doug Ford proved a potent force in Toronto’s municipal politics, bringing the mayor’s elder brother much closer than polls predicted to winning the city’s mayoral election tonight.
John Tory, however, the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, managed to unite center-right and moderate voters, narrowly edging out Ford (pictured above) and third-placed candidate Olivia Chow.
Chow, a former city councillor and the widow of Jack Layton, the former leader of the progressive New Democratic Party (NDP), began the race earlier this year as its frontrunner. Since July, however, Chow sunk to third place, falling behind Rob Ford who, until his cancer diagnosis in September, was still running for reelection. Incredibly, both Fords commanded a strong core of supporters among the self-proclaimed ‘Ford Nation,’ despite a turbulent four years in which the mayor admitted to crack cocaine use and alcohol abuse, was stripped of many of his executive powers by the Toronto city council, and attended a recovery program for substance addiction.
Such was the power of Ford’s everyman charm that he retained the loyalty of the suburban and working-class voters that fueled Ford Nation. His supporters include a surprisingly high number of racial and ethnic minorities, despite Ford’s sometimes culturally uncomfortable moments (swearing, perhaps drunkenly, in Jamaican patois, for instance). The lingering regard with which ‘Ford Nation’ held for Rob meant that Doug Ford was always a potent candidate for mayor.
Notably, Rob, whose chemotherapy treatments limited his campaigning, still won a seat on the city council from Ward 2 in his native Etobicoke with around 59% of the vote — it’s the seat that he held in 2010 when he was elected mayor. Opponents breathing a sign of relief at Doug Ford’s loss tonight might not want to relax too much. A wiser and healthier Rob Ford could easily return in 2018 as a formidable candidate. Continue reading Toronto’s Ford era is over (for now)→
The cardinal rule of political prognostication in Canada is that provincial results can provide no guarantee of future performance.
Nevertheless, Justin Trudeau must be feeling pretty good this week about the Liberal brand throughout Canada, after a strong Liberal victory in New Brunswick, the fourth consecutive Liberal triumph in provincial elections since Trudeau won the federal leadership in April 2013.
The New Brunswick victory follows a rout in Québec, where the Parti libéraldu Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) won April elections under the leadership of former health minister Philippe Couillard, after just 18 months in opposition. It also follows elections in Ontario, where the provincial Liberal Party won a fourth consecutive term and a majority government under premier Kathleen Wynne in June.
Those follow a landslide victory last October in Nova Scotia and a come-from-behind win by the incumbent Liberals under premier Christy Clark in British Columbia last May.
The Liberal Party last came to power in New Brunswick in 2006 when voters narrowly ousted two-term premier Bernard Lord, oft-mentioned in the early 2000s as a potential Conservative prime minister. But in 2010, voters turned against the Liberals and premier Shawn Graham after an ambitious four-year program designed to improve energy, education and health care.
On Monday, however, New Brunswick’s voters rejected the Progressive Conservatives and premier David Alward. Under the leadership of the 32-year-old Brian Gallant (pictured above), who was just two years old when Trudeau’s father, Liberal premier Pierre Trudeau, left office in 1984, the Liberals have now returned to power. Liberals gained 14 seats to hold a total of 27 in the province’s legislative assembly, to just 21 for the center-right Progressive Conservatives and one for the Green Party’s leader David Coon, a historic breakthrough for a party whose two members of the Canadian House of Commons come from British Columbia.
Gallant, who was predicted to win the September 22 election, despite polls showing a narrowing race in the days leading to the vote, promised to deliver more jobs and better roads and other provincial infrastructure.
All major parties, including the Liberals, supported the Energy East oil pipeline, which would link Albertan and Saskatchewan oil fields to Saint John, New Brunswick’s largest city on the southern coast along the Bay of Fundy. But while Alward vocally championed the development of shale gas exploration and ‘fracking’ within New Brunswick during the campaign, Gallant opposed fracking and, along with the Greens, supports a moratorium on fracking — for now. Continue reading Liberals dominate New Brunswick vote→
Just two months after Québec’s extraordinary election, which devastated the sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ) and replaced the minority government of Pauline Marois with a federalist majority government under Philippe Couillard, Ontario voters will choose their own provincial government on Thursday in what has become a tight two-way race.
Politics in Anglophone-majority Ontario, however, looks nothing like politics in Francophone-majority Québec.
As in most provinces, Ontario’s political parties have only informal ties to federal political parties. But Ontario’s political framework largely maps to the federal political scene. Accordingly, the center-left Liberal Party of Ontario is locked in a too-close-to-call fight with the center-right Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario (PC), with the progressive New Democratic Party of Ontario (NDP) trailing behind in third place.
All three parties have led provincial government the past 25 years. The Liberals are hoping to win their fourth consecutive election, after Dalton McGuinty won majority governments in 2003 and 2007 and a minority government in 2011. Under the leadership of popular former premier Mike Harris, the Progressive Conservatives won elections in 1995 and 1999. Bob Rae, formerly the interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, led an NDP government between 1990 and 1995.
ThreeHundredEight‘s current projection, a model based on recent polling data, gives the Liberals an edge over the Ontario PCs of just 37.3% to 36.5%, well within the margin of error. The Ontario NDP is wining 19.8% (though individual polls show that the Ontario NDP could win anywhere from 18% to 27% of the vote) and the Green Party of Ontario is winning 5.2%.
Voters elect all 107 members of Ontario’s unicameral Legislative Assembly in single-member ridings on a first-past-the-post basis. That, according to ThreeHundredEight, could result in anything from a Liberal majority government to, more likely, a hung parliament with either a Liberal or PC minority government. Continue reading Ontario election too close to call with 48 hours left to go→
Less than a month after he stepped down as Canada’s finance minister, Jim Flaherty died in his Ottawa home earlier today at age 64.
When he left the role in March, the Globe and Mail‘s John Ibbitson wrote the following about Flaherty:
“Brand Canada” today stands for a well-ordered financial sector, prudent fiscal and monetary policy, skilled management of the recent financial crisis, and a rigorous approach to restoring balanced budgets.
As finance minister from February 2006 until Tuesday, Jim Flaherty played a starring role in that story, though he was by no means the only star. Whatever Canadians might think about Mr. Flaherty’s legacy, the world will remember him as the man who sat in Canada’s chair when Canada set an example for the world.
That’s about as strong a eulogy as any will deliver for Flaherty, who rose to prominence as prime minister Stephen Harper’s finance minister from the first day of Harper’s Conservative government in February 2006. Though Harper and Flaherty (pictured above) inherited a strong fiscal position from the outgoing Liberal government, Flaherty’s financial management steered Canada away from the worst of the 2008-09 global financial crisis, with a healthy assist from Canada’s sound, if conservative, banking system.
Over the course of his eight-year tenure as finance minister, Flaherty steered an Canadian economy that often narrowly outperformed even the US economy in terms of GDP growth:
Flaherty came to national politics only after a decade of somewhat feistier political warfare in Ontario’s provincial assembly, where he also served (briefly) as finance minister at the end of former Ontario premier Mike Harris’s government from 2001 to 2002. He unsuccessfully sought the leadership (twice) of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, losing the 2002 contest to Ernie Eves and the 2004 contest to John Tory.
But the Tories have yet to wrest back power from the Liberals, who have controlled Ontario’s government since Harris left office in 2002 — under Dalton McGuinty until 2013, and now under Kathleen Wynne. It’s ironic to note that if Flaherty had won the Ontario PC leadership, he might have been waiting around today to become Ontario’s premier. Instead, he’ll be remembered as one of the leading lights of the Harper era, and one of the ‘grown-ups’ who have given credibility to the Conservative Party as a party of government after years of disunity and fracture.
He was also a loyal guy. Flaherty was a longtime family friend of the Fords, the family that gave the world a punchline and Toronto a mayor in Rob Ford. It’s not often that you see a finance minister of a G-8 economy become teary-eyed, but his tender remarks on the occasion of Ford’s admission of using crack cocaine were some of the more memorable — and humanizing — comments of the entirely sad Rod Ford saga.
Despite the last-minute surge in support for the Progressive Conservative Party that led premier Alison Redford to an improbable landslide victory in April 2012, her resignation as premier this week is the latest sign that the party’s four-decade run governing Alberta may soon come to an end.
Redford, who took office in October 2011, will resign effective Sunday, creating a scramble for the PC government to find a new leader and a new premier in Canada’s wealthiest and fourth-most populous province — also the home province of Canada’s Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.
Deputy premier Dave Hancock will serve as interim premier for the next four to six months until the party chooses a new leader.
Redford stepped down after facing a revolt within her own caucus, most notably over a decision to attend the funeral late last year of former South African president Nelson Mandela:
The embattled premier has been facing down critics since early this year, when she expensed about $45,000 for a trip overseas for Nelson Mandela’s funeral. For weeks, Redford ignored calls to refund the money, which many called an extravagant and unnecessary use of public funds.
In mid-March, Redford apologized and repaid the costs associated with the trip, but it appeared the damage was already done. Critics lambasted Redford for what they called a sense of entitlement as more revelations of questionable spending were brought to light, including allegations that Redford had flown on her own government plane while Progressive Conservative MLAs took half-empty flights to the same destinations.
Redford’s decision also follows a Leger poll earlier this month that showed her party trailing the even more socially and economically conservative Wildrose Party by a margin of 38% to 25% (the provincial Liberal Party would win 16% and the provincial New Democratic Party would win 15%). More ominously, the poll gave Redford a 20% approval rating, compared to a 64% disapproval rating. Other polls show the PCs trailing by an even wider margin — a March 19 ThinkHQ poll gave Wildrose a 46%-to-19% advantage.
MLA Len Webber broke from the PC caucus last week to stand as an independent, and Donna Kennedy-Glans did the same on Monday, with other PC legislators promising to follow.
The initial view today is that with Olivia Chow’s resignation as an MP in the federal Canadian House of Commons and her announcement on Thursday that she will launch a candidate for Toronto’s October 27 mayoral election, the race is now Chow’s to lose.
At first glance, there are a lot of good reasons to believe that Chow is really the frontrunner, and her announcement closes the effective field for Toronto’s 2014 mayoral aspirants.
In a race otherwise dominated by at least two or three high-profile conservative candidates, Chow is the only left-leaning candidate, and she’ll be able to easily consolidate the left-leaning support within the Toronto metropolitan area.
Though it’s been five months since the first reports emerged that Toronto mayor Rob Ford smoked crack cocaine, it’s only been within the last week that the controversy surrounding Ford has reached truly staggering attention.
When the embattled mayor earlier this month admitted that he used crack cocaine in a drunken stupor, he only opened the floodgates to more questions — and more allegations, which have certainly followed in short order. It’s been a truly catastrophic week for Ford, who made his problems even worse with some misogynist comments about a former female aide, his refusal to step down as mayor, further admissions that he’d purchased illegal drugs in the last two years, and that he’s operated a vehicle while drunk.
But this week also marks the first time that anyone’s suggested that the province of Ontario should step in — and that’s putting Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne in the spotlight, who is the absolute opposite of everything Ford represents. Wynne is not only the first female premier of Ontario and the highest-ranking openly gay official in Canadian politics, Wynne exemplifies the polite, dignified consensus-driven leadership for which Canada has become so well-known.
Wynne gently waded into Toronto’s growing crisis earlier this week, urging Ford to take heed of the Toronto city council’s call to step down:
“The concern for me is that city council can function and it seems today that that’s exactly what’s happening,” she said, referring to two overwhelming council votes to politically emasculate the mayor by stripping him of some powers. “I see that city council is making decisions and they are determined . . . to find a way to make that work,” the premier said at a Council of the Federation meeting in Toronto.
There’s not much that the Ontario premier can actually do to remove Ford, though Wynne opened the door to legislative action earlier this week — but only at the request of the Toronto city council and only with the support of the leaders of both the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, Tim Hudak, and the Ontario New Democratic Party, Andrea Horwath.
Ironically, it’s the ‘amalgamation’ plan that former Progressive Conservative prime minister Mike Harris pushed through the Ontario legislative assembly in 1998, over the protest of many Toronto residents, that made Rob Ford’s 2010 election possible. Under amalgamation, the city of Toronto merged with the surrounding communities of East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough, and York — Ford himself comes from Etobicoke, a suburb to the west of Toronto’s urban core.
Meanwhile, the Toronto city council is likewise limited in its ability to remove Ford from office, though it voted to strip Ford of many of his powers on Friday — on a vote of 39-3, councillors removed Ford’s ability to hire or to fire the city’s standing committee chairs and the deputy mayor, and on a vote of 41-2, councillors voted that Ford’s powers should be delegated to the deputy mayor in the event of an emergency situation. Despite the council’s limitations, it’s important to keep in mind that the office of mayor in Toronto is relatively circumscribed — in many ways, Ford is more like the council chief than a true chief executive with the broad executive powers of, say, the New York City mayor.
Ford has become an international punchline, to the horror of many Toronto residents, who are proud of a city long known as Canada’s financial capital, a magnet for immigration, and a quiet showcase of North American prosperity and safety.
Far less well-known is Wynne, who is the anti-Ford of Ontario politics. In her remarks on the Toronto mayoral situation earlier this week, she stressed that Ford’s antics do not characterize Ontario and do not characterize Toronto — Wynne herself represents Toronto in Ontario’s legislative assembly:
“I believe Toronto is not defined by one person, by one politician. We have to be very careful that we not allow ourselves to be defined by this,” she said.
Still, the premier expressed sympathy for Ford and his family, given the mayor’s drinking and admitted illegal drug use. “I’m very concerned about the human element of this. A person who is struggling in his life, as far as I can tell, and so I hope that he will look after himself.”