Alberta conservatives will hate this. But with Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives beaten, the remaining hope for Trans Mountain construction is Justin Trudeau in (limited) power.
The Bloc Quebecois is back — with official party status. The Greens' caucus now stands at three, and the NDP, despite losing 16 seats from its 2015 totals, finds itself in a position of some influence given the Liberal's minority position.
There is a view, advanced here sometimes, that a minority is disastrous because the NDP, Greens and/or Bloc Quebecois will force Trudeau to abandon Trans Mountain.
But on Monday, the vast majority of Canadians cast a moderate vote on both pipelines and climate policy. Trudeau will ignore that at his peril.
Here's a look at some of the notable politicians elected or re-elected tonight, and some significant players who have gone down to defeat, according to CBC projections.
Harris, Goodale, Bernier and Raitt headline list of notable election winners and losers
The NDP lost 15 seats from their 2015 total. The Greens gained one, for a total of three — hardly the grand breakthrough.
GUNTER: Alberta is going to pay dearly with a Liberal minority
The Conservatives won 26 more seats than they had at dissolution. The Liberals lost 20. Even Saskatchewan Liberal icon Ralph Goodale went down.
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Strategic voting, Doug Ford and why the Conservatives couldnt break through in Ontario
The Conservatives are all in for the pipeline. And the Liberals, we must remember, still say they will build Trans Mountain and put all the profits into green energy. They did buy the thing for $4.5 billion.
Edmonton without seat in federal government for the first time since 1980 election
During the campaign, Trudeau kept stressing that point, even as he neglected to blast the hostile Green and NDP policies.
Composite photo of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May during the first leaders debate of the campaign, on Sept. 12, 2019. Frank Gunn/Pool via Reuters
The Greens and NDP got 21 per cent of the popular vote. If you throw in the pipeline-hating Bloc Quebecois, the total is just over 30 per cent.
And so, in a general way, the two big parties that favour the pipeline got well over double the support of the much smaller parties that oppose it.
The reason for the Conservatives' disappointing results may, in part, have to do with tradition, said Queens University political science professor Kathy Brock. Voters in Ontario vote opposite to the government that's in Ottawa, she said.
By the numbers, Jagmeet Singh’s NDP now has the perfect number of seats to support the Liberals in a minority.
The Liberals got 155. Backing from the 25 New Democrats would put them comfortably over the 170-vote majority hurdle.
And Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, whose party won 32 seats, said clearly that the Liberals should stay in power.
The conventional thinking is that Singh or Blanchet would make a deal with Trudeau to support the Liberals, perhaps including a condition to stop the pipeline.
But don’t forget the Conservatives. If the pipeline was at stake in a some kind of cooked-up vote, they might very well back the Liberals. They should, if their interest is the economy rather than just power.
The other factor is exhaustion. No party will want a quick election, least of all the NDP, which will be flat broke. The small parties have far less fundraising capacity to rebound quickly, especially when they lost ground in campaigns.
There is another tactic for running a minority government. In 1979, Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark called it governing like a majority.
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It didn’t work for Clark because of clumsy handling. The Liberals defeated his budget because of government failure to round up MPs at a crucial moment. Pierre Trudeau went on to thump the PCs in the 1980 election.
Liberals Win All But One Seat In Newfoundland
Managed well, though, governing like a majority can work. Former prime minister Stephen Harper did it through two minorities, making no deals but adroitly stickhandling legislation. Then he finally won his majority in 2011.
Today, Justin Trudeau is close enough to a majority — 14 seats short — that he could play this same game with some public legitimacy. The next federal election may be two years off.
Federal election: Incumbents hold onto Vancouver seats, Conservatives gain ground in the suburbs
Now, what would happen if Trudeau were to bow to the NDP (and the wishes of Singh’s Burnaby riding) and cancel the pipeline, or just let it fade away?
These are the prominent winners and losers in the federal election | News
First, he would face a tremendous uproar from the Conservatives, who would do everything in their power to force an election.
Trudeau would damage his party by blowing up his entire energy transition and green growth strategy. He would waste $4.5 billion in public funds. He would look like both a fraud and a patsy for minority opinion.
On Monday night, newly elected Montreal Liberal Stephen Guilbeault, a founder of the Quebec environmental outfit Equiterre, appeared to have made his peace with the Trans Mountain, although not with any other such project.
Incumbent MP Jonathan Wilkinson re-elected in North Vancouver
Trans Mountain doesn’t need any parliamentary approvals. It only becomes an issue if the opposition tires to make cancellation part of a deal to keep the Liberals in power.
In that case the Liberals would not only break all their promises, but defy the great majority of Canadians who voted Monday night. Just try it.