The Weekly Writ for Apr. 12: What if the Liberal-NDP deal went past 2025?
Plus, money doesn't buy you an election, a deep dive into Calgary and a decade for Trudeau.
Welcome to the Weekly Writ, a round-up of the latest federal and provincial polls, election news and political history that lands in your inbox every Wednesday morning.
It’s March 2025.
With the support of the New Democrats, the Liberals pass another federal budget and everything looks to be on track for the next election to take place in October, as scheduled. Thanks to the confidence and supply agreement between the Liberals and NDP, the minority parliament survived an entire term in office — a rarity in Canadian politics.
On this chilly March morning, the press gallery is all abuzz after receiving notification that Justin Trudeau has called a news conference for 11 AM. Is he going to call an early election? Is he announcing his resignation? Speculation is running wild.
The cameras snap and the journalists assembled in the National Press Theatre gasp when Trudeau walks out, flanked by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
Standing side-by-side, the two leaders make their announcement. The confidence and supply agreement, having worked so well for the preceding three years, will be extended into the next parliament — if Canadians re-elect a majority of Liberal and NDP MPs in the upcoming election. And to help them do that, the two parties have signed a non-aggression pact.
“It’s not a merger, and it’s not a coalition,” Trudeau says, as Singh nods. “There are many issues on which we do not agree. But what we do agree on, and what we think a majority of Canadians know, is that there is more that we can do together than a Pierre Poilievre government can do alone.”
“We’re going to keep holding this government to account,” Singh adds, “and steer it in the right direction. But what would be absolutely the wrong direction would be a Conservative majority, and New Democrats are going to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.”
The two leaders explain to a stunned gallery that over the coming weeks, the two parties will work together to come up with a list of ridings in which there will be only one Liberal or NDP candidate on the ballot.
“In most parts of the country, we’re still competing with one another for votes. But as a sign of our intention to collaborate, to co-operate, we’ll each set aside 15 ridings where our priority, our combined priority, will be to defeat Conservatives,” Trudeau says.
“And we will.”
But there’s been some talk recently about how the Liberal-NDP agreement is working, and how it might be the sign of things to come if we keep electing minority parliaments. Since the unification of the right nearly 20 years ago, our only two majority governments have come about when the Bloc Québécois was decimated. In our current political climate, with its regional cleavages and four strong parties, majority governments might be a thing of the past.
Discussion of an NDP-Liberal merger reached a new high in the early 2010s, when Stephen Harper’s Conservatives looked dominant. It’s easy to forget that both Joyce Murray of the Liberals and Nathan Cullen of the NDP ran on closer co-operation between the two parties in the 2012 and 2013 leadership contests. The defeat of the Conservatives in 2015, sans-merger, showed that their sense of urgency after the 2011 election was misplaced.
In any case, a merger is simply not a realistic option. The Liberals and the NDP are two very different parties. They have different histories. Unlike the constituent parts of the modern Conservatives, they don’t come from one political family that was torn apart. The Liberals trace their roots back to before Confederation, while the Socialist and Labour parties from the dawn of the 20th century are the ancestors of today’s NDP.
A merger would also have some serious complications when it comes to the provincial scene (federal-provincial memberships are shared in the NDP, for instance). So, let’s put that unworkable idea aside.
But what about a non-aggression pact? Imagine a scenario where the two parties work out a list of 15 ridings apiece where they do not run against each other, meaning both parties would still run candidates in 95% of ridings across the country. It would go a long way toward ensuring the two parties could continue to combine for a majority in the House of Commons after 2025.
There are ridings like Coast of Bays–Central–Notre Dame in Newfoundland and Labrador, King–Vaughan in Ontario and Miramichi–Grand Lake in New Brunswick where the NDP took less than 10% of the vote in 2021 but the Liberals fell short of the Conservatives by only a few points.
Or ridings like Berthier–Maskinongé in Quebec, Saskatoon West in Saskatchewan or Kootenay–Columbia in British Columbia where the Liberals were hardly a factor but the NDP needed just a small boost to come out on top.
The Liberal and NDP vote is not a perfect match, and undoubtedly the Conservatives (and Bloc and Greens) would gain some votes where a Liberal or New Democrat was not on the ballot. But polls suggest most orphaned votes would go to one of the two parties in the non-aggression pact.
It would not come without political risk, as each party could be tarred with the negatives of the other. But the fact that it would be a limited non-compete agreement could leave wiggle room to maintain some distance. And I think Canadians would like to see more collaboration in our politics, not more partisanship.
To be clear: I’m not proposing this as a course of action for the Liberals and New Democrats. I’m just throwing it out there as a workable option that would be less politically problematic than a broader deal or a full-on merger (and, perhaps more electorally promising than each party going it alone).
If the two parties in their current iteration and under their current leaders come to the conclusion that the confidence and supply agreement is working and could keep working in a future Parliament, why wouldn’t electoral co-operation be the logical next step?
Now, before getting to what is in this week’s instalment of the Weekly Writ, a note about, well, Notes. It’s Substack’s new Twitter-esque social media product that, hopefully, will re-produce some of the best parts of the bird site. I’ll be, uh, noting?, from time to time, so you should check it out!
Alright, what’s on deck this week:
News on how much money parties spent in Quebec’s election and what they got for it, plus the resignation of another Liberal leader.
Polls of voting intentions within Calgary, plus some polls you might have missed this week.
Two governments would go down to defeat if the election were held today.
A rare rural Alberta NDP target in this week’s riding profile.
The B.C. NDP swings to the left in the #EveryElectionProject.
A big milestone for Justin Trudeau.