And Now… 

Craig Brockwell | November 2019

As always, I will not take much time analyzing the election results but rather spend more time outlining a government relations’ path forward for our clients or potential clients, given the final results. “Arm Chair Quarterbacking” may be fun but moving forward, this type of analysis is of little value.

To put all this in context, it should be noted that on average, minority governments in Canada have lasted 479 days and that 7 out of 13 minority governments were re-elected. This fact can help set the table somewhat for an analysis of the recent election.

Weeks ago my colleague, Greg Seniuk and I had done our own assessment of the poll aggregators and individual polling. Given what we were seeing, it appeared that there would be at least a Liberal minority – so, no surprise! The Liberals at the time held strong leads in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario. This invariably translates to a clear path to government.

Since then we saw some movement, however, in the end, the pollsters were close to spot on with ‘Voice of Franky’ and Mainstreet calling it as accurate as pollsters can.

I was not surprised with the Trudeau government retaining a second term or a minority. Historically, this happens often.

In my mind the result was baked in due to several factors.

One – the Liberals kept many if not most of their 2015 promises but not a few key promises that could have helped them retain majority. The failure to follow through on electoral reform, balanced budgets, and indigenous issues, in my opinion cost them a majority. These issues would have retained enough left and right votes to realize a majority.

In reality, on electoral reform, I couldn’t see them achieving this promise in one term, such the previous comment.

Two – the Conservatives, albeit with some recently discovered help, were quite effective in demonizing the Trudeau brand and suppressing the vote or turning the vote enough to make a difference. This tactic plays to the less informed voter who accepts the framing without research or follow up.

Three – the rise of the Bloc and the success of Francois Legault in making Bill 21 a federal election issue which disadvantaged all parties but his own. His charismatic performance at two French debates also helped.

Four – the Liberals had a track record to defend. Good, bad or indifferent, a track record.

Lastly, the Liberals, minus some significant blunders, ran a strong campaign and had a strong ground game where it mattered.

So, here we are – minority!

I believe that this government can be stable for at least two to three years which would bring it past the average life of most minorities. Each Party’s bank account is thoroughly depleted with the NDP basically broke. No one should want to wage another battle 6, 8 or 12 months down the road.

As well, I could see Andrew Sheer being squeezed out within this timeframe and I could see Justin Trudeau deciding to resign as well. I wouldn’t say either scenario is likely but certainly possible.

The Liberals will need some time to forge a workable, yet informal coalition. I suspect that that bargaining has already begun but it should take a month or two to clarify the complexion of the government moving forward.

Consequently, as with any situation, you will need to see where your goals align with the government or moderate your goals so that they do align.

I am confident that this minority will take a more progressive approach to policy development and legislation. The Liberals, NDP and Greens can agree quite closely on a number of policy issues that Canadians demonstrated they find important such as climate change, indigenous affairs, jobs and the economy, skills training, and infrastructure. Surprisingly, I also believe on the issue of budgets, we could see some moderate compromise that would include support from both the left and the right.

The challenge with trying to get your issues heard in this reality is that you will need to work all sides. You will need to peddle your issues to Conservatives, NDP, Greens, Bloc and Liberals to bring weight to your arguments. This is no easy task and one that I know you will need guidance in performing. Because of this, the number of meetings and contacts has grown exponentially and you will not be able to attend all these yourself. In many cases, you will need a proxy to bring your issues to bear.

You will need help in the crafting of your message so that it resonates across Party lines and still retains your goals. The use of language that aligns with all Parties can be delicate and challenging to develop and even more challenging so that your intent is not lost.

You will need a firm with experience and relationships with all Parties in order to first open the doors. I believe it is always better when you have a government relations’ specialist who has strong relationships across Party lines. Virtually all of us are partisans. However, some of us have propagated a professional approach that opens the doors regardless of Party.

And you will need a firm that understands your issues completely or has experience in your policy area of concern. Language, background, work experiences outside the GR world, work experience inside the GR world all have a part in finding success.

In my mind Solstice Public Affairs is a firm that has a strong track record of delivery for our clients. Our firm is bilingual and a member of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. We are a small, yet hit above our weight and we provide a more personal approach.

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