The federal election results are in, and Canadians have voted for a Liberal minority government. While the Conservatives form the Official Opposition, political observers agree that the third and fourth parties – the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP – will play significant roles in shaping policy, as the Liberals will have to rely on their support to pass legislation and retain the confidence of the House of Commons.
What does this mean for issues like healthcare and the relationship of Ottawa with provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador? There are several important issues that stand out.
First, the federal government needs to make healthcare a priority. Polling done during the election by Ipsos for the Schroeder Policy Group shows that 68% of Canadians do not believe the federal government adequately funds healthcare in the provinces, and 73% support Ottawa restoring the annual increase in healthcare transfers to 6% from 3%. To fund such an increase, Canadians recommend the government use revenues from the carbon tax, taxes on internet-based companies currently not taxed in Canada, and increased corporate taxes.
These are all proposals that the Liberals, NDP or Bloc have made in their platforms, and therefore are in a position to fulfil. However, the three parties have also all promised to create a new pharmacare program. Expanding the federal government’s reach into this area when we still have long wait times, idle operating rooms and patients languishing in hallways, makes little sense. We recommend the government direct its proposed sources of revenue to current health priorities before spending them on new ones or accumulating more debt to finance them.
Second, with regard to the relationship between Ottawa and the provinces, notably Newfoundland and Labrador, the NDP is the only party to have pronounced itself on the matter during the campaign. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh wrote in a letter to Premier Dwight Ball, “The purpose of equalization is to ensure that provinces can deliver reasonably comparable services and to promote greater equality across Canada… New Democrats will make bold new investments that recognize Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique circumstances and work with your government to strengthen services like health care and employment insurance, and to make life more affordable.”
The election of NDP MP Jack Harris in Saint John’s East may also provide an opportunity for Newfoundland to bring its concerns to the federal government as the Liberals seek the support of the NDP for other parts of their mandate, including the federal budget. These are important elements for policymakers to consider as they engage with the new Parliament. There has been a groundswell of support in Newfoundland for greater support from Ottawa and a recognition that the province has been shortchanged on both resources and equalization. It is also in Canada’s economic interest to ensure that Newfoundland does not default on its debt, which would have dire economic repercussions in the rest of the country.
As the new Parliament convenes this fall, issues of healthcare and federal-provincial relations need to be on the front burner. Our elected officials have a duty to ensure that these critical priorities are addressed – and that in this new minority government, that they cooperate to make this happen.
Through the coming months, the Schroeder Policy Group will be following the political landscape as it navigates this new minority government. We will be there every step of the way, asking tough questions that will lead to tough choices.
Stay up to date with our post-election insights.