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After Canada's election: Liberal win isn't a 'total loss', Conservatives need to keep eye on People's Party stealing votes, expert says

·4-min read

While many may be tempted to characterize the Liberals' repeat minority government a "loss", the future could be positive, if they can rally support in parliament. 

"The Liberals have to be breathing at least a sigh of relief," Dr. Stewart Prest, political science lecturer at Simon Fraser University, told Yahoo News Canada. "They avoided the worst case outcome, it seems like it was quite possible that they would actually lose control of the legislature, the way things were going the middle of the campaign."

"I don't think I’d characterize it as a total loss but it's certainly a disappointment, given where it seemed like the party was positioned at the start of the campaign."

The Liberal Party looked quite strong at the beginning of the election campaign, but as time progressed, the party was statistically tied in the polls with the Conservatives, up until the eve of the election.

"It’s possible that they are, in their current incarnation, somewhat limited," Prest explained. "It seems like they are going to either have to rethink the way that they are presenting themselves to Canadians or they're going to have to get used to, perhaps, being the leading party in a divided parliament."

"That can mean working with the NDP on a regular basis and resigning themselves to the fact that it's going to be a minority, more often than not, or they're going to have to go back to the drawing board and that,...at some point down the road, may mean a change in leadership. I don't think that will be the immediate conversation."

Conservative Party leader Erin OToole waves as he speaks to supporters at the Conservatives Election Night Party in Oshawa, Ontario on September 21, 2021. - Canadians returned Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to power on September 20 in hotly contested elections against rookie conservative leader Erin O'Toole, according to projections by television networks. (Photo by Geoff Robins / AFP) (Photo by GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images)
Conservative Party leader Erin OToole waves as he speaks to supporters at the Conservatives Election Night Party in Oshawa, Ontario on September 21, 2021. - Canadians returned Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to power on September 20 in hotly contested elections against rookie conservative leader Erin O'Toole, according to projections by television networks. (Photo by Geoff Robins / AFP) (Photo by GEOFF ROBINS/AFP via Getty Images)

Conservatives pulled in different directions

Looking to the Conservatives, who once again won the popular vote over the Liberals, it seems the party is split. They are "being pulled in two different directions," Prest states, between Erin O'Toole's more moderate conservatism and more "true blue" or principled Conservatives, closer to the leaning of the People's Party of Canada (PPC).

"It's clear the People's Party, as they are constituted, are not going to win any seats, but they are able to pull some votes in some important ridings away from the Conservatives, when even a few can make a difference," Prest identified. "I think it's a safe assumption that a good number of them would have gone to the Conservatives if the PPC wasn't there."

"The choice is not an easy one for the Conservatives because it seems like they were able to make some modest inroads into some of the Liberal support... But they have this problem that a move in either direction means a loss in another, so it's not an easy problem to resolve."

The New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh, saves after talking to media once votes were counted in Canada's 44th general election in. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, September 20, 2021. - Canadians returned Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to power on September 20 in hotly contested elections against a rookie conservative leader, but he failed to gain an absolute majority, according to projections by television networks. (Photo by Don MacKinnon / AFP) (Photo by DON MACKINNON/AFP via Getty Images)
The New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh, saves after talking to media once votes were counted in Canada's 44th general election in. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, September 20, 2021. - Canadians returned Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to power on September 20 in hotly contested elections against a rookie conservative leader, but he failed to gain an absolute majority, according to projections by television networks. (Photo by Don MacKinnon / AFP) (Photo by DON MACKINNON/AFP via Getty Images)

NDP need to update their strategy

The NDP were able to see some growth in support in this election, but looking to the future, they will need to look at their strategy.

"It may continue to evolve in incremental ways, in the same sort of way, appealing to younger voters," Prest said.

"Or do they need to also find something of a change in message to try to broaden the appeal to some voters who continue to gravitate towards the Liberals, even if they are getting somewhat tired of the Trudeau brand and Trudeau incarnation of the party."

In terms of leadership, Jagmeet Singh is quite a liked leader, both with Canadians and within his own party, so Prest expects, at this point at least, that he will remain the leader of the NDP.

"I would be quite surprised if we started to hear challenges to his leadership, given that the party has quite effectively unified behind him as leader," Prest said. 

"It seems more likely that the party may go back and under his leadership, try to find different ways to present their party and their message, and perhaps providing additional detail about some of the policies they are presenting. They're presented in a fairly abstract way without a lot of detail and perhaps they can find ways to assure Canadians of just what some of those alternatives and programs would look like, more concretely, and that kind of strategy may help them out."

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