Trudeau Rejects Formal Coalition and Vows to Govern Case-by-Case

October 24, 2019by Theophilos Argitis and Shelly Hagan
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, right, wave to people at the Liberal Party campaign headquarters in Montreal on October 21, 2019, after Trudeau's Liberal Party won the 2019 federal election. (Raffi Kirdi/Xinhua/Zuma Press/TNS)

OTTAWA — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who lost his parliamentary majority in Canada’s election this week, will forgo any formal governing agreement with another party and instead move ahead with legislation on a case-by-case basis.

“It is not in our plans at all to form any sort of formal coalition — formal or informal coalition,” Trudeau said Wednesday in his first news conference after the vote Monday that saw his Liberals win 157 of the legislature’s 338 districts. “I intend to sit down with all party leaders in the coming weeks.”

It’s the sort of governing approach used in Canada’s three last minority governments, under former prime ministers Stephen Harper and Paul Martin, and gives the Liberals more flexibility to press ahead with their own agenda, without being bound by demands of another party.

It will allow Trudeau, for example, to resist any pressure to abandon the controversial expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline as part of any deal. At the news conference, the prime minister reiterated his commitment to move ahead with the project, which would carry Alberta crude to British Columbia’s coast near Vancouver.

Trudeau’s government nationalized Trans Mountain last year “because it was in Canada’s interest to do so and because the environment and the economy need to go together,” he said. “We will be continuing with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.”

The go-it-alone tactic should work easily for Trudeau, at least temporarily, given he’s only 13 seats shy of a majority and potentially has three possible partners: the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the main opposition Conservatives. The pro-labor NDP is seen as the most natural partner to the Liberals.

Trudeau knows he has a lot of leverage on the matter, since the opposition parties won’t want to trigger another election for at least another year as they seek to rebuild their financial reserves and review their leadership.

The case-by-case approach does come with one risk. Trudeau won’t have any allies on parliamentary committees, which will be the primary avenue for opposition parties to exert their influence in the legislature. Without a majority, the prime minister won’t have control of these potentially powerful political bodies.

Trudeau also told reporters Wednesday he would swear in his new government on Nov. 20 and pledged to keep his Cabinet gender balanced. He left it unclear when parliament would return, but said his first legislation will be to implement his pledge to lower income taxes for most Canadians.

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Argitis reported from Ottawa and Hagan from New York

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©2019 Bloomberg News

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