2019 Federal Election Report

October 22, 2019

On October 21, 2019, Canadians elected a Liberal minority government that will be led by Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister.

Seat breakdown

  • The Liberal Party won 157 seats, down 26 seats from 2015
  • Conservatives won 121 seats, increasing their seat count by 22
  • The Bloc Quebecois surged in Quebec taking 32 seats, representing an increase by 22 after being reduced to non-party status in 2015
  • The NDP won 24 seats and now hold the balance of power,  but lost 18 caucus members 
  • The Greens increased their seat count by 1 seat and now have a total of 3 seats in Parliament

170 seats are needed to maintain the confidence of the House of Commons. With a minority government, the Liberals will have to find a party to support all confidence votes, including following the spring budget and opening Speech from the Throne. The results and political considerations likely mean that the government is in no immediate danger of falling.

Party considerations

  • Both Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh will likely face a leadership review.
  • There are also questions about the future of Elizabeth May after she failed to make a significant breakthrough despite climate change being a high profile issue. 
  • Maxime Bernier lost his seat in Beauce. This is probably the end of the People’s Party, but a positive sign that Canadians rejected the type of immigration rhetoric that we have seen among some parties in Europe.
  • Jody Wilson Raybould was re-elected as the only independent in Canada’s next parliament. 

Human and social services issues

For human services, it is hard to tell what the immediate impact will be. The Canada Child Benefit will be maintained or enhanced. The National Housing Strategy could potentially be re-negotiated, if the NDP calls for more action on affordable housing as promised in their platform. 

The NDP may push the Liberals to move forward on priorities like pharmacare, dental care, pensions and increased taxes on the wealthiest Canadians. A discussion on proportional representation will likely occur, especially with the Conservative Party winning the popular vote while the Liberal Party won the most seats. 

Major spending initiatives may be difficult to push through given the political climate and current deficits Canada is facing. The elections results demonstrate that the rise of Quebec nationalism and Western alienation could be emerging political themes. The results clearly show Canada was very divided regionally between Eastern and Western Canada.

Provincial considerations

MPPs return to Queen’s Park on Monday, October 28.

Many areas where PCs hold seats provincially went to Liberal candidates federally. Based on the federal election results in the GTA and Ontario, Doug Ford is likely to face some blame for the Conservative loss in Canada’s largest province.

Justin Trudeau also spent a lot of time attacking Ford cuts throughout the campaign. This may impact the ability of Ford and Trudeau to work together and could result in the provincial and federal government prioritizing different issues and heading in opposite directions.

Future projections

Minority governments can be very volatile. Generally, minority governments tend to survive about two years, but often result in a permanent election campaign.  

In the short term, Trudeau will likely find support from the NDP and/or the Bloc, who do not have an incentive to move forward with a quick election call. The Greens do not have much leverage with 3 seats to negotiate with the Liberals. Conservatives will play the role of opposition, but may abstain on certain votes in the event that Andrew Scheer is replaced as leader in the coming weeks.

With the campaign now over, Justin Trudeau’s biggest challenge will be working with the provincial Premiers, uniting the country and moving forward with his agenda in the context of a minority environment. He may also face a global recession or economic downturn in 2020 that could put further pressure on government finances.

On the optimistic side, some minority governments have delivered major initiatives such as national health care. This minority government may offer an opportunity to enhance child care, affordable housing or other initiatives that would support human services.

Darryl Wolk
Manager of Policy Development and Public Affairs