Navigator logo

Not a Coalition (w/ Sally Housser and Colin MacDonald)

This week host Amanda Galbraith speaks with former Navigator colleague and NDP strategist Sally Housser and Navigator Principal and Liberal commentator Colin MacDonald about the supply and confidence agreement and what it means for the next three years of government. The three also catch up on the UCP leadership race currently underway in Alberta.

The Liberal-NDP deal opens a door for Conservative leadership candidates

This week the prime minister simultaneously took two different risks with two very different opposition parties.

The Liberal “confidence-and-supply” agreement with the New Democrats was a political manoeuvre that provides stability for a minority government, while offering NDP leader Jagmeet Singh reasonable positioning as a conscientious voice in Parliament.

The price? Limiting the government’s flexibility as it copes with a post-COVID world, by locking the prime minister into policies that are both popular and costly.

Notwithstanding those limitations, the decision must have been easy to make with respect to the New Democrats.

In another respect, a gamble has been taken here. The deal presents the Conservative party with a longer runway to develop ideas and campaign tools before the next general election, and provides distinct opportunities for each of the prominent leadership candidates to expand and strengthen their base. Competition to do so will be fierce; it could be the exact environment Conservatives need — if they don’t tear each other apart in the process.

Pierre Poilievre, Jean Charest and Patrick Brown are all licking their chops after the announcement.

As the loudest parliamentary voice against government excess, the deal plays well into Poilievre’s pugilistic strategy. He has amassed an enviable online following and list of caucus endorsements with his harsh criticism of deficits, inflation and incursion on personal freedoms. With this deal, Poilievre can no longer be accused of fighting a fictional bogeyman.

We know that Canadians share his concern for affordability, and many will see Liberal-NDP spending pledges as a bridge too far. When the confidence-and-supply agreement reaches its conclusion, we will no longer be in a pandemic. Our growing debt load, combined with likely increases in interest rates, will be a pain point for governments and taxpayers alike.

Who better to fight against this seemingly inevitable outcome than Canada’s loudest fiscal hawk?

For the seasoned Charest, the deal presents an opportunity to prove he really is “built to win.” His play will be to position himself as the Conservative best able to draw together the progressive wing, through moderate positions on climate change and social issues, as well as a credible appeal to national unity.

With the Liberals drifting away from their traditional centrist positioning — now more than just rhetorically — it stands to reason that progressive conservative voices have an opening.

Charest will have to contrast himself with other candidates, while convincing swing voters and existing party members that his team poses a credible alternative to the current government and is worth investing in.

More than that, Charest needs to convince them that it is worth taking out a membership card and joining. To do so will require not simply a compelling policy platform, but also a ground organization on a scale not seen before in a partisan leadership race.

As for Patrick Brown, he has the chance to cement his base and deploy his urban organizers to attract new members. As mayor of Brampton, he has a diverse coalition of voters to serve as a springboard and a proven ability to win in a Liberal-leaning city — but with a limited profile outside of Ontario, he has considerable ground to make up.

While generally seen as a moderate, Brown did not hesitate to loudly and provocatively decry the new “socialist coalition.” Campaigning against government largesse is hardly a novel strategy in Conservative leadership politics, but the newly formed Liberal-NDP alliance has added fuel to these efforts.

In fact, since the government announcement, Conservative fundraisers have found a real source of excitement and urgency. Hopefully, members will be treated to a much more aspirational debate about the role of the Conservative party — and the role of government — in this changing political ecosystem.

By securing this agreement, Justin Trudeau has made his immediate future as prime minister much more secure, but he has also opened the door for stronger, more coherent opposition in the long-term. The playing field is open for Conservative candidates to take advantage.

The Energy Exchange | The Pragmatic Middle

In the series finale of The Energy Exchange, a joint podcast produced by Navigator and Gowling, co-hosts Jason and Lorne are joined by S&P Global’s Kevin Birn to chat about the future of the energy sector amidst a constantly changing backdrop. Listen in as the trio discuss energy security, the sector’s transition, and Canada’s role as a global energy producer.

On the Front Lines (w/ Laryssa Waler)

This week, host Amanda Galbraith speaks with Ukrainian-Canadian Laryssa Waler about the conflict with Russia, and how it’s resonating with the Ukrainian community here in Canada. The two discuss the history of the Russian relationship, and point to specific ways to help support Ukraine during this difficult time.

The world is waking up to a new security reality. It’s time Canada did the same

When Russia first began its illegal invasion of Ukraine, the entire world seemed to stop for a moment. We watched in disbelief as a European ally — a modern democracy and major trading partner — was invaded by a foreign power.

In short order, the Western world sprang to action, launching the most severe sanctions in history and demonstrating both the unity and the resolve of our alliance. The costs for Russia are real, but even the most optimistic view concedes the sanctions will not deter Vladimir Putin.

Worse yet, his campaign has grown all the more brazen and murderous: shelling residential neighbourhoods, targeting women and children in clearly defined shelters, and using brute force against civilians in an effort to terrorize the Ukrainian people. There is no doubt about it — Putin is committing war crimes, and U.S. President Joe Biden was absolutely right to call a spade a spade.

The president of Ukraine, for his part, has not stopped. For the past two weeks, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has relentlessly appealed to Western governments for military aid and a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over his country. Addressing our own House of Commons, Zelenskyy expressed his frustration that in return, allies “express their deep concern about the situation. When we talk with our partners, they say please hold on a little longer.”

It’s difficult to argue with Zelenskyy, but nonetheless essential to remember that for all its appeal, a no fly-zone would entail NATO forces engaging Russian air power — a bridge too far for an alliance intent on avoiding all-out confrontation.

But as parts of Ukraine are transformed into a hellish theatre of war, the rest of the world is waking up to a new global reality. The consequences are astonishing. Countries around the world have responded to an increasingly hostile landscape with bold action to undo decades of policy consensus, informed by their history.

Germany, for one, has increased defence spending to roughly two per cent of GDP, after decades of extreme self-restraint on its military capabilities. As a result, the world’s most pacifist major power will now instead become its third-biggest military spender.

Likewise, there is now talk in Japan of potentially hosting U.S. nuclear arms on the soil of a country that has never forgotten the pain of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But as Japan sees China revaluating its stance in light of Russian aggression, the only nation to ever suffer a nuclear attack is reconsidering what truly poses the greatest threat to its security.

This shift extends far beyond Japan and Germany, to countries around the world — including China — that are imagining their place within a new security framework.

Canada, for its part, must recognize this transformation and decide what it means for us. Our military procurement systems are among the worst in the Western world, and successive governments have failed to meaningfully secure our Arctic — while Russia has built up its military presence in the region.

Now is the time to change that. It is incumbent on the prime minister to recognize that our authority as a NATO member relies on far more than our “convening” power.

While it seems unlikely now, threats to Arctic sovereignty are mounting as Russia grows more belligerent and shipping lanes become more easily accessible.

Like our allies around the world, Canada seems to be waking up to this new dawn; on Wednesday, American and Canadian forces announced military exercises in the Arctic. It’s a promising sign, but whether it portends a serious effort to beef up our presence remains to be seen.

Simply put, Canada cannot afford to sleepwalk while our allies — to say nothing of our enemies — redefine their stances on global security. Our country once played an important role as a broker and convenor, yes, but also as a military power which upheld its commitments and defended its strategic interests. In a world consumed by change, it’s time to re-evaluate those interests.