Manitoba MPs weigh in on Liberal, NDP deal


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OTTAWA — Manitoba’s Liberal and NDP MPs have largely welcomed last week’s deal that could extend the Trudeau minority government to 2025, with some expressing reservations.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/03/2022 (370 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — Manitoba’s Liberal and NDP MPs have largely welcomed last week’s deal that could extend the Trudeau minority government to 2025, with some expressing reservations.

“People are anxious about the instability worldwide, and that includes people in Manitoba,” said Liberal MP Jim Carr, who represents Winnipeg South Centre.

The Free Press requested interviews with the four Liberals and three NDP MPs representing Manitoba, for their thoughts on the agreement announced last Tuesday.

The deal will have the New Democrats prop up the Liberals in confidence votes, in exchange for a dental care program and commitments on issues like reconciliation.

Some of the NDP were lukewarm about the deal.

“Winnipeg Centre residents need pharmacare and dental care, and nothing precludes me from fighting for other human-rights needs in my riding, including housing,” said Winnipeg Centre MP Leah Gazan.

She gave the same response four times, when asked whether the deal is enough for housing or reconciliation, and she refused to say whether she trusts the Liberals to deliver. “We’ll see how it goes,” she said.

Northern Manitoba MP Niki Ashton was not available for an interview Thursday or Friday, but wrote that she’ll push for more housing and climate action.

“We saw in the pandemic the importance of speaking up and working together to get results,” Ashton wrote.

“We have to make sure Parliament and this agreement work for Indigenous peoples, Northerners and all Manitobans.”

Elmwood-Transcona MP Daniel Blaikie was more enthusiastic, saying the deal should compel the Liberals to stick with some promises and take on new ones.

“I’ve always said that we’re coming to Ottawa to fight for the things that we think are good for the country,” said Blaikie, who will be a key player in the arrangement as the NDP’s finance critic.

“I had a mix of skepticism and hopefulness, and both those things continue to be true.”

Blaikie said the NDP will still push the Liberals on issues like higher taxes on the wealthy as well as companies that have seen a pandemic boom.

Still, he argues the world is so turbulent that a promise for more certainty is not just political spin.

He noted that “games of political chicken” have kiboshed popular government initiatives. He didn’t allude to examples, but the NDP toppled the Martin government in a 2005 confidence vote, thus killing a Liberal childcare plan.

“In a minority parliament, sometimes the posturing of political parties can paint everyone into a corner, and suddenly you have an outcome that wasn’t what anyone wanted.”

Blaikie noted that most Canadians did not want last fall’s snap election, and elected an almost identical Commons to what they had two years prior. He said the policies in the March 22 deal might help stem the anger that is fuelling far-right populism.

“This is an attempt to say: what does a different way forward look like, and how do we get to a place where a majority of parliamentarians are committed to a more cooperative model.”

Winnipeg Liberals were triumphant.

“There’s a lot of important work to be done, and we’ll now have the ability to get that work done, without all the uncertainty of a minority government — and we’ll have to be accountable for it,” said Carr.

“We’ll find alignment, but not in every case, and there will be lots of opportunity for the NDP to oppose the government.”

Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, who represents St. Boniface-St. Vital, argued most Winnipeggers voted for parties with similar views on climate, reconciliation and housing.

“The NDP want to bring forward dental care and pharmacare; I’d vote for dental care in one minute, if it came up,” he said.

Vandal argued that the deal preserves the Liberals’ 2019 and 2021 election pledges, and that his party is more apt at executing on promises than the NDP.

“We’ve got to be realistic; we’ve got to do it under a sustainable fiscal framework, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux said the agreement will allow more progress in a Parliament that seemed to be headed for the same “dysfunctional” gridlock that the Liberals cited to justify a snap election, although opposition parties instead argue the government has been heavy-handed and opaque.

“It was quickly devolving to a state it was in a year ago, which was not necessarily a good sign,” said Lamoureux, who, among MPs, spends some of the most time sitting in the Commons.

“Canadians want to see political parties working together (which) doesn’t mean opposition constantly working together to constantly beat up on the government and makes things difficult.”

Lamoureux said he’d like his party to do more on pharmacare, and hopes the NDP pushes his team toward more action.

Winnipeg South MP Terry Duguid echoed his colleagues.

“I don’t think Manitobans want an election any time soon,” he said.

“Lord knows that we need stability, coming out of COVID, the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis.”

As news of the deal broke last Monday night, Conservative interim leader Candice Bergen called it an NDP-Liberal coalition (despite a coalition requiring New Democrats to actually join cabinet).

“Right now all I can think is: God help us all,” tweeted Bergen, the MP for Portage-Lisgar, who feared even larger government deficits.

The chair of the Tories’ Manitoba caucus said he’s concerned about his party’s role as official opposition, since the deal promises the NDP exclusive briefings on upcoming legislation, instead of all parties learning details when bills get tabled.

“I don’t think it’s serving our democracy any good, and I don’t think it’s serving those parties, or Canadians,” said Dan Mazier, MP for the Dauphin area.

“They’re trying to offer people assurance things are going to operate normally in the House of Commons and democracy. Well, this just flies in the face of all of that,” he said.

”It’s all lip service.”

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