UBC experts Dr. Maxwell Cameron and Dr. Kathryn Harrison share their thoughts on the 2021 federal election results.
For a list of UBC experts available to comment on the results of the 2021 Canadian federal election, click here.
“Democracy remains strong in Canada, but is showing signs of stress. Voters are satisfied with the status quo but feel no inclination to give the government a carte blanche. This was an election called in the hope that the Liberal government could win a majority.
The result has to be a disappointment for the Prime Minister who was dogged throughout the campaign by complaints that the election was an unnecessary distraction, especially in the midst of a pandemic. A minority parliament is better than a false majority, however, because it reminds the parties that voters expect them to work together.
It appears that the Liberals and Conservatives have won roughly the number of seats they had in the last parliament, while the NDP has picked up a few. However, the seat distribution does not give the NDP the kind of balance of power it may have wanted. O’Toole’s pivot to the centre was consequential and lays a foundation for a return to a more progressive brand of conservatism.
The election was a lost opportunity for the Greens who faced internal divisions at a critical moment when climate change was on the agenda. While the status quo largely prevailed, the tone and tenor of the campaign was remarkably negative.
Perhaps this reflects pandemic fatigue, but the pandemic response was also politicized and used as a wedge issue at a time when the major parties were, by and large, converging in their policy positions.”
“Various polls indicated that climate change was one of, if not the top issue on voters’ minds going into the election, not surprising after over 500 deaths in the heat wave, wildfires across the west, and the whole town of Lytton burning to the ground. Given that, it’s a bit surprising that we didn’t hear more about climate change. I think that reflected the Conservatives’ success in strengthening their platform enough to mute that as a wedge issue. That said, the Conservatives certainly weren’t running on climate, but they probably offered enough to economically motivated voters who also care about climate to avoid embarrassment. But not enough to pick up votes!
Clearly it was not a good election for the Greens. The party lost 2/3 of its vote share from 2019, the leader lost badly in her riding and is almost certain to resign, they didn’t reclaim Fredericton after Atwin’s defection, and one of their incumbent MPs was defeated – though they picked up another seat in Kitchener. In addition to the usual challenge faced by small parties in our first-past-the-post electoral system, the Greens faced 3 other challenges: transition from a popular and widely known leader to one unknown to voters; (obviously!) conflict within the party that left the Greens underfunded and ill-prepared for the election, but also the mainstreaming of detailed and ambitious climate platforms.
For decades the Greens spoke truth to power, calling for measures like emissions caps and a carbon tax when other parties were obfuscating and promising ineffective subsidies. But now that those measures are built into the Liberal and NDP platforms especially (and with lesser ambition the Conservatives), the Greens aren’t offering anything qualitatively different – more demanding, but without the modelling and platform costing that the bigger parties can afford.
What’s next? The Liberals may have come out of the election with the same number of seats, but they made some big promises along the way, on which they’ll have to deliver before meeting voters again. They have their work cut out for them on climate – ongoing negotiations with provinces on carbon pricing, developing of regulations to reduce oil and gas emissions on a path to net zero, a clean electricity standard, and a zero emissions vehicle mandate.
That’s a lot of policy to develop, and although probably most will entail executive actions rather than legislation, the NDP will be in a position to hold their feet to the fire under the Net Zero Climate Accountability Act.”