Canadian Politics

A17(a) - Assessing Pledge and Mandate Fulfillment: Trudeau’s Liberal Minority Governments in Comparative Perspective (Panel 2 of 4: Domestic Policy Areas)

Date: Jun 14 | Time: 10:15am to 11:45am | Location: J-1187 (accessible via J-1200), Pavillon Judith-Jasmin, Université du Québec à Montréal (05, rue Sainte-Catherine Est)

Chair/Président/Présidente : Alexandre Fortier-Chouinard (University of Toronto)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Lisa Birch (Université Laval)

This series of four panels compares the mandate performance of two consecutive Liberal minority governments. Panelists address the following question: to what extent did successive Trudeau Liberal minority governments perform like "promise deliverers," actively pursuing pledge fulfillment, or like "trustees of the public good," who manage public affairs and policy according to the party’s ideological vision and values when facing unforeseen national and global events or attending to policy routines in government? This panel series presents the reflections of experts from our forthcoming, cutting-edge book on this period in Canadian political history. Experts compare the overall performance of successive Trudeau liberal minority governments (Trudeau II, 2019-2021; and Trudeau III, 2021-present) to each other and to that of the first majority Liberal government (Trudeau I, 2015-2019) to ponder the impact of the Liberal-NDP pact on pledge fulfillment, mandate fulfillment, and policy development. The second panel presents the performance of the Trudeau minority governments in various domestic policy sectors starting from data from the Trudeau Polimeter, a Web application that tracks the fulfillment of campaign promises, and then examining government actions on matters unforeseen at the time of the previous elections. Their analyses extend beyond election promises to cover other significant federal policy decisions that shaped the 2019-2024 period.

Re-Paving the Path: Improving Upon Quebec’s Child Care Policy Model in the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Plan: Kenya Thompson (York University), Emma Willert (York University)
Abstract: In Budget 2021, the Trudeau government launched the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care plan (CWELCC), promising $10 per day child care to all families nationwide by 2026. Trudeau applauded Quebec’s leadership in early learning and child care policy, citing its provincial child care program, established more than 25 years ago, as a successful model for the CWELCC to follow. Though Quebec certainly paved the policy pathway for child care for the rest of Canada, its program has faced longstanding challenges meeting considerable demand and addressing issues about the variable quality of care. In the first two years since the implementation of the CWELCC, Trudeau has made several promises to deliver a system of early learning and child care across Canada’s provinces and territories. There has been a resulting bottleneck in the number of affordable spaces available to families, and a lack of early childhood educators (ECEs) to staff the spaces that do exist. Through an examination of four key markers of quality, this chapter demonstrates how the goals as outlined by the Trudeau government have not been sufficiently or substantially met as promised—even the promises kept have not practically benefitted the lives of many Canadian families. With the CWELCC, Canada has an unprecedented opportunity to address the issues with Quebec’s child care program, rather than replicate them. This chapter will explore these challenges, and provide a policy map to be followed towards a high-quality system of early learning and childcare in both Quebec and the rest of Canada.

The Housing Crisis: Promises and Deceptions of the National Housing Strategy: Alison Smith (University of Toronto), Marc-Antoine Rancourt (University of Toronto)
Abstract: After nearly 40 years of federal inaction, the federal government adopted a National Housing Strategy in 2017. Celebrated as a return of the federal government to the housing policy-making table, the housing strategy has brought increased investments and energy to the housing and homelessness crises. Yet, six years after the adoption of the NHS, the housing crises is worse than ever, and community partners and municipalities are frustrated by unspent money and inadequate resources to meet their needs. This chapter will evaluate the promises made in the NHS. While acknowledging that the housing crisis has become more acute and complex, especially following the pandemic, this chapter concludes that the federal response has been inadequate and has not met needs or expectations.

Health Care Politics under two Liberal Minority Governments: Daniel Béland (McGill University), Alexandra Hays-Alberstat (McGill University), Olivier Jacques (Université de Montréal)
Abstract: This chapter provides a qualitative account of whether the Liberal party of Canada’s (LPC) 2019 and 2021 electoral promises in the area of heath were fulfilled, as Justin Trudeau led minority governments in both instances. The LPC faced many challenges since 2019. Most prominently, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the course of the electoral landscape for the 2021 election where 46 promises were made in the health and social services domain—compared to only 28 promises found in the LPC’s 2019 election platform, many of them concerned vaccination. We argue that the LPC’s minority status played a significant role in the ability or failure to fulfill their health-related commitments of 2019 and 2021. First, the election supply and confidence agreement between NDP and liberals in 2022 forced the hand of the Liberals in regard to dental care and pharmacare—both broken promises from the 2019 election that were absent in 2021. Second, the pandemic brought healthcare to the top of voters’ minds thereby changing the politics of healthcare. We use data from the Trudeau Polimeter, a Web application that tracks the fulfillment of campaign promises to analyze five broad promises categories that encompass both elections’ main commitments: (1) healthcare transfers; (2) public drug coverage; (3) mental health services; (4) addiction; and (5) vaccination. This chapter will analyze how these unforeseen events affect the fulfillment of election promises. It will also address the implications that extend beyond promises to cover significant policy decisions that shape healthcare politics before the next federal election.

From governing during immobility to end of innocence: Trudeau’s immigration policies since 2019: Mireille Paquet (Concordia University), Catherine Xhardez (Université de Montréal)
Abstract: This presentation highlights four of the most important features of the governments’ 2019-2023 track record. First, immigration policymaking in and around the pandemic, which was marked by the introduction of multiple slowing international immigration in an unprecedented manner since the 1930 economic crisis and - as time passed - with the the management of the consequences of these policies developed “on-the-fly” (Perzyna et al. 2022), such as acute labour shortages and an historical backlog of immigration files. Second, the implementation of the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel in 2022 is discussed. This initiative facilitated the arrival of over 200,000 Ukrainian nationals under temporary protection. Third, the 2023 expansion of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States. While this reduced irregular arrivals at land borders, it consequently spurred a rapid increase in asylum claims in Canada. Fourth, the increasingly controversial decision to base Canada's post-pandemic recovery on record immigration targets and the accompanying plans to modernize the country’s immigration programs and legislation. As the Liberals conclude their second mandate, they face unprecedented criticism for their immigration management. Critiques range from linking immigration to various societal issues (e.g., housing crisis) to disappointment over perceived biased treatment of immigrants based on their regions of origin or geopolitical alignment. As public opinion about immigration is shifting in Canada, Trudeau’s second mandate might mark the loss of innocence for a government who had been able to use immigration to its advantage in the past.