The 2019 Canadian federal election saw the Liberal Party remain in power, although it lost 27 seats compared to the 2015 elections and was reduced from a majority to a minority government.

Liberal incumbents won all three of U of T’s ridings: Chrystia Freeland for University–Rosedale, where UTSG is located; Iqra Khalid for Mississauga–Erin Mills, where UTM is located; and Gary Anadasangaree for Scarborough–Rouge Park, where UTSC is located.

For students, the Liberal Party platform promised a two-year grace period on paying off student loans, increasing the loan repayment threshold to $35,000 a year, and increasing grants by 40 per cent.

Electoral disparities

Even though the Conservative Party won fewer seats than the Liberals, it comfortably topped the popular vote at 34.4 per cent compared to the Liberals’ 33 per cent. The other big shifts occurred with the Bloc Québécois (BQ), which gained 22 seats to reach a total of 32, and the New Democratic Party, which lost 15 seats to fall to a total of 24.

The election displayed the disparity between votes and seats under the first-past-the-post voting system. While the Green Party won 6.5 per cent of the total vote, it only won three seats. Meanwhile, the BQ’s 7.7 per cent of the vote translated into 32 seats in Québec.

In 2015, the Liberals promised electoral reform to even out these disparities. The Liberals abandoned this commitment in 2017 and appear to have benefitted from that decision, as they won the election despite more Canadians voting for another party.

Leading a minority government

“I do think that the shine has come off of the Liberal brand a little bit in the last four years,” said U of T political science professor Andrew McDougall on the election outcome. “When Trudeau came in, he had sky-high expectations of doing politics differently, and he projected this sort of young, energetic leader who was going to really sort of change everything for a better progressive future. And of course, perhaps inevitably, he couldn’t live up to any of that, or even live up to a lot of that.”

Looking into the future, McDougall predicts that this government is “not going to last the full four or five years… The opposition parties are going to give the Liberals some time to govern… but they’re going to be waiting for their opportunity to bring down the government about 18 months to two years, and [hold] an election at a time that they feel is best for them.”

Unlike with their previous majority government, the Liberals will now have to gain support from the opposition parties in order to govern and pass legislation. Having rejected a coalition government with other parties, the Liberals will “have to work on an issue by issue basis with these parties on their platform. But the parties are going to have a say now in what those policies look like,” said McDougall.