How the Liberal-NDP deal will work and what it could mean for Canadians


The ‘offer and confidence’ agreement reached between the governing Liberals and the opposition New Democrats could affect the type of legislation Canadians can expect to see passed in Parliament by now 2025.

The parties agreed to work together on key policy areas in situations where both parties want the same “medium-term outcome” – while avoiding an early election call.

According to the agreement, these key policy areas are climate change, health spending, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, economic growth and efforts to make life more affordable.

To do this, parties will need to establish a working relationship that governs how they communicate their plans and voting intentions. The Prime Minister’s Office released a statement on its website outlining the deal. Here is an overview of some key questions.

Is it a coalition government?

No. The NDP is not part of the Liberal government. NDP MPs remain in opposition, they get no seats at the Cabinet table, and the NDP can opt out of the deal if they feel it no longer serves their interests.

The agreement only requires the NDP to vote for the government on confidence votes and budgetary matters such as budget implementation acts and money bills.

The vote commitment stands until Parliament adjourns in June 2025, allowing the Liberals to table four federal budgets.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said on Tuesday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had not offered to bring the NDP into government – and he would have turned down such an offer.

“I want to go into it with a spirit of hopeful optimism, but I will remain critical and we will remain an opposition party,” Singh said on Tuesday. “We’re going to stay energetic to help people and make sure this deal is followed through.”

How will the parties work together on a day-to-day basis?

The PMO’s statement says that in order to make the deal work, the NDP has agreed not to offer a vote of no confidence in the government or vote for it if presented by another left.

The deal says that if a vote in the House was designed to “stop the government from working,” it will declare it a vote of confidence while giving notice to the NDP. Similarly, the NDP promises to inform the Liberal government “before publicly declaring that it authorizes discussions on confidence”.

To ensure that the parliamentary committees continue to function, the agreement stipulates that the two parties agree to remain in contact on matters which “would cause unnecessary obstacles to the review of legislation, studies and work plans of the commission”.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, left, and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh take part in the English-language federal election leaders’ debate in Gatineau, Que., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The parties also agree to fast-track bills through the House of Commons, with the NDP promising to “support a limited number of programming motions to pass laws that both parties agree on.”

To ensure the NDP stays informed, the Liberal government promises to make officials available to brief the NDP “in a timely manner” to give the party enough time to respond before action is taken.

The parties also agreed that party leaders meet quarterly, regular meetings between house leaders and whips, and monthly stocktaking meetings chaired by a group of staff and politicians.

Singh said he will select NDP MPs and staffers to attend those meetings.

What do both parties want to do?

The NDP and the Liberals have identified seven key areas where they say they will work together. Here’s what they agreed to pursue:

Health

  • A new dental care program that would start this year with low-income children under 12 before expanding next year to include those under 18, the elderly and people living with disabilities. The program would be limited to families earning less than $90,000 with no co-payment requirements for anyone earning less than $70,000.

  • A commitment to work on a “universal national pharmacare program” by passing pharmacare legislation by the end of next year. It would be followed by the mission of the National Medicines Agency to recommend essential medicines and a bulk purchase plan.

  • A commitment to “additional ongoing investments” to strengthen provincial health care systems by hiring more doctors, nurses and mental health supports.

  • A long-term care safety act to address the funding and policy gaps revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Affordability

  • An Early Learning and Child Care Act – to be passed this year – to ensure that child care agreements between the federal and provincial governments get secure long-term federal funding and are focused on places non-profit.

  • More affordable housing, a $500 supplement to the Canada Housing Benefit this year and a “homebuyer’s bill of rights”.

Climate change

  • A commitment to phase out federal government support for the fossil fuel sector – including funding for Crown corporations – beginning in 2022.

  • A commitment to find new “ways to further accelerate the trajectory” towards a net zero economy by 2050.

  • A “Clean Jobs Training Center” to support the retraining of energy workers as Canada moves away from fossil fuels.

Labor

  • A commitment to implement legislation passed by the Liberals to ensure federally regulated workers get 10 days of paid sick leave every year as soon as possible.

  • The introduction of legislation by the end of next year making it illegal to use replacement workers when an employer of unionized employees in a federally regulated industry locks out workers.

Reconciliation

  • A commitment to continued funding to help First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities undertake burial searches at former residential school sites.

  • A commitment to work with Indigenous peoples to decide how housing investments are made and designed.

  • A commitment to advancing policies related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

Tax initiatives

Democracy

  • A commitment to work with Elections Canada to increase voter turnout, which could include extending election day to three voting days.

  • A change in election rules to allow people to vote at any polling station in their constituency.

  • Improvements to absentee ballots so voters are not disenfranchised.

  • A commitment to ensure that the number of seats for Quebec in the House of Commons remains constant.