Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Posted at: Oct 22, 2019, 8:49 PM; last updated: Oct 22, 2019, 8:49 PM (IST)

Canada polls: 3 Punjab-origin ministers return to Parliament

Canada polls: 3 Punjab-origin ministers return to Parliament
Supporters wave Canadian flags as New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh takes the stage after being re-elected in Burnaby South at an NDP election night party in Burnaby, British Columbia on October 21, 2019. Reuters

Iqbal Singh Sidhu

The elections results are in. Justin Trudeau will get to keep his Prime Minister’s chair, although he will have to borrow a leg, or two. Liberals have won 156 seats, falling 14 short of a majority and yet, Trudeau has had the best night of the three major federal party leaders. 

Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives have come in second with 122 seats despite leading in popular vote. Jagmeet Singh’s NDP has managed to scrape 24 seats in what turned out to be a fight to remain an official party (a party needs to have at least 12 seats in the House of Commons for official party status). 

Out of the four Punjabi-origin ministers of Trudeau’s previous Cabinet, three will be returning to the Parliament. Amarjit Sohi, the former minister for Natural Resources lost to Tim Uppal in Edmonton, and so did Ralph Goodale in Regina, who until recently was the second most powerful man in the country; being Trudeau’s second-in-command. 

In the Greater Toronto area, which has a significant immigrant population, including at least 1,000,000 people of South Asian origin, the Liberals have managed to hold their ground.

The dumpster fire lit by recently elected Conservative Ontario Premier Doug Ford was instrumental in steering away potential Conservative voters, a fact not lost on Scheer. 

Jagmeet Singh, who is himself of South Asian origin and started his political career as a member of the provincial parliament from one of GTA’s suburbs could not make headway and the NDP has not managed to win a single seat where it should have won at least 1. 

All five parliament seats of Brampton have gone to the Liberals and all the MPs are of Punjabi origin. Similar story played out in the adjoining city of Mississauga where the Liberals have retained their gains. In the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia, all three seats of Surrey have gone to Liberal candidates of Punjabi origin, and not too far away in the town of Burnaby Jagmeet Singh has retained his seat. 

From South Vancouver former defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan will be returning to the parliament—if he gets to keep his ministerial post remains to be seen. Jody Wilson Raybould of SNC Lavalin fame has won as an independent, and we can count on her to be a thorn in the side of Liberals in general and Justin Trudeau in particular. 

In Quebec, the sovereignist ethno-cultural party Bloc Quebecois has staged a fantastic comeback under Yves-Francois Blanchet. At 32 seats, it is now the 3rd largest party in the House, a feat not accomplished since 1993. Most of these gains have come at the expense of the NDP, which has been virtually wiped out from the province, having been limited to 1 seat, where it once had 59. 

The Green Party, a Left-leaning outfit with an exclusive environmentalist agenda has secured three seats, its highest tally in history. 

Maxime Bernier, who had formed his own People’s Party of Canada after losing the Conservative leadership to Andrew Scheer was perhaps the biggest loser of the night—and not just in a literal sense. All of his party’s 300+ candidates across Canada lost their deposits with some getting 10 votes, while others fared better at a few hundred. 

As I write this dispatch, calculations are underway in Ottawa to form the next government. The Liberals are short of majority, and if they will form a coalition with the NDP or the Bloc will agree to support a Liberal government from outside remains to be seen.

Jagmeet Singh in his post result speech hinted at the former possibility, telling his audience that he had spoken to the ‘Prime Minister’ and he was willing to work with him for the people. This drew loud cheers from the audience, and perhaps a sigh of relief from the Liberal strategists. And yet, despite the arithmetic how long the consequent government will last is anybody’s guess!


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