OTTAWA — Canada’s ruling Liberal Party and opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) have reached a surprise agreement that aims to keep the minority government in power until 2025, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.
Governments with a minority of seats in parliament, like the one Trudeau now leads, tend to last an average of about two years, but this rare agreement could permit it to last the entire four-year term, Trudeau said.
“What this means is that during this uncertain time, the government can function with predictability and stability, present and implement budgets, and get things done for Canadians,” Trudeau said.
The two parties published a list of priorities they had agreed upon.
The Liberals agreed to back a national dental-care program for low-income Canadians and to move forward on a national prescription-drug coverage program, both cornerstone campaign pledges for the NDP.
The Liberals and New Democrats also said they would develop a plan to phase out financing for the fossil fuel sector, starting in 2022.
Trudeau, who has been in power since 2015, will be able to deliver on his main campaign promises, like fighting climate change or addressing a national housing shortage.
“We have a document … that will be used to analyze and verify the government’s actions,” New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters. “We will use our power to help people.”
Singh six months ago ruled out a deal to keep the minority Liberal government in power, but added he was willing to support Trudeau on a case-by-case basis.
Opposition Conservative leader Candice Bergen said Canadians had been “hoodwinked” and “deceived” by Trudeau.
“This is nothing more than a Justin Trudeau power grab,” Bergen said, adding that it would lead to “the decimation” of the country’s oil and gas sector. Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet called the deal a “false majority” that betrayed last year’s vote.
In the House of Commons, the deal will give the government 184 total votes. A majority is 170 and the Liberals have 159 by themselves. Singh said the deal would stay in place as long as the Liberals lived up to their commitments.
Trudeau has failed to gain a majority of seats in parliament in the past two elections. So the left-leaning NDP has backed Trudeau in key votes since 2019, but this agreement formalizes future support.
While a so-called “supply and confidence agreement” is not unheard of in Canadian politics, it is unprecedented to have such an agreement in writing at the federal level.
In 2004, Conservative leader Stephen Harper sought to unite the opposition to bring down Paul Martin’s Liberal government, but failed. However in 2017 an NDP government in British Columbia functioned with the informal support of the Green Party until 2020.
The deal does not create a formal coalition and the New Democrats will not be part of Trudeau’s cabinet. (Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa and Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru, Rhea Binoy and Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Bernadette Baum)