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The past month has been filled with anxious predictions and endless punditry concerning Canada’s snap election, which was called by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and took place on Sept. 20. With a whopping total of 600 million Canadian dollars spent, the election was the most costly in Canada’s history, yet voter turnout was nearly at an all-time low and the net results left the  looking practically the same as before. What was the point? What has changed? And what opportunities, if any, do the election results provide for progressives in Canada?

In this installment of The Marc Steiner Show, Dimitri Lascaris joins Marc to break down the election results and to discuss how to break the iron grip of political stagnation in Canada. Lascaris is a lawyer, journalist, activist, and he was a candidate in the federal
Green Party leadership race in Canada, finishing second with just over 10,000 votes. He is also a longtime contributor and current board member at The Real News.

Tune in for new segments of The Marc Steiner Show every Tuesday and Friday on TRNN.


TRANSCRIPT

Marc Steiner: Dimitri Lascaris. Welcome. Good to have you with us here on the show.

Dimitri Lascaris: It’s always great to talk to you, Marc. Thank you.

Marc Steiner: So, let me begin with just a broad question here for those listeners who are not in Canada, but maybe in the US or Europe or Africa, wherever they may be. How does it work in Canada where if a party wins a majority of the vote, they don’t win the election? Help us understand that first.

Dimitri Lascaris: Well, actually I would modify your question. What actually happens is that oftentimes parties don’t win a majority of the vote and they win a majority of the seats because we have-

Marc Steiner: Yes, correct. Right, right.

Dimitri Lascaris: So we have something called the first-past-the-post system, and it just basically means it’s a winner take all. Whoever gets the most vote in a riding which, in the American context, you would call that a congressional district, whoever gets the most gets a seat and everybody else gets nothing. So basically, we’ve got in some ridings 6, 7, 8 candidates running, and it’s possible to win the riding with somewhere between 25 to 35% of the vote. Some of them get an excess of 50%, but a lot of them, they get well under 50% of the vote and they get the seat and everybody else, all the other votes go to waste, basically.

So typically what you will see in a Canadian election is some party getting between 37 and 41% of the vote, and they get a large majority of the seats. So that didn’t happen here, and it’s the second time in a row that that didn’t happen. The Trudeau government got about 33, I think, 33% of the vote. So they ended up with, by a significant margin, the largest number of seats. I think they’re in the range of about 155 seats. You need 170 to have a majority, so they fell significantly short of majority, but they have the largest number of seats by a significant margin. So they’re going to have to work with the other parties in order for them to be able to advance their agenda, basically. That’s the bottom line.

Marc Steiner: So very quickly before I jump into the meat of really what happened in this election, does that mean that the Liberals will be forced into a coalition government with the New Democratic Party and, or the Greens, or one or the other?

Dimitri Lascaris: So, coalitions; You don’t have to actually form a coalition in order to function in a minority environment. And basically what happens in a non-coalition setting like we have now, and are likely to have for the next several years, is that decisions are made on an ad hoc basis by the parties whether or not they’re going to support a particular legislative initiative or not. So there’s no agreement, no formal agreement between them, but they’re going to work together and they’re going to share cabinet posts and so forth. All the ministers of the government are going to be Liberals. They’re just basically going to go piecemeal legislation by legislation, and try to find some party that has enough seats to get them over the 170 threshold to support that legislation. So it’s not a coalition, but it does require them to compromise.

Marc Steiner: So let’s get into some stuff that many of our listeners are really interested in seeing: What the results of this election and what they mean. So the Green Party, which you are a member of, or were a member of, had serious setbacks: They lost one seat, one of their three seats; [Annamie] Paul, who was the leader of the party who you ran against, wants to become leader of the party, I read is resigning. So what is the future of the Greens in Canada, do you think? What does this mean for that part of the electorate and that part of the body politic in Canada?

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