Interim Conservative leader Candice Bergen came out swinging Tuesday against a new agreement that will see the NDP prop up the Liberal government until 2025, calling the pact a “desperate” attempt by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “cling to power.”
Speaking to reporters after Trudeau formally announced the confidence-and-supply agreement, Bergen said the deal effectively hands the reins of government to the “socialist” NDP. She warned that could mean a massive expansion of government and tax hikes to pay for billions of dollars in new spending on promised social programs.
Bergen also said a federal government with a more leftist bent could imperil some Canadian jobs in the natural resources sector.
Invoking the NDP’s past opposition to major energy projects like crude oil pipelines, further expansion of the oilsands and liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, Bergen said a Liberal government backed by the New Democrats will lead to the “decimation of Canadian oil and gas.”
Trudeau sought to assure voters earlier Tuesday that the NDP will not have a “veto” over government priorities and that the agreement will be focused on areas where the two parties’ policy proposals overlap. Bergen countered by saying “the NDP are in charge.”
“We’re fighting an NDP-Liberal majority government right now,” she added. “The NDP and the Liberals were meeting in secret and they cooked up a backroom deal that will see Justin Trudeau get the majority power that he tried desperately to get last fall and failed to get.”
The Liberal-NDP agreement is not a coalition — no NDP MP will be elevated to cabinet. Trudeau said there will be areas of disagreement and the two parties aren’t necessarily expected to move in lockstep on every issue before Parliament.
The agreement will be similar to the one the NDP and Greens in B.C. negotiated after the 2017 provincial election returned a hung Parliament. The Greens promised stability in exchange for action on some of its priorities, such as climate change and rent relief.
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirms agreement with NDP
Bergen said Trudeau secured this deal — which will see the NDP vote in favour of Liberal government confidence measures like budgets for three years — because he wants to reach the 10-year mark as prime minister. First elected in 2015, Trudeau will have been in office for a decade if the pact holds until the next planned election in October 2025.
“This is nothing more than a Justin Trudeau power grab. He is desperately clinging to power. He continues to put his personal pride before the interests of Canadians,” she said.
Bergen said the 82 per cent of Canadians who didn’t vote for the NDP in the last election should be worried now that some New Democrat policies are being prioritized by Ottawa.
“Some Liberals have told me they’re very worried about the economic direction under the Justin Trudeau government,” she said. “I can’t imagine how they’re feeling now that they have a Jagmeet Singh-led government in charge.”
To secure the deal, Trudeau promised the NDP that his government would move forward on some sort of national dental care program.
The NDP’s 2021 election platform called for the federal government to “incorporate universal dental care into Canada’s public health system” and to “immediately deliver dental care coverage for people who don’t have any private insurance.” The platform was silent on how this program would be implemented. Trudeau said Tuesday the government will first work this year to expand access to dental care for children under the age of 12.
Bergen said the Conservatives have no interest in voting for such a program, arguing that most Canadians already have access to dental care through private workplace insurance plans. She said many provinces already have programs in place to cover the cost of dentistry for low-income families.
Conservative MP Gerard Deltell, who often speaks for the party in French on Quebec-related matters, said the NDP-Liberal pact will lead to “a more centralizing government and one that spends more” — raising red flags about a more activist government encroaching on provincial jurisdiction like health care.
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, the frontrunner in the race to replace Erin O’Toole as permanent leader of the party, was equally scathing in his criticism of the proposed Liberal-NDP agreement.
“Obviously, they have agreed to a radical and extreme agenda to expand the power of government by taking away the freedoms of the people,” Poilievre said in a social media post. He urged his supporters to “take action” and “help me fight against the coalition.”
Poilievre said that, if he’s elected leader, he’d try to convince backbench Liberal MPs who may be opposed to this deal to bring forward a non-confidence motion to bring down the government before the confidence agreement expires in 2025.
Poilievre said that, as one of the few Conservative leadership contenders with a seat in the Commons, he’s best placed to take the fight to Trudeau and Singh in Parliament.
“The news might seem terrible but I’m here today with a message of hope: with a strong Conservative leader who knows how to win the debate and the procedural contests on the floor of the House of Commons, we can push back hard on this coalition attack on our freedom and the country,” he said.
Poilievre’s main opponent, former Quebec premier Jean Charest, said this “coalition” is “further proof that the Trudeau Liberals govern for themselves — not for Canadians.
“They will stop at nothing to keep power, even if it means buying themselves a majority,” Charest said in a statement. “Canadians deserve adult leadership, not juvenile political theatre.”