As Christmas is now in our collective rear view mirrors, we naturally start to look ahead to the next year ahead. 2019 has been a crazy year on so many levels, and honestly it doesn’t promise to look like that will change in 2020. But like with any year, it was better for some than it was for others. It wasn’t a quiet year and there is a lot to fit in all of those categories.
Seeing how everyone is starting to do their “year in review” pieces, it feels like the right time for Magpie Brûlé to do the same. We’re doing a two-part series looking at the 5 winners and 5 losers of 2019, what brought them to that spot and how it affected our politics in the last year of this decade. You can check out the winners of 2019 here. But without any further delay, here at the Losers of 2019, according to this site:
- 5. Provincial progressive Governments: In 2019 we saw another big set of provincial elections take place and we saw the trend of progressive governments getting voted out continue. It started in 2018 with the election of conservative governments in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, in each case seeing unpopular Liberal governments given the boot in historic fashion. In 2019, we saw that trend continue with the election of new conservative governments in Alberta and Prince Edward Island, along with a reduced Liberal government in Newfoundland and Labrador and a re-elected conservative government in Manitoba. This trend has had a big impact on federal politics, as the majority of Premiers are now conservative of some bent, which has made relations between Ottawa and the Provinces a much bigger issue than it’s been for a long time. Each election had its own dynamics that created those wins; they may be a cyclical thing or it may be more, but at this point, progressive parties haven’t found the solution to deal with this rise.
- 4. Jagmeet Singh and the NDP: If I were writing this piece six months ago, the Orange team and Jagmeet Singh would have likely been much higher on this list. That’s how it was looking going into the Federal campaign, and after a great campaign (something I’ll come back in the second part) it could have been much worse. And honestly, when compared to circumstances faced by other federal parties, the situation of the NDP seems relatively good. But that strong end to 2019 doesn’t undo what happened in the beginning and the long-term impact of it. The fact remains that the NDP still faces some serious organizational and fundraising issues, ones that need to be dealt with quickly in a minority government when an election could come at any time. This is not the same party that went into 2015 or even 2011 when it comes to organization, resources and prospects, and that is part of the challenge that Singh and team need to address going forward. Given that the party was staring losing official party status in the face in September, having a caucus of 24 and the balance of power in a minority government is a much better position. But we can’t let that better position overshadow the needs that still exist that got the party into that position to begin with.
- 3. The Trudeau Brand: Some could argue that the Trudeau brand was something that was always flawed thanks to the history attached to it, but that would ignore a serious contemporary fact: going into 2019, the Liberals were cruising towards another big majority, mostly on the power of that brand. In 2015, the Liberals rode the Trudeau name to an unlikely majority government, with many candidates riding those coattails into seats in Parliament. This time last year, it seemed like those coattails would be more than long enough to get most of those MPs back to Ottawa, with probably a few more joining them. Then the SNC-Lavalin Scandal happened, and over a period of six months that brand imploded, in retrospect completely of the Liberals own devices. That made the 2019 election a competitive race and brought Trudeau back down to Earth. Then during the campaign the entire Blackface Scandal hit, shaking many in Canadian politics to the core. So a year that started with the Trudeau brand being the likely road to victory, ended with that same brand becoming the Liberals biggest liability. In the end, they won the campaign not because of, but in spite of that brand. And that implosion helped to take a sure majority a year ago down to a minority government, all be it a relatively strong one. The sense of invincibility of the Trudeau brand is now a thing of the past, which could have a huge impact in 2020 and beyond.
- 2. Elizabeth May and the Greens: 2019 was supposed to be the year of the Greens, everyone in the media was telling us this. After getting electoral breakthroughs provincially in New Brunswick and Ontario in 2018, we were being told that 2019 was going to be the year it finally happened for the Greens. When the Greens rose to Official Opposition on Prince Edward Island in the Spring, that narrative gained more strength and when coupled with the troubles the New Democrats were facing at the time, there were some even talking about the Greens overtaking the Orange team. Expectations were high for the Green team, the highest ever. With those expectations came increased scrutiny of their candidates, policies and the party itself, and that’s when things started to fall apart spectacularly. Between botched candidate vetting, confusion on the party’s position on access to abortion (partially created by Ms. May herself) and the amazing episode of seemingly not knowing the difference between a separatist and a sovereigntist (hint, they’re the same thing), the Greens looks completely unready for prime time and started to recede. What looked to be the big break through turned into a bust, holding the two seats they held going into the election while gaining one in Fredericton. And after that result, Elizabeth May stepped aside, the only leader the party has known for well over a decade. The Greens now go into a leadership race where none of the current MPs will run (including the new, impressive MP for Fredericton) and no names of note seem to be willing to run. That leaves the Greens in a very awkward position going into 2020 having failed to achieve the big breakthrough they were banking on.
- 1. Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives: This seems to be a unanimous choice out there but really this one isn’t close. By the time the House of Commons rose in late June, the Conservatives and Mr. Scheer were handed the best possible situation for them on a silver platter; SNC Lavalin had brought the Liberals back to the pack, the NDP were in their weakest state in 20 years, and the rise of the Greens promised to potentially split the progressive vote that much more, making it more possible to win more seats by smaller margins. As usual, the Blue team had the most money and more resources going into the race and even with the spectre of Maxime Bernier’s PPC on the horizon potentially syphoning off far right votes, they couldn’t ask for a much better spot to be in. Then on top of that, the Blackface scandal hit, which should have been the death of any political candidate, especially in 2019. Yet in the end, the Conservatives managed to repeat the work of past Ontario Conservative campaigns, where the likes of Tory and Hudak snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Sure the Conservatives won more seats, but they struck out in Ontario and Quebec, places where they need to grow to win. Then came the post election show that came in the wake of that loss, with some trying to bury their heads in the sand while others were asking serious questions about the direction of the party and if Mr. Scheer could actually fix it. The answer to that question was a clear “no” to most, except seemingly for Mr. Scheer himself. And it wasn’t until the kamikaze news of the Conservative Fund paying for Mr. Scheer’s kids private school that he finally left. In the end, it was a year that brought the fault lines within the Conservative party to the surface, showing just how strained they are and how important the next leadership race will be to ensuring they don’t completely break free. This was a year of big promise for the Conservatives that has now ended with existential questions that have them in an existential crisis. 2020 just because an historic year for the Conservative Party of Canada, and it’s because they and Andrew Scheer lost big in 2019.