Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed regret Wednesday for the nastiness of the federal election campaign and vowed to find a way to work co-operatively with other parties in the next Parliament.
Trudeau was sent back to Ottawa with a diminished government in Monday’s vote, winning the most seats but not enough to form a majority government. He said he has no plans to establish a formal coalition with any other parties, but that he heard loud and clear the message Canadians sent him.
“Canadians gave me a lot to think about on Monday night,” he said, adding that voters’ expectations are that his government work with other parties on key priorities of affordability and climate change.
“I am going to take the time necessary to really reflect on how best to serve Canadians and how to work with those other parties. I think that’s what the people who voted for me and the people who didn’t vote for me expect.”
Trudeau and other leaders, including Conservative Andrew Scheer and the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh, were all criticized for delivering post-election victory speeches on Monday night that brimmed with the same divisive rhetoric that soured most of the previous 40-day campaign.
Trudeau appeared Wednesday to attempt a more conciliatory tone as he seeks a way to keep his minority government afloat.
“I think many of us regret the tone and the divisiveness and the disinformation that were all too present features of this past election campaign,” he said. ”I think Canadians expect us to work together, to listen to each other, to figure out a way to move forward that isn’t as divisive and challenging as this election was.”
He also said there were a lot of issues that did not get fully discussed amid the smears and attacks.
“I recognize that much of this campaign tended to be around me and I do hold a bit of responsibility for that,” he said. “But this Parliament and this government will be, and needs to be, focused on Canadians.”
Being a government for all Canadians will be more challenging for Trudeau since he will have no MPs from Alberta or Saskatchewan in his caucus or cabinet. Only 15 of the 157 seats the Liberals won on Monday are west of Ontario: four in Winnipeg, and 11 in Vancouver and its suburbs.
In contrast, the Conservatives got more votes in Alberta than they did in Quebec and all of Atlantic Canada combined. The party failed to elect a single MP in Newfoundland and Labrador, or Prince Edward Island.
Trudeau said he has already spoken to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, as well as big city mayors in those provinces, to figure out the best way to overcome those divisions and ensure their provinces have a voice in his government.
“I think any government needs to make sure that it is hearing from every corner of the country,” he said.
In the past, prime ministers have looked to the Senate to fill the void if a province or region was unrepresented in their caucus, but Trudeau’s policy of not having senators in the Liberal caucus and only appointing independents makes that much harder for him.
Trudeau said he will name his new cabinet on Nov. 20, but did not give a date for a return of Parliament or a throne speech. In 2015, he named his cabinet 16 days after election day, and recalled Parliament four weeks after that.
Trudeau’s opponents have criticized him for refusing to compromise while he led a majority government. On Wednesday, he could not name a specific instance where he had compromised when asked to do so.
He did suggest the onus is not just on the Liberals to be more conciliatory, saying he expects opposition MPs, particularly “progressive parties,” to support the government on areas of common ground, such as cutting taxes for the middle-class.
Trudeau said such legislation will be the “very first thing we will do.”
Cancelling the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion however, is not something he intends to put on the table as a carrot to entice the NDP or Greens to support his government.
Green leader Elizabeth May said she would not support any government that is building new pipelines. Singh stopped short of drawing a line in the sand over Trans Mountain.
“We made the decision to move forward with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion because it was in Canada’s interest to do so,” he said. “We will be continuing with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.”
Scheer has said it is up to Trudeau to work with the provinces and opposition parties over the coming months, while Singh has said he wants Trudeau to address his party’s key priorities in exchange for New Democrat support.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press