NDP must use minority Parliament to amplify voices fighting for justice

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on the campaign trail. Image: Jagmeet Singh/Twitter

A minority Parliament creates opportunities for opposition parties.

The biggest -- overthrowing the government in a vote of no confidence -- is not on the agenda as Parliament reconvened on January 27.

It would take the combined votes of 121 Conservatives and 32 Bloc members, plus the 24-member NDP caucus to defeat the government in the House of Commons.

With a leadership race underway, the official Opposition Conservatives have good reason to wait before forcing an election.

The Bloc Québécois need to demonstrate their value to Quebec voters before precipitating a return to the polls. Unless given a good reason, the Bloc may be unwilling to shoulder responsibility for an election before its scheduled date in four years.

A simple majority of the 338-member House of Commons (not including the Speaker) equals 169 votes, so with 24 votes to add to the 157 Liberal MPs, the NDP has the power to keep the government in place.

In a minority Parliament, the government will find itself outnumbered on parliamentary committees. Being represented, even with one or two members, opens the door for the NDP to raise familiar issues such as pharmacare, minimum wage increases, labour rights, and improving social wellbeing by re-distributing income from rich to poor, pushing the government to do better.

The NDP should be looking to every occasion to bring civil society voices to Parliament. Public policy through closed-doors lobbying of the Prime Minister's Office was brought to Ottawa by the Queen's Park advisors who Justin Trudeau put in charge of his office as thanks for helping him get elected -- a rookie mistake if ever there was one.

Opening up the policy process requires that groups -- such as promoters of the Teck oil-sands project in Alberta -- defend their interests in the company of environmental activists. Fossil fuel producers should explain how the fate of the planet can be reconciled with continued expansion of greenhouse gas-emitting oil sands.

The climate emergency has energized youth all over the world. From the outset, the role of the NDP in a minority Parliament is surely to amplify those concerned and angry voices, and make sure they are heard. The NDP cannot be afraid to raise at every occasion the issue that defines our times.

MP Jack Harris, the NDP's public safety critic, was quick to demand answers for how RCMP commanders could have issued "lethal overwatch" orders (meaning shoot if necessary) to armed officers who were enforcing an injunction against the Wet'suwet'en protesters protecting ancestral land against the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in B.C.

With the RCMP reverting to its colonial role of restricting Indigenous peoples' access to their own territories, the NDP should be following the lead of Harris and Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Taylor Bachrach -- who met with the protestors -- and agitating to get Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs before a parliamentary committee.

It is important to show how the Coastal GasLink pipeline project violates the 1997 Delgamuukw ruling of the Supreme Court, which established that aboriginal title was not extinguished when B.C. joined Confederation in 1871 and became subject to Canadian laws and statutes.

Yes, the Coastal GasLink project benefits from support from the B.C. NDP government, as well as the federal Liberals. Alberta's public pension manager bought a majority stake in the Coastal GasLink project from TC Energy Corp., no doubt as a result of political direction from Premier Jason Kenney.

However, in a minority situation, being afraid to cross provincial premiers or party leaders will cost federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and his party.

Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples must mean rejecting resource-extraction projects opposed by Indigenous communities, or it will remain a meaningless slogan. Fearlessly asserting hard-won rights should not be an optional position for the NDP caucus, and leader.

In a pointed tweet, former NDP MP Svend Robinson addressed Singh: "As NDP Leader and Critic on Crown-Indigenous Relations we look to you for respect for the leadership of Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs on their unceded land. Oppose fracked LNG gas pipeline and federal subsidies to this project which ignores #ClimateEmergency."

Duncan Cameron is president emeritus of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.

Image: Jagmeet Singh/Twitter

Related Items

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.