This is part 7 in our series Report of the Covid Commission
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While our series is fictional, the principle objective is non-fictional – to explore the likelihood that sooner or later, Canadians will demand a full-scale investigation into the management of the COVID crisis by our federal government.

Preston ManningOn June 15, 2023, the Report of the COVID Commission was tabled in the House of Commons by the Leader of the Official Opposition, now the recognized leader of the Common Sense Coalition in parliament. In one of the most comprehensive and powerful speeches given in the House in recent memory, the Leader moved a motion calling for parliamentary acceptance of the Commissions conclusions and recommendations – a motion framed in such a way that it could only be interpreted as an expression of non-confidence in the Liberal/NDP coalition government.

Unlike many of the previous motions by the Official Opposition challenging some position or action of the Liberal/NDP Coalition, this motion to accept the conclusions and recommendations of the COVID Commission was the product of an extensive grassroots consultation and by now supported by hundreds of thousands of Canadians. It, therefore, puts enormous strain on the “bonds of expediency” holding the governing Liberal/NDP Coalition together.

Despite furious behind-the-scenes lobbying by the government whip and the Prime Minister’s office, a significant number of Liberal back-benchers – MPs who highly cherished the Charter of Rights and Freedoms championed by the government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and who had been appalled by Justin Trudeau’s cavalier violations of it – were indicating that they would either abstain from voting on acceptance of the COVID Commission Report or that they might even support its adoption.

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Within the ranks of the NDP members of the Liberal/NDP Coalition, an internal division which had been brewing for months now boiled to the surface. NDP MPs, whose support came primarily from members of private-sector unions, many of whom had lost their jobs and incomes as a result of the economic lockdown policies of the government, were still furious at the preferential treatment given by the government to members of the public sector unions – inequities which the Liberal/NDP Coalition continued to defend but which the Report of the COVID Commission highlighted and strongly denounced. In addition, recent polling of the electorate was beginning to show that, if a federal election were held, NDP MPs who had supported the Liberal/NDP Coalition would likely lose their seats to Liberal candidates, further weakening the allegiance of those NDP members to the Coalition.

Signs were also emerging that the leader of the federal NDP was losing his grip on members of his caucus. Some of these had openly questioned why the leader had not insisted on the NDP being given at least two or three cabinet posts as part of the Liberal/NDP Coalition agreement. It was now strongly suspected that, in return for dropping this demand, the NDP leader had been given private assurances that should he lose his seat in the next election, he would personally “be taken care of,” either with an ambassadorial appointment or a high-income private sector position with a Liberal friendly company.

These then were the circumstance on the evening of June 15, 2023, when the non-confidence motion of the Commons Sense Coalition calling for acceptance of the Report of the COVID Commission came to a vote in the House of Commons. As the Liberal/NDP Coalition was deserted by a significant number of Liberal members and by a majority of the NDP members, the non-confidence motion was carried – defeating the Liberal/NDP Coalition government and plunging the country into an unexpected and unprecedented summer-time federal election, one of the most unusual in Canada’s political history.

The 2023 federal election has been well documented elsewhere, and time and space limitations do not permit a full description or analysis of that election here. Suffice it to say that the unexpected result radically transformed the federal political landscape in Canada. To the utter astonishment of the pollsters, the media, and the political establishment, candidates of the Common Sense Coalition won over two hundred seats, sufficient to form a majority government.

In a brief victory speech, late on the night of the election, the Prime Minster-elect declared the result to be a victory, not for a political leader or a political party, but for” the common sense of the common people.”

Post-election analysis focused heavily on seeking to determine why extensive preelection polling – on which the traditional political parties and the mass media relied heavily – failed so badly in predicting the underlying political potential of the Common Sense Coalition. But as one spokesperson for a prominent polling firm ruefully explained, “We were simply asking the wrong questions, just as we did previously in asking the public what should be done to resolve the truckers’ protest. In that case, the options we polled did not include the Commons Sense option, which was to cancel the vaccine mandates – the option for which there was enormous latent public support, which broadened into support for the Common Sense platform of ending virtually all the onerous COVID mandates, and which broadened further into voter support for the Commons Sense Coalition.”

Political scientists found it especially difficult to place the Common Sense Coalition along the old left-center-right axis since it had been joined and supported by large numbers of people from across the political spectrum. These included members of the 44th parliament elected in 2021 – Conservative MPs who were, of course, who were, of course, part of the Common Sense Movement, but also Liberal MPs who had lost confidence in the Prime Minister over his failure to uphold Charter rights and freedoms which liberals had long championed, and even some New Democrat MPs who sided with the hard hit members of the private sector unions rather than the government-protected members of the public service unions.

On the night of the election victory, the Prime Minister-elect paid special tribute to the many members and supporters of the traditional parties for coming together to support the Coalition. “Whatever our past differences – we have discovered that we are all small-d-democrats to whom the preservation of a free and democratic society is the top priority.”

Political scientists and commentators drew attention to two other significant aspects of the Common Sense victory:

  • For the first time in Canadian history, voters in those regions of Canada with a strong third party tradition – western Canada and Quebec – made common cause in opposing the federal government’s mismanagement of the COVID crisis. This partially explained the large numbers of Coalition MPs elected in both the west and Quebec.
  • There was an eerie resemblance between the role of the Solidarity Movement in Poland in the 1980s and ’90s and the Common Sense Movement in Canada in 2021-23. Both achieved public prominence and support through a strike – striking dock workers at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk opposing autocratic labour regulation measures in the Polish case and striking truckers challenging autocratic health protection measures in the Canadian case. Both came to be led by a key leader and spokesperson for those strikes – Lech Walesa in Poland and Leah Wahlstrom in Canada. And both broadened their movements and formed political alliances which were ultimately successful in challenging and toppling an autocratic regime.

But it was the Prime Minister-elect, at a wide-ranging media scrum the next day, who dwelt specifically on the future ramifications of the election results by specifically acknowledging the contributions of Millennial and post-Millennial voters to the creation and success of the Coalition: “With this election, let us acknowledge that the old political alignments have largely passed away – that the foundations of a next-generation movement have been laid – a movement yet to be properly named and fully shaped, but one offering this country and its people better conditions and brighter prospects than those from which it emerged.”

Preston Manning’s long record of public service includes work as founder of the Reform Party and as a Member of Parliament.

Preston is a Troy Media contributor. For interview requests, click here.

Next: One final question

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