Canada’s October 21 federal election exposed some very deep divisions in the country. Although the ruling Liberals won the most seats (157 to the Conservatives’ 121) despite losing the popular vote, they saw their parliamentary majority reduced to a minority.
With Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system seats can be won with small margins – especially where five parties (six in Quebec) are competing for votes. The Liberals thus were able to win a lot of these tight races, especially in eastern Canada, while the Conservatives racked up huge margins (85 percent of the vote in five-way races in some cases) in the West – particularly in the oil-producing provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the Liberals did not elect a single member.
This underscored the deep animosity that exists towards Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is perceived as not caring about the oil industry and the huge effect declining prices and lack of access to markets other than the United States have had upon the economies of those provinces.
At the same time, the separatist Bloc Quebecois more than tripled its seat count from 10 members in the previous Parliament to 32 in the new.
Pressed on both sides, Mr. Trudeau will face a major challenge in trying to heal the divisiveness that this election exposed.
From the Ukrainian community’s perspective, however, nothing much has changed – which is good news. All four parties that were included in the Ukrainian Canadian Congress questionnaire on issues related to our community responded positively, with Conservatives taking the strongest positions. Even the Greens – whose leader has yet to clarify the comments made during the Operation Unifier debate in 2017 in which she suggested Crimea was Russian and the Petro Poroshenko government had been brought in with a coup – supported most of the points raised by the UCC. At any rate, the Greens, with only three seats out of 338, will remain as a fringe group in the new Parliament.
As far as individual representatives are concerned, our number one representative both in Parliament and in the Government, Chrystia Freeland, coasted to an easy victory in her central Toronto University-Rosedale riding. As minister of foreign affairs, she has steadfastly stood up for Ukraine in its struggle to become a functional democracy and survive the Russian military onslaught.
Whether she will retain that portfolio or not in the new Cabinet, which will be sworn in on November 20, remains to be seen. As she has done an outstanding job in that role at a very difficult time, Mr. Trudeau would be well advised to keep her in that post. Regardless, Ms. Freeland will undoubtedly play a major role in the new government, especially as she has earned a reputation as the most competent minister in the current Cabinet. As such, Ms. Freeland is also poised to become a future leader. Should that happen in the future, it would be a great accomplishment for the Ukrainian Canadian community.
While one of our most pro-active members of Parliament, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, decided to retire from politics, his successor, Yvan Baker, who is also of Ukrainian origin, can be expected to fill his shoes very handily. Mr. Baker previously served as Mr. Wrzesnewskyj’s executive assistant before getting elected to the provincial legislature. Last year he lost his seat in the Ontario Provincial Parliament as the Liberals suffered a major defeat in that election.
As far as other Toronto Liberals are concerned, Julie Dzerowicz not only won her Davenport seat, but increased her margin of victory. In Manitoba, Terry Duguid was re-elected in Winnipeg South, as was a good friend of the Ukrainian community, Kevin Lamoureux, in Winnipeg North. The one casualty was MaryAnn Mihychuk in the Winnipeg riding of Kildonan-St. Paul.
Among the Conservatives, James Bezan, who has become the leading spokesman on Ukrainian issues for that party, was re-elected with a landslide in Manitoba’s Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman, as were several other Ukrainian-origin Conservatives – Tom Lukiwski in Saskatchewan’s Moose Jaw-Lake Center-Lanigan, David Yurdiga in Alberta’s Fort McMurray-Cold Lake, and Kelly McCauley in Edmonton West. Another possible Ukrainian-origin MP is Gerald Soroka, in the west Alberta constituency of Yellowhead. Several friends of our community were returned, including Kerry Diotte in Edmonton Griesbach, Ziad Aboultaif in Edmonton Manning, Michael Cooper in St. Albert-Edmonton and Garnett Genuis in Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan.
As regards the New Democrats, Heather McPherson, who replaces retiring MP Linda Duncan in Edmonton Strathcona, can be expected to continue nurturing the close ties her predecessor established with our community during her 11-year tenure.
Led by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress on all three levels – federal, provincial and local – the Ukrainian Canadian community has managed to establish itself as an influential player on the Canadian political scene. But to be truly effective, the community also needs to have exemplary individuals representing us. And this current crop certainly fits that bill.
Marco Levytsky may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.