New Democratic Party (NDP) Loses Seats but Gains Influence as Liberals Lose Majority in Canadian Federal Election.

The Liberals lost seats in all regions, especially to a surging Bloc Quebecois in the Province of Quebec.


Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberals were reduced to a minority government and just 33% of the popular vote on October 21, down from 39.5% in 2015. With 170 seats needed to form a majority, they will hold 157 seats, down from 184 in 2015.

The Liberals lost seats in all regions, especially to a surging Bloc Québécois in Québec, which is devoted to the promotion of Québec sovereignty. Many Canadians believed that Liberal performance in government had fallen well short of the party’s progressive promises in the 2015 election. There was widespread disappointment that the Liberals had abandoned reform to alter the “first past the post” electoral system and failed to take decisive action to deal with climate change. The Liberals were also perceived to have been far too deferential to corporate and other elites.

The Conservatives made gains in the popular vote, up from 31.9% to 34.4%, actually winning the popular vote. They swept the three prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) by big margins and more or less held their own in Ontario despite a very unpopular, hard right provincial government. Their uninspired campaign with promises to cut taxes, including the national carbon tax, and to cut spending appealed only to their own base, and their near denial of climate change alienated many centrist voters.

Canada’s Social Democratic party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), won 16% of the vote and 24 seats, down from 19.7% and 44 seats in 2015, and well down from the 103 seats and 30.6% in 2011. However, this is enough to play an influential role in the next Parliament, especially given that the Liberals will likely not want to work too closely with the Bloc Québécois or the Conservatives and might rely on the NDP. The party’s losses were confined mainly to Quebec, where the party has now been reduced to a single seat, reversing the tidal wave of 2011 in that province under the leadership of Jack Layton.

Their uninspired campaign with promises to cut taxes, including the national carbon tax, and to cut spending appealed only to their own base, and their near denial of climate change alienated many centrist voters.

Most New Democrats will be disappointed, but also heartened by the results. The new NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, the first non-white  person to lead a major party, had a rough start, and only recently won a seat in Parliament, fund-raising lagged badly before the election, and, with the Greens on the rise, it was widely predicted by pundits that the NDP could lose official party status.

In 2015 the NDP was widely seen to have positioned itself somewhere to the right of the Liberals, who campaigned against fiscal austerity and in favour of expanded social programs and serious action to deal with climate change. This time around, the party returned with enthusiasm to its Social Democratic roots. 

The NDP campaigned for a Green New Deal to promote climate justice, an expansion of public health care (prescription drugs and dental care are largely outside the current system,) and construction of affordable rental housing, to be paid for by a major tax reform. One centre piece, taken from the playbook of US left Democrats Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren was a proposed 1% tax on wealth of more than $20 million.

Polls showed that the NDP did very well among young voters. For them, climate change, affordable housing and access to post-secondary education were the key issues. By contrast, the Conservatives and the Liberals both made tax cuts the centre piece of their campaigns and differed over very little except the national carbon tax and social tissues such as abortion rights. 

This election confirmed the old adage that campaigns make a difference. Not only did the NDP vote rise from a low of about 12% at the start of the campaign to 16% in the result, but Singh ran an inspired campaign in which he showed both a good grasp of the issues, and a personality that appealed to voters and challenged racism in an effective way by appealing to voters’ better nature. He is now very popular among voters as a whole, and well placed to build from a fortified base.

The NDP managed to largely see off the rise of the Greens. They won just three seats and 6.5% of the vote.

Following this election, all parties will face the challenge of deep regional divisions. The Bloc Québécois is not calling for independence, but it is certainly a Québec first party. Meanwhile, the Liberals are almost absent from the prairie provinces. The NDP at least has some representation in all regions, which will add to its potential ability to influence the Liberal government agenda.

Find all related publications

Youth support for democracy in Spain

Democracy in the face of disadvantage

Stronger resilience through cooperation in the Sahel

'12 years of crises in the Sahel' series

Social Europe: From vision to vigour

FEPS Primer series - Björn Hacker

The macro-economic impact of the cost crisis

Lessons for Europe
Find all related news

Call for Tender – Research on Migration

Research on the implementation of the New Pact on Migration after its adoption, or on the consequences of non-adoption 

Economic Democracy

FEPS has launched an initiative on Economic Democracy

Ann Linde is FEPS’ new Foreign Affairs Special Advisor


Tax the rich

A European Citizens' Initiative
Find all related in the media
In the media

Durchhalten ist nicht unmöglich

by Frankfurter Hefte 06/12/2023
'Persevering is not impossible' Article by Ania Skrzypek, FEPS Director for Research and Training, on the future of social democracy in Europe

Γιατί χρειαζόμαστε την Ευρωπαϊκή Πολιτική Κοινότητα;

by News 24/7 05/12/2023
'Why do we need the European Political Community?' Hedwig Giusto, Senior Research Fellow and Editor-in-Chief of the Progressive Post, writes in News 24/7 about the importance of the European Political Community and the difficulties the project might encounter in the future.

Total honesty and far-right lies

by IPS Journal 04/12/2023
Dive into the insightful analysis published in IPS Journal by Tom Theuns, Assist. Prof at Leiden University, and László Andor, FEPS Secretary General, examining the Dutch election results and the conclusions that need to be drawn for a successful EU Integration

Ukrainas och Europas framtid diskuterades i Helsingfors

by Demokraatti 01/12/2023
'Future of Ukraine and Europe discussed in Helsinki' Demokraatti article about FEPS and Kalevi Sorsa Foundation event 'From Russia’s aggression to progressive recovery of Ukraine' held in Helsinki.