Justin Trudeau. (The Canadian Press photo)

Justin Trudeau. (The Canadian Press photo)

Facing minority Parliament, Trudeau tells MPs to respect opposition

The government faces opposition pushback to its agenda right out of the gate

Play nice.

That was Justin Trudeau’s advice Thursday to Liberal MPs as they gathered to plot strategy for Monday’s resumption of Parliament for its first extended sitting since the Oct. 21 election reduced the Liberals to a minority in the House of Commons.

“All is not the same as it was in our previous mandate,” the prime minister told MPs at the start of a two-day caucus retreat.

“It’s up to us to work more with other parties, to work more across the country as we take Parliament seriously.”

Trudeau’s government will need support from at least one of the major opposition parties to pass legislation and survive confidence votes on matters like the upcoming budget. And Trudeau said it’s up to Liberals to make it work.

“Bickering, grandstanding, petty politics — none of these things create jobs. They don’t make anyone’s retirement safer, or our environment cleaner. Collaboration, dialogue, and constructive debate, however, can … Common ground does exist in this Parliament but it’s up to us to build on it.”

ALSO READ: Trudeau to take sober approach to unveiling new cabinet for minority mandate

The government faces opposition pushback to its agenda right out of the gate.

The top priority for the government is ratifying the new North American free-trade agreement, with legislation to be introduced next week. Trudeau wants ratification as quickly as possible to secure the deal, on which he said millions of Canadian jobs depend.

But the Bloc Quebecois and NDP have signalled that they’re in no rush to finalize the continental trade pact, which has already been ratified by the United States and Mexico. They want the deal to be studied in depth at committee and debated thoroughly in the Commons.

The Conservatives are ardent free-traders in general but have accused Trudeau of caving into U.S. President Donald Trump’s demands on the new NAFTA. It is not clear yet whether they’ll support quick ratification or join demands for lengthy debate.

Trudeau welcomed debate and committee study but said: “We need to make sure that we move resolutely and rapidly to put into reality this new NAFTA deal that is so good for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.”

In an appeal for cross-party solidarity, Trudeau thanked opposition parties for adopting a non-partisan “Team Canada” approach to the renegotiation of NAFTA in the face of Trump’s threats to scrap the pact altogether.

The Liberals’ agenda also includes action on a promised ban on military-style assault rifles, strengthening health care, battling climate change, and seeking meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. The government also intends to introduce next month amendments to the law governing medical assistance in dying, in response to a Quebec court ruling that invalidated the law’s limitation that only people who are near death can qualify for medical help to end their lives.

Minority status means Trudeau and his ministers will have to pay more attention to their own backbenchers as they prepare legislation, to head off any incipient revolts.

It was evident Thursday that the assault-weapon ban is one issue that will require some massaging to maintain unity within Liberal ranks. At least two MPs said they had questions on behalf of their rural constituents and that they wanted to hear more on the government’s plans.

“It’s a very emotional issue,” said veteran Liberal MP Wayne Easter, of Prince Edward Island.

“I have in my briefcase here, probably a hundred letters, not many from my own riding, opposed to it, and I expect if you’re in the urban areas members would be getting letters saying they support it … so it is a controversial issue.”

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he welcomes the input of MPs. He argued that everyone is “completely united” in wanting to keep Canadians safe, although there can be disagreements over how best to go about that.

Still, Blair made it clear that as far as he is concerned, there is no urban-rural divide over the issue.

“I don’t believe anyone in this country needs a military-style weapon, except soldiers.”

Toronto MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith — who developed a reputation during Trudeau’s first mandate as something of a free-thinker who was not afraid to vote against the party line — said he doesn’t think he needs to change his approach now that Trudeau is in a minority situation where he’ll want every Liberal vote on every initiative.

He noted that Trudeau requires backbenchers to support the government only on matters of confidence, platform promises and issues involving human rights.

“There’s a lot of freedom beyond that and I’ll continue to exercise that freedom,” he said.

On the other hand, Erskine-Smith said he expects Trudeau and his ministers will spend a lot more time consulting with backbenchers and mitigating their concerns before introducing new initiatives.

“Every vote matters in a minority Parliament and so I think it’s especially important, and I have felt this already, that the government ministers are very proactively reaching out on the files that matter to us as MPs. So I’m hoping that that continues.”

Joan Bryden and Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Justin TrudeauPolitics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

‘For Sale’ signs quickly turned to ‘Sold’ signs as record-high demand for housing meets record-low inventory. (Cole Schisler photo)
Multiple offers and unconditional sales rampant in Ladysmith housing market

Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Zone 3 director Susan Perrey says the market is ‘crazy all around’

From left to right: Vicki Barta, Bruce Ormond, Greg Heide, Gord McInnis, and Charles Harman rehearse via zoom for the upcoming radio play, “Visitor from Planet Zoltan”. (Submitted photo)
Radio plays prove successful for Ladysmith Little Theatre, four more in production

Ladysmith Little Theatre pivoted to producing radio plays during the pandemic

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Two men filmed removing red dresses from trees in Oyster Bay

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Vancouver Island Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

Ladysmith’s Taylor Walters received the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award and is hard at work pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Human-Computer Interaction at Quest University. (Submitted photo)
Ladysmith teen receives Terry Fox Humanitarian Award for advocating equal access to STEM opportunities

‘Different people think differently and that’s so important for innovation,’ Taylor Walters says

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

An armed officer walks outside Cerwydden Care on Cowichan Lake Road near Skinner Road Wednesday, April 14 around 5:30 p.m. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Police standoff at Duncan apartment ends peacefully

Officers surround building as homeowner held in apartment for nearly four hours by adult son

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour Pacific Rim highway closures planned in the next 6 weeks

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

Bulldogs forward Stephen Castagna flips the puck into the Clippers zone during a game on Oct. 24. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Island BCHL game postponed due to ‘potential positive’ COVID-19 test

Nanaimo Clippers team suspends activities, players isolating pending further test results

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

Most Read