The Conservatives say they want Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to study the implementation of an east-west energy corridor in an effort to address the national-unity challenges facing the new minority government.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer met with Mr. Trudeau on Tuesday morning in Ottawa to lay out his party’s priorities for the coming session of Parliament. The Prime Minister is meeting with all of the opposition party leaders this week as the Liberals try to craft an agenda for the government that can get the support of either the Conservatives, Bloc Québécois or NDP.
Mr. Trudeau needs to get support from another party for the Throne Speech on Dec. 5 to avoid being defeated in the House of Commons and sending the country back to the polls. The Greens did not elect enough MPs to hold the balance of power.
The list of priorities laid out by the Conservatives shows some room to work with the Liberals, for example around income-tax cuts, but in other areas, there’s a significant gap between the two parties.
Studying an east-west energy corridor, which would bring oil from the Prairies to the B.C. and Atlantic coasts and hydro electricity from Quebec and Ontario to other regions, could place Mr. Trudeau in conflict with provinces. During the election, Mr. Trudeau said there is ”no social acceptability” for a new pipeline through Quebec.
“We will never impose a pipeline on Quebec. That is Andrew Scheer’s plan,” Mr. Trudeau said on Oct. 10.
In a brief photo opportunity before the private meeting, the Prime Minister emphasized that his priorities are addressing affordability challenges and fighting climate change.
The two leaders found “common ground” on issues such as making maternity and paternity leave tax-free, Mr. Scheer told reporters after the meeting.
His list of priorities closely mirrored the key elements of the Conservative party’s election platform. In addition to the east-west energy corridor, the Tories are also calling for tax cuts, the cancellation of new environmental-assessment rules and funding for Toronto subway expansions.
The Conservative Leader wouldn’t say whether his party will support Mr. Trudeau’s Throne Speech. “It’s up to Mr. Trudeau to find common ground to get his Throne Speech passed,” Mr. Scheer told reporters after the meeting.
A government source, to whom The Globe and Mail granted anonymity to discuss the private meeting between Mr. Scheer and Mr. Trudeau, said the Prime Minister gave the Conservative Leader an update on the renegotiated North American free-trade agreement. The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was signed in principle last year but is still making its way through the U.S. Congress and hasn’t been ratified in Parliament.
The source said Mr. Trudeau is hoping for support from the Conservatives on the USMCA and on proposed changes to the basic income exemption that would give all but the richest Canadians a break in taxes.
“Last month, Canadians elected a Parliament that they expect to work together, and that’s exactly what I’m going to be focusing on,” Mr. Trudeau said at the beginning of his meeting with Mr. Scheer.
The Conservative Leader repeated his call for the Liberals to repeal Bill C-69, which changed the environmental-assessment rules for new projects, and Bill C-48, which would ban oil tankers from loading at ports on the northern coast of B.C. The two bills are leading to uncertainty and a “lack of confidence in the energy sector,” he said.
Absent from the Conservatives’ list of demands was a call to cancel the Liberals’ carbon tax, which was imposed on provinces that didn’t introduce their own plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The carbon tax, which comes with a tax rebate for consumers, was imposed on Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick. The measure is scheduled to be imposed on Alberta in January. All five provinces are taking part in legal challenges to the tax.
Mr. Trudeau’s office said on Tuesday the Liberals will recall the House of Commons on Dec. 5 to elect a Speaker and then present the Throne Speech. Mr. Scheer had been asking for the House to be recalled on Nov. 25.