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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 21.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Justin Trudeau is running out of time to complete a string of promises made after the 2021 election, an expert on federal procedures warns, as the Prime Minister’s government changes tack to tackle the cost of living and housing crises.

As MPs return to Ottawa Monday, and with around 200 parliamentary sitting days left before the next election, the government has a list of pledges that it has not fulfilled.

Among the promises yet to be enacted upon is the much-vaunted online safety bill, designed to tackle the spread of hate speech and abuse online, which the PM told former heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez in his 2021 mandate letter to introduce “as soon as possible.”

Ottawa has also not moved on a pledge to modernize the Copyright Act to further protect artists and writers, despite warnings of the threat of AI to intellectual property; and a vow to ban the transport of thousands of live horses to Japan to make raw horse-meat products.

Michael Wernick, the former head of the public service, said if the government “goes the distance” until an election scheduled before the end of October, 2025, they would have around 220 parliamentary sitting days left, unless they extend into their breaks. Some parliamentary time is also reserved for opposition days and budget debates.

“From now, there will be a diminishing number of days,” he said, ”whether it is time in Parliament to move legislation, time for meetings of cabinet and its committees to take policy decisions, time for Treasury Board to process regulations and implementation, and time to finish outreach and consultation that has already been launched.”

After the 2021 election, Justin Trudeau sent mandate letters to each of his cabinet ministers outlining the commitments they must work to accomplish. Ottawa says they “help Canadians hold the government to account.” Some of the letters were inherited by ministers who took over cabinet posts in July’s shuffle.

At the time, the Prime Minister instructed Joyce Murray, the previous fisheries minister, to “work to introduce Canada’s first-ever Aquaculture Act.” Tomie White, a spokesman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said the department is engaged in “policy development and analysis” to develop a bill.

The department has also yet to fulfill a promise to modernize the country’s Ocean’s Act, including to help tackle the impact of climate change on marine life. Conservationists have also criticized Ottawa for failing to act on a mandate commitment to phase out salmon fish farms in British Columbia’s coastal waters, which they say is needed to protect wild pacific salmon.

Last week, the government signalled it plans to dedicate parliamentary time to tackle housing shortages and the cost of groceries in supermarkets.

It said reforms to the Competition Act, including to strengthen the Competition Bureau’s investigative powers, will be a legislative priority when Parliament returns this week.

“Our government has an ambitious legislative agenda for the fall sitting. We plan to move forward on key issues including affordability, housing, and public safety,” said Olivia Batten, spokeswoman for Government House Leader Karina Gould.

A number of bills promised by the Liberals after the election have not yet got off the starting blocks, with some still languishing in Parliament.

Cybersecurity legislation has failed to make parliamentary progress since being introduced by Marco Mendicino, then public safety minister. While data breaches and cyberattacks have escalated, the bill has yet to reach the Commons committee stage or consideration by the Senate.

The PM in 2021 told the environment minister to introduce legislation to protect animals in captivity. But a bill outlawing the breeding of elephants and great apes in zoos has been stuck in the Senate since last year.

In the past session, Conservative MPs used filibustering tactics to slow down the progress of government bills including the Online News Act and Online Streaming Act, which passed after parliamentarians debated late into the night and the government guillotined discussion.

“Conservatives will use all the parliamentary tools available to highlight the misery Trudeau is inflicting on Canadians after eight years in power, in the hopes he sees the light and dramatically changes course,” said Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer.

In a press conference on Sunday, Pierre Poilievre said his party’s priorities for the new session of Parliament are fixing “the housing hell” for which he blames Mr. Trudeau and repealing the carbon tax he says is driving up the cost of living for Canadians.

The Conservative Leader dismissed the suite of measures that the Liberals announced at their caucus retreat last week as mere “photo ops” that won’t improve things for ordinary people. The government’s moves included the first funding for the Housing Accelerator Fund, dropping the GST on new rental buildings and summoning grocery CEOs to Ottawa to demand they find a way to lower prices.

“This is more political theatre. Justin Trudeau is an actor,” he said. “What we actually need is action.”

The NDP is also applying pressure on Ottawa to fulfill the pledges it made to secure a confidence and supply agreement to keep the Liberals in power until 2025. Among them is the creation of a national universal pharmacare program. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has warned Mr. Trudeau that if he does not introduce and pass a pharmacare bill this year, he will consider it a deal-breaker.

Seamus O’Regan, the new Minister of Seniors, has inherited a number of unfulfilled promises. In 2021, the PM instructed his predecessor to strengthen Canada’s approach to abuse of seniors by developing a national definition of elder abuse and establishing new offences and penalties in the Criminal Code.

Samuelle Carbonneau, spokesperson for Employment and Social Development Canada, said it is still working on “a federal policy definition” that will help inform government policies. But it “will not be a legal definition and will not be included nor inform any Criminal Code amendments.”

Critics say the government is also struggling to meet its 2021 promise to plant two billion trees by 2031. They say it has work to do for all passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold in Canada in 2026 to run on electricity, and every passenger vehicle sold in Canada to be electric by 2035 – and to create a coast-to-coast electric vehicle charging system.

With a report from Shannon Proudfoot

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