As the fall parliamentary sitting came to an end on Wednesday, federal party leaders were out and making the best of how they and their teams had done grappling with the major issues of the day.
Normally journalists are outside the room for party caucus meetings, but members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery were invited into the Conservative caucus meeting for a speech by leader Pierre Poilievre, who has alleged bias among journalists on the Hill and has held only two news conferences since he won the leadership in September.
In a pair of speeches delivered in French and then English. Mr. Poilievre itemized his party’s position on issues including gun control, opposition to the federal carbon tax, affordability and the need to open professional opportunities in Canada to new Canadians with medical experience.
And he suggested a holiday task to his team. “It is true that Canadians are hurting, but it is our job as the Official Opposition to turn that hurt into hope, to inspire people that a real improvement in their lives is possible,” Mr. Poilievre said.
“As you go back to your families and communities over Christmas, reflect on that goal. Meet with your constituents, give a helping hand to those in need and remember our job is always to stand on the side of the common people, their pay cheques, their savings, their homes, their country.”
He did not make any reference to the party’s defeat in the Mississauga-Lakeshore by-election this week. The Conservative leader did not take media questions before journalists were ushered out of the room so the regular caucus meeting could proceed.
Other leaders met the media in news conferences and scrums.
In a news conference on Parliament Hill, Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet dealt with a range of concerns about the Liberal government including the need to eliminate the ambiguities in the government’s gun-control legislation, the need for a full public inquiry on allegations of sexual assault in the sports sector, and concerns about federal policy on immigration as it applies to Quebec.
“We’re seeing a government here that only wants to break the back of the provinces,” Mr. Blanchet told journalists.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh told journalists that his members had spent the session trying to deliver help for Canadian families, citing, among other measures, the advocacy of the dental program enacted by the government at NDP urging as part of a confidence-and-supply agreement with the Liberals, reached in March.
“We’re going to keep on doing that in the new year,” Mr. Singh said.
Mr. Singh was asked about his threat this week that the NDP will withdraw from their deal with the Liberals if there is no federal action to address the health care crisis.
The NDP leader said, in response, that the party would fight to ensure that Canadians get help, and it’s a priority to force the government to take a role in improving health care.
Under the agreement, the NDP is supporting the Liberal minority government on key votes to avoid triggering an election before 2025 in return for Liberal progress on NDP priorities, including health care.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asked about the status of the Liberal relationship with the NDP, said the two parties share priorities.
“The reality is we are ambitious parties that are progressive in our values and trying to get things done for Canadians. Canadians are facing a tough time. They have been facing a tough year,” he told journalists before going into Question Period.
“We worked together on delivering dental benefits and rental supports that are going out today. We continue to work on meaningful things together.”
The Commons is to resume sitting on Jan. 30.
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MINISTERS AGREE ON HEALTH CARE - Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says he and his provincial counterparts agree privately on what needs to be done to improve health care, but that the ball is in the premiers’ court to accept a deal for more funding from Ottawa. Story here.
GOVERNMENT ADVISED ON LONG COVID - Canada’s chief science adviser gave the government a road map on Wednesday to wade through some of the murky and mysterious elements of long COVID in an effort to offer people better treatment, starting with an admission that the disease even exists. Story here.
AFGHAN REFUGEES STRANDED - Stranded in Pakistani hotels for months, Afghan refugees are struggling with hopelessness while awaiting word from Canada on whether they will be allowed into this country under a special immigration program established for Afghans who worked with Canadian military and diplomatic missions in Afghanistan. The uncertainty has left families confused and depressed. Parliamentary reporter Janice Dickson reports here from Islamabad.
MINISTER BREACHED CONFLICT ACT - The federal Ethics Commissioner has ruled that Trade and Small Business Minister Mary Ng breached the Conflict of Interest Act in relation to two media training contracts awarded to a close personal friend. Story here.
CANADIAN GOVERNMENT WARNED OF CHINESE STATE INTERFERENCE - The Canadian government was warned after the 2019 federal election that an “active foreign interference network” on behalf of the Chinese state was at work during the campaign. Story here.
NEW INFLATION AID FOR NOVA SCOTIANS - Nova Scotia has announced $115.4-million in new funding to help low- and middle-income earners with inflation. Story here.
BLACK CIVIL SERVANTS ACCUSE GOVERNMENT OF RACISM - A group of Black federal public servants is accusing the government of racism, and is threatening to pull out of the development of a mental health action plan meant for Black workers. Story here.
MANITOBA TORIES WIN BY-ELECTION - Manitoba’s governing Progressive Conservatives won a by-election in the Kirkfield Park constituency in Winnipeg Tuesday night, narrowly hanging on to a seat they had previously won handily. Story here.
ARBOUR SKEPTICAL OF GOVERNMENT COMMITMENT TO CURB MILITARY SEX MISCONDUCT - Retired Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour says she is skeptical of Ottawa’s plan to implement her recommendations on dealing with sexual misconduct in the military – findings she says require decisive action, not further study. Story here.
B.C. OPPOSITION LEADER PREPARING FOR SNAP ELECTION - B.C. Liberal party leader Kevin Falcon says he is preparing for a snap election and turning his attention to fundraising and finding candidates that reflect the ethnic and demographic makeup of the province. Story here from The Vancouver Sun.
THIS AND THAT
TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Dec. 14, accessible here.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER’S DAY - Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was scheduled to depart Paris, where she was attending the Solidarity With the Ukrainian People conference to return to Ottawa where she was to hold private meetings.
THE NEW MP FOR MISSISSAUGA-LAKESHORE - Charles Sousa, who won the riding of Mississauga-Lakeshore for the Liberals in this week’s by-election, was in Ottawa on Wednesday to attend the party caucus meeting. Asked about the 26.4 per cent turnout, the former Ontario finance minister said he thought people were tired. “There was like three elections during the year,” he said. Still, he said was pleased with the margin of victory that saw him win by 51.2 per cent over 37.3 per cent for his nearest rival, a Conservative. “I feel very good about that.” Despite concerns, as a finance minister, about health transfers, he said he is optimistic about the current dispute on health care between Ottawa and the provinces. “I certainly would like to see how we can foster and provide the necessary supports, possibly increase them as a result, but finding ways to ensure that the services that are required are being met,” he said. Asked when he will be in cabinet, Mr. Sousa said, “I’m getting my bearings.”
NEW CONSERVATIVE EXECUTIVE - Toronto-area lawyer Arpan Khanna is the new national outreach chair for the Conservative Party of Canada, referenced here. Mr. Khanna ran for the Conservatives in the 2019 federal election in which he faced questions over past tweets - a situation covered here in The National Post.
MINISTERS ON THE ROAD - Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, in Montreal, was scheduled to make an announcement on advancing the protection of one of the world’s largest ecologically intact watersheds -monde
NEW ORDER OF CANADA APPOINTEES - Governor-General Mary Simon was scheduled to invest 50 appointees into the Order of Canada, including figure skaters Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue as well as former NDP MP Peggy Nash, at a ceremony at Rideau Hall. Details on the appointees here.
On Wednesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Grant Robertson, senior writer for The Globe and Mail, shares the story of Neil Doef, who was 17 and a promising young hockey player, when he was paralyzed while competing at an international tournament. For the last seven years, he has been engaged in a lawsuit trying to get financial help from Hockey Canada and its insurer. Mr. Robertson addresses the questions Neil’s case raises about how Hockey Canada decides to use money from its National Equity Fund. The Decibel is here.
PRIME MINISTER'S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa, was scheduled to hold private meetings, attend the national caucus meeting, attend Question Period and deliver remarks in the House of Commons as part of a tribute to former cabinet minister Jim Carr, who died this week. He was also scheduled to attend and deliver remarks at the Liberal caucus holiday party. The Prime Minister was also scheduled to speak with Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet, accompanied by House Leader Alain Therrien, was scheduled to hold a media availability reviewing the session of Parliament from the BQ’s view.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre was scheduled to address the National Conservative Caucus, with the media invited to attend.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Ottawa, was scheduled to attend the NDP caucus meeting, hold a media availability before Question Period and attend Question Period.
No schedule released for other party leaders.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how Ottawa should say no to the blank cheque provinces want for health care: “The premiers aren’t quite asking for a blank cheque from Ottawa on health care funding. They’d like for the federal Liberals to pencil in the amount of $28-billion before handing it over, thank you very much. That immediate infusion, plus steep annual increases thereafter, are needed to increase the federal government’s share of health care funding, they claim. Provincial and territorial leaders are rejecting the idea that Ottawa can impose any conditions on that largesse: The federal government should pay up, then shut up. The premiers are misleading Canadians about the degree of Ottawa’s underfunding. Even worse, their demands for a strings-free spending spree, if successful, could end up slowing down desperately needed reform of Canada’s overly expensive, underperforming health care system.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how there are no grey areas in Mary Ng’s ethics breach and apologizing is not good enough: “Trade Minister Mary Ng stood up in the House of Commons and apologized for steering a contract to a friend. “I take full responsibility for my actions,” she said. But no, she didn’t. Taking full responsibility for this kind of thing means resigning from cabinet. That’s what Art Eggleton had to do under very similar circumstances 20 years ago. Why isn’t Ms. Ng resigning now?”
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how Germany’s conspiracy-fuelled coup plot shouldn’t be laughed off: “The details of the coup attempt sound comical at first. A plot to replace the elected government of Germany with one centred on the person of Heinrich XIII, 71-year-old heir to the long-dormant throne of Reuss, a principality in what is now the bucolic state of Thuringia? To be carried out by members of the Reichsburger cult, who believe that the modern federal republic of Germany is not a real country but a corporation formed by the occupying powers after the Second World War? This is a Marx Brothers movie, right? It’s when you read on that the whole thing starts to sound a little more chilling.”
Duane Bratt (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Alberta conservatives look to the Quebec model but they may want to run the numbers again: “Conservatives in Alberta have a love/hate relationship with Quebec. They hate the fact that Quebec opposes key pipeline projects yet receives billions of dollars in federal equalization payments every year – disproportionately from federal tax funds paid by Alberta taxpayers. They love that Quebec collects its own income taxes, has a provincial pension plan and a provincial police force. They love how Quebec uses the notwithstanding clause and appears to act with impunity against policies of the federal government that they do not like. The mantra from Alberta conservatives, whether former premier Jason Kenney or current Premier Danielle Smith, is that Alberta wants to be treated just like Quebec. And the recently passed Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act may result in Alberta being treated exactly like Quebec – just not in a way that conservatives want.”
Bishop Anna Greenwood-Lee. Rabbi Harry Brechner and Imam Zoheir Tahar (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how federal changes could make it impossible for private groups to sponsor refugees: “Organizations like the Anglican Diocese of British Columbia have been involved in privately sponsoring refugees from dozens of countries – including Ethiopia, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo – through the federal government’s Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) program. The program allows for a certain number of refugees to be sponsored by organizations every year and places significant legal and financial liability on agreement holders, who must cover basic needs and support such as housing for a period of one year. But upcoming changes to the program means that many groups may no longer be able to undertake this work. The federal government is implementing significant administrative requirements that will cost organizations tens of thousands of dollars, making sponsorship financially unfeasible.”
Tom Mulcair (CTV) on bracing yourself because 2023 will likely be an election year: Brace yourselves because the new year, 2023, will likely be an election year. Should he choose to stick around, Trudeau will be in his fourth contest since first winning in 2015, a prospect as tiring for his troops as it is for Canadians. Jagmeet Singh, as a result, is simply staking out his own political turf as he threatens to withdraw his crucial support for Trudeau’s Liberals unless they get serious on health care. The Liberal leader of course has the power to call the next election at any time and avoid being forced into one. Singh, on the other hand, wants to be able to say that he wasn’t dumped but rather that he quit his deal with Trudeau.
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