Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met behind closed doors with his Liberal caucus on Thursday, in what was called an informal send-off for defeated MPs, leaving the postelection debrief on the party’s failed bid for a majority government to another day.
Most members of Parliament attended the hybrid event remotely, but about two dozen MPs, including Mr. Trudeau, gathered in person.
One person who attended the meeting said the Prime Minister thanked his defeated MPs for their service, but that there was little substantive information about the next steps for the government, including when the Liberals would have their first official caucus meeting and when the House of Commons sittings would resume. Mr. Trudeau has previously said sittings would start before Dec. 21.
The Globe and Mail is not identifying the person because they were not permitted to discuss the confidential meeting.
In contrast to the first postelection gatherings of the other parties, the Liberals did not provide details of the event to reporters and Mr. Trudeau did not speak with them outside the meeting.
Ontario MP Mark Gerretsen, who represents Kingston and the Islands, said the meeting did not include an assessment of the campaign. But he said he expects that to start soon.
“I think it’s always important for any organization to look back afterwards at what went right, what went wrong and have discussions about moving forward,” Mr. Gerretsen said. A key concern that he has, he said, is the losses the Liberals sustained in rural parts of the country, including in ridings near his, such as Peterborough-Kawartha and Bay of Quinte.
“It’s pretty clear that we have work to do in certain parts of the country, and I’m looking forward to being able to get together and focus on that,” Mr. Gerretsen said. He said he doesn’t think the Liberals’ struggle to resonate in rural Canada stems from the policy on offer, but rather “how we’re communicating.”
Liberal Whip Mark Holland said the gathering was organized on short notice, with most Liberals attending virtually. He said the meeting was “very personal.”
“Serving publicly is extraordinarily difficult. I have the experience of losing; I know how painful and hard it is,” Mr. Holland said before the meeting. “It’s an opportunity for us to really give thanks for people’s service and to commiserate on the loss.”
Bernadette Jordan was one of three female cabinet ministers who were defeated in the September election. The outgoing fisheries minister told The Globe that controversies over fishery policies in the region likely contributed to her defeat in Nova Scotia’s South Shore–St. Margarets riding.
Violent protests erupted last year when commercial fishermen challenged the Sipekne’katik First Nation’s moderate livelihood fishery, which operates outside of the commercial season. The Sipekne’katik say their right to fish commercially, without federal regulation, stems from treaties signed in the 18th century and was upheld by the Supreme Court in the Marshall Decision.
“I think the fisheries file is a very difficult file to manage in an area that relies heavily on fisheries,” Ms. Jordan said ahead of the meeting with Liberals on Parliament Hill. “This is our democracy. And this is what the electorate wanted so I now move on.”
Liberals said it was not a formal caucus meeting and therefore they were not required to vote on rules in the Reform Act, which set out how parts of the caucus will be governed. Those include whether MPs should have the power to trigger a leadership review and whether they should have the final say on who sits in caucus.
Both the New Democrat and Conservative caucuses voted on the measures contained in the Reform Act in their first meetings. The Conservatives approved the measures and the NDP rejected them.
Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia, who was the Liberal caucus chair in the previous Parliament, said the Reform Act powers were considered and rejected by the Liberal caucus after the 2015 and 2019 elections. He said he does not support adopting the powers this time around either. Mr. Scarpaleggia said the caucus will vote on the measures in the Reform Act when it has its first formal meeting.
“I think we already do some of the things that are in the Reform Act. We elect our caucus chair. We’ve always elected our caucus chair,” he said. “I think the Conservatives had a problem with that at one point, but we elect our caucus chair and things get sorted out when they have to be sorted out, and so, we didn’t really see a need to adopt any of those provisions.”
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