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Previewing the Historic Return to Parliament

Amidst the WE scandal that plagued the government and caused the Finance Minister to resign, as well as the fallout of COVID-19, Parliament hit the reset button. Its return on September 23rd will feature a speech from the throne where the governing Liberals will layout their priorities and unveil a budget, the first since the 2019 federal election.

  • The stakes are high with Canada facing its biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression and the biggest health crisis in modern history.

The Takeaway: A confidence vote will be called at some point and the government needs the support of one of the main opposition parties (Conservatives, NDP and BQ) will be needed.

  • If the government does not have the majority support of the House of Commons then there will be a vote of no confidence, which will force an election.
Confidence Vote: a formal process in which members of a legislature vote in order to indicate whether or not they support a government.

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Pandemic Politics

None of the parties except for the Liberals have an incentive to force an election and whoever is seen as the party that forces an election will likely suffer at the polls. The federal Liberals have rebounded from polling losses likely caused by the WE scandal, making the push for a majority government more enticing.

  • New Brunswickers held the first election during a pandemic in Canadian history and the Conservative government gained a majority, claiming success on their risky bet to force an election during the pandemic.
  • New Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s first big decision was imposing a retaliatory tariff on U.S. aluminium, forcing the U.S. to drop their plans of imposing a tariff on Canadian aluminium and stopping the bleeding of Bill Morneau’s role in the WE scandal.

Trudeau Continues Consultations

  • The Prime Minister has met with all the party leaders and while there is no indication as to how the opposition parties will vote one thing is clear: no party wants an election.
  • A collection of Conservative Premiers made a joint statement on September 18, calling for increased funding and support for health care resources amid a second wave.

History Repeating Itself?

Battles for legislation in a minority government are not new to Canada and this scenario has been played out a few times before.

  • In 2005, the minority government lead by PM Paul Martin’s Liberals needed the support of opposition parties to pass a budget, which led to a budget heavily influenced by the NDP notoriously called Canada’s first “NDP Budget”.
  • The budget saw several concessions from the Liberals including the elimination of $4.5 billion corporate tax cuts and funding for social, environmental and educational programs instead.
  • With similar dynamics at play, this could force the government to meet some of the demands of the NDP, such as: universal childcare, EI reforms, and environmental and indigenous justice.

Virtual Voting Format

Pablo Rodriguez, the Government House Leader, has been negotiating with the opposition parties and has made it clear that only the Conservatives are against a still being negotiated upon hybrid model of voting. This negotiation comes ahead of the return to Parliament but also amidst major opposition leaders isolating along with some MPs

Confidence Vote: a formal process in which members of a legislature vote in order to indicate whether or not they support a government.

Hybrid Model: A limited number of MPs actually sitting in the House of Commons and the rest participating online, including by voting electronically.

  • Newly-elected Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Bloc Québécois Leader, Yves-François Blanchet, both tested positive and will be isolating in their homes.
  • The entire Bloc Québécois caucus will be quarantining themselves and Quebec Premier François Legault will be self-isolating after a public meeting with O’Toole.
  • This means PM Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh will be the only party leader’s on the floor of the House of Commons during the Throne Speech, making for heightened optics.

Youth Demand a New Normal

As COVID-19 has caused Canadians to re-evaluate their priorities, the Throne Speech on Wednesday will be viewed with more intensity than any Throne Speech in recent history.

  • Nouvelle recently reported on youth organizers from across Canada staging a press conference on Parliament Hill to announce youth priorities they want to see in the Throne Speech.
  • This effort was an initiative called the #NotGoingBack movement, calling to not return to an era before COVID-19 and to instead create a new normal.
  • Main priorities like more climate action, implementing universal health care, and dismantling racism and colonialism are all priorities listed in an Ipsos poll – priorities which are likely to be mentioned in the Throne Speech.

Public Health and the Economy top of mind for Canadians

Global News/Kerri Breen

A recent poll by IPSOS asked 1000 respondents on their priorities, begging the question should we return to normal or demand a new normal?

  • With a potential second wave of COVID-19 on the horizon, the top issues for Canadians focused around better public health measures to minimize further outbreaks and substantial measures to address unemployment, government spending and basic income.
  • When the proroguing of Parliament was initially announced, the Trudeau government was rumoured to be planning a shift of direction towards a substantial green recovery.

Basic Income on the table

With the need for CERB and CESB to be extended in the wake of a second wave, many signs point to not just an extension but a permanent basic income model.

  • The NDP has expressed the need to reform EI and extend the CESB and CERB, but there are calls within the Liberal Party to make Canada the first G7 country to have a basic income model.
  • Liberal Party members pushed a motion of basic income to the top of to have their party’s agenda at their convention later this year, if voted in favour it could see Canada implement basic income.
  • Former Bank of Canada Governor, Stephen Poloz, said that a “CERB-like mechanism” would help the country respond more effectively to future economic shocks, like COVID-19.

The Bottom Line: With speculation that B.C. and Saskatchewan forcing an early election mid-pandemic has made the possibility of a federal election more possible.

  • With a possible cabinet shuffle and a major budget to be unveiled, there is still a lot of factors to decide whether opposition parties will support the government in a confidence vote
  • If the appointment of Liberal candidates for the two Toronto byelections are any indication of the government’s plans for an election, we could see a federal election set aside for a rainy day

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