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Politics Briefing: Trudeau uses first Liberal caucus meeting to take aim at Conservatives’ COVID stance

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Federal Liberals held their first official caucus meeting since the Sept. 20 federal election today, a gathering that comes after other parties have held similar meetings.

The meeting provided a venue for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to criticize the federal Conservatives for their stand on COVID-19 in a speech the media was allowed to observe before being ushered out.

Mr. Trudeau also urged Liberal MPs to work with other progressive parties to deliver concrete results on climate change, housing, and reconciliation.

The meeting in the West Block of Parliament Hill came as the NDP caucus held their own caucus meeting, and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole held a news conference during which he denounced the possibility of what he described as an NDP-Liberal coalition.

The NDP and Liberals have been holding talks on a co-operative agreement to prop up the Liberal government.

Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife and parliamentary reporter Marieke Walsh report here on today’s Liberal caucus gathering and Mr. O’Toole’s news conference.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a Liberal caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, November 8, 2021.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

Liberal cabinet ministers heading into the caucus meeting did drop a few bits of information on various matters, such as:

CHILDCARE DEAL WITH ONTARIO – Asked when Ontario would sign a childcare deal with the federal government, Families Minister Karina Gould said, “As soon as we can.”

TIMING OF THE CAUCUS MEETING – On the question of whether the caucus should have met sooner, Bill Blair, president of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, linked individual MPs’ schedules to the delay. “I know that everyone has been very busy,” he told reporters.

MANITOBA POLITICAL DRAMA – Manitoba MP Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, was asked for his thoughts on the ongoing political rivalry between Heather Stefanson and Shelly Glover. Ms. Stefanson has been sworn in as the province’s Premier after winning the Progressive Conservative leadership, succeeding Brian Pallister. Former federal cabinet minister Ms. Glover, the runner-up, has disputed the result. “I think Heather’s going to make a fine Premier,” Mr. Vandal said.

Watch The Globe for more details on the Liberal caucus meeting, set to conclude later this afternoon.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


FREELAND ADVISES AIR CANADA ON LANGUAGE FUROR – Learning to speak French should become part of Air Canada chief executive officer Michael Rousseau’s job performance review, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said, wading into the scandal over the CEO’s comments about his inability to speak one of Canada’s two official languages. Story here.

PLANTE RE-ELECTED MONTREAL MAYOR – Valérie Plante has been re-elected mayor of Montreal in a striking endorsement of her controversial brand of green urbanism that has crisscrossed the city with bike lanes, often angering drivers and small businesses, as she scored a second surprise victory over former federal cabinet minister Denis Coderre, the man she unseated four years ago. Story here. Allison Haines of The Montreal Gazette writes here about the to-do list ahead for the mayor. Meanwhile, the candidate initially declared Quebec City’s new mayor Sunday night conceded defeat Monday after further vote counts. Story here.

MACKLEM FORECASTS `TRANSITORY’ INFLATION – Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem says high inflation will be “transitory but not short-lived,” giving additional insight into the central bank’s thinking a week after it raised its inflation projections and shifted toward a more aggressive timeline for tightening monetary policy.

ALBERTA GOVERNMENT & OIL SECTOR LOSING PR FIGHT: COMMISSIONER – The commissioner of a widely criticized Alberta public inquiry into the funding of environmentalists says his report should be a wake-up call for the province’s government and oil sector that they are losing the public-relations fight over resource development.

NEW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARIES COMING – With Parliament returning Nov. 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will soon name a fresh crop of parliamentary secretaries, who are neither ministers nor backbenchers, to support 38 ministers. The pay bump of $18,100 on top of the annual MP salary may not be the real incentive. Many see the job as an audition for a future cabinet spot. From CBC. Story here.


GG SURNAME CLARIFIED – The Governor-General’s office has clarified usage of her full name. In a statement to media, they said the formulation “Mary May Simon” will be used for official and constitutional documents, while “Mary Simon” will be used for communications with the public, such as social media, news releases and media events.

MP TURNS MAYOR – Former NDP MP Guy Caron has a new job. He was elected mayor of Rimouski, Que., on Sunday. Mr. Caron, who represented Rimouski-Neigette–Témiscouata–Les Basques in eastern Quebec, was an NDP MP from 2011 to 2019. He also spent two years as federal House leader for the New Democrats while Jagmeet Singh did not hold a seat.

NEW ROLE FOR BELLEGARDE – Perry Bellegarde, the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, has been named as the new honorary president of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Details here.

FREELAND BIO IN THE WORKS – House of Anansi Press has announced it will be publishing an “unauthorized” biography of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in 2023, although the publisher’s publicity director Debby de Groot said via e-mail that the exact publication date has yet to be determined. The book’s author is Toronto-based journalist Catherine Tsalikis, who covers foreign policy, politics and gender.


In Ottawa, the Prime Minister held private meetings and, along with Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay, met with Indigenous veterans to mark Indigenous Veterans Day. Then, the Prime Minister attended a national caucus meeting on Parliament Hill, where he will delivered opening remarks.


Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole held a news conference.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, with NDP MPs, visited the National Indigenous Veterans Monument, then attended an NDP caucus meeting.

No other leaders’ schedules available.


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on who’s the captain now on Erin O’Toole’s HMCS Conservative:Mr. O’Toole’s problems largely stem from the fact that candidates for the party’s leadership in 2020 had no choice but to pander to the views of the small, crankish and highly unrepresentative group of party members empowered to choose a leader. (Who chooses local candidates? Same problem.) After becoming leader, Mr. O’Toole had to switch positions on carbon taxes, gun control and other issues in order to appeal to a broader range of voters. And now, as he tries to prepare for the return of Parliament, a group of rebel Tory MPs is choosing not to focus on the postpandemic recovery or other pressing matters, but on irresponsible fringe opinions not shared by the vast majority of Canadians. What a gift to Mr. Trudeau. He didn’t get the majority he wanted, but he did get a fractured Official Opposition whose caucus contains its own internal Official Opposition. Christmas has come early to Rideau Cottage.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on how the hard part of a parliamentary deal between the NDP and the Liberals is how they would deal with a key part of how Parliament works: “The real trick is agreeing on managing Parliament, particularly the things that opposition parties do to scrutinize – and needle – minority governments. Those things can often seem like procedural games, but they can matter to a minority government’s survival. When push comes to shove, they lead to threats of non-confidence votes and elections. Mr. Trudeau doesn’t want another three years of ministers’ aides being summoned to testify at parliamentary committees, or hearings into things like the WE Charity affair, or demands for thousands of documents. But it is hard to imagine the New Democrats could renounce such tactics completely. New Democrat MP Don Davies has said that his party will rejoin the demand for the government to disclose documents related to the firing of two scientists from the high-security National Microbiology Lab, for example. Mr. Trudeau’s government, insisting it was a matter of national security, went to court to argue against disclosure – essentially contesting parliamentary supremacy. That case became moot when Parliament was dissolved for an election, but could resume in the new session.”

Vanessa Chiasson (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on the need for a truly global vaccination document: “In her previous role as economic development minister, Mélanie Joly was working with her G20 counterparts to develop global standards for a vaccine certificate. She can continue this work in her new role as Minister of Foreign Affairs, alongside the new Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault, to expand upon the World Health Organization’s existing International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis program. Modernization efforts could include expanding the French and English format to include other widely used languages such as Mandarin, Arabic and Spanish. The simple paper booklet could be further updated with security features, such as the metallic stripes and raised ink that protect Canadian banknotes. An app, perhaps like the one I kept seeing in France, could give travellers and businesses the option of an efficient, scannable version of the passport.”

Ashley Nunes (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on why it would be better if Air Canada’s CEO spoke French, but it’s not essential: Air Canada is a business, and the goal of a business is to make money. It would be nice – given Canada’s history – if the company’s chief showed fluency in English and French. It would be desirable – given that Air Canada is headquartered in Montreal – if his bilingualism passed provincial muster. But Mr. Rousseau isn’t there to be nice or desirable. He’s there to get a job done. This means maximizing returns for shareholders while keeping fares low (something consumers care about) and goods across the country moving (something the government cares about). There’s little evidence to suggest he has been unable to meet that challenge because his French skills aren’t up to par.”

Steve Paikin (TVO) on why Robarts is more than just the name of a library: “Many things in 2021 Ontario have roots in the temperament and wisdom of a man who was sworn in as Ontario’s 17th prime minister 60 years ago today. And, no, that’s not a misprint. When John P. Robarts, the MPP for London, took the oath of office six decades ago, the job was officially called “prime minister of Ontario.” Robarts’s successor, Bill Davis, changed the title to “premier,” figuring the country should have only one prime minister. Robarts won the right to become Ontario’s chief executive after winning a thrilling six-ballot (that, too, is not a misprint) leadership convention at Varsity Arena. He was the education minister in Leslie Frost’s government, and he defeated a cabinet colleague with almost the same last name – Kelso Roberts. When you use electricity in this province, pause for a second and think of Robarts. More than half of Ontario’s electricity generation comes from nuclear power, and it was the Robarts government that built the province’s first nuclear-generating stations in Pickering.”

Vaughn Palmer (The Vancouver Sun) on B.C. Premier John Horgan’s facility for beating the odds: “If he finishes out his current term, he will move past Christy Clark to become the province’s 7th-longest-serving Premier. But he’s already exceeded expectations, including some of his own. There was the first cancer surgery in 2008, followed by drug treatment and a full recovery. He finished third in his first bid for the party leadership in 2011 and when the job came open in 2013, he said he wasn’t interested. Talked into it, he hated the job of Opposition leader, and it showed. Following the cliffhanger 2017 election, Horgan took power on the strength of a power-sharing agreement with the Greens. Even some New Democrats wondered if Horgan’s hold on the office could last more than a few months, never mind four years and counting. “I look forward to being back in the Legislature and travelling in the new year,” Horgan, the cancer survivor, said this week. He’s beaten the odds before and has every reason to think he can do so again.”

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