SAGUENAY , Que. — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned his Liberal MPs on Thursday to resist resting on their laurels now that they have formed government, and to avoid becoming too distracted by the daily ups and downs of life in politics.
"We should be proud of what we've accomplished, but never satisfied," Trudeau told the national Liberal caucus, which gathered in Saguenay, Que., to hammer out the legislative and political agenda before returning to Parliament Hill next month.
"I know that it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, but let's never forget why we are all here in this room — to help the middle class and those working hard to join it."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the beginning of a two-day caucus meeting in Saguenay, Quebec on Aug. 25, 2016. (Photo: Jacques Boissinot/CP)
The prime minister said that vision applies not just for the rest of the year, nor even the rest of the majority Liberal mandate before the 2019 election.
"As a government, we need to look 40 years down the road, not just four. To the next generation, not just to the next election. Because when a government takes that long view, it can deliver extraordinary results for Canadians," he said.
The fight against climate change is one particularly "daunting challenge" that lies ahead, Trudeau noted.
The message served as the more uplifting side of the main theme out of the cabinet retreat that took place earlier this week in Sudbury, Ont.
"As a government, we need to look 40 years down the road, not just four. To the next generation, not just to the next election. Because when a government takes that long view, it can deliver extraordinary results for Canadians."
There, Sir Michael Barber, a British guru on "deliverology" — the art of ensuring governments deliver on their promises — warned Trudeau and his ministers that the second year of government will involve tough choices and coming to terms with the fact that they can't please everyone all of the time.
Thursday's long-game reminder from Trudeau also comes after a rough few days of negative attention over expensive mistakes by some rookie ministers, such as the thousands Health Minister Jane Philpott spent to be chauffeured around in a luxury vehicle owned by a Liberal volunteer.
The caucus retreat is a way for Liberal MPs to reconnect after the summer away from Ottawa, but also to get updates from cabinet ministers on their legislative plans for the fall.
Electoral reform, security, climate change on agenda
Electoral reform, national security and the plans for a price on carbon are all expected to be discussed during the closed-door meetings.
So are discussions with newly appointed government House leader Bardish Chagger about proceeding with an ambitious legislative agenda without things once again devolving into the bitter partisanship that tainted the spring session.
Choosing Chagger, a young woman and a rookie MP, to replace Dominic LeBlanc as House leader was a deliberate signal the Liberals are willing to change tactics and bring down the temperature without giving up control of the House.
Backbench MPs, who did not get to take part in the bonding experience of sharing dormitory rooms at Laurentian University at the cabinet retreat in Sudbury, are also getting face time with ministers to air any grievances and make their pitches for pet projects and policies.
'Jobs, jobs, jobs'
The Quebec caucus, for example, was looking for an update on what to do about Bombardier — Liberal MPs from the province are keen to see the federal government step up with a requested $1-billion bailout.
"Jobs, jobs, jobs — that's a key priority," said Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, although he would not characterize it as a sticking point.
In last year's federal election, Liberal MP Denis Lemieux took the riding of Chicoutimi-Le Fjord from New Democrat incumbent candidate Dany Morin, who had in turn defeated the Bloc Quebecois in 2011.
A Liberal has not represented the area since 2000, and Trudeau said holding the summer caucus retreat in the region 210 kilometres north of Quebec City was meant to demonstrate that the party has grown nationwide.
Dairy farmers protest inaction
"(The) Liberal party is learning and growing right across the country (and) bringing people from every corner of the country here to understand just how wonderful it is," Trudeau said on his way into the meeting.
Not everyone was greeting the Liberal MPs warmly.
Dairy farmers showed up with their tractors outside the hotel Thursday morning to protest the Liberal government not stopping imports of U.S. diafiltered milk proteins.
"We don't want any subsidies," said Simon Boily, who said he was speaking on behalf of the dairy producers north of Lac Saint-Jean, Que.
"We just want the rules to be applied."
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