Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the House of Commons on June 7, 2016. (Photo: Justin Tang/CP)
4 byelections must be called— How the government finesses the carbon pricing and pipeline issues could impact the Liberals in four byelections — three of them in Alberta — that Trudeau is expected to call soon. — Negotiating a new health accord with the provinces. By the end of the year, the federal government wants a long-term funding agreement that targets improved home care, mental health services and palliative care and a pharmacare strategy. But provincial governments may be less eager to comply with federal priorities if they're not accompanied by adequate funding. The Trudeau government has already signalled that it won't reverse the previous Conservative government's unilateral decision to tie the annual increase in health transfers to the provinces to GDP, scrapping the automatic six per cent annual escalator as of next year.
Tories keep up pressure for electoral reform referendum— Delivering on Trudeau's promise that last fall's federal election will be the last conducted under the first-past-the-post voting system. An all-party committee is supposed to recommend an alternative electoral system by Dec. 1 but, with each party looking to protect its own partisan interests, consensus may well prove impossible. The Conservatives are vowing to stoke demands for a national referendum on any change. If their pressure tactics succeed, a referendum could wind up defeating any proposed change, as has happened in three provinces in the past, or at very least make it impossible to implement change before the next election in 2019. The slew of hard choices comes against the backdrop of a stalled economy that is showing few signs of life. Having already blown the election promise to run annual deficits of no more than $10 billion, the Liberal prescription for stimulating economic growth and bolstering the struggling middle class — massive investments in infrastructure, a new child benefit and a tax cut for middle income earners — has yet to demonstrate any traction.
Bill Morneau speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., on March 30. (Photo: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who has been urging patience, is to deliver a fiscal update in November. And on Nov. 14, Trudeau, along with Morneau and other ministers, will speak to major international investors at an elite Toronto summit organized by BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager. Government officials are billing it as a golden opportunity to drum up investments from some of the world's most prominent pension funds and portfolio managers. But the Conservatives are in no mood to wait for government measures to begin bearing fruit. Starting Monday, they intend to hammer the government for what they deem are its failed economic policies. "We have a Liberal government that is spending and spending and spending and planning on raising taxes," said newly appointed Tory House leader Candice Bergen, referring to the coming price on carbon, increased Canada Pension Plan premiums and the Liberals' decision to renege on a campaign promise to reduce the small business tax rate.
'The things that they're doing have been hurtful': Tories"The things that they're doing have been hurtful and are proving to be harmful to Canadians. Take for example, they promised a $10 billion deficit. It's clear it's going to be much, much more than that. No jobs created, we're seeing job losses, the unemployment rate going up. So, yeah, definitely we're going to hold them to account." New Democrats are promising a similar line of attack, focusing on record levels of family debt, the erosion of good jobs, the housing affordability crisis and seniors living in poverty — "things that have gotten worse in the past year," said NDP House leader Peter Julian. Given the availability of ammunition, the Liberals can be grateful that both opposition parties are embroiled in leadership races, which may blunt their attacks.
New House leaderNevertheless, the chances that toxic partisanship will poison the tone in the House of Commons — as it did last spring when the government tried to ram through a motion giving it unprecedented control over the legislative agenda — are high. Bardish Chagger, the newly appointed government House leader, is promising to collaborate with opposition parties to "strike the right balance between having meaningful, constructive debate as well as advancing and implementing the mandate that Canadians gave to us." It will be, she conceded, "a lot of hard work."
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