11/26/2016 02:30 EST | Updated 11/27/2017 00:12 EST

Child poverty, the NDP and the way we vote: how politics touched Cdns this week

OTTAWA — The prime minister was out of town most of the week — winding up a trade-focused trip to South America and gearing up for an aid-focused trip to Africa — but the pace of politicking was relentless all the same.

Whether it was phasing out coal, cracking down on vaping or buying fighter jets; limiting medicinal pot for veterans, fretting about Liberal fundraising or coming to grips with suicide in the military, the news hurricane on Parliament Hill was relentless.

And that doesn't even include the problem of child poverty, the leadership dynamics within the NDP and new steps on democratic reform.

Here are three ways politics this week will have a lasting effect on Canadians:


The number-crunchers at Campaign 2000, a group that advocates for the eradication of child poverty, say one out of five children in Canada was living in poverty in 2014. For indigenous kids living on reserves, it's a harsh three out of five.

The two-year-old figures don't take into account Liberal changes and enhancements to federal child benefit payments. They also don't account for the sluggish economic growth that has persisted across the country since then, or the sudden downturn in Alberta due to low oil prices.

But it was enough for researchers to urge Ottawa to index the Canada Child Benefit to inflation, rather than waiting until 2020. The Liberals say the enriched benefit will lift 300,000 children out of poverty. But the parliamentary budget officer has said about 200,000 families will miss out on the full extent of the benefit by 2021 because it is not indexed.

That's not the only child poverty initiative in the works, however. Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos this week rolled out the findings that will feed into his development of a national housing strategy in early 2017. Public outcry for more, better social housing is huge, and pressure is mounting on the government to find new ways to finance it.


The NDP leadership race finally showed some signs of life this week. Despite leader Tom Mulcair declaring last April that he'd step down once his successor is named, there is still no one officially in the race to replace him — although longtime B.C. MP Peter Julian did step aside as House leader last month to clear the way for a leadership run.

This week, former rocker and Northern Ontario MP Charlie Angus did something similar, surrendering his role as indigenous affairs critic to explore a possible bid to lead the party he has been part of for so long.

That will be a relief to some within the party who questioned Mulcair's decision to stay on until a replacement is chosen — that won't happen until October 2017 — rather than leave early, elect a new leader and allow the party to rebuild in time for the next election.

The NDP has been undergoing some serious soul-searching in the wake of last year's dismal election results, trying to redefine its identity in the face of a popular Liberal government that occupies the centre-left on a number of files.

This week, close observers of question period saw both the NDP and the Conservatives take a similar tack on two key files: Liberal fundraising methods (elitist and unethical, say opposition MPs) and the plan to finance infrastructure by co-operating with pension funds and other pools of private capital (elitist, inefficient, and exclusionary, they argue).


The Liberals tabled a bill to undo some of the controversial reforms the previous Conservative government made to the country's voting system, moving to loosen up restrictions.

On Thursday, Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef introduced a bill that, if passed, would make it easier for voters to cast a ballot. The legislation would restore using a voter ID card to be considered eligible, and also allow other voters to vouch for a person's identity. Elections Canada will also be able to educate voters on the electoral system and encourage people to vote.

Monsef moved beyond simply reversing the Conservative measures, however, including provisions allowing Canadians living abroad far more leeway to be able to vote.

The package reflects promises made during the last election campaign, but does not fulfill all of the Liberals' commitments on the mechanics of elections. They have said they would limit how much parties spend between elections, review spending limits for the campaigns themselves and figure out a better way to organize leaders' debates.

The elephant in the room, of course, is a full-fledged replacement of the first-past-the-post electoral system that the Liberals promised to replace before the next election.

For the moment, that effort remains mired in political indecision.