Justin Trudeau. (The Canadian Press photo)

Justin Trudeau. (The Canadian Press photo)

Facing minority Parliament, Trudeau tells MPs to respect opposition

The government faces opposition pushback to its agenda right out of the gate

Play nice.

That was Justin Trudeau’s advice Thursday to Liberal MPs as they gathered to plot strategy for Monday’s resumption of Parliament for its first extended sitting since the Oct. 21 election reduced the Liberals to a minority in the House of Commons.

“All is not the same as it was in our previous mandate,” the prime minister told MPs at the start of a two-day caucus retreat.

“It’s up to us to work more with other parties, to work more across the country as we take Parliament seriously.”

Trudeau’s government will need support from at least one of the major opposition parties to pass legislation and survive confidence votes on matters like the upcoming budget. And Trudeau said it’s up to Liberals to make it work.

“Bickering, grandstanding, petty politics — none of these things create jobs. They don’t make anyone’s retirement safer, or our environment cleaner. Collaboration, dialogue, and constructive debate, however, can … Common ground does exist in this Parliament but it’s up to us to build on it.”

ALSO READ: Trudeau to take sober approach to unveiling new cabinet for minority mandate

The government faces opposition pushback to its agenda right out of the gate.

The top priority for the government is ratifying the new North American free-trade agreement, with legislation to be introduced next week. Trudeau wants ratification as quickly as possible to secure the deal, on which he said millions of Canadian jobs depend.

But the Bloc Quebecois and NDP have signalled that they’re in no rush to finalize the continental trade pact, which has already been ratified by the United States and Mexico. They want the deal to be studied in depth at committee and debated thoroughly in the Commons.

The Conservatives are ardent free-traders in general but have accused Trudeau of caving into U.S. President Donald Trump’s demands on the new NAFTA. It is not clear yet whether they’ll support quick ratification or join demands for lengthy debate.

Trudeau welcomed debate and committee study but said: “We need to make sure that we move resolutely and rapidly to put into reality this new NAFTA deal that is so good for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.”

In an appeal for cross-party solidarity, Trudeau thanked opposition parties for adopting a non-partisan “Team Canada” approach to the renegotiation of NAFTA in the face of Trump’s threats to scrap the pact altogether.

The Liberals’ agenda also includes action on a promised ban on military-style assault rifles, strengthening health care, battling climate change, and seeking meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. The government also intends to introduce next month amendments to the law governing medical assistance in dying, in response to a Quebec court ruling that invalidated the law’s limitation that only people who are near death can qualify for medical help to end their lives.

Minority status means Trudeau and his ministers will have to pay more attention to their own backbenchers as they prepare legislation, to head off any incipient revolts.

It was evident Thursday that the assault-weapon ban is one issue that will require some massaging to maintain unity within Liberal ranks. At least two MPs said they had questions on behalf of their rural constituents and that they wanted to hear more on the government’s plans.

“It’s a very emotional issue,” said veteran Liberal MP Wayne Easter, of Prince Edward Island.

“I have in my briefcase here, probably a hundred letters, not many from my own riding, opposed to it, and I expect if you’re in the urban areas members would be getting letters saying they support it … so it is a controversial issue.”

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said he welcomes the input of MPs. He argued that everyone is “completely united” in wanting to keep Canadians safe, although there can be disagreements over how best to go about that.

Still, Blair made it clear that as far as he is concerned, there is no urban-rural divide over the issue.

“I don’t believe anyone in this country needs a military-style weapon, except soldiers.”

Toronto MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith — who developed a reputation during Trudeau’s first mandate as something of a free-thinker who was not afraid to vote against the party line — said he doesn’t think he needs to change his approach now that Trudeau is in a minority situation where he’ll want every Liberal vote on every initiative.

He noted that Trudeau requires backbenchers to support the government only on matters of confidence, platform promises and issues involving human rights.

“There’s a lot of freedom beyond that and I’ll continue to exercise that freedom,” he said.

On the other hand, Erskine-Smith said he expects Trudeau and his ministers will spend a lot more time consulting with backbenchers and mitigating their concerns before introducing new initiatives.

“Every vote matters in a minority Parliament and so I think it’s especially important, and I have felt this already, that the government ministers are very proactively reaching out on the files that matter to us as MPs. So I’m hoping that that continues.”

Joan Bryden and Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Justin TrudeauPolitics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

Kieran Christison, manager of Daybreak Farms in Terrace inspects eggs on Oct. 30, 2020. Christison wants to transition to a zero waste, cage-free facility. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Daybreak Farms aiming to achieve zero-waste, cage-free facility

Kieran Christison, manager, presented the farm’s future plans to Terrace city council

Mercedes Trigo, assistant manager, said that Trigo’s Lifestyle Store in Terrace has experienced four broken windows and an attempted break-in recently, leaving her feeling unsupported by bystanders and the police. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
Trigo’s management frustrated by property damage, theft

In a little over a month there have been four broken windows and an attempted break-in at the store

Two RCMP officers have been recognized for their actions in responding to an incident involving a man with a weapon at 4501 Park Ave. on the afternoon of April 27, 2020. RCMP say it was an isolated incident and there is no danger to the general public. (Jake Wray photo)
Terrace RCMP officers recognized for acts of bravery

Two involved in arrest of armed suspect

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

Most Read