NEWS canada

Trudeau to sketch out plans for ‘divided’ Canada in first address as second-term PM

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to outline how the next few weeks will play out in a news conference this afternoon, before new and old faces return to the House of Commons for the 43rd session.

After staying out of the spotlight on Tuesday following election night, Trudeau will address Canadians from all political stripes and their elected representatives in an attempt to smooth over a frayed national fabric after a 40-day contentious election campaign.

Karim Bardessy, co-founder and executive director of the Ryerson Leader Lab, whose organization is working on building trust in public institutions, says Trudeau at the outset needs to do a better job of acknowledging Canadians’ decision on Monday night.

“He needs to demonstrate a bit more humility about the results themselves that seemed to be lacking on election night,” he said.

He added that the popular narrative, that Canada’s current divisions can be attributed to policy decisions around climate change and the energy sector, is misplaced.

“[Trudeau] made a number of decisions around climate change for which he also had the national interest in mind – a carbon tax and arrangements to build one of three pipelines,” said Bardessy. “That he didn’t get the results he wanted in Western Canada doesn’t suggest to me that the policy positioning is wrong.”

Massive support for the Conservatives might be a proxy for other frustrations, he added, and the prime minister’s office will have difficulty finding representation from the two provinces – Alberta and Saskatchewan – that didn’t elect a single Liberal.

According to Philippe Lagasse, associate professor at Carleton University and expert on Canada’s parliamentary system, Trudeau has three options to ensure the voices of all provinces or at least regions are included at the table.

The first option is to take a “minimalist” view of the expectation of regional representation.

“If you simply view it as ‘the West’ than you can rely on the ideas of your members from Manitoba and British Columbia. If you see it more as no the idea is not the West, but all provinces, than you’re in a bit more of a bind,” told Lagasse to over the phone.

To get out of that bind, you can look to entice members from other parties to cross the floor with the promise of a cabinet appointment, but as Lagasse says, that would be unlikely.

“It wouldn’t just be floor-crossing in a regular sense. The provinces and voters in those provinces have overwhelmingly voted for one party. If you were to lure someone across the floor, that would be a fairly contentious move.”

The third option, while less sensitive, is also fraught with political complexity given the Liberals’ first-term mandate to make the Senate more “Independent.”

In this circumstance, he would pluck a senator from one of the Western provinces and move them over to cabinet, something former prime minister Stephen Harper did in 2006 to ensure Quebec representation.

“We’ve always had a tradition that you can use the senate to shore up any lacuna that you have in the Commons for cabinet composition and that’s something we’ve done for quite some time. That’s an important principle,” said Lagasse.

Before these difficult decisions are made, Trudeau must advise Governor General Julie Payette that he intends to test the confidence of the House and when he plans to resume Parliament – a timeline expected for Wednesday’s press conference.

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