Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, second from right, and Acting Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America Kirsten Hillman, right, look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Richard E. Neal, Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the United States House of Representatives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday November 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, second from right, and Acting Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America Kirsten Hillman, right, look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Richard E. Neal, Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the United States House of Representatives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday November 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Liberal winners, losers to gather for first time since disappointing election result

Vancouver MP Hedy Fry said the people who have their finger on the pulse of the nation are the MPs

Re-elected, newly elected and defeated Liberal MPs will gather Thursday on Parliament Hill for the first time since Canadians clipped the wings of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in the Oct. 21 election.

The two-hour get-together is not a formal caucus meeting, just a chance to congratulate winners and commiserate with losers.

Nevertheless, it will doubtless give Trudeau a taste of the mood in what is likely to be a more assertive Liberal caucus, one less inclined to obediently follow the lead of a prime minister who no longer exudes an aura of electoral invincibility.

Trudeau’s reputation as a champion of diversity and tolerance took a beating during the bruising 40-day campaign when it was revealed he’d donned blackface repeatedly in his younger days.

His grip on power was ultimately weakened; the Liberals won 157 seats — 13 shy of a majority in the House of Commons — and were shut out entirely in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where Trudeau’s name is now political poison.

Unlike Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Trudeau does not face a potential revolt over his leadership but returning Liberal MPs do expect him to make some changes.

Among them: pay more attention to the views of caucus, bring more diverse voices into his inner circle, drop the nasty personal attacks that dominated the campaign, return to more positive messaging and, in particular, concentrate more on communicating the Liberal government’s successes on the economic front.

READ MORE: Recounts ordered in B.C., Quebec ridings after narrow federal election results

“I really think there’s an opportunity here for caucus maybe to be heard more,” Prince Edward Island veteran MP Wayne Easter said in an interview. “We were four years in government and the strong voice of caucus and avenues for caucus to be heard maybe in a more substantive way must be found.”

Vancouver MP Hedy Fry said the people who have their finger on the pulse of the nation are the MPs.

“As a physician, I can say if you don’t take vital signs, you make mistakes. The centre isn’t getting that.”

Montreal MP Alexandra Mendes hopes the minority government, which will require more collaboration with opposition parties, will result in all parliamentarians, not just cabinet ministers, getting more input into bills during Commons debates and committee study.

“Many of us were elected on our merits, and not just because of the party, and people expect us to prove that trust is warranted,” she said in an interview.

Along with the demand to engage more with backbenchers is a widespread feeling that Trudeau can no longer rely solely on advice from his tight inner circle — what one MP refers to as “the triumvirate echo chamber” of Trudeau, chief of staff Katie Telford and former principal secretary Gerald Butts.

Telford is staying on as chief of staff. However, Butts, who resigned in the midst of the SNC-Lavalin affair, has no plans to return to the PMO, although he was a key player during the campaign. That leaves an opening for a new principal secretary and some Liberal MPs see that as an opportunity to bring in a senior adviser from the West and maybe also from Quebec, where a resurgence of the separatist Bloc Quebecois is cause for concern.

“I do think that there have to be more diverse voices around the PM, in terms of not just having a very Ontario-centric team,” said Mendes.

A number of Liberal MPs bemoan the nasty tone of the campaign, including the Liberal attacks on Scheer’s social conservative values rather than a more positive campaign promoting the Liberals’ economic record: robust growth, historically low unemployment, 900,000 lifted out of poverty as a result of the Canada Child Benefit.

Fry, who just won her ninth election, said she never saw such a nasty campaign that revolved so heavily around personal attacks on the leaders.

The result was that people didn’t know who to vote for because “they thought they were all scoundrels,” she said. And they didn’t know what the government had done on big issues like affordable housing because the leaders were too busy ”screaming at each other about how terrible the other human being was.”

Easter said all leaders have to ”give our head a shake and stop this political rhetoric. The election’s over, let’s get on with governing like Canadians expect us to do.”

Like other MPs, Easter believes the government must do a better job of communicating its accomplishments on pocket-book issues, which he said “nobody seemed to know” about when he knocked on doors during the campaign.

“One of Trudeau’s difficulties is, he so wants to do the right thing and so wants to see the political correctness and so wants to do right on the gender balance and Indigenous (reconciliation) … that he puts himself in such a position that it maybe compromises his leadership position,” Easter said.

“He’s out there on those issues and maybe not out there on the bread-and-butter issues and I think he has to emphasize the other side more.”

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

A graphic design of the new RCMP detachment which will be located on a five-acre property bordering Ford Road and Drinkwater Road. (File graphic)
Heavy trucks not allowed shortcut during construction of RCMP detachment

North Cowichan won’t allow heavy trucks on Drinkwater Road where not designated

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Laketown Ranch to welcome campers this summer

Sunfest site will provide camping amenities between May and September

‘I chose my children’s breakfasts purely based on what dishes would fit best into the dishwasher.’ (Bobbi Venier photo)
Sarah Simpson Column: Delayed gratification and the benefits of efficiency

I was driving with just my daughter the other day and we… Continue reading

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Chemainus teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

The frequent disruptions to water service in Chemainus are expected to be a lot less after North Cowichan replaces the Smiley Road water main. (File photo)
Smiley Road water main in Chemainus to be replaced

$890,000 project expected to be completed this spring

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way inside business in Nanaimo

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres on Friday

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Most Read