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

/ Kevin Mills Photo
Hundreds participate in solidarity parade for transgender student who was bullied

Cars, horses and even planes passed by the Mission waterfront to show support

An amethyst rock was stolen from Swinstones Granite Shop’s showroom in Chilliwack on Yale Rd. West, and they are hoping it will be spotted and returned. They discovered their window smashed and the purple rock stolen on the morning of Jan. 17, 2020. Here a portion of it is pictured to the right. (Submitted image)
Amethyst stolen from Chilliwack stone shop’s showroom

Window smashed at business where purple rock has been on display for nearly 16 years

sdf
Another Mission student arrested for assault, in 2nd case of in-school violence this week

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

BCCDC photo.
16 school exposures in Abbotsford schools in 2 weeks

Fraser Health’s list grows by 11 for 2nd week of 2021

Two people on a paddleboard take advantage of a calm Cultus Lake on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Forecast calls for lots of sun in Fraser Valley this coming week

Most of next seven days will be sunny for eastern Fraser Valley, according to Environment Canada

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

Pindie Dhaliwal, one of the organizers for the Surrey Challo protest for Indian farmers. She says organizers were told by Surrey RCMP that the event was not allowed due to COVID-19. Organizers ended up moving the protest to Strawberry Hill at the last minute. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Indian farmers rally moves as organizers say Surrey RCMP told them they couldn’t gather

Protest originally planned in Cloverdale, moved to Strawberry Hill

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Most Read