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.

Just Posted

SLIDESHOW: The Fraser Valley Auto Mall food drive and convoy

Convoy heads down South Fraser Way, delivers food and money to the Archway Food Bank of Abbotsford

Sweeney Singers host annual Christmas concert in Abbotsford

Event takes place Saturday, Dec. 21 at St. James Church

Four vehicle accident causing southbound gridlock on Highway 11

Accident occurred around 12:30 p.m. at intersection with Valley Road, ambulance on scene

VIDEO: Canada’s only mobile shower trailer for homeless run by Abbotsford Mennonites

Refresh Mobile Showers started operations on May 1, provided over 550 showers

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

B.C. VIEWS: Hunger does not end with the season

Despite innovations in food distribution, the need is still there in B.C. communities

VIDEO: Giants edged out by Everett

Another case where Vancouver outshot an opponent, but couldn’t get past the other goalie

Sharks beat Canucks 4-2 to snap 6-game skid

Vancouver visits Vegas on Sunday

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Surrey councillor wants the policing transition process to ‘immediately stop’

Brenda Locke to make motion at Dec. 16 meeting to reconsider current plan

Man pleads guilty to second-degree murder in 2017 Stanley Park stabbing

Lubomir Kunik was found by a man out walking his dog on the beach late on Feb. 1, 2017

Most Read