Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference on parliament hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference on parliament hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Prorogation was a surprise, but a new throne speech is welcome, Liberal MPs say

Many Liberal MPs seem unconcerned about the possibility the vote could trigger an early election

Liberal MPs were surprised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to shut down Parliament Tuesday, but many say they believe it was the right call to hit the reset button and deliver a new throne speech, given how COVID-19 has changed the political and economic landscape.

Liberal cabinet and caucus members alike say they were not given advance notice of Trudeau’s plans to prorogue Parliament and only learned about it when it was reported in the media Tuesday.

While some might see it as a political tactic to silence committees probing the WE controversy, Francis Drouin, MP for the Ontario riding of Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, said he believes a new throne speech is needed to give Canadians a better look at government’s long-term plans.

“To me it just makes sense,” he said.

“The issues that we were talking about a year ago aren’t necessarily reflecting the realities of what we’re now dealing with in our constituencies and what Canadians are dealing with. I think it’s the right call.”

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay agreed, saying he believes the situation in Canada and in the world has changed dramatically since the pandemic and Canadians need to see how government plans to respond to those shifting priorities.

“Now is the time to put the road map in place to rebuild the economy and, obviously, that’s what Trudeau wants to do and that’s what will be done.”

A new speech will also prompt a confidence vote, which will require the support of at least one of the main opposition parties to avert defeat of Trudeau’s minority government.

Trudeau refuted suggestions Tuesday he was breaking a 2015 election commitment to never use prorogation as a way to “avoid difficult political circumstances.” He argued he is inviting a confidence vote to allow his Liberal minority to be given a mandate for their post-pandemic plans.

Many Liberal MPs seem unconcerned about the possibility the vote could trigger an early election after the speech is released Sept. 23.

If opposition politicians want to send Canadians to the polls in the middle of a pandemic, that will be up to them to justify, MacAulay said.

But even as much of Trudeau’s caucus appears on board with his hasty decision to pull the plug on Parliament, concerns are being felt in some corners about how the WE affair has played out.

The decision to select WE Charity to administer the multimillion-dollar Canada Student Service Grant has become a political headache for the Liberal government and is being blamed for the sudden resignation Monday of Bill Morneau as minister of finance. Trudeau named Chrystia Freeland to the crucial post Tuesday.

Morneau insisted his decision to leave was based strictly on the fact that he doesn’t intend to run for re-election.

Both Trudeau and Morneau have close family ties to the WE organization have apologized for not recusing themselves from the decision to select WE Charity to administer the CSSG. Both are now being investigated by the ethics commissioner over the deal.

WE backed out of the program in early July, citing the controversy, but the political fallout has continued, playing out in Commons committees with marathon grilling sessions by opposition politicians of key WE and government officials, including Trudeau himself,

Rob Oliphant, who is the parliamentary secretary of foreign affairs, said he is glad to see his government will be taking a new focus with prorogation and a new throne speech, as he did not approve of the decision to give WE Charity the ill-fated contract.

“I don’t think it was a good decision that cabinet made in the first place,” he said.

“I think obviously government was trying to find a fast way to get a program out to help people. I didn’t like it from the beginning and I’m very glad it’s not happening.”

READ MORE: Parliament prorogued, confidence coming on throne speech, says Trudeau

After spending dozens of hours chairing the finance committee’s probe of the WE controversy, Liberal MP Wayne Easter said he is not concerned the prorogation has denied Canadians an opportunity to learn the finer details of the affair.

All the key players, both in government and at WE, have appeared at committee and thousands of pages of newly released government documents have offered a lot of information for Canadians, Easter said.

He says he’s more concerned that Tuesday’s prorogation has left other work of the finance committee unfinished.

This includes hundreds of submissions made during pre-budget consultations for Budget 2021 which weren’t made available to the committee before prorogation and now can’t be reviewed. The committee also hadn’t completed its summary of hundreds of COVID-19 presentations from witnesses over the last four months — information gathered to ensure government’s pandemic response would meet the needs of all Canadians.

“With the prorogation, that work is going to be crammed into a very, very tight timeline in the fall and we don’t have that advice from the public to give to the minister (Freeland) right now,” Easter said.

Virtually all MPs and cabinet ministers who spoke to The Canadian Press said they’re not hearing concerns from their constituents in either in small-town Canada or in bigger cities, about the prorogation. Canadians are more concerned about their health, their families and their livelihoods during the pandemic, they said.

Oliphant’s office received only two emails and one telephone call Wednesday about the prorogation and, of the 21 calls Oliphant proactively made to constituents during the day, not one person raised it.

“That’s the pulse,” he said.

READ MORE: Opposition parties decry black ink in WE documents, allege continuing coverup

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Justin TrudeauLiberals

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

Just Posted

COVID
Red Deer down to 313 active cases of COVID-19

Alberta reports an additional 411 COVID-19 cases

Seniors in the 65-unit Piper Creek Lodge are among those waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Central Alberta senior lodges anxiously waiting for COVID-19 vaccinations

“Should be at the front of the line, not the back of the line”

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Economists “cautiously hopeful” for economic recovery in Alberta

Charles St. Arnaud says Alberta’s recovery will rebound along with roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

Caitlin Kraft, the sister of Jeffery Kraft, stands third from the left, holding a sign calling for the maximum sentence for Campbell, who is charged with manslaughter. (Photo by Paul Cowley)
UPDATED: Judge again rejects submission of 7-year sentence for slaying of Kraft

Tyler John Campbell charged with second-degree murder for December 2019 homicide

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

A decommissioned pumpjack is shown at a well head on an oil and gas installation near Cremona, Alta., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016. The Alberta Energy Regulator says it is suspending all of the licences held by an oil and gas producer with more than 2,200 wells and 2,100 pipelines after it failed to bring its operations into compliance. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta Energy Regulator suspends licences of oil and gas producer that owes $67M

The company is being asked to comply with past orders to clean up historic spills and contamination

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Pictured here is Stettler’s Jenner Smith with a guide dog from Aspen Service Dogs. An online auction will be running soon to help raise funds for Jenner to receive his very own service dog later this year. Jenner, who is four years old, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019. photo submitted
An online auction is planned to raise funds for a service dog for a Stettler family

Jenner Smith, four, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2019

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Most Read