Back to Parliament: High-Stakes Politics for the Fall

State of Play

Today’s the day! Parliament has resumed, with the House of Commons in session once again after a three-month break. The Senate resumes its regular business on Tuesday, September 19th.

It’s a tense time on Parliament Hill, with the Conservative Party (CPC) leading the Liberal Party by substantial margins in recent polling. This creates a challenging situation for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party as they head into the fall session.

Last week’s Liberal caucus retreat in London, Ontario demonstrated that the Prime Minister and his cabinet understand that the status quo approach is not working for Canadians.  The Liberal government has announced that it will be removing the application of the GST for new rental housing construction and extended the loan repayment deadline for the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program by one year in the hope of showing action to address pressing housing and business needs. In addition, the Prime Minister has “summoned” the heads of the five largest grocery retailers into a meeting to press them on grocery prices – an issue brought forward by the NDP to reduce grocery prices.

Housing and Infrastructure Minister Sean Fraser has begun calling on municipalities to build more housing and amend zoning by-laws to receive funding from the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), with London receiving the first HAF funding in Canada.

Meanwhile, the inquiry into foreign election interference is set to begin, with Marie-Josée Hogue – a Quebec Court of Appeal judge- beginning her work today. With the Liberal cabinet and caucus retreats done, the Conservative policy convention over, and the NDP caucus retreat in the rearview mirror – it’s now time to see how the parties fair in the House of Commons.

Summer Momentum (Or Lack Thereof)

The fall sitting of Parliament is a key moment for the Liberals, with news reports of malcontent backbench MPs and far from ideal polling numbers. For the Conservatives, it’s a test to see if they can maintain caucus discipline and stay on their strong economic messaging and not be sidetracked by other issues. For Jagmeet Singh and the NDP, the question remains how long do they stay attached to the Liberals in their supply and confidence agreement, and is it costing them votes?

Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives are surging in the polls after an effective summer tour focused on “axing the (carbon) tax”, reducing red tape, getting rid of ‘gatekeepers’ to build housing, and enabling natural resource development. Poilievre’s tours of Atlantic Canada, Northern Ontario, the GTA and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia have been well attended and he’s moving into areas (and seats) currently held by the Liberals and NDP.

Jagmeet Singh recently completed a tour of Atlantic Canada as well, spending time in Halifax and Moncton, showing support for students, unions, and 2SLGBTQIA+ organizations in the region. This comes after a summer of showing up on the picket lines, calling out big grocery retailers, and more frequent attacks online against Pierre Poilievre.

Cabinet Shuffle Ripple Effect?

It’s safe to say the Liberal cabinet shuffle did not have its intended effect of turning the government’s prospects around. After a not-so-subtle move to try and shake things up, the government’s polling numbers did not improve, the Prime Minister’s approval ratings worsened, and backbench MPs are now openly sharing their woes with the press – a new phenomenon for the Trudeau Liberals.

What’s Next?

As the fall sitting gets started, we can expect to see deeper battle lines be drawn between the parties.  Poilievre’s Conservatives recently launched a pre-emptive strike against the Bloc Quebecois to force a debate in Quebec along the same lines as he has done with Liberals and New Democrats.  The NDP is currently renegotiating its supply and confidence agreement with the Liberals.  What will be on the new wish list?  Will Liberals sharpen their direct attack on Poilievre and the CPC, with some Cabinet Ministers suggesting that they have been “too nice” in recent weeks?

There are structural issues we can expect this fall, such as the Fall Economic Update.  Jagmeet Singh is also set to bring forward a bill seeking to tackle price-gouging and ‘corporate greed,’ while Poilievre is going to introduce a private member’s bill to set forth the CPC’s housing policy, titled the “Building Homes Not Bureaucracy Act.”

Election Timing

Polling numbers being what they are, a federal election is not coming anytime soon thanks to Liberal and NDP cooperation.

For Trudeau and the Liberals, they must reconnect with Canadians. Voters clearly feel disillusioned with the current government.  If Trudeau and company want to have a chance to win again in 2025, they must find a way to reverse the current slide given the public’s desire to see a focus on cost of living and affordability issues.

For Conservatives, they will be seeking to maintain their lead in the polls along with their coordinated messaging and trying to continue to preserve caucus unity.  Expect all three parties to also sharpen their targeting of the CPC – which means the Conservative caucus will have to be even more disciplined going forward.

For the NDP, Singh needs to keep the party steady as it looks to gain votes from the Conservatives and disillusioned Liberals.  Singh faces the challenging tightrope walk of gaining policy victories from the supply and confidence agreement, while also marketing these achievements as NDP wins, and not Liberal initiatives.

It’s going to be a busy fall.  Our team at StrategyCorp is here to help you make sense of it all for your business needs and policy goals.

Listen to the latest episode of Intended Consequences which looks at how the summer played out for each party and what to expect this fall, featuring various members of our government relations team. The episode is available wherever you get your podcasts! 

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