THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s federal Parliament has now risen for its summer recess with ministers, members, and senators having quickly departed the National Capital Region ahead of what’s shaping up to be an intensive political agenda for July and August.
Minority parliaments have, historically, been fraught with pitched political battles between parties. This session was no different, notwithstanding the governing agreement between the Liberals and New Democrats.
But are such “Ottawa bubble” battles impacting the voting intentions of Canadians? Will we see more of the same this fall?
As we move into the summer break, the following provides a snapshot of key strategic considerations, and what lies ahead:
Parliament rises amidst ongoing conflict
Despite a tumultuous spring session, Trudeau’s minority Liberal government managed to push forward its legislative priorities before Parliament adjourned for the summer recess. The minority government’s legislative successes during the spring session have been eclipsed by ongoing controversies.
From the protracted mishandling of the election interference issue to ethics concerns with conflicts of interest surrounding appointments, to questions surrounding yet another holiday with wealthy family friends, the issues management function of the Prime Minister's Office has been stretched thin in recent months.
In this context, Trudeau’s Liberals have struggled to gain traction on their own agenda, with polling revealing growing public appetite for change, and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre leading as preferred prime minister. This shifting public sentiment, however, did not play out in the recent by-elections on June 19, with both the Liberal Party and Conservative Party emerging holding the same seats as going in.
Latest polling by Abacus offers insights into the mood of Canada’s electorate; while a majority of Canadians (81%) want change, a substantial minority (31%) of those wanting change, are not comfortable with other options.
Prorogation, cabinet shuffle, or both?
As Trudeau’s minority government rapidly approaches its midterm, prorogation of Parliament is increasingly likely. Prorogation would offer the beleaguered Liberals an opportunity to refocus its message and agenda before the next federal election. It would also offer Cabinet a welcome break from the intense, daily scrutiny by Opposition parties in Question Period, along with a new Throne Speech.
Supporting the overall effort to regain its footing, a long-awaited cabinet shuffle is also expected to be in the cards for the Trudeau Liberals. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who has struggled in the limelight of foreign interference concerns, is expected to be reassigned. While there is ranging speculation about whether there will be changes to other priority portfolios, such as the deputy prime minister; ultimately, the next cabinet composition will align with the government’s attempts to regain its standing going into the next federal election.
The political agenda over the summer months ahead offers strategic and unique opportunities to gain awareness and traction on your organization’s policy issues. Upcoming political milestones include the First Ministers' conference, Calgary Stampede, and party caucus retreats. Despite the growing significance of these summer political milestones, relatively few stakeholders seek to engage political officials in these forums, offering a political landscape that is less competitive than during the Parliamentary session for your message to be heard.
Calgary Stampede (July 7-16)
Calgary Stampede has solidified as a must-attend national event on the political agenda, drawing the prime minister and his cabinet, leaders of the Opposition, and other prominent federal officials–alongside Alberta’s premier and government. Emerging from lukewarm results in recent federal by-elections, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is expected to amplify his presence, seeking to amplify his connection with the party base.
Premiers’ meeting (July 10-12)
Once a low-key gathering of Canada’s provincial/territorial leadership, the annual meeting of the Council of the Federation being held on July 10-12 has increased in profile over the years to the now signature milestone in the political calendar. While all premiers seek to leverage the meeting for political gain in their home jurisdiction, core agenda items typically focus on areas of shared concern and where common ground can be portrayed. In advance of the meeting, premiers have issued their top priorities for the next federal infrastructure funding package.
Party retreats and conventions
Finally, both the Conservative Party and NDP are holding major party policy conventions early this fall, while the Liberals held theirs during the spring session. Party staff will be engrossed in planning the agenda and substance for each respective convention over the summer months. In parallel, each main party typically hosts a caucus retreat prior to the return of Parliament, late August to early September. For the Liberal Party, this includes a cabinet retreat.
NATIONAL’s team of pan-Canadian Public Affairs experts will be watching these developments carefully over the summer, including related impacts on health care, finance, innovation, climate change and other key sectors. We would love to hear from you, and would be happy to tailor monitoring reports to meet your organization’s key objectives.