The Parliament Ahead

March 25, 2024

Parliament is about to return after a summer away from Ottawa and we are about to witness something we have not seen in a long while; stability across the board. For the first time since before the 2019 election, we will see a House of Commons that will be relatively stable with the threat of imminent election or leadership challenges safely at bay for at least a couple of years. With the new players in place and the continued stability of the Supply and Confidence Agreement between the Liberals and NDP, our MPs are returning to a situation that is quite different in many important ways. And that will influence how this Parliament will function.

With the new Conservative leader in place and the Prime Minister stating publicly that he will stay for the next election, it is likely that we know who will lead the four major parties into the next Federal election. But while those pieces are on the chess board, they will need to wait for an election, because unless the Supply and Confidence deal falls apart, there will not likely be one until at least late 2024. That gives a two-year period of governing for the Liberal government, a period they will need to use to full effect in order to potentially win re-election against a resurgent Conservative party.

From the Liberals, it should be expected that there will be continued progress on policy issues that they have been pushing for over the past few years. But they will also have to contend with fixing some “basic function of government” issues that have arisen in the past months, like the inability to issue passports in a decent time frame or issues at the airports. Issues like these will continue to arise and how the Liberals respond to them will go a long way to determining how much political capital they will have to spend on their other priorities.

For the Conservatives and their new leader Pierre Poilievre, they return to the House of Commons with renewed energy. The question remains as to how that energy will be harnessed and in which direction it will be pushed. I expect a lot of it will go towards House committees, where the government does not have a majority and the Supply and Confidence agreement does not apply. Prior to the Summer break, the Conservatives were proving to be increasingly effective in committee settings. Once Mr. Poilievre sets his shadow cabinet and committee assignments, it will be interesting to see if that effectiveness is affected going forward. Also for the Conservatives, now will be the time to start putting policy meat on the rhetorical bones constructed from the leadership race. That will provide opportunities for stakeholders to engage with their thoughts and ideas.

For the Bloc Québécois, one should not expect much change from their approach. While much has changed since the last election, little of it has affected the position or approach of the third party in the House of Commons. Given that the current Quebec provincial election is unlikely to result in a change of government, it is safe to assume that the Bloc will continue as it has been through out this Parliament to date.

And for the NDP, the other partner in the Supply and Confidence agreement, this is another opportunity to continue to punch above its weight. Jagmeet Singh and his caucus have been walking a fine line between delivering for Canadians through cooperation with the government, while at the same time holding the government to account. While the NDP has delivered so far on some items (like the start of a national dental care program), the pressure to hold the governments feet to the fire is only increasing with the effects of inflation hitting all Canadians. Until either the Conservatives or Bloc decide to change their approach and offer to work with the government, the NDP are the only potential dance partners for the Liberals. That will continue to give stakeholders another point of contact to offer public policy solutions today, with potential impacts that will not have to wait for the next election to happen.

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