The Return of Parliament and What to Watch for

March 25, 2024

This coming Monday the year in Parliament will officially kick off, with the return of MPs to Ottawa, both in person and virtually. Given the state of the economy, the continued war in Ukraine and so many other issues that are front of mind, there will be a lot for our elected officials to deal with upon their return. That means there are many potential triggers, pitfalls or opportunities for those who are looking to engage with the Federal government. With that in mind, here are five things that we at Niipaawi will be watching for:

1.    Budget 2023: So much of the political calendar revolves around the budget every year, for good reason. But this year the direction and choices taken by the current government will say a fair bit more about what will come in 2023 and beyond. Will it be a governing budget, focused on getting results and tackling important issues, or will it be a campaign budget, focused on a potential election and act as more of a book of promises than actual delivered actions? Will it continue the course on many government priorities around clean energy, innovation and supports for families, or will it change course that moves government in a different direction? Will the fiscal taps remain relatively open, or will they be shut? There are many potential variables that could have an outsized impact on the support this minority government has and on Canadians generally. This budget will be a declaration of the governments intents and will tell us a lot about where the Prime Ministers mind is at going forward.

2.    The War in Ukraine: As we close in on the one year anniversary of the invasion by Russia of its neighbour Ukraine, this conflict continues to drive so much of the worlds political and economic conversations. Here at home we continue to see the effects of this war on supply chains, world commodity prices and effectively, inflation. The pressure on NATO members like Canada to continue to support Ukraine will continue until victory is achieved, and that will have an effect on policy here at home. A notable area to watch will be military procurement, as Canada continues to provide weapons, ammunition, and other materials support to Ukraine. Canada will likely continue to only provide more such material to our Ukrainian allies, but eventually Canada will have to replace what we have given for our own needs. Military procurement has been problematic for various governments in Ottawa for decades, but it will likely take on a larger importance as we start to restock our own stockpiles and continue to support the fight to protect democracy in Ukraine.

3.    The Ability to Deliver: It was only 2015 when one of the buzzwords that revolved around the current Liberal government was “deliverology”. It almost feels quaint to think about that as 2022 was full of examples of government simply failing to deliver on its basic functions and programs. As we are now in 2023, there is a strong need for both the Federal and Provincial governments to turn the page on that annus horribilis of 2022 and focus on delivering, actually delivering. We seem to be on track to see an announcement on Health Care funding and delivering on that important file, but there will be many others that will demand action from government. If 2022 was the year of failure on delivering, this year must be the comeback.

4.    Firearms Legislation: Last year the current government brought forward legislation regarding the regulation of hand guns. Before the House rose for the Holidays, the government had brought forward extensive amendments to this bill at the last moment increasing the scope of the bill to include many hunting rifles commonly used by many Indigenous hunters. The fallout from this move has created a serious stress point between the government and Indigenous governments and national associations, who have all condemned the proposed amendments as an attack on their Indigenous rights enshrined in the Constitution and upheld by the courts. Furthermore, these amendments have put increased strain on the relationship between the Liberals and their partners in the Supply and Confidence agreement signed last year. The NDP have made it clear they support Indigenous peoples in this matter and therefore cannot support the bill with these changes. As this bill finishes its study in committee and eventually returns to the House for third reading, this tension will come to a head. How that unfolds will tells us a lot about the continued health of said agreement, the longevity of the current minority Parliament and the governments intentions going forward.

5.    A Trip to the Polls?: While we at Niipaawi believe we will not see a Federal election in 2023, the potential of a snap trip to the polls is never outside of the realm of possibility. Today we are facing rampant inflation, surging cost of living, a pending recession and a war in Eastern Europe. These are not the kinds of headwinds that any government would want to start an election in the middle of. If things improve could this government get antsy? It’s possible even if not likely. That constant pressure building towards the next election will only get worse this year, which will continue to have an impact on the policies and actions taken in Ottawa. Parties will start nominating candidates, drafting election platforms, and getting ready for the day the writs are drawn up because that day will come eventually. This gives stakeholders an opportunity to engage with all parties as they prepare, share their ideas and get them on the radar.