Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole delivered a speech to members of his caucus and invited media on Wednesday that did not reference questions around COVID-19 vaccination and dissension in party ranks that have been ongoing issues for the Opposition.
In a rare move, the Conservatives opened their caucus meeting to members of the media so they could cover an opening speech by Mr. O’Toole.
“Conservatives will work hard to ensure the voices of all Canadians are heard in Ottawa – the voices of energy workers and auto workers; the voices of small business owners and farmers; and, importantly, the voices of families with children and seniors who are worried about the cost-of-living crisis gripping the country,” he said.
“Canadians need a professional, ethical and experienced Conservative team to hold this tired Liberal government to account and to provide Canadians with a clear alternative,” Mr. O’Toole told members of his caucus, sitting socially distanced during the meeting held at a complex across the street from Parliament Hill.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was dismissive of Mr. O’Toole’s speech.
“We’re focused on fighting climate change, we’re focused on growing the economy, we’re focused on reconciliation – the kinds of things Mr. O’Toole should be focused on,” Mr. Trudeau said on Parliament Hill, while heading into a Liberal caucus meeting. “Instead, he’s focused on getting exemptions for his MPs. Now, that doesn’t make any sense.”
Mr. O’Toole did not address the issues around the vaccination of MPs. The Tories have faced questions about the vaccination of their MPs as the reopening of the House of Commons loomed this week, with the reality that all those entering the parliamentary precinct must be fully vaccinated. Mr. O’Toole has said that all 118 Conservative MPs are now either fully vaccinated or have medical exemptions, but refused to say how many have claimed medical exemptions.
Questions have also been raised around dissent in the party ranks after Senator Denise Batters launched a petition urging an expedited vote on Mr. O’Toole’s leadership by party members, instead of awaiting a scheduled vote in 2023. She was then expelled from caucus, and Mr. O’Toole has warned that other caucus critics could face the same consequences.
The Conservative leader did not take media questions before members of the media were ushered from thebroom so the caucus meeting could proceed.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
FREELAND AS LIBERAL LEADER? – Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife and senior parliamentary reporter Steven Chase report on early signs of Liberal leadership ambitions as a biography of Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is in the works. Catherine Tsalikis’s book will feed into a growing perception within the Liberal Party that Canada’s first female Finance Minister is preparing for the Prime Minister’s departure from office – even though Mr. Trudeau maintains he will run in the next election after failing twice to win majority governments. Story here.
CANADA CONSIDERS RESPONSE TO UKRAINE-RUSSIA TENSIONS – Canada is considering bolstering its military mission to Ukraine, amid a debate over whether additional NATO forces would deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from further aggression against his country’s neighbour. Two sources with knowledge of the deliberations told The Globe and Mail that newly appointed Defence Minister Anita Anand is considering deploying hundreds of additional troops to support the Canadian soldiers already in Ukraine on a training mission. Story here.
OPPOSITION PARTIES PUSH FOR SECRET DOCUMENTS – Federal opposition parties moved quickly on the first day of the new Parliament to force the Liberal government to release secret documents on the firing of two scientists from Canada’s highest-security laboratory.
EMERGENCY FUNDING FOR B.C. EVACUEES – British Columbia is offering $2,000 in emergency funding to the thousands of families pushed out of their homes by the past week’s floods and mudslides, as people in the southwestern part of the province prepare for more heavy rain this week. Story here.
FARMERS OPPOSE POTATO EXPORT BAN – PEI farmers are calling on the federal government to explain Monday’s decision to ban the export of fresh potatoes to the United States, saying the suspension came as a shock and could cost the province millions in lost revenue.
EARTH IN DANGER: THRONE SPEECH – Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne delivered a stark warning about the planet’s future as Governor-General Mary Simon opened the 44th Parliament, describing a world “in danger” from climate change and urging legislators to turn “talk into action.” Story here and the text of the Throne Speech is here.
MANITOBA TORIES DEFEND LEADERSHIP VOTE – Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative party filed court documents Monday in defence of the party’s Oct. 30 leadership vote that saw Heather Stefanson win and become Premier.
TORIES SEEK INVESTIGATION OF BIAS CLAIMS AGAINST COMMONS CLERK – The Conservatives are calling for a parliamentary committee to publicly investigate claims of political bias made against the clerk of the House of Commons. From CBC. Story here.
STEWART DEFENDS RECORD AS VANCOUVER MAYOR – Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, a former NDP MP, delivered a campaign-style speech to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade this week, saying people who don’t like him as mayor want to create a “fortress Vancouver” and “pull up the drawbridge” to shut out newcomers. Mr. Stewart, who has said he’ll run for a second term in next year’s October civic election, said he’s proud of how he has brought in a billion dollars of new money for low-cost housing during his three years at the helm. Story here.
ALBERTA GOVERNMENT CONDEMNS SUZUKI COMMENTS – Alberta’s UCP government has moved to formally condemn veteran environmentalist David Suzuki’s recent warnings about “blown up” pipelines in the legislature, with the government house leader introducing a motion that denounces “any comments made calling for the intentional destruction of energy infrastructure” as well as “incitements of violent eco-terrorism.” Story here from The Calgary Herald.
KENNEY FACING LAWSUIT THREAT – A coalition of environmental groups is threatening to sue Alberta Premier Jason Kenney for defamation if he doesn’t retract and apologize for statements saying a public inquiry found they spread misinformation about the province’s oil and gas industry. Story here.
YUKON OPPOSITION SEEKS CONFIDENCE VOTE – Yukon’s Official Opposition is calling for a confidence vote that could bring down the minority Liberal government, though a former clerk of Yukon’s legislative assembly said the odds of that happening are low. Story here from CBC.
THIS AND THAT
TODAY IN THE COMMONS – Projected Order of Business at the House of Commons, Nov. 24, accessible here.
POILIEVRE ON VACCINE EXEMPTIONS – Conservative MP and finance critic Pierre Poilievre reacts here to questions about Conservative MPs with vaccine medical exemptions. Video from CBC.
ONTARIO AND OTTAWA TALK CHILDCARE – Globe and Mail Queen’s Park reporter Laura Stone notes on Twitter that officials from the federal and Ontario governments will be meeting virtually on Wednesday to talk about a child-care deal. Ontario will be presenting modelling that shows the province can’t get to offering $10-per-day care under the current $10.2-billion funding offer from Ottawa. Nine provinces and territories have signed deals with the federal Liberal government, which has a $30-’sbillion, five-year plan to cut fees to an average of $10 per day.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
Private meetings. The Prime Minister attended the national caucus meeting on Parliament Hill, and later attended Question Period.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER
The Deputy Prime Minister, joined by Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, holds a media availability in addition to earlier attending the national caucus meeting and Question Period.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet held a news conference on Parliament Hill.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole delivered an address to his caucus that was open to the media.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh attended the NDP national caucus meeting in Ottawa, then held a news conference. He was later scheduled to speak at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities board meeting and meet with the federation’s executive.
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on whether the Rogers-Shaw deal is good for Canadians: “The biggest issue in the merger is the mobile phone business. It is a principal focus of the two other major reviews: the Competition Bureau is one; Ottawa’s Ministry of Innovation the other. The latter will weigh the transfer of spectrum licences from Shaw to Rogers. Such acreage, the airwaves over which wireless services are transmitted, is the currency of the mobile phone realm. Canadians have forever, and rightly, complained about expensive mobile phone bills. Their ire burst to the fore in 2019, when it became a federal election issue and the CRTC suggested “further action is required” to foster better competition and prices.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on federal Liberals starting to fret over the new inflation question: “If there was a political hint to be taken from the verbiage of Tuesday’s Speech from the Throne, it was that Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has realized the economy could become a thing. After running an election campaign on vaccines and child care and a green future and sundry other items, the Liberals had Governor-General Mary Simon outline their third-term legislative program in a speech entitled “Building a Resilient Economy.” In it, we learn that the Liberals are now alive to concerns about increases in the cost of living, a new-ish kind of recognition after an election campaign where Mr. Trudeau treated inflation as something he didn’t much worry about and didn’t need to talk about.”
Peter Jacobsen (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how even the courts agree that injunctions should not prevent journalists from doing their jobs: “And yet, there was still overreach in the enforcement of the Coastal GasLink injunction. The blanket inclusion of journalists in these types of injunctions is not only profoundly unwarranted, but also serves to discourage, punish, and even prevent journalists reporting on these incendiary events. Furthermore, allowing the police to remove and detain journalists reporting on police behaviour during these disputes will only arouse suspicion, raise tensions and cause disrespect for the administration of justice. When the police fail to distinguish between protesters and the media, we risk serious injustice. And it’s the job of the courts to ensure the police are alive to this distinction, by including wording in injunctions that explicitly deal with access for the media.”
Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.
Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.
Follow Ian Bailey on Twitter: @ianabaileyOpens in a new window