Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, second from right, and Acting Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America Kirsten Hillman, right, look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Richard E. Neal, Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the United States House of Representatives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday November 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, second from right, and Acting Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America Kirsten Hillman, right, look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Richard E. Neal, Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the United States House of Representatives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday November 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Liberal winners, losers to gather for first time since disappointing election result

Vancouver MP Hedy Fry said the people who have their finger on the pulse of the nation are the MPs

Re-elected, newly elected and defeated Liberal MPs will gather Thursday on Parliament Hill for the first time since Canadians clipped the wings of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in the Oct. 21 election.

The two-hour get-together is not a formal caucus meeting, just a chance to congratulate winners and commiserate with losers.

Nevertheless, it will doubtless give Trudeau a taste of the mood in what is likely to be a more assertive Liberal caucus, one less inclined to obediently follow the lead of a prime minister who no longer exudes an aura of electoral invincibility.

Trudeau’s reputation as a champion of diversity and tolerance took a beating during the bruising 40-day campaign when it was revealed he’d donned blackface repeatedly in his younger days.

His grip on power was ultimately weakened; the Liberals won 157 seats — 13 shy of a majority in the House of Commons — and were shut out entirely in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where Trudeau’s name is now political poison.

Unlike Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, Trudeau does not face a potential revolt over his leadership but returning Liberal MPs do expect him to make some changes.

Among them: pay more attention to the views of caucus, bring more diverse voices into his inner circle, drop the nasty personal attacks that dominated the campaign, return to more positive messaging and, in particular, concentrate more on communicating the Liberal government’s successes on the economic front.

READ MORE: Recounts ordered in B.C., Quebec ridings after narrow federal election results

“I really think there’s an opportunity here for caucus maybe to be heard more,” Prince Edward Island veteran MP Wayne Easter said in an interview. “We were four years in government and the strong voice of caucus and avenues for caucus to be heard maybe in a more substantive way must be found.”

Vancouver MP Hedy Fry said the people who have their finger on the pulse of the nation are the MPs.

“As a physician, I can say if you don’t take vital signs, you make mistakes. The centre isn’t getting that.”

Montreal MP Alexandra Mendes hopes the minority government, which will require more collaboration with opposition parties, will result in all parliamentarians, not just cabinet ministers, getting more input into bills during Commons debates and committee study.

“Many of us were elected on our merits, and not just because of the party, and people expect us to prove that trust is warranted,” she said in an interview.

Along with the demand to engage more with backbenchers is a widespread feeling that Trudeau can no longer rely solely on advice from his tight inner circle — what one MP refers to as “the triumvirate echo chamber” of Trudeau, chief of staff Katie Telford and former principal secretary Gerald Butts.

Telford is staying on as chief of staff. However, Butts, who resigned in the midst of the SNC-Lavalin affair, has no plans to return to the PMO, although he was a key player during the campaign. That leaves an opening for a new principal secretary and some Liberal MPs see that as an opportunity to bring in a senior adviser from the West and maybe also from Quebec, where a resurgence of the separatist Bloc Quebecois is cause for concern.

“I do think that there have to be more diverse voices around the PM, in terms of not just having a very Ontario-centric team,” said Mendes.

A number of Liberal MPs bemoan the nasty tone of the campaign, including the Liberal attacks on Scheer’s social conservative values rather than a more positive campaign promoting the Liberals’ economic record: robust growth, historically low unemployment, 900,000 lifted out of poverty as a result of the Canada Child Benefit.

Fry, who just won her ninth election, said she never saw such a nasty campaign that revolved so heavily around personal attacks on the leaders.

The result was that people didn’t know who to vote for because “they thought they were all scoundrels,” she said. And they didn’t know what the government had done on big issues like affordable housing because the leaders were too busy ”screaming at each other about how terrible the other human being was.”

Easter said all leaders have to ”give our head a shake and stop this political rhetoric. The election’s over, let’s get on with governing like Canadians expect us to do.”

Like other MPs, Easter believes the government must do a better job of communicating its accomplishments on pocket-book issues, which he said “nobody seemed to know” about when he knocked on doors during the campaign.

“One of Trudeau’s difficulties is, he so wants to do the right thing and so wants to see the political correctness and so wants to do right on the gender balance and Indigenous (reconciliation) … that he puts himself in such a position that it maybe compromises his leadership position,” Easter said.

“He’s out there on those issues and maybe not out there on the bread-and-butter issues and I think he has to emphasize the other side more.”

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kent Harrison Search and Rescue brought a man to safety, and awaiting paramedics, after a 20-foot fall down an embankment on Jan. 23, 2020, on Harrison West Forest Service Road. (Kent Harrison Search and Rescue photo)
Rescue crew lifts man up 20-foot embankment near Harrison Lake

Kent Harrison Search and Rescue says this is the fifth call already this year

A mallard duck swims through Salish Pond in Chilliwack on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Snow, rain in forecast for Fraser Valley

Fraser Valley has been treated to more than a week of mostly sunny weather, but it’s about to end

sd
VIDEO: Mission drag racer scores 1st career win, sets world record, makes history in 2020

Justin Bond, founder and owner of JBS Equipment, hits milestones in break-out year

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Jan. 24

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Adam Louis/Hope Standard
One Week at a Time: My doors will be open

Reporter Adam Louis introduces himself to Hope and the surrounding communities

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Most Read