Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is painting Parliament as a place of “toxicity” and “obstructionism” opposed to his minority government’s agenda, fuelling growing speculation about a possible election call later this year.
The Liberals’ budget implementation bill is among the pieces of legislation being debated in the House of Commons, which is set to break for summer on Wednesday.
With time running out to get outstanding bills passed, Trudeau and his ministers have been calling out Opposition Conservatives for using procedural tactics to delay votes.
On Tuesday, Trudeau said his government’s push to ban conversion therapy and enshrine Canada’s goal to get to net-zero emissions by mid-century — both introduced last fall — can happen with the help of the Bloc Quebecois and NDP.
The prime minister said he welcomes parliamentary scrutiny of the government’s work but found it troubling to see opposition MPs bring the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada to be publicly shamed before the House of Commons for failing to release information.
Conservatives say the agency needs to spill on why two scientists were escorted from Canada’s highest security laboratory in Winnipeg two years ago and eventually fired, flagging potential security concerns involving China.
But Trudeau said the recent admonishment of PHAC president Iain Stewart, who has steered the agency through the COVID-19 pandemic, was done for “purely partisan political purposes.”
“We have seen a level of obstructionism and toxicity in the house that is of real concern,” Trudeau said outside of the steps of Rideau Cottage, where he’s quarantining under COVID-19 rules after a trip to Europe to attend international meetings.
‘You never quite know when that election might come’
Inside the House, one of the government’s own echoed the conundrum the moment has created for opposition parties and political pundits alike.
“One of the undoubtable problems with a minority Parliament is you never quite know when that election might come,” said Ontario MP and House regular Mark Gerretsen.
“Whether the rumours are true or not, two years certainly is, by conventional wisdom, on par for the standard length of a minority Parliament.”
October will mark two years since Trudeau was re-elected after first forming a majority government in 2015.
In a late-night Commons session Monday, the Liberals’ proposed changes to Canada’s Broadcasting Act was adopted at third reading to be sent to the Senate.
Conservative MPs been vehemently opposed to Bill C-10 and voted against it, saying it gives the government the power to regulate Canadians’ social media and calling it an attack on free speech.
“If this controversial bill is adopted, a Conservative government will stand up for Canadians and repeal this deeply flawed legislation,” Alain Rayes, the party’s critic for heritage, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Only Canada’s Conservatives will keep on fighting for the freedoms of Canadians.”
Another vote facing parliamentarians is a proposed ban on the widely condemned practice of trying to change someone’s LGBTQ identity to heterosexual, which the Liberal government reintroduced last fall after proroguing Parliament last summer.
Some Conservative MPs have rallied against the government’s definition of conversion therapy, saying that it goes beyond simply criminalizing the coercive practice and infringes on people’s ability to speak freely and seek help on sex and gender issues.
Despite concerns expressed by some on his backbench, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole will vote in favour of the conversion therapy ban, his press secretary said ahead of Tuesday’s vote.