Parliament Adjourns: The Race is on to the 2019 Election

Adjournment of Parliament

After four years, more than 90 sitting weeks, and the tabling of over 100 pieces of government legislation, the 42nd Parliament is nearing its end. The House of Commons has adjourned until September 16 and the Senate has adjourned until September 17 – though the official Writ period of the coming election will prevent the return of Parliament on those dates.

The last few weeks of Parliament before a summer recess are always eventful, and that is especially so at the end of a Government’s mandate. Over the past four weeks, the Trudeau Government passed a number of major pieces of legislation through the legislature, including: The Budget Implementation Act for Budget 2019, Bill C-69 (which made substantial changes to the application and approval processes for major natural resources projects), and Bill C-48 (which banned oil tankers on the coast of Northern British Columbia). The latter two Bills fulfilled major campaign promises from the Liberal Party Election 2015 platform, and will figure substantially in Election 2019.

With Election 2019 looming on October 21, parties and candidates will turn their attention more and more to campaigning. Starting now, stakeholders should watch for the unveiling of the Parties’ election platforms (the NDP platform is already announced – details below) and major policy planks – such as the Conservative environment plan announced this week. The Parties will also try to one-up each other with star candidate announcements – such as today’s news that high-profile Quebec environmentalist Steven Guilbeault will run for the Liberal Party. Although the election campaign will not formally start until September, stakeholders should expect the national and many local campaigns to be in full swing starting Canada Day weekend.

Summer Governing

While Parliament is adjourned, we can expect Cabinet to be active in making announcements and pushing key files forward over the next few weeks.

USMCA Ratification

Bill C-100, the Act to ratify the so-called United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, had not passed the House of Commons at adjournment.

The Trudeau Government has indicated that it wants to proceed in tandem with the United States (U.S.) on ratification, which requires waiting for Congress to take next steps on ratification. The Prime Minister visited Washington this week to meet with President Trump and Congressional Leadership for both the Democrats and Republicans, in part to push forward on USMCA.

Should ratification of USMCA proceed in the U.S. over the coming weeks, there is a good chance that the Trudeau Government will ask the Speakers of the House and Senate to recall Parliament during the summer to ratify the agreement in Canada as well – which would be a major deliverable for the Liberal Party to tout during Election 2019.

G20 Meetings

Prime Minister Trudeau will attend the G20 meetings in Osaka, Japan on June 28 and 29. Along with a summit of the national leaders, a number of Ministerial-level meetings will occur, including gatherings of Finance Ministers, Central Bank Governors, and Foreign Ministers. Topics of discussion at G20 will include trade, geopolitical tensions, migration, combatting climate change, and advancing gender equality. Of course, the world will be watching U.S. President Trump and Chinese President Jinping most intently, as they contest the ongoing trade war between the two countries. The Canadian economy is vulnerable to the fallout of any escalation of that trade war – which would have an enormous impact on Election 2019 discourse.

Federal-Provincial Relations

The Premiers of Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and the Northwest Territories wrote to the Prime Minister last week urging him to drastically amend or abandon Bills C-48 and C-69 – which the Federal government refused to do. Tensions between the Federal Government and Conservative-led Provinces are high, particularly following the elections of Doug Ford in Ontario and Jason Kenney in Alberta, both of whom have led the opposition by Conservative Premiers to the Federal government’s carbon tax.

Against that backdrop, the Council of the Federation – a biannual summit of the Provincial Premiers – will occur July 9 to 11 in Saskatoon. Expect the Premiers to come out of the Summit with some key asks of the Federal Parties heading into campaign season.

What Does This Mean for You?

The early campaign season and the Writ period itself will be politically fluid times. The Parties’ positions on issues can and may change to respond to electoral dynamics during the coming months. During election campaigns, Parties are most attuned to getting votes, and so stakeholders should think about advancing their issues through that lens.

The Parties have begun releasing and detailing their election platforms, which are typically vision documents that can provide stakeholders with a “thousand-foot level” picture of how each party would govern should they win the Election. Attempting to get a jump on the other parties (particularly on the Liberal Party regarding pharmacare), the NDP released its platform – A New Deal for People – last Sunday. The platform focusses on strengthening public healthcare, affordability issues, and the environment. The Conservative Party has so far been revealing major planks of its platform one at a time, including detailing a foreign policy doctrine in early May and publishing a Plan to Protect our Environment earlier this week, which committed a prospective Conservative government to meeting the Paris Accord 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, but offered a very different approach from current Liberal policies – i.e. no carbon tax – to achieving that goal. As a sitting government that is still making and enacting policy, the Liberal Party is not as pressed as the other parties to release a platform, but the campaign document is very much in development.

While policy priorities cannot be advanced by legislation during the election period, it is a good time for stakeholders to broadly educate parties and riding-level candidates on their key issues, and to position preferred solutions and outcomes for the next government to act on. This can be done through grassroots advocacy or more formal processes. For example, prior to adjournment, the House of Commons Finance Committee solicited submissions to the Budget 2020 consultations. Submissions are due August 2, and further details can be found here.