Our new Politics newsletter: Time running out to get things done

The 2019 federal election campaign is already underway. The CBC News Canada Votes newsletter is your weekly tip-sheet as we count down to October 21.

The Canada Votes newsletter is your weekly tip-sheet as we count down to Oct. 21.

A calendar sits in the middle of the newly-renovated temporary Senate chamber. ((Benoit Roussel, CBC))

The 2019 election campaign is already underway - the CBC News Canada Votes newsletter is your weekly tip-sheet as we count down to Oct. 21.

Reading this online? Sign-up for the newsletter and receive it every Sunday.


With 35 days to go in the House, what can really get done?

Vassy Kapelos, host of Power & Politics

This election will be different for the Liberals for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is they have to run on their record, and they only have about 35 days to cement that record.

That's how many days are left in which the House of Commons is scheduled to be sitting. Yes, there is the potential for longer, evening sittings and to stretch the calendar, but the likelihood of that making a big difference is negligible.

So why does that matter, you ask? Who will suffer when the riveting excitement of votes and question period comes to a close?

It totally matters. There are a lot of bills either in the House or in the Senate and time is ticking to turn them into law.

A short sample of what still isn't law:

  • Bill C-69, which would overhaul the pipeline approval process.
  • Bill C-48, which would ban oil tankers on the northern coast of B.C.
  • Bill C-92, First Nations child welfare legislation.
  • Bill C-71, new gun laws.
  • Bill C-59, new national security laws and a redress system for people stuck on the no-fly list because their name matches someone who is actually on the list.

And that doesn't include the other stuff the government has talked about for years: a possible handgun ban, regulating social media companies and pharmacare.

To be fair, the Liberals aren't the only party to face this issue. I remember going to a police station in late spring of 2015 to watch then-justice minister Peter MacKay introduce new drunk driving legislation that would never see the light of day unless the Conservative were re-elected.

When I asked why they would introduce a bill with almost no time left to pass it, I was met with looks of incredulity as if I had just proposed unicorns were real.

In any event, that list up there, like I said, is just a short sample. In total, there are 10 bills still before the House and 13 in the Senate.

Government House Leader Bardish Chagger rises to cast her vote during a marathon voting session in the House of Commons Thursday March 21, 2019 in Ottawa. The Parliamentary session began Wednesday and has continued through the night into Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Oh yeah, the Senate!

It's new! It's more independent! Is that true? Is that good or bad? These are the questions we've asked ourselves at various junctures over the past three and a half years. I remember standing outside the red chamber doing live hits when the Senate was studying the assisted dying legislation and everyone was abuzz wondering if Senators would try and put the kibosh on it.

WHAT WILL THE SENATE DO? I asked as I stared into the camera, trying to convince myself and viewers this was wild and exciting stuff.

Now, the leadership of all Senate parties and groups (it's never simple there) did strike a deal to hold third reading votes on or before June 6 for 10 of the 13 bills before senators. But some of the outstanding ones I'm thinking especially of Bill C-69 are real doozies. They won't be easy to push through.

There's also the prospect that the drama that preceded this two-week Easter break could repeat itself. The Conservatives, protesting the decision of Liberal MPs on the justice committee to shut down the committee's probe of the SNC-Lavalin affair, used every means possible to delay proceedings in the House. Will it happen again? I know you're on the edge of your seats.

All of this is not to say the process should be rushed. I'm not a cynic and I believe parliamentarians debating and examining bills perform an essential function the result is nearly always stronger, and better-thought-out laws.

But politically, a lot hangs in the balance. "We gotta get this done," one staffer in House Leader Bardish Chagger's office told me (but like, how?, I replied. They then asked me where my blazer was from. It was a short conversation).

So much of what hangs in the balance is part of what they pledged to do in the last election, and what they want to be able to tell voters they've done in the upcoming one. Yes, there's marijuana, assisted dying, carbon pricing and the Canada Child Benefit. But if there's no national security overhaul, no changes to First Nation child welfare, no pardons for simple pot convictions, there will be tough questions in the campaign. A lot tougher than last time.

Vassy Kapelos is host of Power & Politics, weekdays at 5 p.m. ET on CBC News Network.

Power Lines

The Power & Politics Power Panelists on where the big parties will be focused this week

Amanda Alvaro  president and co-founder of Pomp & Circumstance

The Liberals will keep highlighting how it's been a year since Andrew Scheer promised to bring forward a climate plan and how his radio silence feels like he intends to make pollution free again. Justin Trudeau will continue to emphasize that if you don't have a plan for the environment, you don't have a plan for the economy. At the same time, he'll likely use the Progressive Conservatives' cuts in Ontario and the fear mongering of the carbon tax by conservative premiers across the country to set up the argument that Liberals have a plan that's working and that better embodies the values of Canadians.

Rachel Curran  senior associate at Harper & Associates Consulting

The Conservatives will be focused next week, with the return of parliamentarians to Ottawa, on questioning Trudeau about his role in the SNC-Lavalin scandal and the still-outstanding issue of whether Attorney General David Lametti will overrule the Director of Public Prosecutions and grant a deferred prosecution agreement to SNC. Conservatives will also be questioning the government about the costs and effectiveness of Trudeau's new carbon tax, as well as its plans for approval (or not) of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Kathleen Monk  principal at Earnscliffe Strategy Group

The New Democrats are gearing up for a critical return of Parliament. With two new Conservative premiers, and Andrew Scheer holding secret meetings with oil executives, expect more hard-line divisiveness from Conservatives. Jagmeet Singh's challenge will be to show how New Democrats can hold Liberals to account on issues — like giving special access to powerful corporations or Bill Blair's accusations of "asylum-shopping" and callous handling of refugee changes within an unaccountable omnibus bill. While it's business as usual for the old-line parties, Singh's New Democrats have an opportunity to show they're a party of practical propositions, not divisive opposition.


Poll Tracker Takeaway

Éric Grenier's weekly look at key numbers in the political public opinion polls.

Did you know that Ontario is seat-rich?

It's true!

If the Conservatives are going to win the election in October, it will be due to significant inroads in Ontario, where the Liberals won 80 of the province's 121 seats in 2015.

But while the Conservatives have made gains in the polls in most other parts of the country, they have struggled to widen the gap in this key battleground.

The Poll Tracker gives the Conservatives 36 per cent support in the province, putting them one point behind the Liberals. The trend line for both parties has been stubbornly flat in recent months, while we've seen far more significant shifts in support in Quebec, Atlantic Canada and British Columbia — shifts that have made the Liberals no longer the favourites to win the most seats if an election were held today.

The unpopularity of Ontario Premier Doug Ford could be weighing Scheer's Conservatives down. Recent polls suggest that about 55 to 59 per cent of Ontarians disapprove or have a negative opinion of Ford. His approval rating is hovering somewhere around the same level as the Conservatives' support in the province.

If these numbers hold, then the Conservatives could be in some trouble. Keep an eye out for those trend lines in Ontario — because you know Andrew Scheer is.

(Eric Grenier/CBC )

More from CBC Politics

Provincial elections offer lessons and opportunities for federal parties, say ex-premiers

Former premiers Alison Redford, Robert Ghiz and Brian Gallant weigh in on the P.E.I. and Alberta elections and what they could mean for October's federal election.

Scheer promises to unveil climate plan before the summer

Liberals have criticized the Conservatives for not presenting their alternative to carbon tax - but leader Andrew Scheer is promising to reveal his plan before the House rises in June.

Premiers of N.W.T., Nunavut share conservative counterparts' frustration with Ottawa

While they won't count themselves as members of the conservative "resistance" to Justin Trudeau, two of Canada's territorial premiers say they share the frustrations of the growing consensus of conservative premiers opposed to Trudeau's carbon policies.

Ask us

We want to know what YOU want to know

Eileen Mozak emailed to ask: "Which country emits the most air pollution? Doesn't Canada rank much lower compared to USA, China, India, etc.? Are these large countries paying a carbon tax relative to what Canadians are paying? It seems that Canadians are trying to save the world while the larger countries continue on as usual? … Please explain."

By any measure, Canada ranks as one of the world's leading producers of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2017, for instance, Canada ranked 10th among countries for emissions. By emissions per capita, Canada ranks third, behind only Saudia Arabia and the United States. It is true that the United States and China produce significantly more emissions (they also have significantly more people), but there are also 200 countries that emit less than Canada.

Emissions targets and policies vary across countries. Canada's commitment is to reduce emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. The American target is to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2025. China, which still considers itself a developing country, is aiming to halt the growth in its emissions by 2030. The European Union has pledged to reduce its emissions by 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2030.

In terms of pricing carbon, the EU has operated a cap-and-trade system since 2005 and China is establishing a carbon trading system. Ten American states, most notably California, also have pricing systems.

 Aaron Wherry, Parliamentary Bureau Senior Reporter

Have a question about the October election? About where the federal parties stand on a particular issue? Or about the facts of a key controversy on the federal scene? Email us your questions and we'll answer one in the next Canada Votes newsletter.

Thanks for reading. If you've got questions, criticisms or story tips, please email us at politics@cbc.ca.

Reading this online? Sign-up for the newsletter to have the Canada Votes Newsletter delivered to your inbox every Sunday.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.