Trudeau plans repeal of Tories' union, citizenship laws as Parliament returns

Justin Trudeau's Liberal brought in their middle-class tax cut during the week-long sitting in December. But the list of what else was pledged in the campaign is long, and as the House of Commons resumes today, the importance of setting the right tone is critical.

Parliamentary oversight for Canada's national security agencies also high on Liberals' agenda

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising an ambitious agenda for his government's first full sitting of Parliament, an agenda that will be challenged by Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose. (Canadian Press photos)

He's been to Turkey, the Philippines, London, Malta and Paris. And now, fresh from his efforts to rebrand Canada with billionaires and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Justin Trudeau takes his front row seat in the Commons today for the first full sitting of Parliament since his election in October.

Different audience. Different task.

No matter how adept the prime minister might be at convincing international audiences that his new government represents the face of Canada — of resourcefulness over resources — the challenge at home is to deliver what's already promised.

The Liberals already brought in their middle-class tax cut during the week-long sitting in December. But the list of what else was pledged in the campaign is long, and the importance of setting the right tone this week is critical.

Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc says the primary focus for the Liberals remains the economy, in particular moving ahead with infrastructure spending and the tax cut.

"Everybody recognizes an increased urgency to implement what we think are the key elements of our election campaign ... elements that will create economic growth and jobs."

Those elements include moving quickly to release money approved by the previous government for infrastructure programs, as well as preparing the Liberals' first budget.

"Those are measures, obviously, that cabinet will be working on."

So the economy will be the priority. But government sources suggest it won't be the sole preoccupation in the first two weeks as the new government looks to put a positive stamp on these early days in power.

Among the measures expected to be dealt with through new legislation:

  • Repealing the Conservatives' Bill C-24, which allows the government to strip Canadian citizenship from dual citizens who are convicted of terrorism-related offences.
  • Repealing two other Conservative laws that the Liberals argue weaken the rights of trade unions. They are Bill C-377, which requires unions to disclose how they spend members' dues, as well as Bill C-525, which makes it harder for unions to organize in federally-regulated workplaces.
  • Introducing parliamentary oversight for Canada's national security agencies, though the commitment to repeal parts of the previous government's anti-terrorism law, Bill C-51, is expected to come later.

Conservatives adapt to opposition

There is an underlying political motivation to moving early on these measures: To remind voters that the Conservatives were willing to override charter rights in the pursuit of security and to burnish the Liberals credentials as a party that cares about new Canadians and working families.

The added bonus is that the New Democrats will almost certainly support each of the measures.

Today on Parliament Hill

The special committee on physician-assisted dying, which is working to draft new legislation in response to last year's Supreme Court decision, hears testimony from witnesses today at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET. The meeting is open to the public, and CBC Politics has live coverage.

And MPs are back for daily question period — watch live and follow our live blog starting at 2:15 p.m. ET at cbc.ca/politics.

For the Conservatives, still getting accustomed to the role of Official Opposition, their focus will likely be on shoring up the core issues of their supporters.

Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer says his party will push the government to act on what he calls "low-hanging fruit," which includes finalizing trade deals negotiated by the previous government, and starting the work of getting pipelines built.

The Conservatives are also likely to remind Trudeau of the $10-billion deficit ceiling he committed to in the campaign.

"All indications are that they are going to blow right by those targets," says Scheer.

And then there's the military mission against ISIS.

The Liberals have said they will withdraw the six CF-18 fighter jets in favour of a more robust role in training Kurdish fighters. That much is clear.

But when the change will happen, how many Canadian soldiers will be sent into Iraq and where have not yet been decided.

Mulcair's job

For New Democrats, the focus is back on traditional social democratic issues.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says his party will push the Liberals to help workers and families hit by the economic downturn. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Party Leader Tom Mulcair said last week that his party will focus on injustice and inequality, and what NDP House Leader Peter Julian calls the urgent need to improve the social safety net as jobs disappear, and prices for basics such as food begin to rise.

"We're seeing an increasing number of Canadians losing their jobs. We're seeing an erosion of the health-care system all within the context of a record debt load that Canadian families are carrying."

Looming, always in the background, is an economy that could be in far-worse shape than anyone imagined in last year's campaign.

Oil is half the price it was in October. The loonie traded at 77 cents when Canadians went to the polls Oct. 19, and is now hovering around 69 cents with some forecasters saying it could slip even further against the greenback.

Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost in the energy sector alone, an industry heavily concentrated in Alberta and Saskatchewan, the two provinces that resisted the Liberal surge in October.

Trudeau has spent much of his time since the election on the road, pitching Canada as a good place to invest, and as a new and willing partner in the battle against climate change.

With the Commons set to resume Monday, a different audience. Different task.

It's time to begin delivery.


Chris Hall

Former National Affairs Editor

Now retired, Chris Hall was the CBC's national affairs editor and host of The House on CBC Radio, based in the Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. He began his reporting career with the Ottawa Citizen before moving to CBC Radio in 1992, where he worked as a national radio reporter in Toronto, Halifax and St. John's. He returned to Ottawa and the Hill in 1998.