Justin Trudeau tells Liberal MPs to be a 'strong voice' for constituents
New Liberal PM appointed a gender-balanced cabinet 'because it's 2015'
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had some advice for the 183 Liberal MPs elected to the House of Commons, a day after the new leader and his cabinet were sworn in at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.
"I need each and every one of you to remember one thing," said Trudeau as he met with his caucus for the first time since forming a majority government.
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"Regardless of the committees you're on, the roles you have, regardless of party demands, and the partisanship that will continue to exist in this House … your one job, that you cannot ever forget, is to be a strong voice in service of the people who sent you here from your constituencies."
In keeping with his promise to be more accessible, Canada's new prime minister was seen openly walking about Parliament Hill as reporters did their best to keep up with him.
"You didn't expect me to slow down now that I got the big job, did you?," joked Trudeau.
The Liberal leader held his first caucus meeting moments after the party made its first announcement, restoring the mandatory long-form census which the Conservatives scrapped five years ago.
"We committed to a government that functions based on evidence and facts, and the long-form census is a really important part of making sure that we're actually serving our constituents," said Trudeau on Thursday.
Government agenda in the Senate?
Government House Leader Dominic Leblanc said the Liberals are hoping to move quickly on other key promises, including tax relief for the middle class.
"It's our hope that we can do it in time to make it effective on Jan. 1," he said.
How the Liberals intend to introduce government legislation in the Senate is still unclear given that Trudeau intends to move forward with a new, non-partisan Senate void of patronage appointments.
The Liberals will be faced with a majority of Conservative senators sitting in opposition and no official government senators to usher legislation through after Trudeau kicked out Liberal senators from his caucus last year.
"Our preference would be to work with the Senate in a non-partisan, more independent way," said Leblanc "in the sense that ministers will be expected to appear at the appropriate Senate committees to discuss their legislation, to work with their parliamentary colleagues in the Senate who may have suggestions or amendments or ways to improve the legislation."
Leblanc could not say who would formally introduce government legislation in the Senate, a task usually performed by the leader of the government in the Senate.
He told reporters "the prime minister hasn't come to a final conclusion on that."
Asked if the Liberals would appoint a speaker in the Senate, Leblanc said no decision had been made yet.
"We have not decided how and if we have to face that kind of decision for the moment. We want to hear from senators. We want to look at what would be the constitutional options."
Leblanc said the Liberals have little reason to believe senators would "frustrate" the government's agenda in the upper chamber.
He said the Liberals would have a lot more to discuss at their next caucus meeting, likely to be held in a month from now just before a new Parliament is convened.
The Liberal caucus did not adopt any of the four motions under the Reform Act, said Leblanc, adding that the party voted to discuss them at the party's biannual convention in Winnipeg in May.
Parliament will return on Thursday, Dec. 3, with a speech from the throne to follow the next day, LeBlanc announced on Wednesday after the cabinet's first meeting.
Trudeau appointed 15 women and 15 men to Canada's first gender-balanced cabinet.
"Because it's 2015," said Trudeau, when asked why gender parity was important to him.