Justin Trudeau, Liberal MPs meet in Edmonton to plan for 2015 election

The federal Liberals will meet ahead of their return to Parliament next month to talk about what the MPs heard in their ridings over the summer and decide how to tackle any issues that could derail them during a campaign.

Liberal MPs, led by Justin Trudeau, use summer caucus to look ahead to 2015

Justin Trudeau and the federal Liberals will meet in Edmonton this week, ahead of their return to Parliament next month, to talk about what the MPs heard in their ridings over the summer and how to tackle any issues that could derail them during a campaign. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and his MPs will meet in Edmonton on Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare for the year leading up to the next election.

The party is expected to talk about what the MPs heard in their ridings over the summer and decide how to tackle any issues that could derail them during a campaign.

The next election is set for October 2015, which means this is likely the last summer caucus before the campaign begins. It'll be a relatively small gathering, coming after Trudeau exorcised all senators from the party's parliamentary team, leaving 37 MPs and some core staff to attend the meetings.

It's also a show of force in a province thought to be a void for the party.

The party chose the location strategically and is holding events before and after the official caucus meetings to include some of its confirmed candidates.

As the party looks to the year ahead, here are three storylines to watch for at the federal Liberal caucus:

1. Assisted suicide

The Liberal Party officially supports the idea of letting doctors help terminally ill patients end their lives, following a resolution passed at the party's convention last February. The resolution calls for "voluntary medically assisted death" to be decriminalized after public consultations are held to set the criteria for access and oversight.

That motion came a few months before Quebec made it legal for those with "an incurable disease, an incurable illness, which is causing unbearable suffering," to ask for medical help to end their lives.

Trudeau has already come out ahead of the NDP on the issue of legalizing and regulating marijuana use, and matched them on ruling out any debate on whether to limit abortion access. As Canada's doctors meet this week to discuss their own policy on the issue, Trudeau could make waves by announcing his own position on assisted suicide.

2. More on marijuana

Trudeau is in favour of legalizing and regulating marijuana use, and admitted a year ago that he has smoked pot since becoming an MP. The Conservatives have used the issue repeatedly to try to damage his rising popularity, attacking him as recently as last week.

But it's not clear whether the attacks are hitting their mark, with a government-commissioned poll showing 70 per cent of those surveyed want at least to see the current laws relaxed. The Ipsos-Reid phone poll found that one in three Canadians surveyed wants to see pot use legalized. But support for that was lowest in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, suggesting a Liberal caucus meeting in Edmonton may be a target ripe for another Conservative assault on the policy.

3. Dollars and cents

Trudeau launched an economic policy advisory team last September, asking Liberal MP Scott Brison and Chrystia Freeland, who went on to become an MP, to zero in on how Canada can boost its fortunes.

At the time, Freeland said she was concerned about the "squeeze that the middle class is facing."

"What we are doing today is putting in place a very serious process and effort to address in a sophisticated, smart way, how we can secure real prosperity for the Canadian middle class going forward."

But Trudeau hasn't so far talked much about his plans for the Canadian economy. He's answered questions about which pipelines he supports (the Liberal leader supports the Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S., but not the Northern Gateway pipeline that would run through northern British Columbia, and would consider the Trans-Mountain pipeline through Burnaby, B.C.) and talks about the middle class, but critics say he hasn't released any substantive policies.

A year ago, Trudeau urged patience, telling journalists he wanted to travel the country and hear from Canadians. Whether those consultations have led to anything that could be unveiled at this week's caucus is another question.

Trudeau said last year that he wouldn't unveil the party's platform until the 2015 campaign, but with the economy still lacklustre, he may decide to roll out a few ideas ahead of that. 


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