Politics

Trudeau tells Liberal caucus to get back to basics and take the long view

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave his caucus a pep talk in the Saguenay region of Quebec Thursday, at the start of what will be two days of meetings. He told them to take the long view and be ready for what could be a bumpy fall in Parliament.

Liberals to discuss plans for climate change, national security future of Canada's aerospace industry

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the beginning of a two-day caucus meeting in Saguenay, Quebec on Thursday, Aug. 25. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Liberal MPs were told to take the long view as they began two days of meetings in the Saguenay region of Quebec.

The pep talk by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came Thursday as the governing party gets ready for what could be a bumpy fall season of Parliament following a string of headlines in recent days about high-spending cabinet ministers.

On Thursday, Quebec dairy farmers braved the rain and rolled tractors and placards up to the edge of a heavy police cordon at the hotel where the Liberals were meeting.

The farmers are upset about the Liberal government's refusal to halt imports of U.S. diafiltered milk proteins.

Diafiltration is an extra step in milk processing done to boost protein concentration. Diafiltered milk is being imported into Canada as an ingredient, rather than as milk, which would face tarrifs. But once here it is being used as milk in cheese products.

Dairy farmers say the loophole is costing them $231 million a year, and they want the government to take action.

Liberal MPs who spent the summer chatting up constituents seem to sense the sunny ways may be coming to an end.

Trudeau touched on that concern in his speech to caucus.

"As a government, we need to look 40 years down the road, not just four. To the next generation, not just to the next election," Trudeau said.

He pointed to this summer's roll-out of the Liberals long-promised Canada Child Benefit. Trudeau claimed the measure is helping raise 300,000 children out of poverty. He also noted efforts made by MPs and cabinet ministers who held grassroots consultations and knocked on doors.

Local dairy farmers use their tractors to demonstrate as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government meet for a two-day caucus meeting in Saguenay. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

That, says Trudeau, is the gold standard for how the government should engage with Canadians.

"So, let's get back to basics," he said.

"Knock on doors. Meet with Canadians. And listen more than we talk. In the months and years to come we'll all have unique challenges that come from the day-to-day of politics. But let's not lose sight of the big picture."

That picture, according to Trudeau, is growing the middle class as promised in last year's election. But there were signs Thursday his government is finding the task easier said than done.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains was trotted out to talk about ongoing negotiations with Quebec-based Bombardier for up to $1 billion in federal assistance.

Despite some success last spring in finding buyers for the aircraft-maker's C-Series passenger jet, the company insists it still needs federal support.

Bains says the Liberal government is still seeking assurances that its investment would secure jobs as well as lucrative research and development work in Canada.

He was asked if Bombardier balked at the idea of keeping jobs in the country.

"This is a healthy discussion we're having," he said. "We're really both trying to achieve the same outcome, which is we not only want to see the company succeed but the (aerospace) sector succeed."

National security on the agenda

Liberal caucus members were also expected to get a sense Thursday on what the government intends to do about issues of national security.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says they'll be talking about cyber security and how that can be strengthened.

Countering radicalization is another theme, he said.

The caucus meeting is taking place just weeks after ISIS sympathizer Aaron Driver was killed by RCMP in Strathroy, Ont. following his attempt to detonate a bomb.

While MPs were meeting behind closed doors, Goodale's department released a report on the terrorist threat in Canada.

It found the number of people with Canadian connections travelling abroad to fight for the ISIS has increased to 180.

That number is up from 130, a figure reported by Public Safety Canada in early 2014. More than half of those travellers are now believed to be in Turkey, Iraq or Syria.

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