Impatience growing as Liberal MPs wait for 1st post-election caucus meeting

Radio-Canada spoke to several Liberal MPs, on the record and on background, who said they are eager to make their voices heard on issues at an official gathering, the first since the September election.

MPs say there's a level of frustration in the caucus

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau leaves a cabinet meeting in Ottawa on Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Some Liberal MPs say impatience is mounting among their colleagues as they wait for the first national caucus meeting since the election in September.

Radio-Canada spoke to several Liberal MPs, on the record and on background, who said they are eager to make their voices heard on issues at an official gathering.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with his newly appointed cabinet ministers, but backbench MPs say they're confused why the whole team hasn't met yet since securing a minority government last month.

Quebec MP Alexandra Mendès said she finds the wait puzzling, while Ontario MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith said there's no possible reason for the delay.

"There's no explanation or excuse for not having already had a national caucus meeting," he said. "I expect we will have one shortly."

Another MP, who didn't want to be named, acknowledged there's a certain level of frustration in the caucus.

Erskine-Smith said he was left with a bitter taste when the government announced the end of the Canada recovery benefit without speaking to the Liberal caucus. The CRB largely replaced the Canada emergency response benefit last year and provides income support for those not covered by employment insurance.

In its place, the federal government says it will launch a "Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit," which will pay $300 per week to eligible workers subject to a provincial lockdown, including those ineligible for EI.

"They wouldn't have made the wrong decision to cancel that benefit had they listened to caucus," said Erskine-Smith, who is the MP for Beaches-East York.

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith has expressed his frustration with the lack of an official caucus meeting since the party formed another minority government in September. (CBC)

"Earlier in this crisis, every day at 5 p.m., caucus was consulted about the government's pandemic response and we are now cancelling emergency-related benefits and there is not even a caucus meeting? For me, that's where the frustration is."

Another elected official said they are also eager to tell their colleagues what they heard while out campaigning at the end of summer.

"It is important to share our input when we have just spoken to voters," said an Liberal MP who wanted to remain confidential.

As of yet, no date has been announced for a national caucus meeting.

MPs wait for Parliament's return

The House of Commons is slated to return Nov. 22, more than 60 days after the election.

"I like chatting with Radio-Canada journalists, but I would rather be sitting in Parliament," joked one MP.

"I do not see a valid reason not to sit before Nov. 22."

The government's new House leader, Mark Holland, defended the choice following the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

"Look, if you want to do a lot of work, you have to take your time to make sure you're prepared to go where you're going, and we're having conversations. The prime minister had conversations with the opposition leaders. I think those were very fruitful," he told reporters in English.

"If we want an effective Parliament, if we want an effective legislative agenda, then those conversations have to take place and that's what we're doing."

For their first 100 days, Trudeau's Liberals have identified a few legislative priorities, including establishing 10 days of paid sick leave for workers under federal jurisdiction, reintroducing legislation to reform the Broadcasting Act and banning conversion therapy.

With files from Ryan Maloney

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