As House of Commons begins its winter break, parties outline key priorities
MPs won't return to legislative action until the end of January
With parliamentarians preparing to return to their constituencies for the holiday break, party leaders used the last sitting day in the House of Commons as an opportunity to outline their priorities for the spring sitting and take parting shots at their opponents.
Members of Parliament agreed that Wednesday would be their last day of work before they take a six-week winter break.
Government House leader Mark Holland introduced a motion Wednesday calling for the end of the fall sitting, and MPs cheered its unanimous acceptance.
During a speech to his caucus Wednesday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre told caucus members that they must pair a message of hope with pointed critiques of the government.
Poilievre, who is three months into his leadership, delivered an address full of attacks on the government that also sketched out a series of Conservative policy proposals.
"It's true that people are hurting, but it's our job as the Official Opposition to turn that hurt into hope, to inspire people that a real improvement in their lives is possible," he said.
Delivering slightly different speeches, first in French and then in English, Poilievre denounced in rapid succession Liberal government policies on energy, housing and management of the health-care system.
WATCH | Pierre Poilievre says conservatives must provide both criticism and hope:
Caucus members responded enthusiastically to his message on firearms, which became a major issue in recent weeks when the government introduced controversial amendments to its gun control legislation.
"Instead of targeting hunters by banning their hunting rifles, we will target real criminals by upping consequences for repeat offenders, reducing crime while maintaining the tradition of hunting in this country," he said in French.
Opposition attacks government on health-care spending
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fielded questions both before and after his own party's caucus meeting. He discussed possible foreign interference in Canadian elections and negotiations with provinces over health-care spending.
Trudeau acknowledged that "Canadians are facing a tough time" and said he would continue to push on issues like health-care spending.
Signs of the impending festivities were everywhere on Parliament Hill Wednesday. A choir of Liberal MPs competed with an appearance before the mics by Conservative MPs Raquel Dancho and Pierre Paul-Hus. In the House, MP Anthony Housefather delivered a traditional festive poem from the government benches, answered from across the aisle by Conservative MP Scott Reid.
Si vous entendez des chants de Noël en trame de fond dans les extraits des politiciens aujourd’hui, blâmez la chorale libérale. <a href="https://t.co/4IrcR25TRr">pic.twitter.com/4IrcR25TRr</a>—@ICILouisBlouin
The end of the parliamentary sitting marks the end of the first period of Poilievre's leadership of the Conservatives. And it comes just after the first, limited test of the party's electoral mettle in the Mississauga-Lakeshore byelection. The Liberals' victory there was hailed by the governing party, but downplayed by both Conservatives and New Democrats.
The new Liberal MP-elect Charles Sousa attended caucus Wednesday, stopping to thank his new constituents for their support. He said the byelection's low turnout can be attributed to voter fatigue after provincial and municipal elections.
He also waded into the ongoing debate over health-care funding between provinces and the federal government, saying he supports the government's position of asking provinces for assurances that new funding would go into health care.
Later Wednesday evening, Trudeau addressed Liberal MPs and staffers during a party holiday gathering in Ottawa. He congratulated Sousa and used the opportunity to take a swipe at Poilievre who didn't campaign during the recent byelection.
"[Poilievre] didn't show up for his candidate, for his party, or for the people of Mississauga," he said.
Opposition parties outline key priorities
Elsewhere on the Hill Wednesday, Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet also spoke to caucus members, making the pitch for a strong Bloc to both hold the Liberals in check and advocate for Quebec.
"The best argument of the indépendantistes is named Justin Trudeau," he said in French.
Speaking ahead of question period, Singh cited the struggle of Canadians to make ends meet and argued the NDP has been using its leverage to force the government to address those challenges.
He focused in particular on health-care spending, calling on the government to boost support for personal support workers and other health-care staff.
Singh has had to balance opposition to the government with the obligations of the Liberal-NDP confidence-and-supply deal concluded this spring. He has sought to frame both the Conservative and Liberals as too friendly with the interests of corporations.
MPs pay tribute to Jim Carr
The House of Commons adjourned on a sombre note as MPs marked the death of Liberal MP and former cabinet minister Jim Carr.
Carr passed away on Monday following a battle with cancer. He was 71.
A representative from each party stood to speak about their late colleague before observing a moment of silence.
"I hope that in the midst of their grief, Jim's family finds comfort in knowing that his legacy will be deep and enduring in this place and across the country," Speaker Anthony Rota said to cap the tributes. "This Canada that he so much loved."
WATCH | Politicians pay tribute to the late MP Jim Carr