The House

In House Panel - how did the first week go?

Our In House panelists Mark Kennedy and Elizabeth Thompson weigh in on the first week back in the House. How did the Liberals perform? What about the Opposition?
The In House panel looks ahead to the Conservative leadership race, the Liberals' cabinet meeting in New Brunswick, and the future of Tom Mulcair. (Canadian Press photos)

Our In House panelists Mark Kennedy, parliamentary bureau chief for the Ottawa Citizen, and iPolitics senior writer Elizabeth Thompson weigh in on the first week back in the House. How did the Liberals perform? What about the Opposition?

First week back: what's your assessment of the Liberals?

Elizabeth Thompson: They got a fair amount done. They managed to get their ways and means motion in to bring the changes to their tax brackets. They do seem to have a bit of a problem with detail on a few fronts, but perhaps it's something a few weeks in government will help repair. They didn't have the success they wanted on a few things that needed the unanimous consent of the House — like setting up the finance committee. They found that anything they wanted unanimous agreement on, suddenly they needed to deal with the Bloc Québé​cois. This is something they're going to have to deal with in the new year.

Mark Kennedy: Mr. Trudeau brought back the House for a couple of reasons — so that Canadians could see the government in action and being held accountable, but also so he could get his middle-class tax cut through. One of the things his finance minister had to face this week was the fact that they were wrong — they get into government and they learn there's actually a $1.2 billion hole. That's not a rounding error, that's a lot of money. They have to find the money to pay for that now. More broadly, the government is now facing the clear consensus that we're heading towards a deficit that will be larger than what they said during the campaign. It's not a "commitment", it's a "goal" now. Will Canadians care?

What about the Conservatives?

ET: The Conservatives had a fairly strong performance. They seem to have transitioned fairly quickly from government to Opposition, or at least some people have, like Rona Ambrose and Lisa Raitt. I think there are two Achilles' heels developing that the Conservatives will be going after on the Liberals — one is the question of taxes and finances, and the other is the fight against ISIS.

MK: The Tories got lucky this week because the night before they had their first Question period, the President of teh United States held a nation-wide television address in which he talked about the threat of ISIS and praised other countries fighting — Canada wasn't mentioned, and the Tories are grabbing onto that. There's no doubt that the Liberals could be vulnerable on this. Canadians will want to know what the alternative is, if Canada isn't dropping bombs on ISIS.

What about the NDP?

ET: They seem to have lost a bit of their energy this week. They don't seem to have bounced back as quick as the Conservatives did.

MK: I'm not surprised. They've gone through a real hit to the solar plexus, so it's natural that they're going to be sitting back and feeling wounded.

Finally — thoughts on Duffy, as he took the witness box this week in court?

MK:  He knows how to deliver — he's a former broadcaster. This is now his story. Unfortunately for him, if he was hoping this would have an impact, it probably won't. I'm not so sure Canadians are paying as much attention. Stephen Harper's gone, it's old news.

ET: It doesn't have quite the same impact, but I still find it fascinating.