The House

In House: six month check-up for new government

With Parliament set to return Monday and the Liberal government coming up on its first six months of being in power, we ask In House panelists Susan Delacourt and Joel-Denis Bellavance what grade would they give Justin Trudeau and the new government?
Alain Bellemare, left, president and CEO of Bombardier Inc., and Ed Bastian, right, CEO of Delta Air Lines, shake hands in front of a Delta-branded Bombardier C-Series jet in Mirabel, Que., on Thursday, April 28, 2016. Bombardier received a major boost Thursday from Delta Air Lines, which has placed a firm order for 75 CS100 aircraft with options for an additional 50 more in what would be the largest order for the Montreal company's troubled CSeries passenger jet program. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

With Parliament set to return Monday and the Liberal government coming up on its first six months of being in power, we ask In House panelists Susan Delacourt and Joel-Denis Bellavance...what grade would they give Justin Trudeau, and how is the new government doing?

Susan Delacourt: Better than expected. Justin Trudeau does some of his best work when people underestimate him. We've seen that throughout his political career. They've hit the ground running, but are they running anywhere yet? If I had to give them a grade at the six-month mark, I'd say probably a B, and room for improvement.

Joel-Denis Bellavance: I think the most dramatic change was the change in tone and style. I would say what is booming in Ottawa right now is the consultation business, because the government is consulting people on a lot of issues. We'll have to wait a few more months, if not years, to see the results of those consultations in actual public policies.

One area for improvement — I think they're not coming quite clean with people on the budget. I think they're fudging the numbers. They're still saying the Tories left them with the deficit, and the numbers have been proving them wrong. I think they'll have to be a little bit more transparent on the budget numbers. Overall, I'd say they're doing well.

SD: Where they're running into a little bit of trouble is with transparency. They often say they're more transparent than they are. We're seeing that whether it's on the Saudi deal or any number of things.

One of the bumps in the road for the government is what to do about Bombardier. How much do political considerations outweigh the business ones?

JDB: The pressure has been immense on Trudeau's government to sign a cheque [to Bombardier] from the company and from the Quebec premier Philippe Couillard. The headlines were pretty negative, because Ottawa hasn't signed a cheque yet, but outside of Quebec I think there is a lot of opposition to see Ottawa send a billion dollars to a company that has had some difficulties.

SD: There's an interesting parallel here to the Saudi arms deal. Just like all politics is local, all trust is local. People trust and believe in the things that happen closest to them, locally. This government, the Liberal Party, has not done this well in Quebec in 20 years. They want to hold onto that. 

There's also pressure on the Senate with the spotlight on Mike Duffy's eventual return to the Red Chamber. How do you think the Senate will handle that hot topic?

SD: I would think we haven't seen the end of this legally. If this fails to be resolved in the Senate, I think when Mike Duffy does come back, it will be Duffy back with a vengeance. He believes he's been wronged, he now has a powerful, 300-page verdict that says he's been wronged.

JDB: She's got a point. I've heard the Senate leadership would like to turn the page quickly on this one, and the only way to do it is to give something to Mr. Duffy so everyone turns the page at the same time. Will it happen quickly? I don't know. 

Susan Delacourt is a columnist for iPolitics and the Toronto Star. Joel-Denis Bellavance is the parliamentary bureau chief for La Presse.

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