The House

In House: Supreme Court compromises with four-month extension on assisted dying

In House panelists Susan Delacourt and Joel-Denis Bellavance look at Friday's decision by the Supreme Court to grant the government a 4-month extension to deal with the sensitive issue of physician-assisted death.
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)

In House panelists Susan Delacourt, political columnist for the Toronto Star and iPolitics, and Joel-Denis Bellavance, Parliamentary bureau chief for La Presse, look at Friday's decision by the Supreme Court to grant the government a 4-month extension to deal with the sensitive issue of physician-assisted death.

The Supreme Court has granted the federal government a four-month extension on rewriting the law on physician-assisted death. What's the challenge for the government going forward?

Susan Delacourt: Time. They've already got a huge amount on their plate, this government. Not only is this is a huge issue, emotionally, morally, but now there's a deadline, and the clock is ticking.

Joel-Denis Bellavance: Granting an extension for Quebec means, for the federal government now, it's a big headache. The option that might have to be envisaged by the federal government is invoking the notwithstanding clause, just to give it more time to make sure they can do things properly. You don't want to have some piecework done across the country. You want to have it done uniformly. 

SD: That would be huge, the son of Pierre Trudeau invoking the notwithstanding clause. They might be content with a patchwork [response] for awhile, that might be an interim measure.

The Liberals have their upcoming cabinet meeting in New Brunswick. Is the economy going to overshadow everything else?

SD: This will be once again another extension of the Liberal cabinet trying to connect with the people outside the Ottawa bubble. How successful that will be is interesting, but I think it's also the staging ground for Trudeau to go to Davos [for the World Economic Forum, Jan. 20 - 23]. I think he'll rehearse some of the economic messages he's planning to bring there.

JB: The challenge for the government is that, sooner or later, I think they will have to say clearly that the so-called deadline to re-establish a balanced budget in 2019-2020 is impossible to meet. If they want to avoid any problems, I think they will need to have discussions about this. 

SD: You know, the theme of their first year in power might be deadlines. That's going to be the challenge for this government in the next year.

The Conservatives are gearing up for their leadership race — will we see that sooner or later?

SD: I think they should definitely go later. I say that because there's also a process underway to change the way the voting system works. If the way the voting system changes, it may affect the future of the Conservative party. It may not make sense for Conservatives to unite under one big tent under some of the models under consideration. It may be better for the Conservatives to stay as one progressive flank, and one reform flank. So you may see that the Conservatives need a Peter MacKay and a Jason Kenney. If we had a proportional representation system there'd be no need for a big united Conservative party.

JB: I would say the consensus in the Tory ranks is to take their time. They admit in private that the honeymoon the Liberal government is going through right now will probably last two years. So why waste political capital with a new leader during that time? I expect the new leader of the Conservative party to be selected in 2017, and probably the later part of 2017. Why? Because they feel Rona Ambrose is doing a good job as opposition leader and they don't have to hurry things up to meet any deadlines.

SD: They saw what the Liberals did. The Liberals ran a very long leadership race, very long fundraising, so they'll probably take a long time too.

JB: The strategy to have a long race is to encourage people from the outside to come up and join that race. Right now if you have a short race, only former cabinet ministers will be running. Some of them say right now to defeat Justin Trudeau, you need somebody who's equal in terms of youth and generational change. 

What about the NDP — what's happening with Tom Mulcair?

JB: I'm told he is making a lot of phone calls to defeated candidates to hear what they feel should be done in the future. But I don't think there's an insurrection coming up against Tom Mulcair. I think the grassroots members of the party are ready to give him another shot. Historically, the NDP is not a party that is eating their leaders alive, like the PQ.

SD: We disagree on this. I don't see how he could stay around. I think it could be in coming days we'll get a signal from Tom Mulcair.