The House

Why can't we be friends? Working in a minority government

This week on The House, Liberal Whip Mark Holland talks about how his party will manage the challenges of working across the aisle. P.E.I. Premier Dennis King walks us through his advice to the prime minister on working in his own minority government. Finally, interim Green Party Leader Jo-Ann Roberts chats with host Chris Hall about her tasks going forward in Elizabeth May's place.
Liberal MP Mark Holland says that in a minority Parliament Canadians expect political parties to work together rather than play partisan games. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode49:40

The Liberals are going back to Parliament Hill in a weaker position then when they first secured government in 2015 — and they say it means they will have to lean on the other parties to get things done.

"Canadians were very deliberate in choosing a minority government — they want us to work together," Liberal Whip Mark Holland told CBC Radio's The House.

But with a minority government comes a careful dance to stay in power. Navigating committees and legislation becomes more challenging — but Holland said he's keeping an eye on caucus.

"Everything is much more intense, much more fluid and, frankly, more stressful. So it's very much a pressure cooker."

He added that you can have more power in a minority as a backbench MP, "but you also have more responsibility." 

The prime minister will be meeting next week with opposition leaders in an attempt to find common ground between the parties.

The Liberals need the support of at least one of the opposition parties to pass any legislation. Holland has a warning for any member of the House of Commons who wants to use partisanship as a weapon in this minority situation.

"If we get lost in partisan points and trying to score points to win something for our team, as opposed to for the country ... people do that at their great peril."

After losing their majority the Liberals will have to adjust their strategy in this next session of Parliament. Courting the backbench MPs, managing committees and working with other parties will become a juggling act for the party. Liberal Whip Mark Holland joins Chris Hall to talk about how to navigate a minority government. 8:11

Green Party mulling over asking Wilson-Raybould to be leader

Green MP Paul Manly, left, John Kidder, and Green MP Jenica Atwin look on as party leader Elizabeth May announces Jo-Ann Roberts as the interim party leader during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 4, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Green Party interim leader Jo-Ann Roberts has started to outline a vision for the party's next federal leader — and she's mulling over the idea of former Liberal and now Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould taking the helm.

"I'd like to have a conversation with her [to] see what her vision is, what does she see going forward," Roberts told Chris Hall in an interview on CBC Radio's The House airing Saturday.

When asked whether Wilson-Raybould might might be willing to replace former Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Roberts said the prospect was "possible."

"Elizabeth asked her once before, and I think because they'll be working together quite closely in the House, I'd be very surprised if Elizabeth is not doing the recruiting," Roberts said. 

May announced Monday that she would be stepping down as leader of the Greens after more than 13 years on the job.

Roberts — who was appointed as interim leader earlier this week — said the Greens have yet to approach Wilson-Raybould about running for the leadership, but added there are other potential candidates she has already reached out to. 

"I've spoken to a few other people in the country who aren't currently on the radar and I'm going to let them stay that way for a short period of time," she said. "I may pull back that curtain soon."

After securing the best-ever seat result for her party, Elizabeth May is stepping down as leader of the Greens. Now the interim leader has been tasked with organizing a leadership race while May and her counterparts keep things running in the House of Commons. Jo-Ann Roberts sits down with The House to talk about what's next for the party. 5:51

It's time to unite, not divide: PEI Premier's advice to Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with P.E.I. Premier Dennis King in his office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The premier of Prince Edward Island has advice for the prime minister: don't use tactics of fear and division in this minority government. 

Dennis King was in Ottawa to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week and he stopped by The House to talk about the tone of politics today. 

King and his minority Progressive Conservative government have been working closely with the Opposition — the Greens — in the legislature. 

"It is actually a gift and the gift is it makes you put aside the partisan nature of politics and try to really roll up the sleeves and dig in to do what is best for Canadians," he told Hall. 

He's urging Trudeau and the other federal party leaders to adopt a similar approach as they look for ways to cooperate in a federal minority Parliament. 

"It doesn't need to be a buddy-buddy thing, it really needs to be an understanding that you're here for a bigger purpose than to serve your party. You're here to serve Canadians," King explained.

Minority governments can lead to more cooperation, but there is a lot of bad blood left over from the previous Parliaments. How can the parties work together on common goals? PEI Premier Dennis King has created shockwaves in the province because of the way he's working with the opposition leader there --- and now he has similar advice for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Premier talks to Chris Hall. 6:53

As for partisan antics, the premier has no time for them. 

"You can play the game of 'gotcha' that oppositions in recent years have become, or you can oppose in essentially a way that actually makes legislation better, that actually makes things easier for people."

Peter Bevan-Baker, the Green leader in the legislature, used to be the premier's dentist and the two are close friends. King says they always make a conscious effort to treat each other with respect. 

"It's become common, sadly, that there has to be some kind of hatred or division around our politics," he said. 

"I don't know why we've accepted it that way and I'm really glad in P.E.I. that we're changing it."

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