Political Perspectives: Five things to watch as Parliament resumes

Shane Mackenzie

Today (Jan. 22) marks 80 days in power for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. As the 42nd session of Parliament returns on Monday, and we approach the “First 100 Days” milestone, here’s a quick list of five things to watch for this session.

Budget 2016 and the deficit: Finance Minister Bill Morneau just wrapped up his cross-country pre-budget consultations. The first budget is widely speculated to be end of March. The size of the deficit is the item to watch for as oil prices continue to decline and the dollar has dipped to its lowest point since 2003.

Opposition and the Progressive Opposition: The Conservative Party is holding true to #NewYearNewYou with a leadership election announced for May 27, 2017. Expect them and the repositioned ‘Progressive Opposition’ NDP to continue to push on issues such as electoral reform, while aiming to portray the Trudeau government’s fiscal plans as irresponsible.

Big agenda items: The government will be moving forward on some of its significant Throne Speech items. The clock is ticking for the government fulfill its promise on electoral reform within 18 months of coming to power, including a commitment that the 2015 election will be the last conducted according to first-past-the-post. In the wake of COP 21 and Canada’s commitments in Paris, government actions to curb climate change and address environmental issues will be watched closely. Infrastructure spending is a hot topic for provincial partners and municipalities who have a lengthy list of to-dos and high expectations. Legislating and regulating marijuana will also be high on the minds of many Canadians.

Items added to their agenda: The Supreme Court has given Ottawa a four-month extension to pass a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide. This is something to keep an eye on in the next several months as provinces and territories work with the federal government to come to a consensus on this emotional and contentious issue.

Senate Reform: With a new process and advisory board in place for appointing senators to the upper house, it’s expected that five of the 22 vacancies could be filled early in the new year, with two from Ontario, two from Manitoba and one from Quebec, to restore regional balance. There are big questions about exactly how the new Senate will work, given that the Liberals promised to make the Upper House of Parliament more independent and non-partisan. Could government legislation be blocked by the newly independent senate?

As Ministers return to question period briefed up, staffed up, and hopefully rested up from the holiday, we will see a more comfortable team working to deliver on the government priorities set out in their platform and throne speech: growing the economy for the middle class, providing Canadians with open and transparent government, and fighting climate change.