National Legislative Update – January 27, 2023
Liberal Party Conducts Cabinet Retreat.
Liberal Party Conducts Cabinet Retreat
Following the NDP’s cabinet retreat last week, the federal Liberal cabinet went on its own annual cabinet retreat this week. The Liberal retreat was held in Hamilton, Ontario, a location selected according to the Prime Minister because of the exciting new federal initiatives happening there. Those have included federal grants to switch Hamilton’s steel factories over to electric arc furnaces rather than fossil fuel based systems, as well as a significant federal contribution to the Hamilton light rail expansion project.
The retreat had a significantly different tone than the NDP’s, as the Liberals represent the governing party, their press releases were much more restrained and cautious, but there were some headlines nonetheless. Perhaps the largest headline was not something put out by the party itself, but rather generated by the protests taking place around the conference. Protestors chanted slogans and demanded the Prime Minister resign as he walked past them into the conference centre. A group of protestors also fired fireworks towards the hotel that the Liberal cabinet was staying in. Questioned later on the events, the Prime Minister defended their right to protest, saying that so long as law enforcement kept the protests peaceful, they were entitled to voice their dissatisfaction.
As far as official statements on policy, the retreat had several as well. The most concrete statement was the promise of $23.5 million for the Hamilton Airport, to expand its operations and allow it to more than double its flight capacity, vastly expand its de-icing facilities, and fund the construction of a new entrance which will allow for more efficient road traffic to and from the airport.
The retreat also touched on broader issues, albeit without concrete commitments. The Prime Minster said that his party is extremely happy with the way that the supply and confidence agreement is playing out. This is in contrast to how the NDP responded when asked a similar question last week. Last week Singh expressed mixed feelings towards the agreement, celebrating its successes, but also expressing frustration and going so far as to issue an ultimatum threatening to pull his party’s support unless pharmacare is implemented by the end of 2023.
The Finance Minister took questions regarding this year’s upcoming budget, saying that it will be more fiscally restrained while still forwarding the government’s priorities, specifically in emissions reductions. Freeland also said that tackling inflation remains one of the government’s top priorities in the new year.
The government was also able to boast that it has eliminated approximately 85% of the passport backlog which existed in mid-2022, largely accomplished by doubling the number of employees working on the file.
The associate finance minister also hinted that they will have room in the budget for a new healthcare spending agreement with the provinces. Such an agreement is still being negotiated and has run into problems in the recent past, although it now appears to be picking up steam.
Overall, the Liberal cabinet retreat seems to be signalling a continuation of the status quo. The Liberal party will not be making any major policy shifts away from their already stated priorities.
If there are any major new initiatives to be announced, they will likely be kept for the upcoming federal budget, which is currently being crafted and will be released sometime around late February or March.