A Rudderless Nation in a Political Storm
BY: Nathaniel Saad
In times of adversity, strong leadership is more important than ever. When the sky is darkened, the winds quickened, and the waves raised high, a steady hand at the helm that can guide the ship through the tempest is critical. Unfortunately, Canada just lost its steering.
From the start of the re-elected 2019 Trudeau government, there was always the shadow of
instability looming overhead, threatening a collapse of the Liberal two-term rule: the risk of a vote of no confidence. With minority governments, this is often the case as the rest of the parties comprising the House of Commons could outweigh the current government in issues of voting. If no motions are getting passed, there is the chance of an ineffective government falling, opening up the prospect of another election. The Covid-19 virus was the perfect way to avoid this possibility. Jumping on the opportunity, the Liberals immediately proposed a bill that would suspend parliament until June 21st. However, they didn’t yet have the support they needed as the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois strongly opposed the bill.
That’s when Trudeau approached Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the NDP, and offered to work on getting 10 additional days of paid leave for Canadian workers if Singh’s party got on board with the bill. However, there’s one slight problem with this: labour laws are within provincial jurisdiction, not federal. In order to accomplish anything in this area, the Prime Minister would need the backing of the provinces, something that certainly isn’t guaranteed. In addition to this, the government has yet to release more details concerning the proposed changes to the labour laws.
Regardless of this obvious obstacle, the eventual caving of the NDP in supporting and passing the bill will now result in MPs going home for the next few months. While some committees (such as the Special Committee on the Covid-19 Pandemic) will still meet for the time being, many politicians dismiss them as a pathetic replacement for regular sittings. As if to add insult to injury, the government is also planning on moving forward with a $150 billion Covid-19 Emergency funds plan. Normally, budgetary issues are discussed over the course of many days and extensively verified and debated by other parties in the Lower Chamber. However, the catch in this scenario is that the allotted time given to review and debate this expensive spending is a total of 4 hours. Ridiculously small in comparison to the normal procedure, many are now furious as the government’s parliament-suspending stunt appears to not only be a way to delay another election for as long as possible, but to also avoid scrutiny on $150 billion of spending.
This all throws into question the principles of government itself. How can the Canadian government claim to represent, support, and fight for Canadians when millions of them are risking their lives each day, despite the dangers of the Covid-19 virus, to provide essential services in grocery stores and hospitals, when the government themselves are neglecting their basic duty in the House of Commons? It is in the most dire times that the true leaders must show themselves, not run from adversity and refuse to discuss the issue at hand. Trudeau is contradicting his own words during his 2015 campaign when he said: "For Parliament to work best, its members must be free to do what they have been elected to do — represent their communities in Parliament and hold the government to account,”. Perhaps the Trudeau government may not be considered an “essential service”, but the parliamentary debate in the House of Commons, and the responsibility of the opposition to hold the government to the standard that Canadians deserve, certainly are.
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