Opening of the 44th Parliament
Government Business and Start of New Parliament
The 44th Parliament will begin sitting at 1:00 pm on November 22, the Prime Minister’s Office announced in a press release on October 15. That is just over two months after the federal election. The session will start with the Throne Speech, delivered by Governor General Mary May Simon.
The new cabinet will be sworn in by the Governor General at Rideau Hall on October 26. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced that Chrystia Freeland will keep her positions as Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister but no other cabinet posts have been announced.
The press release reiterates that the cabinet will remain gender balanced. Four cabinet ministers from the previous government, all women, are no longer members of Parliament. Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities did not run again. Three lost their seats: Bernadette Jordan who was Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard; Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development; and Deb Schulte, Minister of Seniors.
As for the agenda that the new Trudeau minority government will pursue, the Prime Minister is quoted in the October 15 press release as follows:
“From finishing the fight against COVID-19 to getting the job done on $10-a-day child care for families across the country, Canadians chose to move forward in September.
“Together, we will keep working hard to beat this virus and get Canadians vaccinated, create jobs and grow the middle class, put home ownership back in reach, accelerate climate action, and take important steps forward on the path of reconciliation.
“Our government will continue to be there for Canadians in this crisis, and we will work to move Canada forward — for everyone.”
In other words, nobody knows.
In spite of the fact that the only confirmed ministers are Prime Minister Trudeau and Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, a great deal of activity, including participation in the decision-making of international bodies, is being carried out. All of this activity is going on despite the fact that technically the “caretaker convention” is still in place.
The “caretaker convention” is said to be “a well-established constitutional principle” that governments “should act with restraint from the day that the election is called (i.e., the issuing of the writs) to the day that a new government is sworn in, or when an election result returning the incumbent government is clear.”
The election result returning the Trudeau government is clear but given its minority status, this does not mean Trudeau should carry on making decisions which do not have the consent of Parliament. According to the “caretaker convention,” “to the extent possible, government activity in matters of policy, expenditure, and appointments should be restricted to matters that are at least one of the following: (1) routine; (2) non-controversial; (3) urgent or in the public interest; (4) reversible by a new government without undue cost or disruption; or (5) agreed to by opposition parties after consultation.”
The new Liberal minority government’s apparent lack of concern for carrying out business while the “caretaker convention” is still in place, without having to get the approval of Parliament, and with ministers not yet confirmed as holding the same or any portfolio, shows how much it cares about even the appearance of operating by the rules or conventions of the game. It is like Trudeau’s decision to call an election based on self-serving considerations in violation of an all-party agreement that to do so during the pandemic would be irresponsible. It does not do much for the government’s legitimacy or credibility. The fact that Parliament is reconvened at the pleasure of the same government, which in this case will be almost a month after the cabinet is sworn in and even more business will have taken place, shows that it is also about the legitimacy of the very system of party government, where executive rule and the exercise of prerogative powers are the norm to advance the bidding of the oligopolies in their cutthroat competition with rivals.
In this vein, after the election Finance Minister Freeland travelled to Washington, DC to meet with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on October 12. They are said to have discussed “the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development]-G20 Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting” and the agreement on international tax reform signed on October 8; and “also discussed climate action and carbon border adjustments; the unequal impact the pandemic has had on certain people, particularly women, and the need for early learning and child care; electric vehicle incentives; as well as “Buy America” and how Canada-U.S. trade is mutually beneficial.”
It is worth noting that Canada’s agenda is in lockstep with that of the U.S., including no doubt how to manage the fallout from the revelations contained in the Pandora Papers. One wonders if Freeland is a servant of the Canadian government or of the U.S. administration. She went from there to the annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting, and the G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting, all in Washington on October 13 and 14.
Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, Mary Ng, has also participated in international meetings. She attended the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting and a World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Meeting in Paris on October 5 and 6, where she also convened a meeting of the “Ottawa Group,” an allegedly Canada-led group of a small number of WTO member countries discussing “reform of the WTO.” In other words, another clique within the world body scheming to impose an agenda on the WTO which favours U.S. imperialist interests to the detriment of the aim of the WTO to treat all countries equally. She also met with Katherine Tai, United States Trade Representative; and attended the G20 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting in Sorrento, Italy, on October 13; and the G7 Trade and Investment Ministerial Meeting in London, UK, on October 22.
Clearly, the Trudeau cabal which forms the government is comfortable doing whatever pleases its masters, even without Parliament being convened. Flouting the reason conventions were established in the first place — to limit the powers of executive rule — doesn’t do much for the crisis of legitimacy or credibility in which the anachronistic liberal democratic institutions are mired.
1. This meeting takes place right after the release of the Pandora Papers. The CBC reports that the 11.9 million files “show 35 current or former world leaders and more than 300 other public officials around the globe who have held assets in or through tax havens. Former British prime minister Tony Blair, the current prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Kenya, and the King of Jordan have all benefited from the anonymity or tax advantages of their offshore holdings, the records reveal.”
The files consist of everything from emails to bank statements, incorporation documents and shareholder registries. They are from 14 firms that provide offshore services, and were leaked by a confidential source to the Washington, DC-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The ICIJ has provided access to the files to 150 of its partner news organizations around the world, including CBC/Radio-Canada and the Toronto Star in Canada.
So far, the CBC and the Star have identified the names of at least 500 Canadian citizens or residents on the list.