Liberal insiders shrug off rumors of a deal with New Democrats

OTTAWA – Several Liberal MPs and Cabinet ministers say they see no need for a formal agreement with the new Democrats to ensure that the liberal minority Parliament is guaranteed stability in the months and years to come.

Senior NDP and liberal officials have flatly denied that there are any formal or informal talks about joining forces, with some officials telling the Star that news reports on such an agreement are “skewed.”

“There is nothing on the table. We just had, like any new Parliament, initial talks on how to make Parliament work, ”NDP leader Jagmeet Singh told the Star in Glasgow last week. “There is nothing on the table, there are no discussions on any kind of detail beyond that we want Parliament to work.”

Despite Singh’s attempt to clarify the story, Ottawa is rife with rumors that senior Liberal and NDP officials are negotiating a deal that would ensure that the NDP supports the Liberal government in exchange for making progress on unspecified NDP promises, such as pharmaceutical care.

At the NDP caucus meeting on Monday, the party’s caucus chairman echoed Singh’s comments.

“Contrary to the rumors circulating … there are no agreements of any kind,” Jenny Kwan said, adding that she is not part of any of those discussions.

Across the street in the West Block, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led a virtual and in-person hybrid meeting of Liberal MPs in the first official party group of the new Parliament.

At first, he said that the election showed that the country is still dealing with the consequences of COVID-19, but “at the same time, what we saw very, very clearly was that people have a huge appetite for bold ideas about a better future. for this country. “

He did not respond publicly to questions or address the possibility of a deal with the NDP.

Liberal sources say there have been no leader-to-leader talks beyond the general discussion of the looming parliamentary agenda.

Liberal House Leader Mark Holland said he and the prime minister have spoken with their counterparts in each opposition party to find common ground.

“Every time you enter a new Parliament, you start from scratch,” Holland said. “You start with the opportunity to say, ‘How can we work together?’ and have those conversations with each of the parties.

“You don’t close any doors.”

Others expressed skepticism that any deal was necessary.

“I don’t think so,” said Crown Indian Minister Marc Miller. “I think people voted for the NDP and voted for the liberals for particular reasons and sometimes they diverge and sometimes depending on the issue, sometimes we’re on the same page and sometimes we’re not.”

When asked if securing stability would be worthwhile, Miller said only that “there are a lot of things that are good for stability,” before excusing himself to take a call.

“I believe that stability is obtained by collaborating with all parties,” said Heritage Minister Pablo Rodríguez Rodríguez, who served as leader of the Chamber in the last Parliament.

In the past, Rodríguez said, “we were able to reach agreements sometimes with one, sometimes with two, and sometimes, you know, with three (parties).”

Noting that he does not believe that any party has an appetite for other elections anytime soon, Rodríguez said that the Liberals were “very clear on the agenda” during the campaign this summer, “so the message was clear and now we hope that other parties collaborate. ” . “

One MP, speaking in the background, wondered why the Liberals would need a deal with the New Democrats. “No party is going to want to overthrow the government in the short term,” said the deputy.

But at least one Liberal MP was open to the idea of ​​a formal agreement with the NDP.

“I think, you know, a minority government is an opportunity to work with all parts of the House, and I would not be opposed to a deal at all,” Terry Beech said.

“I’m certainly very positive about the ability to get a deal and work on a lot of positive things for all Canadians … whether it’s with the NDP or anyone else,” he added.

The Bloc Québécois and the Greens can support more aggressive liberal action on climate change, so Trudeau doesn’t necessarily need the NDP on his side to achieve one of his legislative priorities.

In French, Trudeau told his group that Canadians expect great results from this Parliament, “and that is exactly what this team is going to do.”

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, on the other hand, criticized what she said was a “liberal-NDP coalition” in the works.

In a public statement and in comments to reporters, O’Toole said that such an agreement would “be a disaster for the Canadian economy and cause devastating financial impacts for workers and communities from coast to coast to coast.

“Canadians are already struggling with the rising cost of living in Justin Trudeau’s economy, and this coalition will mean billions of dollars in new spending to buy the silence of Jagmeet Singh,” he charged.

It seemed that none of the tension between Liberal and Conservative leaders that Canadians saw during the elections has subsided, and Trudeau fired at the Conservative leader for his inability to control his own caucus to support mandatory vaccinations of MPs.

“More and more conservatives are stepping forward to oppose vaccination, to oppose science, to oppose mutual support,” Trudeau told his group. “I can’t imagine any of you raising your hand and saying, ‘Well, I deserve special treatment because I’m a deputy.’

The Liberal caucus elected Brenda Shanahan (Châteauguay – Lacolle) as its president, but she refused to do what the Conservatives did last month: give the caucus greater powers to initiate a leadership review or have the final say on whether to evict a member of the caucus.

The first order of business for all MPs when Parliament resumes on November 22 will be the election of a Speaker of the Commons. Five MPs are set to contest the seat: Liberals Anthony Rota (the most recent speaker) and Alexandra Mendes, new Democrat Carole Hughes, and Conservatives Mark Dalton and Joel Godin.

With files from Alex Ballingall and Robert Benzie


Raisa Patel is an Ottawa reporter covering federal politics for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel


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