< /p> Justin Tang The Canadian Press Members of the federal cabinet stand behind Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a press conference.
Boris Proulx and Sandrine Vieira
September 16, 2023
The House of Commons will come back to life on Monday in a context where the Trudeau government, made up of a new team of ministers, is lagging behind in the polls and seeks to tackle pressing economic issues. The conflict with the owners of Facebook is also sure to occupy Ottawa. The tone is already set for an eventful parliamentary session.
More housing in Canada
The average asking price for rental housing in Canada hit a record $2,042 this summer. Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau and François Legault both returned from vacation saying they were determined to reverse the housing crisis. Now it remains to be seen how. According to housing policy expert and University of Ottawa professor Carolyn Whitzman, the new federal Housing Minister, Sean Fraser, has a big task to accomplish in a short time, given that a federal election could be called before 2025. “Its priority should be to seek to reduce homelessness and [address] the housing needs of low-income families, because the National Housing Strategy [launched in 2017] has not accomplished this.” , she said straight away in an interview with Devoir. Meanwhile, the different levels of government are passing the buck. After floating the idea of capping the number of international students in August, Prime Minister Trudeau insinuated this week that cities weren't signing up quickly enough to his $4 billion program to accelerate the construction of new housing. The cities are waiting for the Quebec government, which is being attacked from all sides for its late interest in acting on the matter. As for his Bill 31, which attacks tenant lease assignments, it does not address the heart of the problem. Quebec Housing Minister France-Élaine Duranceau promises an “action plan,” but it is not expected to be tabled before December. Eyes are now turning to the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard, and his economic update scheduled for November.
This text is published via our Perspectives section.
Foreign interference and public inquiry
The nebulous affair of Chinese interference embarrassed the Liberal Party of Canada (PLC) this spring, and it is far from over. After the resignation of special rapporteur David Johnston last June, the Trudeau government finally found a person with consensus to lead the public inquiry: Judge Marie-Josée Hogue, of the Quebec Court of Appeal. Judge Hogue will be tasked with reviewing and assessing interference by China, Russia and other foreign state and non-state actors, and any potential repercussions from that interference, in order to uphold the integrity of the general elections in 2019 and 2021. Part of her work will be done behind closed doors, so that she can hear testimony and consult confidential documents. The new commissioner will also work under tight deadlines: she must present a first interim report by February 29, 2024, then a final report by December 31, 2024. Although all opposition parties applauded the appointment , experts fear that the judge does not have the experience required to carry out this mandate on national security. His main areas of expertise are corporate law, civil affairs and professional liability. The Prime Minister has appointed a new minister to the file: Dominic LeBlanc received the Public Security portfolio following this summer's major reshuffle. Justice Hogue begins her work on September 18, the day Parliament resumes in Ottawa. We do not yet know when the hearings will begin, nor if any real revelations will come from the exercise.
Avoid new procedural judgments
Barely ten days before the start of Parliament, the chief judge of the Superior Court of Quebec, Marie-Anne Paquette, warned the government that the current shortage of judges increased the risk of new procedural stoppages. The federal government and its Justice Department “are the only ones with the solution,” she says. The Superior Court has so far succeeded in respecting the 30-month deadline for holding a trial, the maximum period established by the Jordan decision of the Supreme Court. If this deadline is exceeded, an accused has the right to request a stay of proceedings, even in murder cases. The situation was called a “crisis for our justice system” by Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner earlier this year. At the beginning of September, there were still 77 vacant positions, out of 1,180 (6%), for federally appointed judges across the country, including 6 in Quebec. This means, every month, 65 to 70 fewer trial days in the province, according to Chief Justice Paquette. The file rests on the shoulders of the new Minister of Justice, Arif Virani. The latter succeeds David Lametti, removed from the cabinet following this summer's ministerial reshuffle, without the Prime Minister having really explained his decision. Mr. Virani, a lawyer specializing in human rights and constitutional law, said at the time that he would ask his ministry to act “rapidly” to fill vacancies in the judiciary. Just weeks after taking office, the new minister appointed 14 provincial and territorial judges. He also extended from two to three years the duration of the mandates of newly appointed members of the judicial advisory committees. This will allow the committees to evaluate a larger number of application files. The shortage being glaring, the minister from Ontario will have to continue to implement measures during the fall to calm things down.
Reduce the price of grocery store
After seeing and hearing all the opposition parties heat him up on the subject of inflation, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated that he had understood the message, Thursday, after his meeting with his caucus. Some of its deputies were boiling enough to express their dissatisfaction in the media, at a time when their party has eight years in power under the clock. The Minister of Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, is responsible for negotiating with the bosses of the country's five largest grocery chains a plan aimed at “stabilizing prices”, under the threat of a tax. The Liberal government is also preparing to rain down agreements with the country's municipalities to “accelerate the construction of housing”, with a $4 billion program. In Quebec, this must await the conclusion of a federal-provincial agreement. Meanwhile, construction materials for rental housing will be exempt from Goods and Services Tax (GST). The government could include additional measures in its economic update expected this fall, such as the “grocery rebate” offered this spring in the form of a second GST credit check. However, its room for maneuver remains slim, between the danger of inflation caused by too much spending by Canadians and the risk of an economic slowdown anticipated by some experts. Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, to whom the latest polls give a comfortable lead in voting intentions in the country, advocates “common sense” in economics. By this he means the death of the federal price on carbon (which does not apply to Quebec) and a regulation on clean fuels, described as the “Trudeau-Blanchet tax”.
Make Facebook and Google pay
Google will have to decide this fall whether it will remove all news content from its search engine. The path has already been paved by Meta, which has purged its social networks Facebook and Instagram (but not yet Threads) of all news articles. Even though it was adopted in June, the Online News Act will not come into force until December 19, 2023. In the meantime, real suspense remains over its real usefulness, since it has undercut the two main players of the Internet advertising market in Canada, Google and Meta, to the point where neither of them has confirmed that it will play according to the new rules of the game. Meta has decided to immediately withdraw the possibility for its Canadian users to publish news on their feed, a decision she says is final. The Canadian and Quebec governments, municipalities, media and pressure groups have launched boycott campaigns. With the support of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party (NDP), the Liberal government passed Bill C-18 with the objective of forcing Meta and Google to sign checks totaling 4% of their annual revenues, multiplied by the share of the Canadian economy in the world. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided this summer to change Minister of Heritage, in the middle of the operation. Quebec unionist Pascale St-Onge, former Minister of Sports who managed the scandals at Hockey Canada, enters the scene. This indicated to the Dutythat she still believed in a happy ending. Behind the scenes, government officials fear that Meta's news blocking will continue, although it lasted only a week in Australia after the passage of a similar law. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will launch its own public consultations this fall on its role as arbiter, and supervisor of negotiations, between platforms and media.
Greening oil and gas production
At the federal level, the fall parliamentary session will begin in the middle of the holding of the “World Oil Congress” in the west of the country, and in the absence of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will be in New York to speak about climate before the United Nations General Assembly. Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault has promised that he will cap emissions from the oil and gas sector by the end of the year, as was announced during the last election campaign. This measure is eagerly awaited by environmental activists. Those who see the glass half full were delighted that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions decreased in 2021 compared to 2019, proof, according to the minister, that the federal climate plan is working. However, a similar quantity of carbon was emitted due to the increase in oil and gas production, an industry in the sights of the Bloc Québécois for the fall. Ottawa does not plan to tackle aid provided to the oil and gas industry through state companies before 2024, the Minister of the Environment clarified when signing the end of “ineffective” energy subsidies fossils this summer. For definitional reasons, the strategy does not change the amounts currently paid to oil companies. Federal pricing on carbon, the path chosen by the Trudeau government to reduce GHGs in Canada, is contested by the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, Pierre Poilievre. Although it does not apply in Quebec, the “tax” is emphasized on conservative promotional merchandise. Meanwhile, the Trudeau government used the summer to sneakily change its calculation of planted trees so it could claim it is on track to fulfill its promise to plant two billion trees within the decade.