Economy, health and climate change the leading issues in first question period of new session
OTTAWA -- The economy, regional divisions, healthcare pressures, the growing threat of climate change, and Indigenous rights are the pressing issues of this Parliament, based on the queries put to the prime minister by the opposition parties in the first question period of the new session.
Each taking their first chance to put a question to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the leaders of the opposition parties in the House of Commons set up the issues that they see as being the central problems to solve as this minority Parliament unfolds.
First up was Official Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer. His first question was in French and focused on new job numbers released Friday morning that showed the Canadian economy posted the biggest monthly job loss since the 2008 financial crisis.
He called it a "serious economic crisis" and questioned why more wasn’t said on this in Thursday's throne speech. After Trudeau’s response in French, Scheer followed up in English along the same lines.
"The status quo isn't working. His plan is leading to jobs leaving this country… With all signs pointing to an economic downturn, why did this prime minister fail to mention any of that in his speech from the throne?"
In response, Trudeau said his speech did recognize the challenge facing resource workers in Canada and "that is why after many years of trying and failing by previous governments, we are moving forward on building the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. There are shovels in the ground."
Then, third-party Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet used his first question to ask, in French about Canada's premiers asking for the federal government to increase funding by 5.2 per cent to the Canada Health Transfer, and whether or not Trudeau heard the call from the provinces and territories?
Trudeau responded highlighting the promises within the throne speech to help Canadians, including Quebecers, find family doctors, but he did not comment on whether any adjustment to the health transfers would be coming.
Blanchet then followed up in his second question on another issue, but with the same reference to what the premiers' have asked for, this time on climate change. He asked Trudeau about whether he'd heed the provinces and territories' call to have their environmental assessment processes take precedence.
In his answer, Trudeau referenced the controversial Bill C-69 that passed in the last Parliament, which he billed as a piece of legislation that is meant to make these processes easier, despite calls from many that it'll have the opposite effect.
It was then NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s turn, sitting now in fourth-party status in the Commons.
"Across Canada people are making difficult choices every day about cutting their pills in half, or going without the life-saving medication that they need," he began, before flipping into French to say that people deserve leaders who have the guts to stand up to big pharmaceutical companies and advance a national pharmacare program.
Trudeau then stood up to say he agrees that Canadians shouldn’t be choosing between food and medication, and that’s why they are "moving towards" universal pharmacare but they will first sit down and work with the provinces and territories on their approach.
"That is the future of healthcare and it is something we will do," Trudeau said.
Singh then followed up with his oft-repeated line about there being a difference between saying and doing the right thing, before moving on to his second question on the government’s appeal of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that ordered Canada to compensate First Nations children who had been discriminated against by a discriminatory child welfare system.
"What kind of prime minister does that?" Singh asked.
Trudeau said he agreed that they need to be compensated "justly and adequately."