Political lookahead: What's in store for the major parties in 2016
Published Sunday, December 27, 2015 2:15PM EST
As the year winds down, Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc, Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair speak to CTV's Question Period about their parties' priorities for 2016.
No rush for referendum on electoral reform: LeBlanc
LeBlanc said the Liberal government will be setting up a parliamentary committee on electoral reform that will seek to hear all positions on the matter, including maintaining the status quo to moving toward a system of proportional representation, and "everything in between.”
The government House leader said, however, that the Liberals are not inclined to put the matter up as a referendum question to all Canadians.
"Our plan has been to use Parliament to consult Canadians," he said.
LeBlanc also said Canadians can expect the minister of defence to unveil details of Canada's new role in the anti-ISIS coalition.
During the election campaign, the Liberals pledged to withdraw its six CF-18 fighter jets from the U.S.-led coalition, and said Canada would instead bolster support through humanitarian and training missions.
LeBlanc said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is finalizing details of what Canada's new contribution will look like, but maintained that the Canadian Forces will not be involved in a combat role.
"My impression is that the primary focus will be around training ground forces," LeBlanc said.
‘Voice’ for fiscal conservatives
Ambrose said that in the days since becoming interim leader, she's reached out to former Conservative prime ministers, including Brian Mulroney, Joe Clark and Kim Campbell, for advice.
She said all three gave her similar advice: take your time with the leadership race, and, in the meantime, be a "strong" and "tough" Opposition in the House of Commons.
And that's what the party intends to do, Ambrose said, noting that the Conservatives will be the voice for fiscally conservative Canadians who don't want the government to run deficits or raise taxes.
"We're going to hold the government to account," Ambrose said on Question Period. "We’re going to be that voice for taxpayers."
As for the leadership race, she said the party will take its time, allowing all members, including those not already involved in politics, to build a strong candidacy.
"If we take a little extra time, that will mean we'll have a better leadership race," she said, adding that the leadership committee will meet in January and begin outlining the rules and the timeline for the race.
Ambrose said she's looking forward to the renewal process, and giving the leadership candidates a chance to stake out their visions for the future of the party.
She added that she has no regrets over accepting the position of interim leader.
"When the time comes, I hope to hand that key over to the next person and say, 'Things are in great shape, get off and running, and win us the next election,'" Ambrose said.
When that election rolls around, she believes that the Tories can make headway with fiscally conservative Liberals, whom she referred to as “Paul Martin Liberals.”
NDP to hold leadership review
Mulcair said while it was tough to be relegated to third-party status following the election, he's looking ahead to figure out what went wrong for the New Democrats.
"We're going to go through a review process to do one thing and one thing alone: To learn lessons from that campaign to make sure that the next time around, it's there for us," he said, noting that 3.5 million Canadians voted for the NDP in October, meaning the party still has a strong base of support.
The NDP leader also said he's looking forward to his party continuing to be a “progressive” oppositional voice in Parliament, and to hold the Liberal government's "feet to the fire."
In April, the party will hold a leadership review, at which point party members will rate Mulcair's performance as the head of the NDP.
He wouldn't comment on what level of support he'd have to be at for him to consider stepping down, however he did say he's "encouraged" by what he's been hearing from party members. "I take nothing for granted, and I'm going to continue working non-stop," he said.
Looking back at the federal election, Mulcair said he doesn't regret taking a strong stand against a Conservative-proposed ban on niqabs, even though it resulted in a drop in support.
In fact, the NDP leader said that after taking a stand against the ban, his party dropped 17 points in just 36 hours.
"But I am proud of that (decision)," he said. "That's what having values means; you stand up on a question of principle… I wasn't going to pander to that sort of intolerance."