Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday pushed back against a suggestion from the Bloc Québécois leader that he is acting like a king and lacks respect for Parliament amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“But we see that the Liberals are attempting to make the special rules last as long as they can in order to handle issues like if they were something between a majority government and the rule of a king,” Blanchet told reporters during a press conference.
“While, in fact, it will be basic respect for the needs of Quebec and Canada to have the parliament start working like parliament again.”
Asked for his response to those comments, Trudeau acknowledged that the Conservatives and the Bloc are not happy with the Commons’ current schedule, but argued that a majority of MPs in the House supported that structure last month.
“Three different parties came together to make a determination of what Parliament would do. That’s how Parliament functions,” Trudeau said during his daily news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa.
“If every time something doesn’t go their way, an opposition party cries, ‘Oh, no, it’s a dictatorship all of a sudden,’ it’s sort of irresponsible and it undermines, I think, the strength of our democracy that we’ve been able to show through this crisis.”
Continuing in French, Trudeau said that in a minority parliament, “no party in particular can decide on its own how things are going to happen.”
“We need to cooperate,” the prime minister said. “And we continue to reassure Canadians that even during a crisis like this, we can still work perfectly well as a democracy.”
Currently, the House of Commons sits from Monday to Thursday with a limited numbers of MPs showing up in-person as part of an expanded special COVID-19 committee that replaced normal Commons sittings.
The rest of the Commons’ duties, like committee meetings, is all being taken care of remotely and virtually. That format was decided upon last month, with support from the NDP and opposition from the Conservatives.
As the Liberals negotiated recently with the opposition parties for support on a bill that would update certain COVID-19 aid programs, the Bloc also demanded the House resume its regular duties in full, among other things, before agreeing to support any government initiative.
As a minority government, the Liberals need at least one opposition party to support any legislation they want to pass. When it comes to voting on a bill that involves government spending, that vote is typically treated as a confidence vote. If the bill fails, that could trigger a federal election.
The NDP, however, has signalled it will support the latest COVID-19 changes and the government’s supplementary spending estimates because the Liberals have extended the eligibility period for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit by eight weeks.
Blanchet’s comments on Wednesday came ahead of Trudeau’s announcement that the government would release a “snapshot” of the state of Canada’s economy on July 8. Asked about the impending announcement, Blanchet also claimed that demonstrates “another lack of respect for the parliament.”
“I fear that the government will try to make it happen in the middle of summer in order to have people not to watch it while they will be having a beer around the barbecue,” the Bloc leader said.
— With files from the Canadian PressView link »