2019 on the federal scene in 12 events
Twelve of the events that marked the 12 months of 2019 on the federal scene.
January: Dismissal of John McCallum, Canadian Ambassador to Beijing
The arrest of a Huawei executive in Vancouver at the request of the United States, who is demanding his extradition, has already been causing serious trouble in Canada for more than a month. The lady was arrested on December 1, 2018. The too frankness of the Canadian ambassador in Beijing, during interviews granted to Toronto journalists, pushes Justin Trudeau to demand the resignation of John McCallum. McCallum had the bad idea to point out that Meng Wanzhou could use certain statements by Donald Trump to convince a Canadian judge to refuse Washington’s extradition request. The bad luck suffered by the deposed ambassador is enviable when compared to that of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, both still detained, without reason, in Beijing.
February: Globe and Mail article starts SNC-Lavalin saga
Then begins the display of the anger of Jody Wilson-Raybould, demoted in January from the Department of Justice to that of Veterans Affairs. The minister suggests, then says more and more clearly, that she believes that the Prime Minister’s Office put pressure on her to intervene and avoid a trial at SNC-Lavalin. By the end of the month, the Prime Minister’s chief secretary, Gerald Butts, will have resigned, parliamentary committees will have enjoyed each other’s testimony, and the Leader of the Official Opposition will have called for the resignation of Justin Trudeau “who has lost the moral authority to govern, ”said Andrew Scheer.
March: Federal budget tabled in noise and chaos
Andrew Scheer and his Conservative MPs delay Minister Bill Morneau’s speech in the Commons to keep the spotlight on the SNC-Lavalin affair. According to the Conservative leader, the federal budget is nothing but a cover-up. Mr Scheer thus refuses to say what he thinks of the content of the budget.
April: Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould expelled from Liberal caucus
Justin Trudeau finally tears off the bandage, despite the pain. The evening of April 2, he expelled the two ex-ministers who, for weeks, had multiplied the outings against him while remaining Liberal deputies. It will not be enough to cover up the SNC-Lavalin affair which will continue to serve the opposition, especially the Conservative, until the election campaign the following fall.
May: Agreement between Canada and the United States to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum
Donald Trump had imposed these tariffs in June 2018 to, it was believed, influence negotiations for the new version of NAFTA. Ottawa responded by imposing its own rates. When the new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CEMA) was signed in October 2018, it was Canada’s turn to imply that it would not be ratified until Washington imposed its tariffs on Canadian exports. The price quarrel ended on May 17, 2019.
June: Report released on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
The national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls comes to a harsh conclusion: it is genocide. The word embarrasses the political class in Ottawa which hesitates to take it up on the day of the unveiling of the report, June 3. The next day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau changes his mind and says the word. But his office will continue to ensure that this does not legally bind the government.
July: Nicolas Kasirer chosen as third Quebec judge to the Supreme Court of Canada
The choice is the conclusion of a new process which, for the first time, involves the Quebec government in the selection of a judge from the highest court in the country. Quebec Minister of Justice Sonia LeBel conducted her own consultations following the report of an independent advisory committee, the majority of whose members were chosen by Quebec. The Premier of Quebec, François Legault, then had a meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau to share his recommendations. The final choice fell to Justin Trudeau, but we knew that Justice Kasirer was Quebec’s first choice.
August: The Ethics Commissioner concludes that Trudeau contravened the Conflict of Interest Act in the SNC-lavalin case
Commissioner Mario Dion believes that the Prime Minister used his authority over Jody Wilson-Raybould, then Minister of Justice and Attorney General, to convince her to conclude a suspended prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin. He writes, “The evidence has shown that Mr. Trudeau attempted to influence the Attorney General in various ways, both directly and through persons under his authority.” In the commissioner’s opinion, Mr. Trudeau would have favored business interests if he had gotten what he wanted. The actions taken to promote these interests were therefore irregular. So much ammunition that will be used repeatedly by Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives during the election campaign.
September: Triggering of the electoral campaign on September 11
At the time of the outbreak, the Liberal Party held 177 seats, the Conservative Party 95, the New Democratic Party 39, the Bloc Québécois 10, the Green Party two. There were eight independent MPs, including ex-Liberals Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. The People’s Party of Canada had only elected its leader Maxime Bernier. And a former NDP member identified himself as belonging to the Commonwealth Co-operative Federation. Five of the 338 seats were empty. The first of 40 days of the federal election campaign was the opportunity for Justin Trudeau to finally say his position on a possible participation of the federal government in the challenge of the Quebec secularism law. No, “for now”.
October: Trudeau re-elected but at the head of a minority government
The result of October 21: 157 PLC, 121 CPC, 32 Bloc Québécois, 24 NDP, 3 Green Party and one independent. The next day, all the losing leaders, with one exception, assure that they are here to stay. Andrew Scheer managed to resist, for 50 days, the activists who accused him of defeat. He will resign on December 12. Jagmeet Singh succeeds in convincing his troops that with only 24 deputies he will bend the minority Liberal government on certain issues such as a national pharmacare plan. Yves-François Blanchet considers the election of 32 Bloc Quebecois MPs a resounding victory. Elizabeth May gives way to interim leader Jo-Ann Roberts pending the election of a new leader for the Green Party in October 2020.
November: Formation of the new cabinet of ministers for the second Trudeau mandate
Quebecers take gallons. François-Philippe Champagne becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs. But it is Chrystia Freeland, who has become Deputy Prime Minister, who retains control over the most important foreign relationship, that with the American neighbor. Steven Guilbeault is appointed Minister … of Heritage, much to the disappointment of his former environmental allies.
December: Signature of the new version of the ACEUM
Canada, the United States and Mexico agree for the second time on a new version of the free trade agreement that will replace NAFTA. As soon as the ACEUM was signed, voices in Quebec criticized Ottawa for not having provided protection to the aluminum sector similar to that obtained for steel. Prime Minister François Legault and the Aluminum Association of Canada demand that the agreement be ratified as quickly as possible, despite their disappointment while the Bloc is making its cabbage in the House. .
On December 13, the Commons close their doors until January 27, 2020. The minority government can breathe … for a few weeks.