Canada’s election changed little in parliament, but a lot in party perception.
Justin Trudeau will swear in a new cabinet later this month, the Canadian prime minister has announced, after his Liberal Party secured another minority government in a hard-fought election last month.
Trudeau said in a statement on Friday the new cabinet would be unveiled on October 26 and Parliament would return on November 22.
The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic remains a top priority, he said, as the party has committed to ensuring all domestic air and train passengers as well as all federal employees are fully vaccinated against the virus, among other measures.
“The government will also deliver on its commitments to establish a standardized proof of vaccination for Canadians travelling internationally while supporting provincial and territorial proof of vaccination programs, and introduce legislation to make it a criminal offence to harass or threaten health care workers,” Trudeau said.
The gap between the election and recalling the House of Commons on November 22 will be 63 days, which is unusually long for Canada.
The official opposition Conservatives accused Trudeau of dawdling. “It’s wrong that in the middle of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Justin Trudeau is waiting 63 days to return to work,” said Conservative House leader Gerard Deltell.
The Liberals had made tackling the COVID-19 pandemic a central plank of their re-election campaign, promising to put vaccine mandates in place and crack down on anti-vaccine protests that have taken place outside hospitals and other healthcare facilities across Canada.
Trudeau faced angry protests during the election campaign, as demonstrators denounced mandatory jabs and other public health measures.
Canada has reported over 1.68 million coronavirus cases and more than 28,400 deaths since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University data, but infection rates have dipped in most parts of the country in recent months after a mass vaccination campaign.
In his statement on Friday, Trudeau said he intends to work with other major political parties to ensure all members of parliament are fully inoculated against COVID-19. He said he would speak to the other party leaders in phone calls starting next week.
“Canadians expect their elected representatives to lead by example in the fight against this virus, and the Prime Minister will be raising this with other leaders,” he said.
The Liberals, as well as the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Bloc Quebecois, have called for mandatory vaccines for MPs, but Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has not said whether he would support making jabs obligatory for his party’s parliament members.
During the election campaign, O’Toole came out against mandatory vaccines for Canada’s civil servants, saying he would instead order those who remain unvaccinated to take daily rapid COVID-19 tests.
Trudeau triggered the snap election in mid-August – two years before schedule – in a bid to get a majority in Parliament, but the Liberals fell short of the 170 seats needed.
The party will hold 160 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, compared with 119 for the Conservative Party, 32 seats for the Bloc Quebecois, 25 for the left-leaning NDP, and two for the Green Party.
Trudeau said other early priorities for the government include “re-introducing legislation to ban harmful conversion therapy, moving ahead with 10-day paid sick leave for all federally regulated workers, and bringing the provinces and territories together to work on better sick leave for Canadians across the country”.
“The new Cabinet will also get to work on putting home ownership back in reach for Canadians, accelerate climate action to build a cleaner country and create new middle class jobs, and continue to work with Indigenous partners and communities to walk the shared path of reconciliation,” he said.