Photo of Parliament Hill in summer

Chris Gray is a Senior Consultant based in Ottawa who worked on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant for the Liberals. Chris can be contacted at chris@grassrootspa.ca.


As provinces start to re-open and allow larger gatherings and businesses to resume operations, and Canada’s COVID-19 numbers continue to improve, we are hopeful that parliamentary meetings will also resume in a normal fashion come this fall. After weeks of socially distanced in-person meetings and online communication to conduct parliamentary business, the special COVID-19 Committee will cease to exist. Parliament plans to meet four times over the summer months to ensure MPs have an opportunity to interact with the government regarding Canada’s plan to recover from the pandemic.

In a recent report, the parliamentary budget officer said this year’s federal deficit could hit $256 billion due to COVID-19. The result is the combination of an estimated $169 billion in federal spending on emergency aid and a historic drop in economic output. The budget office estimates the economy could shrink by 6.8 per cent in 2020, the weakest showing since 1981 and double the record of 3.2 per cent shrinkage in 1982. We await the Liberal government’s fiscal “snapshot”, that will be presented to the House of Commons on July 8th, to see what their projections are moving forward after the COVID recovery spending blitz.

With Conservatives on the verge of selecting their new leader, it will be interesting to watch frontrunners Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole as they turn up the heat and seek support. As the August 21st selection date grows closer, our money is on MacKay for leader. MacKay has backed away from earlier comments that he would try to force a fall election, citing the country’s need to focus on COVID recovery.

2020 Pre-Budget Consultations

The House of Commons Finance Committee has signaled its intention to proceed with 2021 federal budget consultations by inviting stakeholders to submit a brief for consideration by August 7th. This is a good opportunity for organizations to kick off engagement with government officials and MPs. The Finance Committee’s theme this year will be measures to restart the Canadian economy.

Polling

It was just seven short months ago the Liberals held onto power with a minority government. Given how the Prime Minister and the government have responded to the COVID crisis, Canadians are giving them a thumbs up – if an election were held now, polls suggest the Liberals would win a majority with 191 seats in the House of Commons.

338Canada Electoral Projection from June 14, 2020
Source: 338Canada

While we at Grassroots don’t anticipate an election this fall, it’s prudent for organizations to be prepared with a plan, just in case. The opposition parties stated early in the year that a fall election could happen, but COVID restrictions has likely put a hard stop to that. And now with the Liberals riding high in the polls, the other parties, particularly the Conservatives, will want to get back to parliament to hold the government to account for all additional spending commitments. Couple this with the upcoming U.S. election that Canadians will undoubtedly watch very closely, the appetite for a federal election will be low.

The House of Commons will return in September and we expect some semblance of normality in the proceedings, with in-person sittings and committee meetings. Also, pre-budget consultations with the Finance Committee will kick into high gear and many organizations will look to meet with committees, MPs and officials (either in-person or virtually) to advance their priorities with government.

Key Dates to Remember:

  • July 8th – Government presents fiscal update to the House of Commons
  • The House of Commons meets on July 8th, July 22nd, August 12th, August 26th
  • August 7th – Finance Committee pre-budget consultation process closes
  • August 21st – Conservative leadership results announced
  • September 21st – Regular House of Commons sittings resume
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