Canada's Trudeau to seek formal backing for minority government


OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday reconvened parliament for Dec. 5, when he will reach out to the opposition to back his minority government and its agenda, which includes tax cuts and measures to fight climate change.

Liberal Party leader Trudeau held onto power in the Oct. 21 election, but unlike his first term, the prime minister does not hold a majority of seats in the 338-member House of Commons.

“Last month Canadians elected a parliament that they expect to work together, and that’s exactly what I’m going to be focusing on doing,” Trudeau said in his office just before a meeting with Andrew Scheer, the Conservative Party leader.

Trudeau cited affordability, a tax-cut for the middle class, and the fight against climate change as priorities of his new government, which will be sworn in on Nov. 20.

During the campaign, polls suggested that Scheer had a chance to defeat Trudeau, but in the end the Conservatives won decisively only in Canada’s western oil patch, where the Liberals did not pick up a single seat, but fared poorly in the more populous provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

“We found some areas of common ground, such as tax cuts for new parents,” Scheer told reporters after meeting the prime minister. Scheer would not say whether he would back the so-called Throne Speech, which will outline the government’s priorities and will be followed by a confidence vote.

The Throne Speech is likely to be delivered on Dec. 5 after the House elects a speaker, a government official said, but the confidence vote could come the following week.

Trudeau also met on Tuesday with the right-leaning premier of Saskatchewan, Scott Moe, who wants the federal carbon pricing scheme put on hold because he says it hurts the economy.

Moe was critical afterward, saying, “I did not hear that there was going to be anything different ... I heard more of the same.”

Trudeau’s most likely ally going forward is not a conservative but the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), which shares much of the Liberals’ agenda.

The NDP, whose 24 seats would be enough to help secure a majority, last month challenged Trudeau to act immediately on universal coverage for prescription drugs.

Trudeau will meet with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh on Thursday, according to the government official, and he will meet with the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, another potential ally on some issues, on Wednesday.