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What We’re Watching: Liberals’ 1st caucus confab since election

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Nearly three months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dropped by Rideau Hall to launch his high-stakes — and ultimately unsuccessful — bid to regain majority control of the House of Commons, the rank-and-file Liberal MPs tasked with convincing voters to give his government a third go-round in office are finally getting the chance to tell him how it all played out on the campaign trail.

(Spoiler alert: not nearly as well as pre-election polls suggested, and progressively less so as the campaigning Liberal leader proved unable to come up with a compelling reason for sending voters to the polls in the middle of a pandemic.)

As reported by several news outlets — but not formally announced via party-issued advisory as of press time — the Liberals will hold their first formal caucus meeting since the election on Monday. No shortage of names on the speaking list — or lined up by the microphone, if the session includes a bear-pit session with the leadership — is expected.

In addition to the traditional post-campaign grumbling, an agenda item that might be just as contentious within the closed-door confines of the caucus room is the cross-aisle negotiations reportedly underway with the New Democrats for a possible deal to keep the current minority government in power for as long as “two to three years,” according to the Globe and Mail.

“MPs from both parties are expected to discuss the matter when the Liberal and NDP caucuses hold separate meetings on Monday,” the Globe reports. “It will be the Liberals’ first meeting since the election almost seven weeks ago,” although the outlet says “details of the informal talks are being kept under wraps, with the Liberals declining to comment on specifics Friday.”

Still, given the growing frustration of Liberal back-benchers with being continually left out of the loop by their own government, some MPs might view any push to bring the New Democrats into the big red tent — if only within the outer perimeter under strict, time-limited parameters — as yet another example of Trudeau and his inner circle taking the caucus for granted.

Their New Democrat colleagues, meanwhile, have already held their post-election postmortem, plus at least one round of pre-sitting strategizing. But it’s safe to assume they, too, will be keen to learn from their leader just how far those behind-the-curtains talks with the Liberals have gone. They’ll also want to know what their party might agree to do — or refrain from doing — for the duration of any accord.

Reopening of Canada-U.S. land border could increase pressure to relax testing requirements

With the world’s longest undefended border finally reopening to non-essential land traffic at midnight Monday morning, newly installed Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos is already being pressured to tweak the rules for COVID-19 testing requirements.

“Currently, anyone crossing into Canada needs to provide a recent molecular test that shows a negative result for COVID-19,” the Canadian Press notes. “At a cost of $150 to $300 per test, (it) can be a pricey proposition, particularly for families.

“Critics have been especially frustrated with the policy for short trips across the U.S. border, which allows travellers to get tested in Canada before spending up to 72 hours in the U.S., and then presenting their negative Canadian test to re-enter the country.”

Speaking with reporters on Friday, chief public health officer Theresa Tam said the policy was being “looked at … quite carefully,” CP reports.

Duclos’ office, however, would only say in a written statement that the situation “remains fluid, (and) officials and experts will continue to evaluate the measures in place and make necessary adjustments as required.”

Former and incumbent mayors on the ballot in Montreal

Finally, the latest numbers from Mainstreet Research suggest that incumbent Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante is poised to win her rematch against Denis Coderre, the former federal Liberal cabinet minister and one-term Montreal mayor Plante beat in 2017.

“If an election were held today, 49 per cent of decided and leaning voters would vote for Plante, leader of the Projet Montréal party, while 43 per cent of decided and leaning voters would choose Coderre, former mayor and leader of the Ensemble Montréal party,” iPolitics’ own Janet Silver reported on Friday.

According to the latest polling, Plante “is most popular with 18- to 34-year-olds” with 54.4 per cent support, while 53.4 per cent of those 65 and older would back Coderre.

According to Mainstreet’s findings, Plante’s lead among francophone voters is even higher — 59.5 per cent, compared to 35.4 per cent — although Coderre comes out ahead with non-francophones with 50.9 per cent, versus Plante’s 36.8 per cent.

Results are expected to start streaming in after the polls close at 8 p.m. ET.

It’s worth noting that, despite Coderre’s longtime ties to the federal Liberals, there’s no indication that Trudeau or his government has been secretly — or even not-so-secretly — rooting for his triumphant return to Montreal’s city hall, as they view Plante as a strong ally in fighting climate change, advocating for public transit, and supporting gun control.

For her part, Plante was quick to congratulate Trudeau after the last federal election, and made it clear she’s ready to work with Ottawa on shared priorities.

Also this week:

  • Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne embarks on a six-day trip to Germany. From Nov. 7 to 9, he’ll visit Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Ludwigshafen, Stuttgart, Weissach, and Munich, then take a quick side trip to Brussels on Nov. 10 before continuing on to Paris for the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence Summit on Nov. 11 and 12.
  • The Bank of Canada will examine the “implications (of) behavioural macroeconomics and finance for central bankers” at its annual economic conference, where Yale University economist Robert Shiller will give the John Kuszczak Memorial Lecture on “narrative economics and monetary policy.” (Tuesday AM)
  • Later the same day, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem will offer his thoughts on “diversity and inclusion in economics, finance, and central banking” during a virtual appearance at a joint meeting with the Federal Reserve Board, Bank of England, and European Central Bank. (Tuesday PM)

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