Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has no plans to govern in a coalition with any of the other parties.
And he remains set on pushing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion forward.
“Canadians have sent a clear message. They want parliamentarians to work together in Parliament to fight climate change and help with the cost of living. I’m looking forward to getting down to work,” Trudeau said on Wednesday in his first post-election press conference with reporters at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa, offering a slightly more conciliatory tone than he had on Monday night.
He said repeatedly that he is reflecting on a range of questions resulting from the election that reduced him from a majority to minority government.
Among those, he pointed specifically to how he will ensure Western interests are heard around his cabinet table without a single Liberal member of Parliament from Alberta or Saskatchewan as well as how best to tackle climate change and affordability, which he identified as key legislative priorities.
Trudeau added he will name a gender-balanced cabinet on Nov. 20, but did not give any indication of when the House of Commons will resume.
“Canadians gave me a lot to think about on Monday night when they returned us to government but with a requirement to work with other parties,” he said.
“I am going to take the time necessary to really reflect on how best to serve Canadians and work with the other parties.”
Trudeau lost his majority government on Monday night when voters reduced the Liberals from 177 seats in the House of Commons to 157.
Although Trudeau holds more seats than any other party, he will still need the support of at least one other party to pass any legislation and maintain the confidence of the majority of the House of Commons.
All eyes so far have been largely on the NDP and its leader, Jagmeet Singh, as natural allies for the Liberals.
While Singh’s party was significantly reduced as well — going from 39 seats to 24 and losing all but one of its seats in Quebec — the NDP shares several areas of common interest with the Liberals and is poised to play kingmaker in the current minority situation.
Two of those areas of interest are pharmacare and tackling climate change, and both have prompted questions about whether they could prove to be ripe ground for an agreement, even if informal, between the Liberals and the NDP to keep the Grits in power while tackling some of those concerns.
But there are other areas where they do not agree — Singh wants the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion axed entirely, for example.
Trudeau, however, insisted that project is not on the bargaining table.
“We made the decision to move forward on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion because it was in Canada’s interest to do so,” he said.
“We will be continuing with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.”
Trudeau on Wednesday also left the door open to working with the Bloc Québécois on some matters, including climate change.
“We are a very federalist party and the unity of this country will always be our primary priority but there are issues like climate change that all Canadians can agree on, be they nationalist or sovereigntist or federalist,” he said.
“On issues such as those, I will be very happy to work with the Bloc Québécois.”
Trudeau also added that he has already begun reach out to leaders in Alberta and Saskatchewan to hear how he can best represent the concerns in those provinces, and so far he has spoken with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
He also plans to speak with other regional mayors, including Edmonton’s Don Iveson, in the coming days.
Western alienation and anger have been reverberating in recent years but picked up after Trudeau’s Liberals were locked out of Alberta and Saskatchewan entirely in Monday night’s election.
Trudeau offered few hints on any specific actions he will take to address that anger.
But he noted not every government has had representation from every region around its cabinet table and gave a preview of where his legislative focus will be when the House of Commons resumes.
“Our first priority will be to bring down taxes for the middle class,” Trudeau said.
He also flagged the looming deadline for the government to decide whether to appeal a ruling last month by the Quebec Superior Court that struck down part of the federal legislation on assisted dying that requires death to be “reasonably foreseeable.”
That ruling goes into effect in six months, meaning if the federal government wants to appeal, it has to do so before that point.
If it does not appeal — or agree to rework the legislation before that time — the requirement for death to be “reasonably foreseeable” will no longer be in effect.
Trudeau also reflected on what many pollsters and pundits have described as the most divisive and nasty campaign in recent Canadian history.
He said the tone of the campaign did not lend itself to serious consideration of substantial issues, and that he bears some responsibility for that.
“I think many of us reflect on the tone and divisiveness and misinformation that were all too often features of this past election campaign. Canadians expect us to work together, listen to each other and find a way to move forward that isn’t as divisive and challenging as this election was,” he said.
“We need to figure out the best path forward for every part of the country.”