Behind closed doors, Liberal MPs have ‘robust’ discussion about government’s challenges

With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in attendance, Liberal MPs had what sources describe as a blunt and frank discussion about the government’s current political trajectory at their caucus retreat in London, Ont., on Wednesday. 

There was no revolt, nor any demands for the prime minister’s resignation, on the second day of the retreat. But one of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers acknowledged that Trudeau might not have enjoyed hearing everything that was said.

“I’m very proud of the caucus. We’re a family,” Immigration Minister Marc Miller said after MPs met for several hours behind closed doors.

“The prime minister has said time and time again that he needs to hear. He doesn’t necessarily like all the things that he needs to hear, but he has to hear. So I’m quite proud of the level of openness that occurred, as in any caucus.”

Pablo Rodriguez, the transport minister, said the “robust discussion” was “absolutely necessary.”

“You know, I’ve been in this game for awhile and I’ve seen this happen more than once. And every time it was important that it happened. And I’m happy that it did,” said Rodriguez, who was first elected to the House of Commons in 2004.

“MPs shared a lot of what they heard at the [constituents’] doors, in meetings — their thoughts, the direction that we want to see. The prime minister listened to them and, honestly, he spent the whole meeting listening to them. He’ll speak to caucus tomorrow, but today was mostly to listen to them and that’s what he did.”

WATCH | Liberals gather amid sagging support: 

Spooked Liberal MPs gather for meetings as support for the government slides

“We need to listen to the very real issues that Canadians are facing right now and return to Ottawa next week with some real solutions in hand,” said Government House Leader Karina Gould, who insists that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still the party’s “main asset” despite polls suggesting Canadians are dissatisfied with his leadership.

Other caucus sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named, also largely agreed that there were “direct” conversations about the Liberals’ situation. Among the concerns raised was a desire to more forcefully respond to Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives.

This week’s meeting came as support for the Liberal government reached its lowest point in years. Amid widespread concern about the cost of living and the affordability of housing, opinion polls show the Conservatives have opened a significant lead over the incumbent Liberals — raising questions about Trudeau’s chances of leading the party to fourth consecutive victory whenever the next election occurs. 

As the party’s fortunes have sagged, Liberal MPs have begun to more openly express their concerns with the direction of the government and what they are hearing from their constituents.

But MPs have not expressed any great dissent to the reporters camped out at the convention centre in downtown London. 

“There were some concerns that were raised and there’s some changes that have to come and I’m pretty sure they will come,” Rodriguez said.

The meetings are scheduled to continue on Thursday, concluding in the afternoon.

“We’re all united behind the prime minister, but again, it’s not a choir that sits behind singing all the time,” Miller said. “We actually get out there and tell each other what we like, what we don’t like, and it’s like any family.”

Leave a Comment