The Conservative Party is expected to face a decision whether or not to support a non-confidence vote of the federal Liberal minority government when a prorogued Parliament reconvenes Sept. 23.
But following a Conservative B.C. caucus meeting Sept. 5 and 6 in Penticton, local Conservative MP Tracy Gray (Kelowna-Lake Country) says her party members want to focus on issues facing Canadians rather than a potential fall election.
“It is difficult to comment on something that we have not seen,” Gray said.
“Our focus is on our constituents…our safety and economic recovery, and not about having an election. But if that is the direction the government takes us, we’ll be ready.”
The election talk has been fueled by a recent commitment from the Bloc Quebecois leader to introduce a non-confidence motion following the throne speech given by the Liberal government to start this next session of Parliament.
The Conservatives now have a new leader in Erin O’Toole who has set out to immediately restructure the Official Opposition, with both Okanagan area Tory MPs Gray and Dan Albas (Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola) given shadow cabinet portfolio responsibilities.
Up until now, any talk of an earlier election call has been sidelined by the Conservatives being wrapped up in a leadership campaign and the NDP backing the Liberals by using their leverage to seek legislation changes, such as a national policy of 10 days of paid sick leave for workers.
Gray said Canada is facing a myriad of issues, many complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which her party has been focused on providing solutions for at the committee level.
“(Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau seems to have gone back to making speeches from podiums and appears to be disinterested in the hard work of governing our country,” Gray said.
She said his move to prorogue Parliament, which effectively stifled all work being done at the Parliament committee level, was a prime example of his government trying to stay one step ahead of the WE scandal.
“He shut down Parliament ironically on the very day the finance committee received thousands of pages of communication among government officials leading up to the WE Charity agreement,” Gray said.
That agreement saw the charity awarded a $900 million contract to run the Canada Student Service Grant, a summer program to help students who couldn’t find jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it has since come to light that Trudeau’s mother and brother were paid guest speakers at various WE events in recent years, while finance minister Bill Morneau had to resign after it was revealed his family had financial ties to the organization and the charity partly paid for his family to go on two of its service trips.
Gray said the B.C. caucus heard presentations from an array of speakers in Penticton, which she says suggests Trudeau’s ethics issues are overshadowing real concerns that Canadians are facing.
She cited the impact the wine industry will face after the World Trade Organization after Australia successfully won a trade challenge against Canada regarding trade restrictions on Australian wine imports.
Since 2006, wines that are 100 per cent Canadian-made have been exempt from a federal excise tax, but the Australia government argued that was unfair to foreign competitors.
Winning that decision has left fears of job losses and winery closures among Canadian producers, now forced to pay that tax.
“What we are hearing is that ruling has set back the wine industry 15 years,” Gray said.
She said Canada seeing its credit rating slip from AAA to AA means more taxation revenue required to service the debt rather than being directed to government programs.
“Moving forward, we don’t see any economic plan from the Liberals or how to manage our debt. Two reasons why our credit rating slipped was because of a lack of a national economic recovery plan and strict inter-provincial trade barriers that have impeded economic growth.”
She described her new party leader as someone who is “hard-working, not about selfies.”
“He is focused on doing the work and bringing people together to find solutions to issues facing our country,” Gray added.