Capital Dispatch: A historic time in Canadian politics

Given the moment, I'm kicking off my parliamentary updates a little early with a special edition.
September 11, 2022
Capital Dispatch

Canada has a new head of state, and a new leader of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition

Hello subscribers. Given the historic moment we're in, I'm kicking off my twice-weekly parliamentary updates a little early this season with a special edition. 

While Parliament was supposed to begin the fall sitting on Sept. 19, members of Parliament will return to Ottawa ahead of schedule for a "special session" to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II on Sept. 15, while the opening of the fall parliamentary program is delayed to Sept. 20. This means the newly-elected Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre will make his House of Commons debut under historic circumstances. 

Here's what you need to know. 

A pivotal period for Canada 

Queen Elizabeth II's death has marked the end of a 70-year chapter and has ushered in a new era for the Commonwealth. It has also set off a series of procedural and ceremonial requirements in Canada, largely in Ottawa and with the federal government. 

The minute it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II's state funeral and the accompanying Canadian commemorations would take place on Sept. 19, it was clear there was going to be a change to the parliamentary calendar. 

Confirmed Saturday evening—after a less-than-smooth accession ceremony at Rideau Hall proclaiming King Charles III as monarch—MPs will be back in the House of Commons early to pay tribute to the Queen's life and legacy. 

This Thursday's session will allow for elected officials to share remarks before the funeral, and then return once the mourning period concludes on Monday with the national commemorations. 

Though once the mourning time is up, much work remains. From immigration oaths and titles of key government institutions, to Canadian stamps, crests and currency, over time there are going to be numerous changes to be made.

An inside look at how the PM learned the news

Trudeau was gathered with his cabinet in Vancouver on Thursday, prepared to make a big announcement about progress on some key planks of the NDP-Liberal deal that sources had told CTV News' Mike Le Couteur and Kevin Gallagher would include the first phase of a national dental care plan, a top up to a housing benefit for renters, and a doubling of the federal GST rebate. 

Reporters, yours truly included, were waiting around the microphone set up on the floor of the space where the cabinet retreat was taking place. Glued to our devices given the news of the Queen's health at that point, it at first seemed to be a typical Trudeau delay, but after 15 minutes late turned into 45, it quickly became clear there was something afoot. 

Ministers and senior staff were seen slipping out of the room to go change into darker colours, and there was radio silence from the PMO officials organizing the planned affordability press conference that was later delayed indefinitely.  

Then the news broke. It didn't take long before reporters were let into an entirely different space adjacent to the scrum microphone area. It was much more grand, a dozen Canadian flags in front of a black backdrop. Trudeau walked out, clearly emotional, and delivered his address.
But, what was going on behind the scenes that led up to this moment? Folks CTV News spoke with painted a picture of a bit of a scramble to ensure all the ceremonial protocols, like the wearing of black ribbons, were respected.

According to CTV News' Senior Political Correspondent Glen McGregor, the prime minister learned of the Queen's death from his national security advisor, Jody Thomas. 

Thomas told cabinet about one hour before it was announced publicly by Buckingham Palace. Sources said that Thomas ran into the hotel ballroom where ministers were meeting to deliver the news, after she was informed by the Privy Council Office, who had been informed by Rideau Hall.

A new chapter for Conservatives 


In Ottawa, domestic political history was also made this week. 

On Saturday night, Pierre Poilievre was elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, securing victory on the first ballot, after a seven-month leadership campaign.

The long-time MP and former cabinet minister from Ontario won the race decisively, receiving 68.15 per cent of the vote, far outpacing his progressive Conservative rival and runner up Jean Charest's 16.07 per cent of the vote.

If you want to dive even deeper into the results, the party has posted a full riding breakdown of the first ballot point allocation, which shows that there were only half a dozen or so ridings where Poilievre didn't win. 

Among them: Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland's downtown Toronto riding of University-Rosedale, and 'Freedom Convoy' ground zero Ottawa Centre. Notably, Poilievre got more votes in Trudeau's Papineau riding than Jean Charest. As an aside, Trudeau called Poilievre to congratulate him last night and it has been described as a cordial chat. 

Poilievre also got more support than Leslyn Lewis and Scott Aitchison did in their own ridings. 

"Tonight begins the journey to replace an old government that costs you more and delivers you less, with a new government that puts you first, your paycheck, your retirement, your home, your country," Poilievre said in his first speech as leader from the Ottawa convention centre floor where the leadership announcement was held. 

The combative and populist politician has taken the helm of His Majesty's Loyal Opposition 10 days before the fall sitting of Parliament begins. Presumably he'll be making his debut in the role during Thursday's special sitting, though this point it's looking unlikely that one of Poilievre's first acts as Opposition leader will be attending Queen Elizabeth II's funeral as part of the Canadian delegation.

For more on what some key Conservative insiders had to say about where the party is heading, what to expect from Poilievre, and whether unity is possible among the various factions of the historically large membership, I've got you covered on

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