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Canada's Trudeau to seek formal backing for minority government

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By Reuters
Canada's Trudeau to seek formal backing for minority government
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a meeting with Conservative Party leader and Leader of the Official Opposition Andrew Scheer on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario Canada November 12, 2019. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle   -   Copyright  PATRICK DOYLE(Reuters)

By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday reconvened parliament for Dec. 5, when he will reach out to the opposition to back his minority government and its agenda, which includes tax cuts and measures to fight climate change.

Liberal Party leader Trudeau held onto power in the Oct. 21 election, but unlike his first term, the prime minister does not hold a majority of seats in the 338-member House of Commons.

“Last month Canadians elected a parliament that they expect to work together, and that’s exactly what I’m going to be focusing on doing,” Trudeau said in his office just before a meeting with Andrew Scheer, the Conservative Party leader.

Trudeau cited affordability, help for the middle class, and the fight against climate change as priorities of his new government, which will be sworn in on Nov. 20.

During the campaign, polls suggested that Scheer had a chance to defeat Trudeau, but in the end the Conservatives won decisively only in Canada’s western oil patch, where the Liberals did pick up a single seat, but fared poorly in the more populous provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

“We found some areas of common ground, such as tax cuts for new parents,” Scheer told reporters after the meeting, saying he had also talked to the prime minister about the need to “to heal the divisions Trudeau sowed during the election campaign”.

“It’s up to Mr. Trudeau to find common ground” when he seeks parliament’s backing in the so-called Throne Speech, which outlines the government’s priorities, Scheer said. “We told him what we’d like to see.”

The most likely ally for Trudeau is not Scheer, but the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), which shares much of the Liberals’ agenda.

The NDP, whose 24 seats would be enough to help the Liberals secure a majority, last month challenged Trudeau to act immediately on universal coverage for prescription drugs, a measure Trudeau promised during his campaign.

Trudeau has yet to meet with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, but the two are supposed to sit down this week.

Another potential Trudeau ally, at least informally, is the Bloc Quebecois, which advocates for Quebec’s independence from Canada and won 32 seats. In his first speech following the election, Trudeau said the Bloc could offer support to the government on environmental and climate policies.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sandra Maler)