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A weakened Trudeau seen reaching out to Canada's opposition as parliament convenes

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By Reuters
A weakened Trudeau seen reaching out to Canada's opposition as parliament convenes
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for the NATO leaders summit in Watford, Britain December 4, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls   -   Copyright  HENRY NICHOLLS(Reuters)
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By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will formally unveil the agenda of his weakened minority government on Thursday and looks set to reach out to the opposition for support on tax cuts, healthcare and fighting climate change.

Trudeau’s Liberals were re-elected in October but lost their parliamentary majority and need the support of at least one opposition party to stay in power. Parliament convenes on Thursday for the first time since the election.

“The challenge is: How does he stay prime minister? So he’s got to find someone he can placate,” said Conrad Winn, a professor of politics at Ottawa’s Carleton University.

While none have explicitly offered Trudeau support, there is little appetite for another vote anytime soon among the three main opposition parties. In recent Canadian history, minority federal governments have lasted an average of about two years.

The so-called Throne Speech, which is written by the prime minister but will be delivered by Governor General Julie Payette – head of state Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Ottawa – is due to start about 3:30 p.m. (2030 GMT).

The speech will strike a “collaborative tone” and touch on Liberal campaign pledges, including a national prescription drug plan or “pharmacare,” a government official said on Wednesday.

“There are areas of common ground with all the parties sitting across the aisle,” the official said. “Whether it’s taking bold action on climate change … or it’s healthcare and pharmacare, we know we will have to work with others to get things done.”

The left-leaning New Democrats (NDP) led by Jagmeet Singh are the most likely partner for the Liberal government. The Liberals and the NDP together hold 181 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons, more than enough to push through legislation.

“What we’re looking for in this Throne Speech is some clear indication that Mr. Trudeau is interested in, or willing to, or open to working with us,” Singh said on Wednesday.

Trudeau has said he would even consider collaborating with Quebec’s separatist Bloc Quebecois, with 32 seats, on fighting climate change and protecting the environment.

Andrew Scheer, the leader of the right-leaning Conservative Party, struck a defiant tone on Wednesday, saying his goal was to topple Trudeau. But Scheer’s own job is in jeopardy after failing to defeat the Liberals.

“In this minority parliament, we are putting him on notice,” Scheer said. “We’re not going to let them get away with anything.”

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Additional reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Cooney)