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Floods top of mind as Canadian PM Trudeau outlines priorities to parliament

Floods top of mind as Canadian PM Trudeau outlines priorities to parliament
Floods top of mind as Canadian PM Trudeau outlines priorities to parliament Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2021
By Reuters
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By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will add rebuilding from British Columbia's devastating floods to his list of priorities when he outlines plans on Tuesday for the new parliamentary session, which include firmer measures to fight climate change.

Trudeau's Liberals were re-elected on Sept. 20, albeit with a second minority government that will need opposition support to pass legislation.

On Tuesday afternoon, he kicks off work in the House of Commons with a speech that Canada's governor general, who represents its head of state, Queen Elizabeth, will deliver on the prime minister's behalf.

"We will be there to help rebuild, along with the province, in the weeks and months to come" will be the message to British Columbia in the so-called throne speech, said a government source who was not authorized to speak on the record.

"The situation in B.C. is an immediate priority, but it's not the first and won't be the last climate-change-related disaster, and so we need to accelerate climate action," the official added.

Last week's floods forced the closure of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and cut two critical east-west rail lines, leaving commodities exporters scrambling to divert shipments from Vancouver. The flooding underscored the vulnerability of Canada's supply chains to climate change, and looked set to be the costliest natural disaster to hit Canada.

"With supply chains already strained, this disaster couldn't have come at a worse time," Jimmy Jean, chief economist at Desjardins Group, said in a note.

Economists have signaled they are lowering their growth forecasts for November and the fourth quarter because of the floods in Canada's westernmost province

Much of what Trudeau will describe as his legislative priorities were part of his campaign platform. They include a plan for more affordable housing, ensuring families C$10-a-day childcare, fighting COVID-19, committing billions to seniors homes, and new climate linked investments.

New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh said on Monday he would be open to supporting the government on post-flood reconstruction and climate change, and perhaps other legislation.

"If there's something that's going to help people, we are happy to do that," Singh, whose left-leaning party holds the fourth highest number of seats, told reporters on Monday.

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