How the Queen’s death affects Canadian politics this week

OTTAWA — The Queen’s death, a momentous event that seemed to come as a surprise at the time despite all those best-laid plans, has clouded the launch of Canada’s fall political season.

With the loss of a monarch praised for embodying the values ​​of duty, tradition, public service and sacrifice, all parties – in crude political terms – have lost maximum partisan opportunities.

Saturday’s Conservative leadership change – the chance to grab the political spotlight for a new leader – was quickly rewritten. The confetti guns have been canceled and the speeches have been rearranged to reflect tributes to the Queen’s reign.

Retreat planning by the Liberal cabinet and NDP caucus – usually a chance to trumpet priorities ahead of the Tories’ big show and the expected return of Parliament on September 19 – was overtaken by news that King Charles III would take over. throne and that a period of national mourning would begin for his late mother.

In Vancouver, the Liberals dropped an announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to establish new economic measures – pushed by the NDP – to launch a dental plan for low-income youth, double the GST tax credit and top up the Canada Housing Benefit.

The NDP – gathered in Halifax for its first in-person retreat since the pandemic – had made the expected announcement, months in the making, following its pressure on the government.

But in the end, the plans were scuppered, with Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh scrapping their scheduled press conferences.

And instead of Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland deploying policies intended to counter criticism, they are doing nothing new to combat cost-of-living pressures, the prime minister has shifted gears and become the chief mourner to a queen he had known for 45 years.

A senior Liberal source said the decision would not affect the implementation of the measures, which would depend on parliament’s “swift” passage.

“There will be a time to make these announcements again in the future when the time is right,” Singh told reporters Friday morning.

The rest of the NDP retreat took on a more low-key, behind-closed-doors tone, with officials ending public events like door-to-doors and fundraisers.

A Liberal Party caucus retreat scheduled for Sunday through Tuesday in New Brunswick is still expected to take place.

However, the political calendar is suddenly much more fluid.

And the tone of politics was suddenly forced to change, at least for now.

A senior government source said the Liberals’ plan for the next 10 days is to “pay tribute to the Queen while the country mourns”.

So announcements and some government activities will be “subdued”, with the Prime Minister’s remarks honoring Queen Elizabeth on Thursday setting the expected tone of government for days to come.

A Conservative Party source said “of course it will make a difference” for the party’s launch of a new leader and a new era.

“Whoever the new leader is, of course they envision that their first kind of re-emergence to the public will be through this speech. And a lot of care and attention always goes into this stuff – what’s that first impression we’re going to make? (…) And now it will obviously be a very different discourse.

From a purely logistical perspective, what happens next in Canadian politics is a matter of both protocol and political calculation.

Is Trudeau seeking to bring Parliament back before September 19 to allow for a motion of condolence and speeches of tribute ahead of Queen Elizabeth’s state funeral?

Are political parties adopting a more respectful tone in this time of mourning? Will the Liberals and NDP go all-in to criticize or entrap the new Conservative leader – widely expected as front-runner Pierre Poilievre – or will they hold the fire?

Is Trudeau inviting opposition party leaders to London?

Protocol – the official rules that determine how things should go – only offers partial guidance.

On Saturday in London, an accession council will officially proclaim Charles as king. Canada, one of 15 countries or ‘kingdoms’ that still have the monarch as head of state, will be represented at this membership council meeting by Canada’s High Commissioner to the UK, Ralph Goodale .

In Ottawa, shortly thereafter, a similar meeting of the Cabinet of Canada Membership Council will take place at Rideau Hall, during which the Cabinet will affirm King Charles as Head of State of Canada and after which the Governor General will release officially a proclamation recognizing the transition.

Canadian flags, like British flags, will be hoisted from half-mast to high mast until sunset to show respect for the new King (they could be hoisted briefly for a full 24 hours to allow embassies abroad to show also the same respect). But the flags will then be lowered again for the remainder of the official 10-day mourning period.

Other details – like the timing of the Queen’s funeral, the arrival of world leaders or the invitation of any other guests – are largely up to Buckingham Palace’s discretion, a senior source said. Trudeau does not determine the guest list for the funeral at Westminster Abbey.

The Queen’s funeral would normally take place 10 days after her death; however, if, as in this case, it falls on a Sunday, the funeral could take place on Monday, September 19, a source said.

The world leaders and their wives are expected to arrive in London a few days before the funeral, in case King Charles wishes to meet them or attend Queen Elizabeth’s beheading.

Beyond that, officials are still scrambling behind the scenes to set deadlines, such as recalling parliament.

“Timely” details is all anyone would say on Friday.

With files by Raisa Patel

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