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Opposition parties call out Trudeau over slow restart of Parliament

With the newly re-elected Liberal government more than a month into its third term and Parliament still not up and functioning as normal, the Opposition Conservatives are accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of dragging his heels.

"The prime minister said he was calling a pandemic election because it was a pivotal time for our country," Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said Tuesday during his speech in reply to the throne speech in the House of Commons. 

The Conservative leader said Trudeau "took his sweet time to bring the House of Commons back to be accountable to Canadians at this pivotal time. So pivotal that, three months after, he has still not put in place the full structure of government, committees and Parliament."

The Parliamentary committees that scrutinize legislation have not yet been assembled and parliamentary secretaries — MPs who help ministers carry out their duties — still have not been named by Trudeau.

The House leaders for the parties met Tuesday afternoon to discuss a way forward for committees and legislation but it could be next week before Parliament has its committees up and operating.

Earlier in the day, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Mark Holland said committees could be up and running by Christmas with agreement from the other parties.

During the federal election, the Liberals promised more than a dozen initiatives within the first 100 days of a new mandate — including the introduction or reintroduction of at least eight bills.

If Oct. 26 — the day the federal cabinet was sworn in — marked the start of that 100 day period, the government only has until Feb. 3, or 24 sitting days in the House, to make significant moves on its legislative agenda.

Looking for dance partners

The Liberals have introduced three bills so far: one banning conversion therapy (Bill C-4), another extending and tweaking pandemic supports (Bill C-2) and a third (Bill C-3) to protect health care workers and patients from intimidation and obstruction while trying to deliver or seek medical treatment. C-3 would also give all federally regulated workers ten days of paid sick leave.

The Liberals could introduce a motion in the House of Commons to fast-track one or all of those bills to a final vote in the House. Such a motion would require only a simple majority in order to pass.

With their minority government, the Liberals would need the support of at least one other federal party to pass such a motion. And while the NDP has demonstrated a willingness to support some Liberal initiatives, the party says it's also frustrated with the slow pace.

NDP opposed to Bill C-2

"We haven't been able to get the work done we've needed to, and that's because the Trudeau government called an unnecessary and self-serving election, and then waited months to resume Parliament. Frankly, there is not enough time to get everything done that needs to get done," NDP MP Peter Julian told CBC News in an emailed statement. 

The NDP says that it will work with the Liberals to pass legislation to protect health care workers and patients, introduce sick pay and ban conversion therapy before Christmas — but they have concerns with Bill C-2.

After the legislation was introduced, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party couldn't support a bill that would cut help for workers unable to access employment insurance.

Singh also has said that he wants the Liberal government to help low income seniors who have seen their Guaranteed Income Supplement clawed back, and families who have had the same experience with their Canada Child Benefit, because they took pandemic supports over the past 18 months.

The Liberals could seek backing for their pandemic support bill from another party willing to fast-track it, but no such deal has been publicly discussed.