The stubbornness of inflation and intense domestic divisions over the Israel-Hamas conflict are looming heavily over the federal Liberals as ministers prepare to meet over three days in Montreal next week.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to chair the cabinet retreat starting Sunday to prepare his government for the return of Parliament a week later.
Housing affordability and cost of living remain the most critical issues for the government, which has yet to find a way to counter attacks from the Conservatives that Liberal policies are to blame for the economic turmoil.
Tensions remain high around the Middle East, as Ottawa neglects to state a clear position on the genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice while facing accusations that it isn’t doing enough to stem a growing tide of antisemitism at home.
The Liberals remain well back of the Conservatives in the polls, with Canadians showing limited confidence in this government’s ability to solve some of the major issues.
The minority government’s deal with the NDP appears solid, but Liberals still have to find a way to solve an impasse with that party over a national pharmacare program before a spring deadline.
Pharmacare is one of the main demands from the NDP in exchange for its support on key votes until June 2025, but an initial plan to have legislation in place by the end of 2023 didn’t materialize.
Instead, the two parties agreed to push back the deadline and now legislation is to be introduced by the beginning of March.
Environmental policy is also up for further discussion following record-breaking warm temperatures in December that have been linked to climate change, and a cold snap in Western Canada this month that contributed to electricity shortages in Alberta.
Trudeau also said in a press release on Tuesday that the upcoming presidential election in the United States will be up for discussion as Canada prepares for the possibility of another Donald Trump presidency.
Trump handily won the Iowa caucuses Monday in the race to be the Republican candidate on the presidential ballot in November, and many national polls in the U.S. have him ahead of President Joe Biden overall.
Trudeau was the Canadian prime minister throughout Trump’s first four-year term and the relationship was at times extremely rocky, including over steel and aluminum import tariffs that Trump’s government slapped on Canadian products.
By Mia Rabson in Ottawa
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2024.