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Trudeau Promises Gender-Balanced Cabinet, Shoots Down Coalition Speculation

He said legislation to lower taxes for the middle class is job No. 1.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a new gender-balanced cabinet will be sworn in Nov. 20, giving him four weeks to figure out how Alberta and Saskatchewan will be represented at the table.

“This is something that I take very seriously as a responsibility to ensure that we are moving forward in ways that benefit all Canadians,” Trudeau said Wednesday in his first news conference since Monday’s election.

The Liberals were wiped off the electoral map in Alberta and Saskatchewan with Conservatives winning all but one riding between those two provinces. The blue sweep pushed out two high-profile Liberal incumbents, cabinet ministers Ralph Goodale from Regina and Edmonton’s Amarjeet Sohi.

Trudeau allayed speculation about a possible coalition given the Liberals’ new minority government situation in the House.

“It is not in our plans at all to form any sort of formal coalition, formal or informal coalition.”

Watch: Saskatchewan premier calls out Trudeau to stay true to his word. Story continues below video.

The prime minister did not outline any specific plans to mend regional tension in the Prairies and in Quebec, where the Bloc Québécois more than tripled its representation. He said Canadians expect the government and politicians to work together to “figure out a way to move forward that isn’t as divisive and challenging as this election was.”

There were “big substantive ideas that weren’t fully debated” during the campaign, Trudeau added, although he didn’t specifically say what they were.

The Liberals lost their majority in the House, winning 157 seats, down from the 177 they held heading into the election. Conservatives gained seats, boosting their numbers from 95 to 121. New Democrats will return to Ottawa in smaller numbers, shrinking from the 39 seats to 24.

People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier lost his seat, as well as his party’s presence in the House. The Greens added one to their seat count, bringing their presence to three MPs.

Former Liberal minister Jody Wilson Raybould will also return as the sole Independent MP.

The night’s biggest success went to the Bloc Québécois, a separatist party that was on the brink of extinction a year ago. The party rebounded, growing its seat count from 10 to 32.

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and wife Nancy Deziel arrive at The Leaders Debate at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. on Oct 7, 2019.
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Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet and wife Nancy Deziel arrive at The Leaders Debate at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que. on Oct 7, 2019.

Though it remains unclear if MPs will return for a brief fall sitting, Trudeau said Wednesday that his government’s first action will be to introduce legislation to lower taxes for the middle class.

Bloc leader expects ‘good leverage’

Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet told reporters Tuesday that there are some issues that his party and the Liberals hold similar positions on, but also subjects where they are markedly different.

“I expect us to have quite good leverage,” Blanchet said.

The Bloc and Liberals ran campaigns that were built with an emphasis on their climate change policies.

Trudeau defended his government’s national plan for pricing carbon pollution on the campaign train. Blanchet has repeatedly advocated that it’s time to end Canadians’ reliance on fossil fuels and transition to green energy for environmental and economic gains.

The prime minister acknowledged some similar interests.

“There are issues, of course, like climate change for example, on which Quebecers and all Canadians agree, be they nationalist of federalist — and even sovereignist,” said Trudeau in French before he stopped himself. “Let’s not get into semantics.”

He reaffirmed his support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion Wednesday, saying it’s in “Canada’s interest” to continue with the project.

Trudeau said the election results gave him “a lot to think about,” and perhaps a lot to talk about, too. He said he had phone calls with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe on Tuesday, as well as with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

But it appears Kenney has more to say.

The Alberta premier is scheduled to speak to the province in a televised address Wednesday evening.

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