Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau’s minority Liberal government survives first confidence vote

Trudeau’s Liberals won 157 seats in the Oct. 21 election, 13 short of a majority in the 338-seat House

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals survived Tuesday their first test of confidence in the House of Commons but got a pointed reminder of how opposition parties can still make life complicated for a minority government.

Conservatives mustered the support of other opposition parties to pass a motion calling for the creation of a special parliamentary committee to examine Canada’s fraught relationship with China.

The motion authorizes the committee to order the prime minister, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and Canada’s ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, to appear as witnesses “from time to time as the committee sees fit.”

But while that could tie up Trudeau and his ministers and dwell on sensitive diplomatic and trade conflicts with China that the Liberals would prefer to deal with outside the public spotlight, they will at least get to continue governing.

The Liberals, with the support of all opposition MPs but the Conservatives and one Green MP, passed a series of votes on supplementary spending estimates. The estimates passed on a vote of 205-116, ensuring that previously planned government programs get the funding they need to operate.

Any vote involving money is traditionally considered a matter of confidence. A government that cannot command the confidence of the Commons is deemed to have been defeated.

Trudeau’s Liberals won 157 seats in the Oct. 21 election, 13 short of a majority in the 338-seat House.

They must, therefore, garner the support of at least one of the Conservative, Bloc and New Democrat parties in order to pass legislation and survive tests of confidence.

On Tuesday, the Conservatives, who have signalled their intention to bring down the government as soon as possible, voted en masse against the estimates. They were joined by one of two Green MPs in the Commons, Paul Manly.

Bloc Quebecois and New Democrat MPs supported the estimates. They were joined by Green MP Jenica Atwin and lone Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former Liberal who resigned from Trudeau’s cabinet earlier this year over the SNC-Lavalin affair.

All opposition MPs supported the Conservative motion to create a special committee to examine the Canada-China relationship, which passed by a vote of 171-148. The committee is to consist of six Liberals, four Conservatives, one Bloc Quebecois and one New Democrat. Since one Liberal is to chair the committee and would vote only in the case of a tie, the combined opposition members will outnumber the government members.

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole made it clear the objective of his party is not simply to delve more deeply into the issues creating conflict between Canada and China but to cast a light on all Trudeau’s misadventures on the world stage.

“Why do we bring this debate on our first opposition motion? Because we have had serious concerns with the Prime Minister’s ability to govern in Canada’s national interest on the world stage,” O’Toole told the Commons.

“Literally, all Canadians now have no confidence in the Prime Minister when he goes abroad.”

ALSO WATCH: SNL skewers Trudeau’s mockery of Trump in high school cafeteria sketch

He referenced Trudeau’s ill-fated trip to India in 2018 and last week’s gaffe at the NATO summit, where Trudeau was caught by a live microphone laughing about U.S. President Donald Trump’s behaviour.

International Co-operation Minister Karina Gould suggested the Conservatives were playing political games with a serious situation and argued that existing parliamentary committees could do the same job of examining the relationship with China.

Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet acknowledged that political games were afoot and that the wording of the motion — implying that Trudeau and his ministers could be called multiple times to testify — seemed designed to ensure Liberals would not support it. Nevertheless, he said his 31 MPs supported the motion because it’s important that the government be accountable for Canada’s “highly uncertain” relationship with China.

The relationship went into a tailspin a year ago, following Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the United States, which wants to extradite her on fraud charges related to U.S. sanctions against Iran.

In what was widely seen as retaliatory moves, China detained two Canadian citizens, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who remain imprisoned without access to lawyers or their families.

On Tuesday, a Chinese foreign-ministry spokeswoman in Beijing said the two men’s cases have been sent “for investigation and prosecution” on national-security allegations.

China has also imposed a ban on Canadian canola and soybeans and had temporarily thrown up a barrier to imports of Canadian pork and beef.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

FILE – Residents of the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory southwest of Montreal continue to monitor a blockade leading to blocked railroad tracks that pass through their community as they protest in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on Sunday, March 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe
B.C. Supreme Court rejects Wet’suwet’en bid to toss LNG pipeline certificate

Opposition last year by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs set off Canada-wide rail blockades

B.C.’s public health restrictions on non-essential travel are reinforced by orders effective April 23, 2021 to stay within your own regional health authority except for essential travel such as work and medical appointmens. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 non-essential travel ban takes effect, $575 fines approved

Checks on highways, ferries between Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Interior

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Most Read