Can the Liberal caucus retreat lay out a clearer path amid Poilievre’s rise?

Click to play video: 'Liberals ‘not in a good place’ as caucus meets to discuss plans'
Liberals ‘not in a good place’ as caucus meets to discuss plans
WATCH: The Liberal party is set to meet in London, Ont., for a caucus retreat on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in attendance following his return from India. Our Mackenzie Gray reports on location about the pressures the party faces, as Conservatives poll higher than the Liberals. – Sep 13, 2023

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s arrival at the Liberal caucus retreat in London, Ont., may be delayed, but once he returns from India it appears he may face turbulence this fall as parliament resumes next week.

Pierre Poilievre and the Conservatives saw a summer surge in the polls, with a recent Abacus survey placing the Tories 14 points ahead of the Liberals, raising the pressure as the House of Commons prepares to return next week from the summer recess.

Click to play video: 'Liberal caucus gathers as party slumps in the polls'
Liberal caucus gathers as party slumps in the polls

Fredericton Liberal MP Jenica Atwin told reporters at the caucus she is hearing some frustration with the government on the doorsteps in her riding, but remains confident in the government’s direction.

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“We have made progress, so the people who have paid attention to what’s really happening and haven’t gone down those rabbit holes on social media, I think they are seeing it,” she said.

“But it’s the others, it’s counteracting what’s been shoved in their face all the time that everything’s broken, which I don’t believe is the case.”

Click to play video: 'Trudeau cabinet shuffle: Poilievre says changes show federal government is ‘broken’'
Trudeau cabinet shuffle: Poilievre says changes show federal government is ‘broken’

In social media posts, speeches and responses to questions, Poilievre often says “everything feels broken” in Canada. This has been used to describe the housing market, addictions, airports, passport offices and more.

Atwin is critical of this approach, saying that while it can be attention-grabbing on social media, it doesn’t offer solutions to complex issues.

“We see often, you know, anything and everything is blamed on the federal government and it’s just not the case. Again, these are deep, complex issues that are multi-faceted with multiple levels of government that are held responsible. Health care is a big example of that,” Atwin said.

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“So it’s just really a matter of understanding jurisdictions and placing, not necessarily blame, but accountability. We need to ask more of our provincial leaders as well.”

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia buys motel to help ease housing shortages faced by health-care workers'
Nova Scotia buys motel to help ease housing shortages faced by health-care workers

One of the key issues facing the Liberals at their caucus retreat is how to make housing more affordable. It was billed as the main priority at the start of their cabinet retreat last month, but no new measures were introduced.

At the Liberal convention, Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said that work is ongoing.

“We know that people are hurting because of the question of inflation, of cost of living, the fact that for first-time homebuyers, it is difficult. We know that,” she told reporters.

“[Housing Minister] Sean Fraser is at work right now to find solutions based on also our electoral platform, which was very ambitious when it came to housing, and also looking at what is needed as the context evolves.”
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Status of Women Minister Marci Ien said they are not feeling on the back foot at all, but energized.

Ien says that she is listening to concerns around housing in her riding of Toronto Centre right now, and there will be more to share on the issue soon.

“There’s a lot of work being done there. I guess it’s up to us a little bit better to tell you what’s happening, but you will hear that in the coming days,” Ien said.

A common refrain from MPs on Tuesday was that the government does have a plan to address cost of living issues, but they need to do a better job in communicating it to Canadians.

Click to play video: 'Conservative party policy convention begins, as lead widens in polls'
Conservative party policy convention begins, as lead widens in polls

For Quebec MP Alexandra Mendès, she said the government should be more direct about their accomplishments.

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“The feeling that the government doesn’t have a plan is perhaps legitimate in the sense that it’s difficult to explain a plan that is so comprehensive, and the government does have a plan,” she said.

“But it takes time to explain this, and it’s not something you can do in a 30-second blurb.”

When asked about polling, the Liberal MPs said they were focused on interacting with their constituents to get a picture of how people are receiving their message.

For Atwin, her view is that the current poll trouble may be a bit of a fad, pointing to “people thinking it’s cool not to like our prime minister right now, which is a very weird phenomenon that’s happening.”

“So I think it’s just a product of the time,” she said.

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