November 13, 2019 / 5:03 PM / 22 days ago

Canadian party makes demands for backing Trudeau's minority government

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The leader of Canada’s opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Jagmeet Singh, on Wednesday threatened not to back Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority government unless it commits to tackling some of his policy concerns.

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks to a meeting with Liberal caucus members in Ottawa, Ontario Canada November 7, 2019. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle/File Photo

But Singh’s demands should not be difficult for Trudeau to address, and another small party, the Bloc Quebecois, on Wednesday appeared to signal it was open to supporting the government, at least initially.

Trudeau’s Liberals lost their parliamentary majority in an election last month and must now try to govern with the help of other parties, and the NDP is the most likely ally on many issues.

Trudeau is due to unveil his plans to the House of Commons in the so-called Throne Speech, which is followed by a confidence vote, in early December.

“We’re absolutely open to voting against the Throne Speech if it doesn’t include some of the priorities that we know that Canadians need,” Singh told reporters, adding that he was not “drawing any lines in the sand”.

Singh’s priorities are a national plan to pay for prescription drugs, action on climate change, and concrete efforts to improve relations between Indigenous peoples and government.

Trudeau promised similar measures during his campaign. The Liberals are 13 seats short of a majority in the 338-member House of Commons, and the NDP has 24 seats.

Trudeau will seek to avoid big confrontations with other parties in his Throne Speech, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said after meeting the prime minister earlier on Wednesday.

“What I understood from what Mr. Trudeau told me is that there will be a lot of elements ... which could bring together many people in Parliament,” Blanchet told reporters.

“I think the government will avoid the worst potential areas of conflict,” he said after what he called a friendly 45-minute talk with Trudeau.

The Bloc, which seeks independence for the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec, could collaborate with the Liberals in areas such as fighting climate change and improving the lives of senior citizens, Blanchet said. The Bloc has 32 seats.

Working with a separatist party is politically sensitive for the leader of Canada’s federal government, however.

Writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Paul Simao and Tom Brown

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