OTTAWA — The House of Commons resumed Monday amid weeks of mounting COVID-19 death tolls, provincial lockdowns, disappointing vaccine delays, a new U.S. president who dealt a crushing blow to a controversial pipeline project, and an ex-governor general whose vetting left the prime minister with egg on his face.
After a six-week winter break, MPs returned to work in a sitting mostly marked by political posturing and few signs of a willingness to work together.
The tone was set early in the morning, with a West Block press conference by Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole. Dressed in a dark blue suit and purple tie — the colour, a sign of bipartisanship, O’Toole noted the day marked a year since the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in Canada. Since then, he said, nearly 20,000 Canadians had died of the disease, 10 per cent of the population had lost their jobs, thousands of businesses had closed, and people were being asked to cope with mental health stresses from staying at home.
“Conservatives want the government to succeed,” the Tory leader said. “Our nation depends on it.”
Watch: O’Toole calls for immediate accounting of COVID-19 vaccines
“He does not take this issue seriously,” O’Toole said of Trudeau.
In a nod to parts of his party’s base who believe increased social spending from Western liberal governments will lead to “empowering elites at the expense of working people,” the Conservative leader also accused the Liberals of using the pandemic to experiment on “risky, ideologically-driven and unproven schemes involving the Canadian economy.”
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who later announced the start of public consultations for the 2021 federal budget, invited Canadians to submit proposals for how the Liberals could “build back...