Hill Life & People

Liberal caucus meeting cancelled so PM, MPs can attend Montreal’s 375th birthday celebrations

National Liberal Caucus Chair Francis Scarpaleggia said the caucus executive decided to allow MPs who wanted to be in Montreal for the festivities the option to attend, and added that cancelling a caucus meeting has happened on 'one or two occasions' before.

The regular Wednesday caucus meeting was cancelled because almost a dozen Montreal-area MPs, including ministers Mélanie Joly and Marc Garneau, joined Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Montreal for the city's 375th anniversary celebrations. Photograph courtesy of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Twitter page

By RACHEL AIELLO

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, May 17, 2017 2:06 PM

The Liberals’ regular Wednesday caucus meeting was cancelled because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several Montreal-area MPs wanted to be in Montreal for the city’s 375th anniversary celebrations.

“We went to a birthday party,” Caucus Chair Francis Scarpaleggia (Lac-Saint-Louis, Que.) told The Hill Times in an interview on his way back to Ottawa from Montreal on Wednesday morning.

Montreal—which just last week was in a state of crisis due to devastating flooding—celebrated the anniversary of the May 17, 1642, founding of the city with events such as: the ringing of church bells around the city; a special mass at the Notre-Dame Basilica attended by Mr. Trudeau (Papineau,Que.), his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre; and a tribute to the city’s founder, Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve.

There are more birthday activities scheduled for later this evening, but Liberal MPs were heading back down the Trans-Canada Highway around lunchtime in order to attend Question Period.

Mr. Scarpaleggia said the caucus executive decided to allow MPs who wanted to be in Montreal for the festivities the option to do so, and added that cancelling a caucus meeting has happened on “one or two occasions” before.

“It’s a big deal, this Montreal 375th, and so the prime minister obviously had to be there, and we wanted to be there as well,” he said.

Mr. Scarpaleggia added that caucus would return to its regularly scheduled meetings in Centre Block’s Reading Room, 237-C, on Wednesday, May 31. The House is on recess next week.

Despite the cancelled national caucus, some regional caucuses still met on Wednesday morning to discuss ongoing regional issues and to plan future business, including the Quebec regional caucus, which had a smaller attendance considering the dozen or so MPs who were with Mr. Trudeau in Montreal.

“It was an opportunity for us to discuss, perhaps, more regional issues. It’s an opportunity for us to have a smaller group. … There is always planning, we always look ahead in the calendar of what’s coming in terms of bills, in terms of the schedule, what’s happening over the next few weeks,” said Quebec Caucus Chair Rémi Massé (Avignon-La Mitis-Matane-Matapédia, Que.), adding that one of the topics currently up for discussion is the planning of the summer Quebec caucus meeting.