While most mainstream media outlets have spent the year recording — and to some extent, regretting — the new prime minister’s celebrity and popularity (neither of which necessarily makes for a good leader), Trudeau has been watching the coalition that brought him to power begin to fray at the edges.
The polls are mostly irrelevant in recording this subtle erosion of political support. So the heavy breathing that followed the release of a recent Forum poll showing Liberal support “plummeting”, and the Conservatives closing the popularity gap from 23 points to just eight, was hardly justified.
Get a grip. There is no election imminent. In fact, there are literally years for Team Trudeau to shore up the political ramparts before the door-to-door sales campaign begins again. Besides, Interim Tory leader Rona Ambrose has done zero to allegedly drive her party’s favourability rating by six points, unless you count setting expense account spending records.
And with Harper surrogates like Kellie Leitch, Chris Alexander and Steven Blaney looking more like wannabe Thought Police than future prime ministers, no one is seriously looking at this collection of Harper re-treads as a government-in-waiting. That is all the truer with the Tory leadership race looking like a cross between a circular firing squad and a remedial French class.
Bottom line? Forget the polls; just remember who was supposed to be president of the United States, or win power in Alberta — or at least according to this group of faux “social scientists.” This group more often affects rather than merely records our political coordinates. With a few notable exceptions, polling has of late told us sweet F.A. about what is really going on in the public psyche.
Trudeau’s slippage is like that of every other politician who rides into office on the magic carpet of love and loathing — love for what might be, loathing for what has been before him. In his case, Canadians decided they would rather have a mouse floating in their Tim’s than another four years of an anti-democratic Pinocchio at the helm.
Stephen Harper had simply worn out his welcome. Like Donald Trump, words meant zilch to him. I, for one, predict that his new career on the international speaking tour as a kind of decaffeinated Bill Clinton will feature the same banal dreck he dished out as PM. Harper’s decade of cynicism, duplicity and reflexive megalomania at the head of a cabinet that viewed the world from its knees (Michael Chong being the notable exception, though his tenure was brief) had the country barfing on its shoes at the end. After the past decade, no land was more ready than Canada for a flirtation with a Prince Charming.
Trudeau took full advantage of the opprobrium felt toward the Harper government. He made the right promises on the right issues and the country gave him a majority that the pollsters didn’t see coming.
Where Harper ignored the environment, Trudeau became its champion; while Harper skewed the electoral system towards cheaters and voter suppressors, Trudeau offered wholesale reform; while Harper hid the facts, Trudeau offered transparency; where Harper shunned the premiers, Trudeau reached out to them; where Harper dissed and distrusted the First Nations, Trudeau said that there was no relationship that meant more to him.
You get the idea. Whatever he really is, Trudeau clearly auditioned as the Not-Harper leader.
Since that first photogenic snapshot of his rainbow cabinet being sworn in at Rideau Hall, though, Trudeau and his team have been whittling away at a popularity that in large part rested on public relief that the Harper years were over. A great many people have underestimated that fact. Everyone seemed to think they knew who Trudeau wasn’t; but now they are beginning to answer the more important question: Just who is he, exactly?
For a growing number of people, the answer is that Justin Trudeau is no prince.
If you are an environmentalist tired of Harper’s abuses, two, maybe three tar sands pipelines, and a monster LNG project were not exactly what you had in mind when you voted for Trudeau. If you happen to be a member of the First Nations living in British Columbia, you may believe along with Grand Chief Stewart Philip that Trudeau has “completely failed” in his duty to protect sacred lands in the name of the “national interest.”
If you took Trudeau at his word on electoral reform, you may be disappointed by his washy-washy commitment to change.
If you favour transparency in our public discourse, you might think Trudeau is a hypocrite for pulling a permanent shroud over information touching Canada’s jet-replacement plan.
And, if you think that one of Trudeau’s biggest promises, amending Harper’s police-state-encouraging Bill C-51, is vital, you might not like what you see in the Department of Public Safety’s survey about its review of this subject. It looks like the Liberals may want to retain some of the controversial elements of the Harper-era legislation, including warrantless access to information about Internet users.
At exactly the point where the shadow of ambiguity, if not hypocrisy, has started to creep across the Trudeau record, Time’s Divided States of America has sent a serial liar and narcissistic dilettante to the White House. While Americans must wrestle with the possibility that they have a president whose campaign manager in the recent election was really Vladimir Putin, a guy who wants to remain the Commander-in-Chief of the Apprentice over at NBC despite his new daytime job, and who hands out senior appointments in his administration to climate deniers, wrestling managers and bigots, Justin Trudeau has stepped into the spotlight of history and big-time politics.
Donald Trump hates pretty much everything about Canada, from the political stripe of our government to our publicly-funded medicare plan. Having handed the American Environmental Protection Agency over to a climate change denier, he won’t be a big fan of Trudeau’s recent carbon tax framework, supported by 11 out of 13 other political jurisdictions in this country. Since he hates Obamacare, imagine what he thinks of our publicly-funded medicare system. As for NAFTA, he wants to tear it up and start all over again — and not to Make Canada Great Again.
The only thing that stands between being shorn like sheep at the hands of Donald Trump, and retaining our national integrity is Justin Trudeau. All the pressure will be on him to cooperate with the Americans as our most important trading partner. All the pressure will be applied to accept that Trump is the Elephant and we are the Mouse in most dealings. Potential CPC leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary has already taken to Youtube to predict the outcome of the coming collision. It will be, he said, Godzilla versus Bambi.
I prefer David v. Goliath. O’Leary forgets some powerful channelling going on here. Pierre Trudeau became a famous political leader in part by blazing his own path, instead of the one the Americans clearly marked for him.
There is already one early sign that Pierre’s son remembers this. During the recent First Ministers meeting on carbon pricing, Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall suggested that the new carbon tax would put some Saskatchewan companies at a competitive disadvantage because America is taking a different approach. “Trump has vowed to scrap many of the Green friendly regulations of President Obama.” Let’s not be naive, Wall said.
Trudeau answered with a straight left to the premier’s chin: “I think all Canadians know that Canadian climate-change policy will be set by Canadians, not by whomever happens to be the President of the United States.”
A lot can be forgiven of a young leader who gets the big shapes right.
Author: Michael Harris