It’s an unvarying law of politics. When you have no competition, you begin to slide.
Trudeau’s trouble is that there is no government-in-waiting right now. There’s just a social conservative political lifer living in hope that Canadians will forget his Harper roots, and a void in the NDP leadership that won’t be filled for months.
And so, Trudeau sits astride a mountain of ice-cream, wearing that signature smile across a face that in some ways can still afford to be smug.
Trudeau’s likeability rating remains high. His genuine affinity for people has no equal in federal politics at the moment. And compared to the jumped up Northern Republican who preceded him, Trudeau is as Canadian as an outdoor hockey rink in February.
But I’m not convinced that the mountain of ice cream isn’t melting, slowly, the way glaciers recede. That’s what the polls said — until the CPC selected Andrew Scheer as leader. Then Trudeau began to rise again. Heading into the summer recess, the Liberals have a ten-point lead over the hapless Conservatives.
But storms are brewing. Trudeau’s most immediate practical challenge to his feel-good, unbuttoned politics is the recent provincial election in British Columbia.
Trudeau made a major political blunder in aligning himself with a government whose rape-and-pillage approach to that special province is only now on display. The trade-off was obvious: Trudeau would play ball with Christy Clark and she would reciprocate by signing on to his national carbon policy.
Now that Clark and her band of corporate Liberal locusts have been thrown out, the extent of the damage they have done — and the degree of Trudeau’s sellout — is becoming more obvious by the day. Just one case in point: BC Hydro is $20 billion in debt largely because Clark insisted that it borrow to cover operational shortfalls so that she could produce balanced budgets. In other words, she pushed the utility deep into the red so she could fake it with the public on the true state of the province’s fiscal health.
Trudeau’s unholy alliance with Clark can’t be spun into gold by even the best set of rented tonsils. The prime minister was willing to barter away the environmental commitments he made on the campaign trail in return for a sitting provincial government’s cooperation on his national agenda.
Those matters touched the province’s very soul. This is B.C., after all — the environmental Mecca. And still the federal government gave the green light to what may turn out to be the worst megaproject of them all — the $9 billion Site C Dam on the Peace River.
No customers for its potential power output. No rationale for its construction. Undisputed proof of the project’s destructive effects on the Peace River Valley, its farmland and wildlife. And did I mention skyrocketing electricity bills for British Columbians who might still have to pay for this white elephant?
Then, of course, there’s Kinder Morgan. British Columbians have just elected a government that is opposed to it. The new premier opposes it, the Mayor of Vancouver opposes it, the leader of the Green Party opposes it, coastal civic leaders oppose it, and First Nations have vowed to take to the ramparts to stop it. I still remember the days when Trudeau was on their side — when they at least thought he was.
So far, the PM’s reaction has been every bit as corporate as Christy Clark’s. He has rather arrogantly asserted his continuing support for Kinder Morgan, while Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has sent the insulting message to British Columbians that they don’t control their own coastline. A nice, neighborly kick in the meatpies, yes?
Bottom line? Unless Trudeau goes back to the drawing board, as he promised he would do with the National Energy Board in reviewing all resource developments, he will be the skunk at the garden party when British Columbians vote in the next federal election. Justin should remember his father’s fall from grace in B.C. in the 1972 federal election. It all happened in one term.
And who would have thought that Justin Trudeau would announce a 70 per cent increase in new military spending, even if it is spread out over the never-never timeline of strategic planning?
Isn’t that a Harper issue? And wasn’t Trudeau the one who said Donald Trump could go fly a kite over the president’s demand for increased NATO spending by Canada? How much nicer it would be, and in keeping with his personal image, if Trudeau had made a commitment to soft power with all those billions — to diplomacy and foreign aid.
Instead, he’s mulling over whether to send Canadian jets back into the Middle East. If he does that, we’ll just be another gang member of NATO. This is not defence spending; this is war spending.
But there’s an even worse prospect. Part of this new military spending could be outlandishly Harper-esque: the acquisition of F-35 fighter jets to replace the CF-18s.
Candidate Trudeau said he would never approve the purchase of these over-priced, underperforming, single-engined stealth money-pits from one of the greediest arms manufacturers on the planet. Now Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, (self-declared architect of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan) is apparently holding the door open to talks with Lockheed Martin again. All because Boeing and Bombardier are in a pissing match over allegations by the American company that Bombardier is dumping its C Series passenger jets in the United States at “absurdly low” prices.
Trudeau promised public spending based on facts. Does this sound like fact-driven spending to you, or just part of the “acquisitions malpractice” of the whole F-35 debacle, to borrow a phrase used by a senior Pentagon official during Harper’s regime? What if Trudeau is caving into Donald Trump’s demand that military cheapskates like Canada get with the program? The timing is noteworthy.
Can’t you just picture Sajjan hopping in and out of an F-35 cockpit for photo-ops, like Peter MacKay? If it seems too categorical an about-face for Trudeau, remember his position on electoral reform.
This is the candidate who declared unequivocally that if the Liberals won, 2015 would be the last election held under first-past-the-post rules. The only thing sillier than breaking such a categorical pledge is the reason the PM gave for it — that the public wasn’t all that interested in changing the rules. Time will tell. What we do know is that three prominent Canadians — David Suzuki, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and NDP MP Nathan Cullen — all came to the same conclusion on this flip-flop: Trudeau is a liar.
Finally, what could be more slack-ass than Trudeau’s promise to restore Parliament from its former status as Harper’s rubber stamp?
Never have there been more unfilled vacancies in the senior ranks of the public service. Just this week, competitions for the ethics commissioner and lobbying czar positions were cancelled — and their incumbents’ terms extended for a second time. These are the two offices currently investigating Trudeau over his trip to the Aga Khan’s island and the pay-for-access scam.
And what happened to Trudeau’s pledge to improve an access to information system that was smothered like a kitten in the basement by Harper? Suddenly, the zest for reform has evaporated.
That’s why a group of senior, ex-parliamentary officers has advanced a plan to the PMO that would create an advisory body that would make recommendations to the government on parliamentary appointments. That body is designed to prevent the usual patronage appointments that all governments try to make. They are sick of the government unilaterally recruiting and appointing officers of Parliament, irrespective of credentials, as if it were the Senate.
Given all this — and a government omnibus budget bill that even turned the stomach of the Senate’s Liberal leader — Justin doesn’t have to wrack his brain this Halloween about what to wear.
He should go as Stephen Harper. He’s been wearing that outfit to work for months anyway.
Author: Michael Harris