It was a rough week-end for Prime Minister Trudeau. His ill-conceived and badly drafted eulogy for Fidel Castro, a murderous, communist tyrant, brought him almost universal condemnation and, what is much, much worse in politics, made him appear weak, immature and possessed of poor political judgement. The Huffington Post (and others) report that his recorded video was booed at the 104th playing of the Grey Cup. He will have to spend quite a bit of political capital to overcome that.
And he will need all the political capital he can get because, despite appearances that he will survive the CF-18 replacement imbroglio, mainly because 95+% of Canadian neither know anything or care at all about defence spending, beyond wanting less of it, and despite the fact that his cabinet’s decision flies in the face of the expert advice of the commander of the RCAF who said that there is no “capability gap” if the government makes a reasonably timely choice, there are more, real challenges ahead. His government has elected to delay making any choice at all on the CF-18 replacement and to, it appears, tilt the playing field to favour one competitor (Boeing, builder of the Super Hornet) over another (Lockheed Martin, builder of the F-35 Lightening). But that, it seems to me, will not cost him too much in the way of political support.
But, as an article in the Globe and Mail points out he must soon deal with several more difficult problems. “The next month,” says Campbell Clark in the Globe and Mail story, “is heavy with issues key to Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal agenda, from peacekeeping to electoral reform, to a tangled knot of decisions on pipelines and climate policy,” Some will not be too hard to finesse, specifically:
- “When a task force on legalizing marijuana reports Nov. 30, his government will try to delay responding with its plans;”
- “It will be harder to stall on electoral reform when a parliamentary committee reports Dec. 1, especially if, as expected, opposition parties insist that any reform must be approved by referendum;” and
- “The Liberals have promised to announce plans by the end of the year for deploying up to 600 peacekeepers to Africa. It is, for Mr. Trudeau, a telling choice. His Defence Minister, Harjit Sajjan, has warned that modern peacekeeping means risk and danger, and UN officials have urged Canada to take on a key role in the most dangerous UN mission, in Mali. Now, Mr. Trudeau must decide if Canadians will really accept the prospect of casualties in a complex mission that will continue through his mandate – or choose a safer course.
That doesn’t even address the issue of child soldiers, or whatever they are, who are an integral part of conflicts in Africa. How will Canadians react when, inevitably, the sensationalist media accuses Canadian soldiers of killing children? The Toronto Star addresses this factor in some detail. I suspect it, killing “child soldiers,” might be a bigger factor in turning Canadian public opinion against UN peacekeeping than Canadian military casualties will be.
“But,” Campbell Clark explains, “the biggest nexus of decisions will come in the energy and environmental issues that Mr. Trudeau has insisted he can balance:”
- “This week, the government will announce whether it will approve the expansion of Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline from Alberta to Gretna, Man., where it links with a U.S. pipe, allowing the export of an additional 370,000 barrels of oil a day;”
- “At the same time, it must announce whether it will finally quash the Northern Gateway pipeline through the Great Bear Rainforest to Kitimat, B.C. That was approved by Stephen Harper’s government, with conditions, but the approval was nixed by a court because First Nations were not adequately consulted. Now, Mr. Trudeau – who has insisted Great Bear is no place for a pipeline – must say if he will kill it once and for all;” but
- “The defining decision is on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline to Burnaby, B.C., due by Dec. 19. Mr. Trudeau promised he could address both climate change and get oil to export markets. He’s under pressure, in a soft economy, to approve a pipeline. His government has been preparing the ground to greenlight Trans Mountain … [but] … it requires some political ruthlessness – it will upset allies such as Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, and clobber two Lower Mainland Liberals MPs, Terry Beech and Ron McKinnon, who oppose it. Approval will spark protests in B.C. and turn some Liberal supporters into opponents.“
Mr Clark goes on to explain that there is a potential for a Liberal “win-win” if M. Trudeau can carry this all off, but, he opines, “It also means massive risks: battles with his own base in B.C., the possibility that environmental voters are angered by pipeline approvals while pro-development voters agree with Mr. Wall. The political middle might shrink.“
So, just when he needs political capital for projects that matter he is being forced to squander it because of a stupid ~ that’s the right word ~ decision to honour one of his father’s many incomprehensible personal~policy choices. Now, his decision to not attend Fidel Castro’s funeral is attracting world wide attention, for all the wrong reasons: he looks like what I suspect he is ~ a weak minded amateur.
Then there are the bigger issues of coping with President elect Donald Trump, and with China and with Russian aggression (or opportunistic adventurism, take your pick) and with following up on one of his father’s (very rare) good ideas: expanding trade with partners other than the USA on whose markets we are, arguably, too dependant. They will all require him to make some hard decisions, too, and those decisions will also cost him some support and require the expenditure of political capital. And there are so many other issues from aboriginal land claims through health care funding to veterans’ benefits that will also require attention and political capital. Above all that there is the stench that continues to rise from the cash for access dungheap.
A rough week-end indeed … one wonders if the fellow in the PMO who, analogous to the Vatican’s Master of ceremonies, is supposed to whisper “Sic transit gloria mundi” into the prime minister’s ear before he says something silly, had the weekend off. Anyway, Justin Trudeau over-promised in 2015 and has been a bit cavalier in 2016 ~ sowing the wind; will he start to reap the whirlwind in 2017?