Damned if he does

This post, from the estimable and retired senior civil servant, diplomat and political insider (he was Brian Mulroney’s Chief of Staff after holding a senior appointment in both provincial and the national cabinet offices) Norman Spector pretty much sums up Justin Trudeau’s dilemma:

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I’m not going to repeat (well, not more than just this once) that Justin Trudeau is the author of his own misfortune. He pitted Québec and Toronto against Western resources; he sabotaged efforts to get Western oil to tidewater and so on.

While I do not believe that the current Wexit thing is as serious, yet, as Québec separatism was for three decades, I do believe that it is intensifying at a dangerous pace because, I think, the sense of grievance is just as deep, today, in Alberta as it was in Québec in the 1960s and ’70s.

Screen Shot 2019-10-31 at 08.22.43I see that Justin Trudeau has asked former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan (who was known, affectionately in Liberal circles as “Landslide Annie” because of her narrow victories in Alberta) to be an unpaid advisor on Western issues. While I hold Ms McLellan in high regard, I doubt she is well connected with Jason Kenney, Scott Moe and those who are most upset about the recent election campaign and its results.

Mr Spector also said, a few hours ago, that:

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Which leads me to suggest that the better course of action for Prime Minister Trudeau would be ~ and I invite you to finish tenorrolling on the floor laughing before you read on ~ to reach out to Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives and offer them, rather than the NDP or Greens, an informal coalition in which some of Andrew Scheer’s MPs, including a few from the prairies, would agree to sit as independents and from whose ranks two or three Independent-Conservative MPs from Alberta and Saskatchewan would agree to join the Liberal cabinet ~ until the next general election. They could be ministers without portfolio or, perhaps, could be given the energy file.

The Conservatives are a better fit than either the fiscally intolerable NDP or the Greens because they and mainstream Liberals share many common policy positions on social and economic issues. Any alliance, no matter how informal, with the BQ, would spell disaster for Trudeau in Canada hors de Québec and would not do the Liberals much good in the province, either. It is one thing to cooperate, even to favour the Province de Québec, even when led by separatists. It is quite another to cooperate in Canada’s House of Commons with a Party that is dedicated to tearing Canada apart. That will not work in most of Canada.

The Conservatives would have to update their climate change position, which is something that many observers say they must do in any event. But, see my remarks from a couple of days ago. The two or three MPs who agree to join the Trudeau cabinet, as Independents (or Independent-Conservatives in my words) and Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau would all have to make clear, publicly, that they are doing so in order to help the duly (and fairly) elected Government of Canada to govern in the best interests of ALL Canadians.

Justin Trudeau might have to break some new ground re how cabinet operate in the 21st-century ~ again this is something that some observers have said is overdue in order to accommodate some Independents in his cabinet. The current “rules” of cabinet government say that ALL ministers must ALWAYS support ALL cabinet decisions ~ that might be impossible for some ministers and, perhaps, it should be for e.g. the Attorney Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 07.37.15General (see the Shawcross Doctrine). (Perhaps Justin Trudeau could redeem himself, somewhat, in the eyes of some Canadians by inviting Jody Wilson-Raybould to rejoin his cabinet as an Independent to be the Minister of Justice/Attorney General.) OK, OK, maybe asking you to roll on the floor with laughter twice in two or three minutes is too much.

Justin Trudeau has made a dreadful political and socio-economic mess of Canada in just four short years. It is tempting to say “he made his bed, let him lie in it,” but that’s not good for Canada. What’s best for Canada is a government that makes us ready to face a recession that some say is due or even overdue. What’s best for Canada is a government that has a suite of environmental programmes that make sense (see my comments about a sane environmental policy). The Liberals cannot get there by aligning themselves with the BQ, the Greens or the NDP. But, for the sake of Canada, they can and should make common ground with the Conservatives. It’s the least damning option for Justin Trudeau … and for Canada.

 

One thought on “Damned if he does

  1. One observation from the first four years of the Liberal Government is the current focus on the deep differences in political priorities across this vast nation. Has the Liberal Government used these divisive issues for their short term political advantage, to gain favor for their political priorities? The map of election results from the recent Federal election highltes the unintended consequences. It appears obvious that these divisions in political priorities are well defined in to distinct regions of Canada.

    Can feelings of alienation in Western Canada be overcome by a simple gesture of appointing a recognizable public figure to be an unelected cabinet voice for disgruntled Western voters. If the experience with Liberal Ralf Goodale from Saskatchewan is to be considered a test case the result will probably be similar. If Prime Minister Trudeau is believed to be a serious team player, will the so called ‘Western representative’ ultimately just be a ‘mouth piece’ for current liberal policies? Will it take more than a news conference, with a sad face regretting the negative tone of the election campaign, to be taken seriously? Would the Liberal Party run a negative campaign again in the future, if that is what it required to get them in power?

    Will regional alienation be overcome by the current minority Liberal Government? Is it feasible for the Canadian political system to evolve in to a more equitable system? An electoral system where the country is not governed by the high population density ‘Windsor to Quebec City’ corridor? Are Canadians able to return to a focus on issues that unite us instead of issues that divide us? How much time does Canada have, to address these issues that divide us, before the feelings of regional alienation become too entrenched.

    Serious questions. It will take a serious feeling of ‘National Unity’ to address them.

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