When it comes to raw politics, it is a brilliant strategy.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his advisers really pulled one off last week. Politics 101. When you are in deep doo-doo, change the narrative and do the unexpected. That is exactly what they did, and it has a good chance of working.
First, you find someone else to throw under the bus. Bill Morneau was the perfect target for that. His involvement in the WE Charity scandal blots his copy book, not withstanding that his prime minister is painted with exactly the same brush.
More importantly, it is the perfect excuse to get him out of the way, as a finance minister who had hoped to manage an economic recovery that would reduce an historic and crippling deficit and debt, whereas the Liberal establishment clearly wants to boost post-pandemic spending on new social programs.
Next, you prorogue Parliament. The Government says it was necessary in order to “reset” their political agenda this fall, with a Speech from the Throne and a budget. Simply not true. In September, they could have prorogued Parliament on a Monday and recalled it on Thursday, with a Throne Speech and the whole nine yards. They still could have used this next month to get ready for that.
There was only one reason to prorogue now, and that was to stop parliamentary committees from continuing to probe the various scandals brought about by Trudeau and his government. The hope is that by the time these committees get back to work this fall, the thirst for blood will be overtaken by other strategically planned events. Again, from a Liberal perspective, a smart move.
The icing on the cake, however, is the appointment of Chrystia Freeland, the deputy prime minister, to the dual role of minister of finance. It accomplishes several goals. First, she will do a super job for the government as finance minister and second, she will not buck their new social agenda.
Those who question Chrystia Freeland’s credentials are barking up the wrong tree. It is fair game to disagree with her ideology, but not with her credentials. She attended two of the top universities in the world, Oxford and Cambridge. She is a Rhodes Scholar and a published author. She has held two senior ministries in the Trudeau Government. She plays well with others. She is not afraid to cross party lines to get things done either here in Canada, or with our largest trading partner, the United States. In her five years in government, Freeland has proven to be a quick study. Anyone who underestimates her, does so at their own peril.
Another reason that Chrystia Freeland’s appointment as finance minister is a smart move by Liberal strategists is that she becomes even more front and centre as the star, and likely the heir-apparent, in a Liberal Government. The party will stick with Justin Trudeau for now. But if he messes up again, they have an alternative, one arguably more qualified and less tainted by controversy, and that is now being made crystal clear. The prime minister is on notice.
With their recent strategic moves in place, the Trudeau Government is now ready to “reset” their political agenda and that, to me, is the scary part. All signs point to a plan that will move the Liberal Party further to the left than it has ever been, with an overhaul of Canada’s social welfare system and ambitious, even if unproven, goals for climate change. All of this, with no real plans to pay for it and no effective commitment to decrease deficits or reduce our $354 billion deficit.
One way or another, with this plan in mind, the Liberals believe they will not have to worry about an election. They have the New Democratic Party between a rock and a hard place. The NDP will no doubt find much to like in Justin Trudeau’s post- pandemic plan, perhaps with social initiatives like universal pharmacare and childcare. They, too, don’t care how it is paid for. They will soon discover that the Liberals are “out-lefting” them.
The NDP may well threaten to support a motion of non-confidence in the fall. That’s politics. But they will be just blowing smoke. They won’t, and they can’t. If they did contribute to forcing an election, they would simply see many of their seats disappear as the Liberals fully occupy the left wing of politics.
Whatever happens, the Liberals think they are okay with their new strategy. Either the NDP props up the Trudeau Government for another year or two or, in an election, the Liberals pick up enough NDP seats to hold on to power.
This may all be well and good for the Liberal Party of Canada. As I have said, it smacks of a brilliant strategy for them. But the real question, the really important question is, is it a good strategy for Canada?
We have never been a country of the far right or of the far left and, in my view, we have thrived and punched well above our weight because of that. As a relatively small country based on population, global respect and membership in the G7 is at least in part because of our ability to strike an even tone between economic strength and a quality of life envied around the world. The Liberal Party moving farther to the left, as it inevitably will to hang on to power, does not help that important balance. It actually tips the scales toward extremism.
Shortly after this article is posted, we will know who is the new leader of the federal Conservative Party. Although I did not vote for him, my guess is that it will be Peter MacKay. But whomever he or she is, they will have a tough row to hoe in maintaining a reasonable balance in Canadian politics while dealing with, whether in Opposition or in Government, a solid coalition to the left.
But that balance is important. Social engineering without economic stability will not bode well for Canadians now or, perhaps more importantly, for generations of Canadians to come. Inexorably, there will come a time when the piper has to be paid.
We will have to be ready for that.
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