Trudeau’s Credibility Is Once Again On Trial

Authenticity has not been a strong feature of the Trudeau government. Whenever there is an issue, the story we get is the manifestation of a political strategy. Resemblance to the truth is a secondary consideration.

Prime Minister Trudeau could have said “Finance is the most difficult portfolio in government. It involves reconciling competing interests within government and on behalf of taxpayers. Finance Minister Bill Morneau has served this government and the country well for almost five years and has provided financial oversight as we work to repair the damage to the economy from the pandemic.

Sometimes important differences in opinion cannot be reconciled. This is one of those times. He and I have different views on how economic recovery from the pandemic should be managed. He has done the honourable thing and chosen to resign. I want to thank him personally and on behalf of Canadians for his service…”

Instead, we were fed treacle.

The federal Liberals were already having a bad week.

For most of this year, the minority Liberals have had a comfortable lead in the polls over the Conservatives, with their future leader to be named later. That support has gradually eroded after the WE fiasco, which embroiled both Trudeau and Morneau. It was made worse by Trudeau’s clumsy initial response and is now the subject of yet more ethics investigations.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives are scheduled to reveal the outcome of their leadership race on August 23rd. Until recently, it was not a very attractive prize. On August 15th, before the latest mess, a poll showed them 3% ahead of the Liberals.

Then things got worse. Trudeau failed to show up for one of the only four days of the summer that parliament was sitting, rightly condemned by editorials in the Herald and elsewhere.

Last weekend, various Liberal insiders leaked stories about a rift between Trudeau and Morneau. The Prime Minster’s Office (PMO) issued a statement saying that the Prime Minister had confidence in Morneau. It was received skeptically, and with good reason. Liberal supporters of Morneau took their turn at leaks, saying that he was pushing back against pressure to spend more borrowed billions on various green initiatives.

Finally, Morneau had enough and resigned as minister on Monday. He also resigned as Member of Parliament saying that he only ever planned to run for two terms and was going to put his name forward as the next secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). We are asked to believe that he willingly gave up being a player to seek work as a caddy.

His constituents might accept that he only wanted to run for two terms but would have expected him to serve for more than ten months. And he has freed up lots of time to pursue the OECD job without having to resign as an MP. This weak effort by the PMO hoped to distract attention.

Trudeau has appointed Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland as Finance Minister. She was effective in renegotiating NAFTA as Minister of International Trade, Foreign Minister, and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. She gets along well with the provinces.

With power becoming ever more concentrated in the PMO, it remains to be seen whether she will be an effective independent voice for fiscal management or just a communications vessel for the PMO’s decisions.

The problem revealed by her appointment is the shallowness of the Liberal bench. A cabinet of 37 ministers appears to be conspicuously short of strong players, particularly on financial matters.

Then Trudeau announced that parliament would be prorogued until September 23rd, effectively freezing all committee work, including ethics investigations into the WE fiasco, for at least six weeks. The 2015 Liberal platform promised that “We will not resort to legislative tricks to avoid scrutiny. Stephen Harper has used prorogation to avoid difficult political circumstances. We will not.” That is exactly what he has done.

Perhaps he hopes that voters will forget all this with the passage of time. Memories may get foggy, but repeated experience will have persuaded Canadians to always be skeptical recipients of messages from Trudeau.

Most political leaders have seen their approval ratings increase during the COVID pandemic. New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs also leads a minority government. In late May, Narrative research reported that his approval ratings had grown to 81% and that he led the provincial Liberals by 18% in voting intentions. He has called a snap election.

Three months ago, the candidates for the Conservative leadership must have been worrying that Trudeau would do the same thing. Now they and the other opposition parties might make the decision for him after parliament resumes.


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