09:30:38 am on
Sunday 24 Oct 2021

Justin at the Door?
David Simmonds


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stops by White Spot in Coquitlam

Source: Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

In the 20 September 2021 election, Canadians bought themselves another minority government. A Liberal minority, of course. What does that mean for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?  

The end of a political career?

Is Trudeau nearing the end of his political shelf life?  For those who want him to pack up and go, two minorities in a row should be enough to make their case.  It was enough to send Lester Pearson home, in the 1960s, making way for Trudeau senior.  

It is not easy for anyone to put together a majority government with the intense regional loyalties baked into our system of government. The strength of the Bloc Quebecois takes away some 32 seats from a pool of 338, making it the task of the party that wants a majority to win 170 of the remaining 306 seats.  In addition, Alberta has 34 seats, almost all of which are Conservative from the get-go; the Liberals effectively have to look to win 170 of the remaining 272 seats to attain their majority.  Going into election day, they hold 157 seats. It’s not an insuperable task, but it makes you wonder whether achieving majority status in this election is too tough a standard to measure Trudeau.  

Since March 2020, Trudeau faced the worst public health crisis in a century. It required the exercise of government power to spend big and act quickly. He deserves credit for getting us this far through the pandemic. When he said he “had Canadians’ backs,” by and large he was true to his word.  

Having said he has our backs it is clear the bloom is off the rose for Trudeau.  Canadians reluctantly voted for him this time not because they see him as an inspirational figure. No, more because he was driving the bus when the pandemic it; it would be more chaotic to change drivers at this stage than to see it through with the present driver. 

His ability to inspire Canadians has peaked. They have had their fill of his studied sincerity, which never seems to produce a direct answer to a direct question. He has suffered the consequences of failing to meet the high standards of his own rhetoric. 

Trudeau has already led us for six years, a longer leadership career than many politicians. He did not get a majority, it would be best for him to move on, with the thanks of a grateful or, at least relieved, nation. Who would replace him? 

Liberal Party leadership tradition.

There is a history of the Liberal leadership switching between francophones and anglophones, but Trudeau, although elected in Quebec, is truly bilingual and bicultural, but that tradition doesn’t narrow the field.  Nor does the recent history of Liberal leadership offer much inspiration. Very few people will want to model their leadership aspirations on those of Stephane Dion or Michael Ignatieff.  

The deciding factor might instead be gender.  The Greens, the Conservatives and the NDP have all had female leaders. Kim Campbell was even prime minister for a short period.  No woman has led the Liberals. The time for them to choose a female leader is long overdue.   

Who are the likely candidates?  Chrystia Freeland has been Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Minister of Foreign Affairs.  She has the resume and the experience to put her at the front of the line to take over. She was brought into politics as a prize catch for Trudeau, perhaps the way his father was for Pearson. That might mean, however, that she is not a shoo-in. 

If we’re going to pivot to the female gender, why not pivot some more and go BIPOC; choose a Black or Indigenous person. Why? Because its 2021. 

The Liberals could look deeper into their cabinet and pull-out Maryam Monsef, the Minister for Women and Gender Equality; Bardish Chagger, the Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Youth; Mary Ng, the Minister of International Trade; and Anita Anand, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement. Of that group, Anand, who took on the difficult vaccine procurement task and stabilized its political toxicity quite effectively, could make some serious noise with her candidacy. 

Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, both ostensibly accomplished women, had a falling out with Justin Trudeau.  I suspect Dr Philpott has no desire to re-enter public life and Wilson-Raybould is eating her revenge cold by publishing and serializing, a memoir that accuses Trudeau of asking her to lie. Consider them, of course, but count them out of the running for leader of the Liberal Party.

As a complete left field possibility, what happens if we continue to experience more climate catastrophe and at the same time the Green Party has blown itself to pieces over non-green issues? That would leave the Liberals in need of some Green-leadership and Elizabeth May in need of a place to land.  What would stop her from experiencing a Bob Rae style conversion to the Liberal party and taking a shot at the leadership? She, as Bob Rae, is an experienced and well-respected parliamentarian.

What will be will be.

If Trudeau steps down, he can enjoy the spectacle of a leadership contest from the sidelines, as he can concentrate on raising the next generation of the Trudeau prime ministerial line.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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