Opinion-Policy Nexus

Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau
Rideau Cottage
1 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A1

My Dear Prime Minister,

I hope you will not think me impertinent, but I must ask you: Why the devil don’t you get on with it?

Why, Sir, don’t you stop pretending you have no nefarious political motive as you traipse around the country, newly beardless and freshly coifed, handing out buckets of cash, a few million here, a billion or two over there? Why don’t you fess up that you are planting the seeds for a September election? Otherwise, why not leave us alone to enjoy our post-lockdown summer in peace?

Everyone knows your table is set. You have made your two crucial appointments: Justice Mahmud Jamal to the Supreme Court of Canada and Inuk leader Mary Simon to Rideau Hall. Both are excellent choices. Each has high symbolic value, Jamal being the first jurist of colour in the history of the high court and Simon our first Indigenous governor general. About time for both, I say.

You got your priority legislation through Parliament before it rose for the summer, except Bill C-6. That’s the Criminal Code amendment to ban conversion therapy; the bill’s fate – it is still before the Senate – won’t affect an election one way or the other.

And you’ve got the polls right where you want them, don’t you, Prime Minister? Last week’s Nanos Research survey is as good an indicator as any. It has your Liberals at 38.1 per cent nationally, Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives away down at 23.6 per cent, and Jagmeeet Singh’s NDP at 20.4. A lead of nearly 15 points over your closest competitor! Any campaign manager ever born would trade their grandmother (and probably throw in the family dog) for a lead like that. As Stephen Harper’s old campaign manager, Jenni Byrne, says of today’s Conservatives, “They have to be in a save-the-furniture kind of moment.”

The pollster fraternity agrees you are on the cusp of a majority government. The CBC’s poll tracker, which averages the major polls, has it Liberal, 35.2 per cent; Conservative, 28.4; NDP, 19.0. Another poll accumulator, 338 Canada, is virtually the same: Liberal, 36.1; Conservative, 28.3; NDP, 19.4. 

One might think, Prime Minister that, after six years in office, support in the 35 to 38 per cent range would be nothing to celebrate. But it’s not all that shabby, given the reality of five parties competing for votes, combined with a distorted regional distribution of support. The Tories are your only real threat and, despite recent erosion in Alberta, they continue to command far more support than they need between Ontario and the Rockies (a region with 62 seats) and not nearly enough in the big provinces of Ontario (121 seats), Quebec (78) and British Columbia (42). 

The 35-38 range is a heck of lot better the 33.12 per cent you got in the 2019 election. Do you realize that you set an all-time Canadian record for the lowest vote share for a party that ended up forming a single-party (not a coalition) minority government? Had it not been for the rallying-around effect of the COVID pandemic, your government would have been hard pressed to survive for even six months. 

Yes, you have beaten the odds. Since Confederation, federal minority governments have lasted an average of 479 days. Today is the 600th day since your minority was sworn in. 
This fall may be your last opportunity to exploit that sweet spot of post-pandemic public approval to regain a majority government. And governing is so much easier, and more fun, with a majority, isn’t it? So satisfying to be able to play as you please with the levers of power without a lot of disabling static from the opposition?

This brings me to the real reason for writing today, Mr. Trudeau. I understand the attraction majority government holds for you. But what’s in it for the rest us, the voting public? What could you do for us with a future majority that you can’t do for us now with your current minority?  If we give you back your majority, will we get better government? Will it be more responsive?  Will it be more open, more transparent? More ethical? More disposed to admit when it is wrong and to correct its mistakes?

Do we really want to create a replica of your 2015-19 majority? As I recall, it was not that wonderful – over-promising and underdelivering, with more than a hint – dare I say? – of old-time Liberal deviousness and arrogance. You earned the trashing you took at the polls in the 2019 election. 

Why would the country want more of the same old?

Just asking.

Your steadfast admirer,

Etc., etc.

Cambridge resident Geoffrey Stevens is an author and former Ottawa columnist and managing editor of the Globe and Mail. His new book, Flora! A Woman in a Man’s World, co-authored with the late Flora MacDonald, is being published this fall by McGill-Queen’s University Press. His column appears Mondays. He welcomes comments at [email protected].

Posted

Monday, July 12, 2021 - 10:31

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