What a difference four years and a villain-free political landscape can make.
With Election 2019 looming, the Shiny Pony is dappled with a little mud; the Cons still haven’t found the batteries for their Andrew Scheer doll; and Jagmeet Singh, though doggedly rumbling down the runway, shows no signs of liftoff.
Voters might need an extra box to check this time around: none of the above.
...The trouble isn’t that the Liberals haven’t done anything.
It is that they have broken faith on so many of the big files. It was those big files that built the coalition that brought the Grits from parliamentary obscurity to majority government, picking up an amazing 148 seats in the process.
The PM boasted that no file meant more to him than the relationship with First Nations. But his promise of a new deal has turned into the familiar request from Ottawa to Indigenous people in Canada: “Trust us, be patient.”
That’s hard to do when the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls looks more like a resignation mill than a public inquiry. Meanwhile, nearly half of the native communities that expected better living conditions by changing prime minsters are still boiling their drinking water.
Pleading for patience is not a winning strategy when you are dealing with people who have been waiting for Canada to honour treaties, settle land claims, and offer some form of self-government for decades.
...Nor has arresting matronly protestors and land protectors at the Kinder Morgan site, and in the territory of the Wet’suwet’en in northern British Columbia, done much to convince people like Grand Chief Stewart Phillip that Trudeau’s new age of reconciliation has dawned. The chief’s conclusion, like David Suzuki’s and MP Nathan Cullen’s, is that the PM is a “liar.”
Then there is electoral reform, Trudeau’s “read my lips” moment from 2015. With a single broken promise on ending Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system, a pledge featured in the government’s first throne speech, another giant bite was taken out of Trudeau’s credibility.
From the point of view of his environmental supporters, no amount of rhetorical tap-dancing in Paris could make up for the fossil-headed decisions on climate matters at home.
...The government’s answer to the bonfire they have made of several key promises is simple: Justin Trudeau’s estimable personal popularity. Canadians like this guy, cool hair, left jab, quirky socks and all. But even that deadliest of political weapons, Trudeau’s likability, has taken some serious hits in his first term.
There was the distinctly bad odour that arose from the “cash-for-access”fundraisers conducted by the Liberals shortly after they took office.
Trudeau himself had said that there should be “no preferential access” to government. But that is exactly what he sold to high rollers in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
...However things shake out this October, it is clear that the old Liberal coalition is broken.
First Nations will not be showing up at the polls in record numbers to vote Liberal, as they did in 2015.
New Democrats who supported the Liberals to dump Harper and get electoral reform will be unlikely to trust their vote to Trudeau this time.
A lot of environmentalists, sickened by the gulf between the government’s rhetoric on climate change and its petro-politics, may also be looking for a new champion.
Even centre-right Liberals, put off by the government’s free-spending ways, could decide to shift their vote, or sit this election out.
...Anyway you cut the electoral cake, the Liberals end up with fewer seats in 2019 than they had in the Heave-Steve election of 2015.
They already have all 32 seats in Atlantic Canada, so there is nowhere to go but down. It is also unlikely that they will win every seat in Toronto again, as they did in 2015.
Although the Liberals could scoop as many as 10 seats from the NDP meltdown in Quebec, they could easily lose that many in Doug Ford’s Ontario, where polls have the Liberals and the Conservatives running neck and neck.
Some Liberal seats won in Western Canada in 2015 will be lost over carbon tax anger. The same goes for the few seats Trudeau won in Alberta, as both Premier Rachel Notley and United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney continue to blast Ottawa for the province’s economic woes in the oil patch.
British Columbia provides the most intriguing possibilities for some genuine October surprises when the votes are counted.
It is hard to see how the Liberals can hold on to all 17 seats from 2015, given the organized displeasure their policies have inspired in both First Nations and environmentalists. It goes well beyond mere disagreement; it is betrayal. It is the kind of emotion that puts feet in the street — and bodies in the voting booth.
...The voter turnout will be lower, and when the dust settles, Justin Trudeau will still be prime minister, though probably at the head of a minority government; Andrew Scheer will still be Opposition leader with a few more MPs, and the NDP will be planning another leadership convention.
The potential Cinderella story of 2019?
Depending on who attracts the disaffected progressive vote leaking from both the Liberals and the NDP, Elizabeth May could be getting a belated wedding present sometime on the evening of Oct. 21.
With Green provincial breakthroughs in B.C., Ontario, New Brunswick and P.E.I., May could finally have some parliamentary company in her plucky Party of One.