Small also has dis­ad­van­tages

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Alan Hol­man The Med­dler Alan Hol­man is a free­lance jour­nal­ist liv­ing in Char­lot­te­town. He can be reached at: achol­man@pei.eastlink.ca

Money in the bank earns in­ter­est. Cap­i­tal, pru­dently in­vested in­creases in value. About the only un­spent cap­i­tal that doesn’t of­fer a re­turn, is political cap­i­tal. In fact un­spent political cap­i­tal quickly de­pre­ci­ates.

Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau the­un­der­stands this. To date, there’s no in­di­ca­tion that Premier MacLauch­lan gets it.

Af­ter his elec­tion the Prime Min­is­ter moved quickly on a num­ber of fronts, from a gen­der­bal­anced and di­verse cab­i­net to keep­ing cam­paign prom­ises that he might well have bro­ken or mod­er­ated, i.e. the with­drawal of the Canada’s jets from the Middle East.

There’s a political ax­iom that says politi­cians have a lim­ited time to be­gin the process of ini­ti­at­ing the pro­grams they wish to ac­com­plish while in of­fice. It’s gen­er­ally be­lieved that win­dow of op­por­tu­nity oc­curs in the first 18 months. Af­ter that, political lead­ers get too bogged down in the day-to-day minu­tiae of gov­ern­ing. Then, be­fore they know it, it’s time to gear-up for the next elec­tion.

Trudeau-the-El­der learned the na­ture of political cap­i­tal, es­pe­cially af­ter his de­feat by Joe Clark in 1979. When he re­turned to power in 1980, Pierre Trudeau quickly uti­lized his new-found political cap­i­tal and be­gan the process of Con­sti­tu­tional re­form which be­came the hall­mark of his political ca­reer.

In just over three weeks, Wade MacLauch­lan will cel­e­brate his first an­niver­sary as Premier. Which means the shades will soon be drawn on his win­dow of op­por­tu­nity.

In com­par­ing the Premier to the Prime Min­is­ter it may be Mr. MacLauch­lan has the greater chal­lenge; given the strength of his cab­i­net, the strength of his of­fice and the strength of the Is­land’s se­nior bu­reau­crats.

The Prime Min­is­ter has a cab­i­net com­posed of tal­ented and ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple who are sup­ported by com­pe­tent bu­reau­crats and he has an of­fice, staffed by peo­ple he trusts with whom he has worked for a num­ber of years. Given all this sup­port, Trudeau-the-Younger has the lux­ury of be­ing able to spend more time be­ing leader, than on gov­ern­ing.

Of the two, even given the com­plex­i­ties of gov­ern­ing a coun­try as large and di­verse as Canada, the Prime Min­is­ter may well have an eas­ier time of it than the Premier of Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

Mr. MacLauch­lan likely spends more time in the ac­tual hands-on gov­ern­ing of the prov­ince, than Mr. Trudeau does run­ning the coun­try. Mr. Trudeau can del­e­gate; to his of­fice staff, to his min­is­ters, and to the bu­reau­cracy, with a con­fi­dence that Mr. MacLauch­lan can only dream of.

In part, this is a re­flec­tion on how the two came to of­fice.

Justin Trudeau spent six years as an op­po­si­tion MP and two years as party leader be­fore he be­came prime min­is­ter. It was time well spent. He im­mersed him­self in the party’s cul­ture, he got to know the elected MPs, and Lib­er­als across the coun­try. And he took the time to cre­ate the team that got him elected.

Mr. MacLauch­lan de­cided in the fall of 2014 to try and be­come Lib­eral leader and premier. With no com­pe­ti­tion, and mainly through his own ef­forts, he was Premier three months later. And, in the spring elec­tion, though suc­cess­ful, he at­tracted very lit­tle new blood.

On the Is­land its mostly old hands on deck, 80 per cent of the cab­i­net and 80 per cent of the Lib­eral MLAs are hold-overs from the Ghiz years. In Ottawa it’s just the op­po­site; 80 per cent of Lib­eral cau­cus and about 80 per cent of the cab­i­net are newly elected MPs.

The govern­ment of Trudeau­the-Younger is, in many ways, a sharp con­trast to the for­mer Harper ad­min­is­tra­tion. On the Is­land it’s mainly a dif­fer­ence in tone, not per­son­nel, with a pol­icy tweak her and there.

Mr. MacLauch­lan has a cache of political cap­i­tal, but he needs to start spend­ing it. Hope­fully, in the up-com­ing Throne Speech he’ll give an in­di­ca­tion of what he wants to ac­com­plish be­fore his time in of­fice runs out.

And it will run out.

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