Flail­ing op­po­si­tion must warm Trudeau’s heart

The Peterborough Examiner - - Opinion -

What­ever pipeline tri­als and NAFTA tribu­la­tions face Justin Trudeau, he can sleep soundly know­ing his main op­po­nents are in even worse shape just a year out from the next fed­eral elec­tion.

Whether those Con­ser­va­tives and New Democrats can get their act to­gether in time to mount a se­ri­ous chal­lenge for power in 2019 re­mains to be seen.

At the mo­ment, how­ever, it would be risky to bet the house against Trudeau waltz­ing back into the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice.

This was the week, af­ter all, that the NDP cau­cus met in Bri­tish Columbia and leader Jag­meet Singh strug­gled in vain to heal the deep rifts that have opened in his party.

And to­day was the day for­mer fed­eral Con­ser­va­tive cab­i­net min­is­ter and MP Maxime Bernier was set to for­mal­ize his split with the Tories by of­fi­cially launch­ing a new, right-of-cen­tre na­tional party.

Wher­ever you stand on the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, these are not happy de­vel­op­ments for the Cana­dian elec­torate. What­ever the pros and cons of this Lib­eral gov­ern­ment, vot­ers will be served best if they have a wide ar­ray of ca­pa­ble, cred­i­ble par­ties and lead­ers to choose from when they cast their bal­lots.

Yet Trudeau’s main ri­vals are cur­rently do­ing more dam­age to them­selves than to the Liberals.

It would be un­fair to blame Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer for the be­hav­iour of the un­pre­dictable and ego­tis­ti­cal Bernier. But it’s still rea­son­able to won­der if a more skill­ful leader could have avoided a con­ser­va­tive show­down with a con­ser­va­tive showoff.

Scheer nar­rowly de­feated Bernier to be­come leader. While it’s been said politi­cians should keep their friends close and their en­e­mies even closer, Scheer fool­ishly alien­ated Bernier when, af­ter a dis­agree­ment over agri­cul­tural sup­ply man­age­ment, he dumped Bernier from his shadow cab­i­net.

Now Scheer must con­tend not only with chal­lengers on the left but those on the right. It’s too soon to pre­dict where Bernier’s quixotic po­lit­i­cal ride will carry him.

But the Liberals and Con­ser­va­tives have been closely matched in re­cent polling. If Bernier’s new party fields can­di­dates in rid­ings across the na­tion and man­ages to drain even a few per­cent­age points of sup­port from the Con­ser­va­tives, a sec­ond Trudeau term could be as­sured.

More than ever be­fore, it’s in­cum­bent on Scheer to prove he’s a strong leader who can hold to­gether the Con­ser­va­tive move­ment in Canada.

As for that move­ment, you’d think it would have learned the hard lessons taught by the years when the split be­tween the old PCs and the Re­form, then Al­liance par­ties, helped keep the Liberals in power. A party di­vided can­not stand.

Down in the polls, way down in fundrais­ing and weak­ened by splits of their own, the NDP need to wake up to this fact of po­lit­i­cal life, too.

De­spite Singh’s best ef­forts to re­store party unity, New Democrats are bit­terly at odds over the leader’s de­ci­sion to oust MP Erin Weir from the cau­cus over ha­rass­ment al­le­ga­tions. Mean­while, Singh re­mains at log­ger­heads with Al­berta NDP Pre­mier Rachel Not­ley be­cause of his op­po­si­tion to new oil pipe­lines.

A year ago, Singh was cel­e­brated as a young, stylish and charis­matic ri­val to Trudeau. To­day, as he waits to stake his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture on win­ning a seat for him­self in the House of Com­mons, the men­tion of his name is more likely to be met with the blasé re­sponse, “Jag­meet who?”

Whether you’re in or out of gov­ern­ment, pol­i­tics is a tough, bruis­ing busi­ness.

But given all these op­po­si­tion woes, it seems Trudeau can rest easy for now. Un­less, of course, he dreams of Don­ald Trump.

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