Flailing opposition must warm Trudeau’s heart
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.