Lawrence Martin thinks that it's time for Justin Trudeau to plan his exit:
It’s getting near crunch time. If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to leave an opportunity for a successor to prepare for their fight in an election, he should announce he is departing by the fall and call a leadership convention for the spring of next year.
All indications from Mr. Trudeau suggest that despite his sagging popularity, he will seek a new mandate. That means he will be trying to extend his time in office to 13 or 14 years.
No PM since Mackenzie King in the 1940s has ruled that many years in succession. Pierre Trudeau was beaten in his 11th year before returning to power later.
And he had a paramount long-term policy goal for which to fight – his Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Justin has no life-consuming political project. He might want to rival his father's record. But ten years is about the end of any prime minister's shelf life. Justin has accomplished a number of things:
Along with his electoral record he has put in place an impressive package of progressive legislation that has expanded the social safety net.
Conservatives, of course, loathe Mr. Trudeau and his house of handouts. They have good reason. A decade ago, they had the Liberals down and almost out, languishing in third place. But Mr. Trudeau revived the party, winning a majority, then two minorities, running up the count of election victories by the Trudeau family to a remarkable seven out of eight campaigns.
But power itself can be life-consuming:
Justin Trudeau wants more. No matter that he’s skating on ice that is getting thinner and thinner. No matter that in this era of anger politics fuelled by internet polemicists and haters, he is the target of constant abuse. No matter that to run again when so much of the population is already tired of him would be an enormous gamble for him and his party.
He should be content with what he has been able to do. On social policy, there’s his progress on strengthening the Canada Pension Plan, on a national subsidized daycare program, on getting dental care started, on transgender rights.
There’s his work on equality for women, on abortion rights, on legalizing marijuana, on the rights of minorities. Some progress has been made in addressing the plight of Indigenous peoples. The number of immigrants has almost doubled. He’s done well on trade agreements (the USMCA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, completing the EU deal). He’s taking on climate change with a controversial carbon tax. And all the while he has kept an often divided party unified.
The Trudeau government faced three unique crises and challenges. In managing the coronavirus pandemic it did better than Britain, the United States and many other jurisdictions. It performed ably in handling the pugilistic presidency of Donald Trump. Its use of the Emergencies Act to stop the truckers’ occupation of the country’s capital was deemed appropriate by an inquiry.
There have been notable failures:
He is not about to repair fractured relations with the West. It’s been the fate of every Liberal prime minister for the past 60 years to be totally rejected on the Prairies. That’s not about to change. His leaving would lower the temperature.
On the ethics file, Mr. Trudeau has been damaged by scandals and semi-scandals. One could easily make the case that most every government going way back has had a similar number of ethical travesties. But Mr. Trudeau promised to do better and did not. His sticking around won’t change that verdict.
On the economy, the course has been set by his spending bonanza and time will tell whether it was affordable – he argues that the debt-to-GDP ratio is low compared to other G7 countries – or whether it will lead to deficit and debt anguish.
All said, Mr. Trudeau’s progressive mission has been for the most part accomplished. But the leadership style of the Prime Minister and his leftish thrust has alienated great numbers. He’s an overexposed lightning-rod PM, an acoustically irritating source of tension whose welcome seems to have just about worn out.
Perhaps he will -- like his father -- take a walk in the snow and decide to return to Montreal.