It seemed unlucky that Justin Trudeau was thrown into his prime ministership in a whirlwind, jetting to four international summits while setting up a government, revamping Canada's climate-change position and making plans to resettle Syrian refugees.
But by the time Mr. Trudeau stands up in the Commons on Monday to face his first Question Period as PM, it will be clear it was a rare stroke of good fortune.
This week, he returns to a domestic legislative agenda on which the first item is middle-class tax cuts. But issues that cross domestic and international politics, from Syrian refugees to climate change to trade, will be key in coming months. And the apprenticeship of Justin Trudeau has already allowed him to shed political liabilities.
He's circled the world, and met every important leader. He's had head-to-heads with U.S. President Barack Obama and China's Xi Jinping. He visited David Cameron at 10 Downing Street and had lunch with France's François Hollande at the President's Élysée Palace. He met the Queen in London, and toasted her in Malta, too.
More than photo ops, it served up political opportunity. In 30 days, Mr. Trudeau shaved the corners off his trickiest election promises, on Syrian refugees and air strikes against Islamic State, to fit the round holes of governing. He bent promises without uproar. He's used meetings with world leaders to endorse controversial international policies and advance domestic ones, such as action on climate change.
And a green PM, who was attacked as an empty haircut before his election, and was an unimpressive performer in the Commons as third-party leader, has a new, worldly, political shield when he enters Question Period as PM: He's talked about the economy with Mr. Obama and about terrorism with Mr. Hollande.
Mr. Trudeau racked up no great accomplishment, on foreign policy or domestic, in four summits in November – the G20 in Turkey, the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Manila, the Commonwealth summit in Malta, and COP21 climate talks in Paris. But his month-long rush actually helped his political agenda.
He departed for his first summit, the G20 in Turkey, as reports of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks were still coming in. He appeared rattled as he spoke to reporters before his plane took off, and didn't address them again for two days. Then, he asserted it would not change his government's plans to resettle refugees or withdraw from air strikes. But it did.
Settling 25,000 Syrian refugees by year end was already a daunting task. The Paris attacks raised calls to extend the deadline to increase security. Within two weeks of the attacks, Mr. Trudeau broke the specific promise, extending the deadline – citing Paris, but still arguing he's doing the part that matters.
Liberals insist the initial plan to screen people after they arrived in Canada was just as secure, but one said Mr. Trudeau's view turned when he was advised those among the 25,000 deemed inadmissible for any reason would be in legal limbo, unable to return and without status here.
By Nov. 25, in London, he said Canadians' perceptions about security had changed, and the "most important thing" was ensuring accepting refugees didn't become a source of division at home. It was also a let-off: His government received little criticism but now faces lower costs and a more realistic timeline.
Mr. Trudeau`s promise to withdraw Canadian fighter jets from air strikes against Islamic State, a move that's controversial with Canadians and out of step with allies, was also shaded with grey.
The opposition Conservatives saw that promise as a weakness that would highlight Mr. Trudeau's inexperience. After the Paris attacks, it seemed a recipe for discord with key allies.
But Mr. Trudeau was shading his position: He had portrayed it as withdrawal from combat in the campaign, but in November, he stressed Canada was to play a more effective, even beefed-up, role in the coalition, through training and other, unspecified military means – and CF-18s won't come home until that's worked out with allies.
Mr. Hollande, who greeted Mr. Trudeau warmly for lunch while 150 leaders arrived for the Paris talks, even endorsed his position, saying countries must act militarily against Islamic State, "according to their own means" – words Mr. Trudeau can now cite at home.
That shift was not accidental. The PM's aides had known they faced a flurry of summits, and planned to focus on issues where international and domestic aspects overlapped, according to one insider.
In particular, they wanted a fast start with the United States. Mr. Trudeau`s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, made plans to meet White House chief of staff Denis McDonough. Energy and climate change, a source of conflict when Stephen Harper was in power, provided an opportunity.
On Mr. Trudeau's second day in office, Mr. Obama`s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline buried an irritant, and the Liberals used the decision as a justification for action in reducing emissions. A senior Obama adviser, Brian Deese, travelled to Ottawa for talks.
The Paris climate negotiations were also a spur. Mr. Trudeau had promised not to set emissions targets until he reached a deal with provinces – a pretext for a quick conference with premiers. Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario announced new climate-change policies since he took office – a sign that some of the provinces saw Mr. Trudeau's agenda, and Paris, as political cover to act.
That's a boon to Mr. Trudeau as the clock ticks toward a new premiers' meeting on climate promised within 90 days.
On that, and on the other pressing issues on his agenda, Mr. Trudeau has yet to confront the toughest political tradeoffs, however.
Promises like a middle-class tax cut are relatively simple to deliver. But quickly rolling out infrastructure projects, boosting economic growth and creating jobs are, along with the climate agenda, his real challenges.
His government now faces higher-than-expected budget shortfalls and must decide if it will keep its pledge to cap annual deficits at $10-billion, or argue that what it really promised was stimulus spending, within limits.
Mr. Trudeau's apprenticeship has taught us he's willing to sacrifice the details of his policy pledges if he thinks Canadians will accept that there's a bigger picture that matters more, that he's willing to push forward aggressively on several fronts at once. And it has allowed him to shed some political liabilities before he even stands up to take his first query in Question Period.