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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should use this time to manage the transition from honeymoon to working through difficult nitty-gritty issues.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

It's truly sunny days for Justin Trudeau, who can watch his opponents scratch and squabble in the corners of Canadian politics, giving him more space to govern.

To both right and left, in the Conservative Party and the NDP, there are not just leadership races, but debate over direction and, especially in the NDP, division.

For Mr. Trudeau's Liberals, that means some breathing room: more than a year before the Conservatives pick a new leader, maybe two before the NDP does. Now's the time for the Liberals to manage the transition from honeymoon to working through difficult nitty-gritty issues, before turning back to pre-election mode some time in 2018.

It's easy street. Except that they don't know where it ends.

Having unstable opponents makes a government's life easier. Having an unstable political landscape means an unpredictable election in 2019. The Liberals have no idea what their opponents will look like. Will they be centrists or radicals? And on which side? Throw in possible electoral reform, and there's an extra dollop of uncertainty. A first-term government can normally expect re-election but at the very least there are a lot of new what-ifs.

Right now, however, Mr. Trudeau has the luxury of weak adversaries. The Conservatives will be distracted. Party fundraising will be diverted to leadership candidates, and that means they probably won't have the funds for the kind of permanent-campaign advertising they used against opponents when Stephen Harper was in power. Even after the contest is over, it takes time to hone a new message.

The NDP's messy soul-searching could be even more useful for Liberals. Uniting the centre-left is their recipe for victory.

The NDP's garroting of Leader Tom Mulcair at this past weekend's convention was one thing, but the internecine squabbles over ideological fault lines were fun for the whole Liberal family. There was a dividing line between the moderate, labour side and leaping left activists, symbolized by the so-called Leap Manifesto. The NDP's passing of a resolution to discuss the Leap, which calls for a massive expansion of state spending and rapid move away from fossil fuels including the rejection of all new pipelines, split the convention. That didn't just pit the Alberta NDP government against a wing of the federal party. It highlighted a fault line: an oil pipeline to tidewater. That's likely to keep dividing the NDP through its leadership race.

That is also, arguably, the trickiest issue Mr. Trudeau has to work out, too. He has promised to hammer out a climate-change plan with the provinces, and – more or less – to approve at least one pipeline. That's no easy task, but the bar for political success just got lower, because the opposition on the left won't be able to tackle the issue without hitting itself in the face.

Getting through all those other uncomfortable governing issues the Liberals have to face without tripping will be a lot easier if the opposition is distracted.

And then, of course, they're rubbing their hands because opponents could hand them advantages.

The Conservatives might pick a free-market ideologue such as Maxime Bernier, or a social conservative, who allows the Liberals to win votes in the centre. Many New Democrats accused Mr. Mulcair of being too centrist, and, inspired by Bernie Sanders's socialist campaign for the Democratic nomination, want their party to move left.

That could hurt the opposition even more if there's electoral reform. If the government adopts an instant-runoff ballot that counts voters' second choices, parties with more radical leaders might find it harder to get second-choice votes. The NDP's favourite type of system, proportional representation, in which every party's seats match its proportion of the vote, might even encourage an NDP faction to split off.

But those are all what-ifs. When first-term governments are defeated, they usually defeat themselves. Mr. Trudeau's biggest problem is he doesn't know who he's facing. The NDP might decide a sharp left turn seems suicidal, and Mr. Sanders could lose, and a centrist such as B.C. MP Nathan Cullen could win, and attract those who feel the Liberals weren't as progressive as promised. Mr. Trudeau doesn't know what narrative he needs against the next Tory leader. The problem with easy street is he can't be totally sure he's on the right side. But for a while, it should be a smoother ride.

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