For many Canadians this week, the news that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had shuffled his cabinet was met with a shrug. Other than a few big names such as Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, someone they had never heard of replaced someone else they’d never heard of in a job they didn’t know existed (minister of citizen’s services?).
And why should they care anyway. A cabinet of 39 (the PM included) is not so much a government as it is two Australian Rules Football teams both playing for the same side, with nary an opponent between them and the single goal line set by the political geniuses in the Prime Minister’s Office.
If someone did bother to explore why this person was promoted or allowed to stay in cabinet, while that person was excised, they might become slightly disoriented.
The sole apparent criterion for losing one’s seat at what must be a 12-metre-long table was being selected to take the fall for something that embarrassed the Liberal government (hello/goodbye Marco Mendicino, former minister of not being briefed on serial-killer transfers).
Being caught in gross violation of the Conflict of Interest Act, on the other hand, was not weighed as a consideration. This is based on the continued presence in cabinet of Mary Ng and Ahmed Hussen, both of whom were caught giving lucrative government contracts to close friends and family members in the past 12 months.
Given Mr. Trudeau’s repeat violations of the same act, it’s understandable that he didn’t make an issue of personal ethics. No doubt the only issue he really considered was his party’s public image as it enters the second half of its current mandate badly trailing the Conservative Party in the polls.
That’s not unusual in politics; find us another party that wouldn’t do the same. But that doesn’t negate the fact there is nothing in the cabinet shuffle that would matter to a serious person worried about the direction of the country.
This is a government that doesn’t need new faces. It needs new ideas.
That’s great, on paper. Canadians are living through a cost-of-living crisis, a related housing crisis and, worst of all, a period of scandalously low productivity that will directly affect their chances of prospering in the future.
To date, though, the Trudeau government has been more of a hindrance than a help.
The Liberals’ economic philosophy has been built around higher federal spending, high taxes, more regulations, more government intervention, and an increase in immigration that will see the country bring in 465,000 permanent residents in 2023, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025.
The result has been sluggish economic growth caused by the poor policy choices of multiple governments since 1980, the current one included, and which is now coupled with a rapidly rising population.
The country’s real gross domestic product per capita has consequently been falling compared with that of the United States and other advanced economies, according to a recent report by TD Bank – an outcome that threatens the standard of living of every person in Canada.
Fixing this will require a change of philosophy. The Liberals need to ask themselves whether bringing the population equivalent of 5½ Reginas into the country over three years is the best idea during a period of sagging labour productivity and a widespread housing shortage.
They also need to address what the TD report called “inefficient” regulatory and tax policies that have led to chronically low capital investment rates and a multidecade decline in research and development spending – two keys to a growing economy.
But will they ask themselves whether their policies are the right ones? Are they even capable of that? Or will they stick to their guns in the hope that merely changing the avatars assigned to their bloated cabinet table will convince Canadians that they are on top of the current economic crises?
The Trudeau government has arrived at a moment where it must show Canadians that it can shift gears and choose reality over Liberal dogma.
Canadians need to hear new ideas. If they don’t, they’ll go looking for a new government.