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Trudeau considers cabinet shuffle, proroguing Parliament to reset flagging agenda

The Trudeau government is reportedly considering proroguing Parliament and a cabinet shuffle as it faces the challenges of broken promises (notably the promise to implement electoral reform), a sharp drop in their leader’s approval ratings, and new Conservative and NDP leaders to contend with in the House of Commons.


Reuters reports, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks set to shuffle his cabinet and trigger a new session of Parliament to help refocus a flagging agenda in the run-up to an election in late 2019, say political insiders. Trudeau’s Liberals took power in November 2015 with ambitious plans but have abandoned some high-profile electoral commitments and are struggling to push others through Parliament.”


The article highlights Trudeau breaking his promise to implement electoral reform, his New Year’s vacation to a billionaire’s private island in the Bahamas, challenges with moving forward on the infrastructure privatization bank, larger budget deficits than had been promised, and running out of time to implement a new system to assess/approve  tar sands pipeline projects among the concerns.

One could also add pursuing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (contrary to the public opposition they heard during hearings on the deal), adopting Harper’s health care funding model (despite the promise of a “long-term agreement on funding”), failing to implement pharmacare (even though 91% of Canadians support universal drug coverage), adopting Harper’s weak carbon emission reduction targets (despite the promise to take bold action on climate change), failing to restore protection to 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers (despite the promise to restore and enhance these protections), and promising to recognize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (while at the same time approving pipelines without First Nations consent).

It then notes, “‘Things are dragging. We need a reboot’, said one well-placed Liberal. One option is prorogation – ending the Parliamentary session and starting a new one, which allows Trudeau to formally unveil a new agenda and inject a sense of purpose in the run-up to the election. ‘Prorogation is most likely going to happen. The only question is whether it’s in the next few months or early 2018’, said another veteran Liberal. …Another way to inject life into government is to shuffle the cabinet.”


The article also notes, “Although polls show the Liberals well ahead of their rivals, strategists say that is in part because neither of the two main opposition parties have permanent leaders. The Conservatives, who will elect a new chief on Saturday, have raised C$5.3 million so far this year compared to C$2.8 million for the Liberals.”


Trudeau has also seen his approval rating drop by 16 points over the past six months. Forum Research polls show Trudeau’s approval rating falling from 58% in November 2016 to 42% last month. Forum Research president Lorne Bozinoff says, “Trudeau’s level of approval should be of concern to Liberals across the country, as the once irrepressibly popular prime minister now sees his disapproval exceed his approval.”


As noted above, the Conservatives will hold their leadership convention on May 26-28. Yesterday, iPolitics reported, “Maxime Bernier has an 85 per cent chance of becoming the next Conservative leader this weekend in Toronto, according to the final iPolitics CPC Leadership Tracker, powered by Mainstreet Research.”


The NDP will choose their leader through a largely online voting process with first round voting results to be announced on October 1. Earlier this week, pollster Nik Nanos commented, “The election of a new NDP leader could potentially be more telling in terms of Liberal support because of the proportion of Canadians who are Liberal-NDP switchers. One can argue that with the past election being about change, it was those Liberal-NDP switchers who made Justin Trudeau Prime Minister.”


An online poll conducted by Toronto’s Campaign Research earlier this month puts the current party standings at: Liberals – 43%, Conservatives – 28%, NDP – 19%, Greens – 7%. Nanos notes that the Liberals should prepare themselves for a “technical correction” in this level of support following the two leadership conventions.


It is also notable that if proportional representation were in place – something that Trudeau has now rejected despite his October 2015 election campaign promise – these polling numbers suggest the Liberals would win 145 seats, which is 25 seats less than what is needed to form a majority government.


The House of Commons will vote on May 31 on whether or not to accept the recommendations of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. On December 1, 2016, that all-party committee presented its report to the House. It recommended, “that the government should, as it develops a new electoral system … minimize the level of distortion between the popular will of the electorate and the resultant seat allocations in Parliament.”


The next federal election will take place on October 21, 2019.