When did Trudeau and his Liberals lose their way?

The Star
Trudeau Cabinet James Alexander Michie

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his newly sworn-in cabinet ministers arrive on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Nov. 4, 2015. The pictures of Trudeau gender-balanced cabinet offered hope and promise to Liberals and voters alike, who now may be wondering what happened to that self-proclaimed, “sunny-ways” government, Susan Delacourt writes. (JUSTIN TANG / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

International Women’s Day came and went in Canada on Friday without much fanfare by Justin Trudeau, who normally uses the occasion to burnish his feminist brand.

That brand, like everything else around Trudeau this past month, has been tarnished by the ongoing SNC-Lavalin saga, which has cost the prime minister two strong women ministers and raised questions about whether he really walks the talk of new-style, female-friendly politics.

It’s not just the fact of losing Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott that has hurt Trudeau, but the manner in which they exited cabinet — the proclamations of their loss of confidence in the prime minister.

The unspoken but unmistakable impression these departures has left is one of disillusionment. As one veteran Liberal put it this week, the disillusion can be summed up in a telling photo comparison between 2015 and 2019.

The pictures of Wilson-Raybould and Philpott being sworn into office in 2015 show them looking at Trudeau with hope and promise; not unlike many voters who invested their hope and optimism in a self-proclaimed, “sunny-ways” government.

But in this chilly winter of 2019, that look is gone from the faces of Philpott and Wilson-Raybould as they curtly settle into lives as ex-ministers. Neither even offered the usual, perfunctory thanks to the PM as they issued their smouldering goodbyes to cabinet. As this veteran Liberal put it: “What happened between then and now?”

That is a very good question that goes far beyond this SNC-Lavalin controversy and to the worried heart of many Liberals right now. If the disillusion is confined to simply two ex-ministers, it can be managed with time and a bit of counselling to the Liberal family. If it is symbolic of a wider sense of lost promise and jaded experience over the past four years, a sense shared by former Liberal voters, it could be fatal to Trudeau’s hopes of winning a second term in office.

Up on a third-floor meeting space on the Sparks St. mall on Friday, International Women’s Day was being celebrated with a bit more buzz than at the Prime Minister’s Office a block away.

The Canada2020 organization, a progressive think tank in Ottawa, was launching an ambitious new project called “No Second Chances” — a deep look into a strange, disturbing reality about women who have attained the highest political offices in this country.

Read more.

Source: Susan Delacourt | The Star

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