I believe Justin Trudeau has made quite a decent prime minister, certainly at least a major improvement over his predecessor. The only important disappointment for me was the betrayal of his promise to end the current electoral system.
In any case, his star has faded. He is unpopular with the electorate and even many Liberals are thinking it’s time for his walk in the snow. His support is as low as it has ever been, with almost 60 percent of Canadians wanting him to step down. His Liberals have won three straight elections but with decreasing support, the Conservatives winning more votes in the last two.
He swept into power in 2015, his “sunny ways” contrasting sharply with Stephen Harper’s dreary grey persona. I would seriously not like to see his current rival, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, pull off a similar coup by exploiting Trudeau’s unpopularity.
He currently shows no intention of going. Quite the opposite. In an interview with the CBC’s Rosemary Barton, he commented, “With the challenges that people are facing right now, with the way the world is going now and everything that we are doing that’s making positive differences in a very difficult time that isn’t done yet, I wouldn’t be the person I am and be willing to walk away from this right now.”
I’m not quite sure how to take that. I sincerely hope he isn’t implying that he’s indispensable, that a successor couldn’t handle the challenges as well as he can. Male leaders often have great difficulty yielding power once they possess it. Autocrats like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping come to mind, but democratic leaders often have similar difficulty. Trudeau’s Liberal predecessor Jean Chrétien serves as an example. Chrétien’s reluctance to pass the torch to Paul Martin added to Martin’s troubles and helped lead to the election of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.
Regardless of the PM’s reasons for hanging on, some exceptional candidates for replacing him stand out, should they make themselves available.
My choice would be Chrystia Freeland, finance minister and deputy PM. Freeland, a native of Alberta, has degrees from Harvard and Oxford. As a journalist she has held editorial positions at the Financial Times, The Globe and Mail and Reuters. Her books include Sale of the Century: Russia’s Wild Ride from Communism to Capitalism and Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. The latter I highly recommend. In government, she has held a number of key portfolios including minister of finance.
And then there’s Mark Carney, not currently in politics but said to be interested in running for Liberal leadership. Carney also has degrees from Harvard (with high honours in economics) and Oxford (PhD in economics). He had a long career in finance and has been governor of both the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England. He currently serves as chairman at both Brookfield Asset Management and Bloomberg Inc. Among his international responsibilities he has served as the UN special envoy for climate action and finance.
It is almost amusing to compare the formidable financial backgrounds of these two with that of the cryptocurrency enthusiast Pierre Poilievre. We would be lucky indeed to have either as our prime minister.
None of what I write here is meant to dismiss Justin Trudeau. He is a scrappy and resolute politician. As one Liberal insider put it, the other potential leaders don’t “have anywhere near Trudeau’s wattage.”
So I’m not suggesting he couldn’t lead the Liberals to victory. I’m just saying, wattage notwithstanding, he has a steep hill to climb and someone else, particularly considering the exceptional talent available, may now be a better choice.