Liberals face chilly times ahead

The sunny summer is over. Fall has arrived for the Liberal Party, writes Evan Solomon.

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Trudeau watch children play in a sand pit during a visit to the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia New Welcome Centre during their Royal Tour of Canada on September 25, 2016 in Vancouver, Canada. (Andrew Milligan/Getty Images)

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Trudeau watch children play in a sand pit during a visit to the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia New Welcome Centre during their Royal Tour of Canada on September 25, 2016 in Vancouver, Canada. (Andrew Milligan/Getty Images)

“Let’s just get this over with,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a loud, Shakespearian aside to the duke and duchess of Cambridge as they arrived in B.C. for a photo shoot. Immediately many wondered if the PM had just insulted the royals—his own pirouette moment—or if he was just accommodating two people tired from a long trip. Whatever it was, the ragged, awkward moment marked the end of a sunny summer for the Trudeau government, and the start of a chillier political season ahead. The fall has arrived for the Liberals.

For starters the opposition is in high dudgeon over the moving expenses controversy— the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Gerald Butts, and principal adviser, Katie Telford, among others—have promised to partially reimburse taxpayers after claiming a total of $200,000 in moving costs for relocating to Ottawa. In a Facebook post, Butts and Telford apologized for the claims and hoped to get the whole story “over with.” But the Conservatives are demanding more details. In their post the advisers called the expenses “unreasonable” and the opposition has every right to know more.

Related: Unpacking the PMO’s moving expenses

“Entitlement” is the Liberals’ weakness—that’s as close to an axiom as things gets in Ottawa—and this controversy, though not fatal, has stripped many layers off the Trudeau Teflon. Issues like the blurry Afghan-Iranian biography of Minister Maryam Monsef, which once might have slid away, are sticking. Meanwhile, the spending controversy has been a defibrillator to the Conservatives. A few weeks ago some Conservatives were quietly admitting they expected eight years of Liberal rule.  Not so much now. The fight is back.

The Liberal brand is suddenly blurring. Are these really the folks they promised to be? If issues of transparency and spending are signs of the fall back to Earth, four big policy decisions in the next 90 days will solidify the new reality. Pipelines, health care, carbon pricing and the next budget will be the most crucial decisions this government makes in its entire mandate.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau has kicked off his pre-budget consultations. If his first budget was about saying yes to every Liberal campaign promise—even if it meant tripling the deficit—this budget will be the opposite. As columnist John Ivison likes to say, the finance minister will have to live up to his name: More? No! But no to what?

Well, not to pipelines. This week the Liberals approved the controversial Pacific NorthWest LNG project, a proposed $11-billion liquefied natural gas terminal near Prince Rupert, B.C. The agreement comes with 190 conditions that must be met. Still, it’s hugely important, economically and politically. Even though there’s no guarantee the Malaysian state-owned energy giant Petronas will actually build the plant—there is a glut of LNG in the market—B.C. hopes LNG will drive its economy. The province begged Ottawa to back it and got its way. In January, I wrote that this particular project would be the Liberals’ “Big Yes” of 2016 since they need to back anything that drives growth. It’s as big a win for Liberals as the June agreement to expand CPP.

But that one Big Yes comes with a price. The draft report from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency found that there will be massive CO2 emissions from the pipeline and facility itself. Many environmentalists and some First Nations groups who have been Liberal supporters will now turn against them. Another layer of Teflon gone.

Not only that, pipeline attention now turns to the much thornier issue of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline extension, which faces serious opposition in B.C. Trudeau may spend more political capital approving this one oil pipeline, which would solidify a Liberal base in the West and help Alberta. He certainly will not go hard on the TransCanada Energy East pipeline, which is bogged down in Quebec politics. No way Liberals risk their support there. But if Trudeau approves Trans Mountain—a big, messy “if”—he will have redefined expectations about his government.

The nos are coming, though, first on the health file. Health Minister Jane Philpott says she refuses to change Stephen Harper’s plan on health transfers. That means as of April 1 2017, the automatic six per cent increases in transfers that Paul Martin put in place revert to the Harper formula of transfers at the rate of GDP growth, with a floor of three per cent. Liberals once criticized this as a major cut to health care and the NDP are howling, but Philpott won’t budge. She says the Liberals will implement their campaign promise of $3 billion for home care and maybe money for mental health. It won’t nearly add up to the six per cent transfer. The provinces want to change the formula to reflect demographics, not population, but for now the plan is, essentially, Harper plus home care. Philpott says a deal will be done by December.

The health care file could do for the moribund NDP what the spending controversy has done for the Conservatives. They need an issue and this is it. Liberal, Tory, same old story. That’s their refrain after Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told me the federal government is keeping Harper’s CO2 emission targets—a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 from 2005 levels—and will impose a carbon price on the provinces if they don’t get an agreement. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall snapped a wheat sheaf when he heard that. This negotiation has to be done by November. Expect to see Brad Wall’s carbon wall.

Welcome to the postlapsarian phase of the Trudeau government: big decisions with long-term consequences on very short time lines. Consultations are coming to an end. It’s as if Trudeau has looked at the tough decisions and said, “let’s just get this over with.”


Liberals face chilly times ahead

  1. A real challenge for the Liberals in the fall is that to date they have focused on fixing issues that most Canadians never considered a problem to start with.

    Let’s face it, there is no real problem with Canada’s reputation in the world, our system of voting, the level of diversity in our society, nor our level of immigration.

    What Canadians really care about is jobs, housing and health care. Nothing new there. Unfortunately these are topics that the Liberals so far have considered beneath their attention, as they board the plane for the UN or another global conference.

    • Canadians are always concerned about jobs, housing and healthcare…….although there’s nothing wrong with them either.

      We are currently globalizing though…..and that affects everything…..especially the economy….so yes, conferences are necessary

      • Some Canadians would appreciate some ideas for the Canadians.If you want them to continually having Conferences and Retreats ,please put YOUR money, not ours, where your mouth is. Some people in the West, and probably the rest of Canada, would like our Government to concentrate on helping Canadians and not spending money on expensive “moving costs”, fancy entertainment for staff,and the Trudeaus holidays, let alone Iran etc.

        • a) The lives of Canadians improve through trade, peace and economic conferences.

          We are globalizing and all thee things have to work together. 90% or our problems are not local [in Canada]…..but global…..drugs, climate change etc and have to work at that level.

          b) You know very well that the supposed price of meals and so on are not a flat out bill for cash…’s an accounting practice.. It’s not the lambchop itself…..its the fuel used during dinner, wear and tear on the plane for that hour, pay for the pilot, and so on. A stupid way to determine cost in my opinion……but the very same method used by the Harper gang. Cons certainly didn’t complain then and neither did the media.

          c) You live in an advanced western country….with free health care, stores loaded with goods, huge numbers of cars and houses, groceries like meat, fresh produce and luxury items from around the world….We live a good life here. Your g-grandparents had nothing like this

          And still you complain…

          • You do understand, oh so informed, a baby can be born here in Canada to Canadian born parents and be considered an “Uninsured Canadian” therefor not covered under our fabulous free “health care” you speak of? I’m just a lucky/unlucky Canadian to have my newborn son held hostage at a Canadian hospital until I could pay off my debt to “free health care” … It’s a good thing a paediatrician didn’t bother to check my son and that he was born healthy or I’m afraid you as a taxpayer would be paying for him through foster care programs, because I wouldn’t have been able to raise the ransom for his release.
            You like globalization so much, why didn’t the global community pay for my son’s 11 hour stay in the hospital? How CAN a Canadian born citizen be an uninsured Canadian under the health care program, when other global citizens can arrive on Canadian soil and be “completely” covered medically? See some of us have actually felt the discrimination of being Canadian born. Would you like to compensate me for that cost of “free health care”? I still have a copy of the bill, as well as the ones charging me $75.00 per appointment for follow up care (my son came home from the hospital with 5 MRSA positive infections and is now a card issued carrier of HA MRSA) … I’m sure as he grows older he will pass it on to those with free health care to create more bills for the taxpayer. Yay GLOBALISM!!

          • Oh Tangwystyl….you poor thing.

            All the wonderful benefits in this country, but still you moan and whine because life isn’t perfect.

            Geez this might as well be Somalia eh?

          • don’t worry I’ll be sure to teach my son to grow up to the new globalized welfare social system … I’ll make sure he knows as long as he stays in Canada he won’t have to work, you and your “climate change” cash will pay for him for life!!! A lot of Canadians will be telling their children the same thing … why pay taxes if everything is handed to you free under this scheme … of course living off of the liberal plantation is what has kept most homeless, most drug addicts on the “dole” and off the “personal responsibility” train … I’ll just teach him to find blame (anywhere, reality or not like a good liberal sheep) so he can become a useful idiot like the folks who elected the Eunuch leader. It’s not Somalia but give it a few years and it will be. Who’s going to pay taxes when no one is working? Right, the immigrants will in 50+ years … maybe … go globalization, because I won’t be alive 20 from now to pay his way. You are so low information that you don’t get it … where has socialism ended up being good for any country that has tried so far? I guess you could say it worked for Hitler, for awhile.

          • Tangwystyl…..I just hope your son gets an education so he doesn’t grow up to be a confused whiiny brat like his dad.

          • only if your taxes pay for it, then I’ll make sure he takes that education to a country like Hungary, Russia, basically any country that isn’t run or elected by simpletons … btw I’m a Mom, who’s worked and paid into our tax system for over 30 yrs, like I said I won’t be alive in 20 years.
            Couldn’t find one country under socialism that worked out, could you?

          • .Tangwystyl…put the bottle down and go to bed

          • A great many Canadians want nothing to do with globalization. It will not benefit us in any way.

          • You don’t even know what it means Lois

      • Trudeau is a fool.

        Let’s talk about an individual’s security and all the thumping that’s going on for instance. Does the government spit it out to Canadians as Trump has to Americans? No.

        No one would believe it or would they? The broad diversity of stalkers and breaking into peoples homes (easy to hack when you have the passwords) and so on. Why? Entertainment? I guess it can be entertaining torturing an old, sick muslim woman. And it is torture.

        So thumpers is me posting or is it someone who has my password?

        I don’t speak Chinese, Economics, or Russian.

        • Pssst You don’t speak English either

          • Ever the Liberal Pain-In-The Butt, eh Emily?

            Yes it is the beginning of the Fall for the Libs but it will take another three years for Canadians to remember what a tax-and-spend arrogant bunch of fools they are – at least we will have the ever-so-polite Emily to remind us of that!

        • Blacktop….ever the cranky ole white guy eh?

          Too old to remember that I’m not a Lib?

          • I’ve read this whole stream involving Emily and she continues to show her bitterness and lack of knowledge. You were the first one in this stream to mention “free health care”. Our health care system and anything else the government provides is not free it’s paid for with our taxes. You seem to have some notion that the government generates money like a business. They only collect taxes and in the case of the Liberals, fritter it away.
            It is also interesting that here you declare yourself not to be a Lib. In one exchange with me you inferred that you were. So, I conclude that if you are not a Liberal you are either Mr. Selfie’s mother disguised as Emily or you are a communist. Actually they are one in the same.

          • Jerome, we both agreed you are crazy

            There aare several crazy people on here….go play with them.

          • Emilyone you are almost as rude and arrogant as Trudeau.By your replies to opposing comments, as the person being crazy, you show that you are also stupid.

          • Yada yada

      • Great thread, I hope emilyone got overtime from the office for that one, great defense you play. Your assertion that jobs, housing and healthcare have nothing wrong with them speaks to the obviously privileged position you come from. Because for a lot of the country they are huge problems, dont forget to expense your snacks during your defence.

  2. Money and backroom deals, can convince a lot of provinces to buy a lot of coats, if it gets that chilly.

    • Last week I said on this site, and have said many times before, that the more you go after Trudeau, the more his numbers go up, and I looked at Nanos Numbers today, and BINGO, Trudeau’s numbers went up. Don’t underestimate the publics perception of Justin Trudeau, his support by Canadians is going to be a locked in for the next number of years, so my advise to the MSM, take another luggage bag with you all, because this guy will be on an extended hunnymoon for quite awhile, it will probably end up being the longest extended hunnymoon in Canadian history, and as Beretta(Robert Blake) would say, “You can take that to the bank”.

      • I’m very deeply concerned that you are right. Look at what the Liberals have done to Ontario and Trudeau is on the same path for the country. By the time voters realize how much damage the liberals have done, the depth of the mess will be so great, I doubt we will be able to dig ourselves out.
        Obama has done the same in the US with his only legacy-a$17 trillion debt.
        Liberal money management is enough to gag a maggot!

        • That’s why Trudeau is ahead in the polls, that’s all the opposition knows how to do, is attack, and you never offer better solutions, the ones you have are from the troglodyte era. My explanation to you and others, is to keep up attacking, and while you are, I will sit back and watch the Grits eat your lunch for a long, long time. Because when you attack, you got nothing left in your own tank, you have nothing only rhetoric to offer, no solutions, only rage and anger.

          • Can you tell me anything the Liberals have done to justify a $30 billion deficit? And I have no doubt that their next move will be to restore the HST to its old level to provide more money to squander. So the solution is obvious-put the Conservatives back at the helm. Even if you assume they accomplished nothing more than the Liberals have, they spent far less tax dollars to do so.
            Harper reduced the HST to put a financial restraint on the bureaucracy and force some prioritization. Trudeau doesn’t understand the concept of restraint.

          • I think you are mistaken about the longevity of the Liberals. As I have said before, the polls mean nothing right now because neither opposition party has a leader. Once that changes, and both new leaders have had about a year to establish themselves, then the polls will carry some actual meaning.

            As for Trudeau himself, it has occurred to me that he is not a very skilled politician. Just recently, Jason Kenney stood up during question period and talked about an Alberta company that had been established for 60 years that is now going out of business due to the carbon tax increasing their cost to operate. Kenney asked Trudeau to address the fact that a carbon tax will hurt businesses. Trudeau’s response was to arrogantly rebuke Kenney by saying that “we are in Ottawa, not Alberta”. The response was so smug it was palpable. Naturally, his part stood-up and applauded. That kind of answer and arrogant mindset will ruin him.

            When you get down to it, and look at Trudeau the man, setting aside the window dressing that the media sycophants do for him, there really isn’t very much to like. He grew-up with a silver spoon in his mouth, has never had much in the way of a serious career, and rose to prominence because of his name rather than merit. That’s not a story that Canadians can identify with, and now that Harper’s shadow no longer looms over the electorate, I doubt that it will be overlooked.

  3. Chilly times ahead indeed. Everything changes when Donald Trump wins the US election. The stock markets will crash and people will lose wealth. As trade deals collapse, jobs evaporate and prices climb. Fascists blame liberal elites and intelligentsia, while they pour gas on the economic woodpile. The world will be on a war footing due to ignorant threats coming from a gunslinger with an itchy nuclear trigger finger. Terrorism will become routine as anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant hate becomes entrenched. Neighbor against neighbor, gun violence everywhere, KKK legitimized. Fascism again casting it’s deadly shadow over humanity. Yeah – It might be a tad tricky keeping things sunny and healthy in Canada.

    • Pass what ever your smoking or maybe get your meds checked

  4. Chilly times We have a scandal almost every week as the freedom to information is finally coming out on these pigs at the trough liberals, even today another report on 132G to feed his liberal cronies and executives with the liberal paper the Star,another free for all booze fest on our official aircraft.We have a minister who thinks its ok to lie on her immigration papers and knew off the lie for 8 years it’s goes on and on with these entitled liberal’s.I am sure that the die hard cement head liberals supporters will blame,moving expenses,booze bills, 5 star meals and a lying no integrity minister on Harper some how.

    • We haven’t had any ‘scandals’

      Go take a cold shower

      • No scandals. Cabinet Minister lies to Officials about where she was born. Two top Aids boosting their moving expenses.More Liberals quietly paying back excess expenses. Hiring a Liberal worker and supporter’ car Service. Hiring a French photographer to take pictures .Lots more too.
        I guess some of us dislike their extravagance with our tax money and I am not sure what is a scandal in your world but in mine scamming the taxpayer qualifies.

        • Same as HarpCo

    • The only money Harper ever looked after in his live, was his own bank account, he is the only PM I ever heard of to go into office as a WAIF, and come out of it as a millionaire, so who really got the shaft!! He never had the guts to face the people after his lost the last election, what does that tell you about his character and distain he had for the people of this country, who elected him for 10 years. He is still a WAIF, but, only this time, he is a rich WAIF.

  5. Evan. You’ve got to be kidding. Some moving expenses and ITS ALL OVER! Get a grip.

  6. Now then, since nobody can stay on track….Justin told us a couple of weeks ago that Fall would be difficult because some major-heavy-duty decisions were coming up.

    Things are right on schedule

    • Everything is tough for Trudeau since he’s severely, intellectually challenged. As is the case with you, if brains were gun powder, he couldn’t blow his nose.

      • I’ll bet that’s a real knee-slapper down at the Legion

        Now take Jack Daniels to bed with you


        • I don’t drink. But the more I have to put up with the inept Liberals, I might just start.

          • No, just move to Texas.

            You’ll raise the IQ of both countries.

  7. The only people Evan who thought that there were sunny days ahead were the media (who end all in on wee Justin) and twits (who twittered all day long about how wonderful Mr. Potato Head is).

    Grown ups decided to hunker down, protect their assets and hoped for the best.

    • Maureen,
      You are absolutely right. We have a Liberally biased media-they try to make Trudeau’s poop smell like roses!

  8. Admittedly, although Conservative at heart, I never took to Prime Minister Trudeau’s predecessor, Mr Harper’s leadership style. But, if I’m not mistaking, wasn’t the Pacific NorthWest LNG deal a Conservative party platform? And didn’t Mr Trudeau adamantly campaign against it? As he did many other Conservative policies that he now seems to be warming up to? The national love fest that we endured upon Mr Trudeau’s election victory seems to be a distant memory now. The reality of Canada’s economic interdependence is starting to take hold, and the irony is that Mr harper acknowledged it all along