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Don Martin: I've never seen anything quite like the control-everything regime of Trudeau's government

On the bright side, there was no sign of Chinese interference.

Voters in four byelections delivered status quo results on Monday that show, if you squint hard enough, that the severely tainted Liberal brand has staying power while the Conservatives aren’t resurging enough to threaten as a majority-government-in-waiting.

So now, with the summer solstice dawning Wednesday, it is time for party leaders to adjourn into the real world to listen more and talk less, the better to figure out why voters may desire prime ministerial change but not enough to embrace the opposition alternative.

The polls suggest there’s more weariness than fury in the land at the frontrunning leadership choices as we reach the midterms of Justin Trudeau’s NDP-supported mandate.

Ask around. You’ll find voters severely fed up with a past-his-prime Trudeau, but wincing at the snark and snarl of a Pierre Poilievre they don’t yet trust with governing power. And they can’t even consider an NDP protest vote because they view leader Jagmeet Singh as the crutch for Liberals who don’t deserve an easy walk for the next two years.

With the Commons adjourning this week, there’s plenty of speculation about a reset for the governing Liberals in the form of a major cabinet shuffle, prorogation and a throne speech relaunch in October.

It is a government that needs all three.


While there’s some validity to this week’s bizarre praise of the government from former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, who hailed Trudeau as a leader delivering big-picture, massive-budget, nation-defining programs, it’s the government’s attitude, operations and ethics that rate concern.

Denialism reigns, finger-pointing is epidemic, consultation delays are chronic, public information is suppressed or scripted into meaninglessness, woke-overkill is rampant, ministerial accountability has all but disappeared and fiscal prudence vanquished.

Even the simple business of making decent appointments seems too much to ask. The government has botched anointing a governor general, RCMP commissioner, human rights advocate and one reputation-ruined special rapporteur.

And that assumes it’s capable of making appointments. As the Supreme Court chief justice noted last week, it won’t even fill much-sought-after federal judge jobs that allow bad guys to walk for want of a timely trial.

Meanwhile, this government can’t deploy a modestly equipped military for overseas exercises, blows $30 billion-plus to subsidize car battery plants that the parliamentary budget officer predicts will deliver little economic bang for jaw-dropping megabucks and remains addicted to overpriced consultants with friends in high places.

But most of all, it’s a government that casts suspicion on itself by appearing hesitant to aggressively expose Chinese interference in our elections lest it hurt the party’s political self-interests. With no next step in sight, it would seem the government wants to delay the inevitable public inquiry beyond the next foreign-influenced election.

This column was originally conceived as a cabinet report card on Trudeau’s ministers, but the list of the lousy performers became too long to bell curve into anything above a D-grade average.


The cabinet has entire drawers filled with deadweight in need of shuffling. Yes, that’s you Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, International Development’s Harjit Sajjan, Housing’s Ahmed Hussen, Heritage’s Pablo Rodriguez, Justice’s David Lametti, Environment’s Steven Guilbeault and Transport’s Omar Alghabra.

And there’s not a person with a pulse in Ottawa who believes Marco Mendicino will survive his consistently awful performance in public safety. The only suspense is whether he’s even in cabinet when the shuffle dust settles. Bet against it.

Even the semi-bright lights, such as Immigration’s Sean Fraser and Families’ Karina Gould, have delivered head-shaking performances, to wit the simple release of an updated passport filled with a controversial colouring-book level of pictorial history.

But I digress.

There’s plenty to trash in Poilievre’s just-not-ready performance if space permitted equality of criticism.

But I’ve covered the cautious “friendly dictatorship” of Jean Chretien, the dithering of Paul Martin and the secretive control freak kingdom that was Stephen Harper’s PMO and never seen anything quite like the combined preachy rectitude, chronic dithering and control-everything regime of Trudeau’s government.

And yet, as the byelections suggest, even after regularly lighting itself on fire the Liberals inexplicably contend as the odds-on favourite for re-election.

Perhaps, as my summer shutdown begins, the most startling insight from the year thus far was the testimony by Trudeau chief of staff Katie Telford. As the personified epicentre of all government decision-making, she swears the prime minister is handed everything that crosses her busy desk – and reads it all.

Absorbing the information must be a different issue entirely, but that revelation means Trudeau was informed and responsible during his government’s SNAFU avalanche of missteps, mistakes, scandals and ethical lapses.

So launch that summer reset, prime minister. Whatever emerges in the fall can’t be any worse.

That’s the bottom line.



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