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Don Martin: Who will step up to have 'The Talk' with Trudeau?


It’s time someone sat Justin Trudeau down for The Talk.

It happens to the best of them, that moment in a prime minister’s reign when a top staffer, political ally or even a trusted family member finally tells them what they need to hear instead of what they want to hear.

The Talk is invariably about telling them it’s time to go.

Trudeau needs to be told what he clearly doesn’t understand, that his sunny days have sunset, that his dismal poll numbers will not suddenly rebound and that there’s a low probability he will win re-election despite facing a hard-to-like opponent in Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre.

But ego and vanity are a potent combination in leadership politics. They conspire to incite the afflicted to stretch one term too far; to risk it all for a final shot of election glory and watch their political careers crater in a concession speech and same-night resignation. Exhibit A: Stephen Harper.

The signs are everywhere this condition is infecting Trudeau’s mindset as he now seems deadly serious about seeking re-election in 2025.

The prime minister seemed to believe a popularity rebound would be as simple as a cabinet shuffle, a few photogenic visits to disaster areas with a hand over his heart or wildly fearmongering his opponent.

But the cabinet shuffle was a bust as a revitalization project. It left weak ministers like Bill Blair and Harjit Sajjan in over-their-head portfolios, a newcomer lineup filled with virtue signalling over merit, and fed-up backbenchers primed to stir up trouble if the party’s downward spiral continues.

And the jawdropper of the summer was watching Trudeau fumble the reigning issue of the year, the critical shortage of affordable housing. He let his spin doctors whisper to the media that it would be his cabinet retreat’s top-priority consideration, allowed his new housing minister to float a trial balloon about limiting international student numbers to ease the squeeze and then announced . . . NOTHING.

In lieu of action, Trudeau tossed out the usual word salad.

We’re the "best country in the world and let us make it even better…we are rolling up our sleeves and getting work done…we are looking forward to continuing to do the work we’ve been doing on housing."

Such bland babble almost makes you almost yearn for the eloquent-by-comparison "helping the middle class and people working hard to join it" mantra.

But empty words now match inaction by a prime minister who churns out a daily itinerary heavy on ‘private meetings’ (four this week), readouts of phone chats with second-tier foreign leaders (Wednesday it was with the prime minister of North Macedonia, “the second most mountainous country in the world”) and posing in elaborately unnecessary photo-ops.

Meanwhile we’re the laughing stock of the G7 on military readiness, we’ve got social media giants blacking out emergency domestic news and a government continuing to boost immigration while washing its hands of the fallout on cities, housing and social services.

The resulting leadership-driven meltdown is happening faster than even the most giddy Conservative could’ve predicted.

New data from CTV pollster Nik Nanos pegs the Liberals a distant third in the 18-to-29 age bracket which initially swooned over his leadership. Liberal numbers barely show a pulse at 16 per cent support compared to the Conservatives at 39. And then there’s the crumbling Liberal bedrock in Atlantic Canada.

Yet the prime minister appears blissfully unaware or, even worse, willfully unconcerned about the ugly fate looming larger on the horizon as his personal unpopularity drags a strong-brand party toward electoral defeat.

Perhaps his head is filled with the pixie-dust prospect of climbing higher into the top 10 list of longest-serving Canadian prime ministers, what with the exceeding the Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper reigns within reach.

Or it could be he relishes the prospect of taking Poilievre to the electoral woodshed to prevent his rival from undoing signature accomplishments like the carbon tax.

But without a vital vision to sell, Trudeau needs to be honestly told that a fourth-straight victory is unlikely and that ending a nine-year run with a decent number of big deal accomplishments is good enough.

Given the year it takes to plan a leadership convention and another six months for the next leader to gel with voters, now is the right time to signal change at the top for a 2025 election.

That’s why someone needs to quickly point out there’s an easy choice for Trudeau between probable electoral rejection and voluntarily jumping into his father’s 1960 Mercedes 300SL convertible and driving off to retirement on corporate boards, the speaker circuit and dating websites.

Trudeau needs The Talk to save himself from ending up a loser. Because if The Talk fails, voters appear increasingly determined to send him walking.

That’s the bottom line.




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