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Tom Mulcair: Trudeau's new resolve


Jean Chretien hit the nail on the head when he described the major shortcoming of Justin Trudeau’s reign: lots of good ideas that are well communicated but no experience to actually get things done.

Trudeau was confident of a majority win when he called last month’s election. He once again had many proposals, after all, even if they rarely became reality.

Canadian voters let him know that just talking about good plans wasn’t enough. They expected results. That Trudeau was only able to achieve a minority government was a reflection of that dissatisfaction.

Putting together his new cabinet was Trudeau’s first opportunity to show that he understood the message that Canadians sent him during the last two elections.

Much to his credit, he decided to make major changes that should stand him in good stead as his third government rolls out.

He had made bold promises on the key issue of climate change. During the campaign his team had convinced several credible voices to chime in to say that despite buying a pipeline, Trudeau deserved a chance to put his climate plan into effect.

Canada has one of the worst records in the world for per capita GHG production and the worst record of the G7 since the signing of the Paris Accord. We are consistent outliers although we talk a good game.

Steven Guilbeault is one of the best-known Canadian environmentalists. Internationally, he is widely respected. Instead of getting named environment minister, as everyone had expected, since 2019 he’d been left to languish in the Heritage file. Trudeau appeared to have concluded that Guilbeault’s activist past would be a bit too much for the oil patch and for Bay Street.

By keeping Jonathan Wilkinson in charge of natural resources, Trudeau is hoping to have his cake and eat it too. He’ll have Guilbeault as cover when he talks in Glasgow and Wilkinson as cover when he talks in Calgary.

Trudeau benefited from the implosion of the Greens and managed to convince many NDP-leaning progressives to give him another chance on climate.

The only thing that will matter to environmentally conscious voters at the next election is the result. That’s an easily measured fact, not a slogan. Trudeau won’t get to plead “I tried”; effort alone won’t get rewarded.

In putting together his cabinet, Trudeau wanted to finally exercise the full power he has to determine who’s in and who’s out. He’s the head of government and it showed. He brought in lots of new blood, rewarded top performers and even had the courage to boot out a few people who thought they were shoo-ins.

In doing so, he was sending a message to his whole team: it’s not because you’re a minister that you automatically get to stay as minister. Ask Marc Garneau.

Many of the choices seem inspired and the whole exercise reflected a lot of thoughtful hard work. But it’s on the environment front that Trudeau has shown the most determination we’ve seen from him in a long time.

Putting Guilbeault in charge of environment and climate change is a remarkable, inspired decision. I’ve known Guilbeault for decades. He’s going to get it done and if someone tries to hamper him, he’ll know what to do. It’s simply too important a file to leave to the whims of politics as usual.

Trudeau’s resolve to start getting it done is refreshing and welcome. Future generations will be thankful.

Tom Mulcair was the former leader of the federal New Democratic Party of Canada between 2012 and 2017.


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