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Tom Mulcair: When the Liberals fall out of favour, they fall hard


Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault had to admit the obvious during a recent interview. Appearing Sunday on CTV’s Question Period with Vassy Kapelos, Guilbeault explained that there will indeed be a cost to families for the carbon tax

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wore a bright green tie to last week’s budget announcement. It was supposed to be a nod to his big new vision for a green economy of the future. While there are worthwhile initiatives in the budget, everything Trudeau and the Liberals say on the environment and the economy has to be measured against their past performance. It’s been empty promise after empty promise, with no results. 

Trudeau has been in power for seven-and-a-half years. During that time the number of bureaucrats in the federal civil service has ballooned by 31 per cent. An astonishing number, especially when you consider that companies such as McKinsey are now billing the government approximately $21 billion per year to do the work of…the government. 

The cost of the federal bureaucracy has also increased exponentially. The budget’s promise to start reducing staff by 3 per cent after all of that hiring is the opposite of sound public administration. Undoing what you just did, without a plan, is mismanagement on top of incompetence. But that’s the way things are in Trudeau’s Ottawa right now. 

Telling Canadians that their expenses will now increase with the carbon tax is becoming a tough sell, even if you explain that it’s for a good cause and promise a cheque to help cover it.

Until now, the Liberals have danced around the issue and ministers were supposed to talk about the rebate cheques to be sent to households. The goal was to muddy the waters as to the cost, something Trudeau has mastered.

Not only was Guilbeault more open as to the price families will have to pay, he also decided -- out of nowhere -- to criticize Doug Ford’s Ontario Conservative government for not having a plan to deal with climate change!

That was a mistake on several levels at the same time. First off, Ford has seemed less than enthralled with Pierre Poilievre. What interest did the federal Liberals have in ticking him off? Second, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones! Trudeau came back to Canada from his Paris signing only to announce that he had the same plan as Stephen Harper. A plan he’d mocked a few weeks earlier during the election campaign. And even that he hasn’t accomplished!

Guilbeault’s admission, about the cost to families, shouldn’t have come as a total surprise because a carbon tax is (wait for it)…a tax!

When you want to guarantee a result in reducing pollution, you can use a cap-and-trade system, like the one that Canada and the U.S. put in place a generation ago to reduce sulfur dioxide and other emissions that were killing our forests with the acid rain they caused.

We put a limit on emissions, slowly lowered it and created a system of credits that allowed industries to buy or sell, depending on their performance. It worked because it was a closed system. The result was a certainty.

A carbon tax is trickier because it’s based on assumptions. Put a high enough tax on gasoline, and people will buy less of it. A pretty safe prediction. The hard part is determining the level of that tax, to know in advance exactly what effect it will have on lowering the GHG emissions that are causing global warming and climate change.

When Trudeau’s cabinet (including Guilbeault) approved the massive offshore oil project called Bay du Nord, they could no longer plausibly claim that they were serious about reducing GHGs. It was all for show.

Canada has had one of the worst records in the G-7, since signing the Paris Accord. There was great positive sentiment at the time, but there have been few results. Unfortunately, this has become standard operating procedure for a government continually pushing image over substance.

The budget documents equate hydrogen derived from natural gas with clean energies. They’ll be subsidizing those. They’ll actually be giving more taxpayer money to the fossil fuel sector. They’ll be subsidizing more natural gas and an-as-yet unproven carbon capture and storage technology. That taxpayer money, subsidizing more GHGs, will actually come, in part, from the carbon tax! Quite the irony. It’s not going to fly with people who know about the environment. For those who are looking only at costs, there’s of course nothing to recommend it either.


Trudeau did a good turn on the popular French talk show “Tout le monde en parle” Sunday, apparently trying to clean up after the Guilbeault interview.

He did a decent sales job, pleading that these weren’t deficits, they were investments for the future. Good lines that are starting to wear thin after years of empty promises. There’s a Trudeau “credibility gap” that is widening.

At the flagship English-language Montreal radio station (iHeartRadio’s CJAD 800) where I also work, I was gobsmacked by the generalized bad sentiment towards the Trudeau Liberals during recent call-ins. Something I’d never heard before.

It’s cyclical but over the long haul, English-speaking Quebecers are some of the most faithful Liberal voters in Canada. Trudeau’s recent budget performance seems to have broken that close bond.

Failure to lift a little finger to defend that community from Francois Legault’s outrageously unconstitutional Bill 96, that attacks equality of English and French before the courts, could cost the Liberals big time at the polls in some of their safest ridings. Trudeau’s reform of the Official Languages Act, Bill C-13, could even endanger the right of the anglophone minority in Quebec to control and manage its school boards. It’s a community with a lot to defend and an ability to organize. Trudeau can ignore Marc Garneau’s resignation over the issue. He can’t afford to ignore nearly one million usually staunch supporters.


When the Liberals fall out of favour, they fall hard. Jack Layton and I benefited the last time it happened. It’s happening again and it seems no amount of spin can counteract their inexorable downward spiral in Trudeau’s home province.

Poilievre is increasingly finding his mark. Abandoning some of his wonkier musings, he’s starting to connect. He remains abrasive and off-putting but Liberals should take no comfort in that. Poilievre is learning and is finally accepting to be coached. He’s scoring heavily on law and order issues and has a massive opening on taxation and the managerial incompetence of the Liberals.

Trudeau shows no sign of getting the message that he may be past his “best before” date. He seems to relish the idea of an all-or-nothing battle against the forces of darkness he perceives as being represented by Poilievre. Problem is, once the concrete has begun to set, it may be too late to reverse the “just tired of Justin” syndrome.

Canadians do indeed seem to be increasingly concerned about more pressing social issues such as violence in the streets in general and against cops, in particular. That’s playing into Poilievre’s hands. The academic insouciance of Justice Minister David Lametti seems to fuel the feeling of disconnect.

Last week’s budget included over $1.3 billion to continue to hire staff and find workarounds for the wretched Phoenix pay system that has more bugs than clients. It’s become a poetic symbol of the current Liberal government.

The prime minister was supposed to help his party rise from the ashes of entitlement and poor management. Instead, the Trudeau Liberals have become the Phoenix pay system of Canadian governments.

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




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