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Politics in 2016

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Edward Campbell

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I thought it appropriate to begin a new topic, about Canadian politics in 2016, with a column about the Trudeau Government's "reach" and "grasp" (lots of the former, not too much of the latter) by Jeffrey Simpson. It is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/globe-politics-insider/reality-checks-await-for-ambitious-liberals/article27954558/
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Reality checks await for ambitious Liberals

SUBSCRIBERS ONLY

Jeffrey Simpson
The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015

The beginning of Justin Trudeau’s government recalls the lines from English poet Robert Browning: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”

The Liberal government is obviously not reaching literally for heaven, but instead, like all governments, for re-election. Long before that judgment day, it aspires for ambitious, far-reaching changes in many areas of government policy. Modesty is not a suit this government will wear.

In Prime Minister Trudeau’s covering mandate letter sent to his ministers, they are instructed that “our platform guides our government. Over the course of our four-year mandate, I expect us to deliver on all of our commitments.”

Not “most” of them. Not “many.” Not “all, if circumstances and money permit.” No, Mr. Trudeau says his government will deliver on “all of our commitments,” which, depending on how you count, total around 150.

Some of these commitments are unwise, as with any platform drafted in opposition. Some contradict others. Some will not fit within the framework of a balanced budget four years hence. None of these realities count in these early days of hope and ambition, and of reach exceeding grasp.

Another example. Faced with 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into residential schools – recommendations that range from the sensible and doable to the unnecessary or nigh impossible, and from the modestly to the hugely costly – Mr. Trudeau has declared his government will enact them “all.” Good luck.

The declaratory power of Trudeauesque ambition could be considered a refreshing change from the previous government, whose leader declared that he did not like “vision.” The Trudeauesque ambition also reflects a Liberal/liberal belief that government is the agent for social good, that it can deliver improvements in society and that contradictions and difficulties can be overcome by consultation, goodwill and effort.

Quickly and predictably, however, declaratory power has crashed against realities.

The government discovered that its ambition/promise to land 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada before Jan. 1 was impossible, as had been apparent from the moment the promise was made in mid-campaign. Sensibly, in the face of stubborn realities, the government backed off, and moved the target to the end of February.

Even that target seems too short a time to do the job properly. But long before this job is completed, lo and behold, well-meaning Immigration Minister John McCallum began speaking about bringing another 25,000 Syrian refugees next year, a commitment definitely not in the platform and for which no money has been allocated.

Reality also quickly dashed the campaign assumption that a higher tax on those earning more than $200,000 would rake in $3-billion. The Finance Department speculates it might bring $2.4-billion; outside experts think maybe $1-billion. Whatever the sum, a new federal tax will cause some provinces that have already raised taxes on the better-off to rethink their position.

Gone, too, is the target of a $10-billion deficit in the government’s first year, although the formal abandonment of this target has not been officially conceded. Just where the deficit will land, no one knows, but the amount will be so far beyond $10-billion that the government no longer speaks of deficits, preferring instead to discuss “debt-to-GDP-ratio.”

Economists understand this concept well, but it will befuddle many Canadians, some of whom struggle with understanding the much simpler idea of deficits. The more opaque the phraseology, the easier might be the political shift away from the platform.

There will be other disappointments. The idea that buying a fighter jet other than the F-35 will save enough money to refit the navy is a joke. Resetting relations between Ottawa and First Nations on a “nation-to-nation” basis when half of these “nations” have fewer than 1,000 people is easier said than done. And resetting the balance between natural resource exploitation and environmental protection by changing review procedures is a forlorn hope when so many environmentalists and aboriginal leaders use procedural objections as a pretext.

Before the election, Mr. Trudeau and his team benefited from low expectations. By pledging to use their majority to do everything in their platform, they have created high expectations that will not be easy to temper.

Citizens, provinces, interest groups, aboriginal people – just about every corner of Canadian society – have been promised something. The test will be to meet some promises, and walk back from others, which is what governing is usually about.


Some Liberal promises, unrealistic though they might be, will be hard to ignore. The country was tired of Prime Minister Harper's incrementalism and perceived penny pinching, and the boutique tax cuts that were too carefully (seemingly narrowly) defined; it wanted big, grand, visionary promises ... whether it wants to pay for them is quite another matter.

My suspicion is that the "honeymoon" will last until the budget is brought down. The Sun chain of newspapers never was "on board," nor were most of the Globe and Mail and National Post; the TV networks, from whence Canadians get most of what passes for information are still in the thrall of the telegenic and available prime minister and of cabinet ministers who still talks too much about issues that are not part of their area of responsibility. My guess is that post budget even the TV networks, which are very weak on analysis, will stop slow the cheerleading.

For my part: I'm still inclined to give Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the benefit of the doubts ... but there are many doubts and they are growing in size and number, day-by-day.
 

Rifleman62

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Personally do not think that Trudeau is the brains behind this government. He is the front person. While senior PS do provide the expertise, a body of unelected Liberal old school are pulling Trudeau's strings.

An example would be Trudeau's letters to his Ministers. I do not see him even coming up with the idea, let alone the direction. He signed the letters though, as he was told to do. Understand that a leader may formulate an intent and someone drafts the executables.

IMHO.
 

Colin Parkinson

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totally agree, JT has the brand name ans is quite malleable, the look on his face when confronted with the realities in Paris. Likely these events made him even more dependent on his "unofficial advisors". I have no doubt he was genuine in his desire to help the Syrians and enjoyed handing out stuff to them. But a real leader has to step back from that and allow his people to conduct those tasks and focus on the leadership side.
 

a_majoor

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Frankly, if we want to have a serious discussion about this government, its priorities and goals we should be making this a discussion about Gerald Butts and whoever else in the Liberal cabal that can be identified. The Young Dauphin is merely the front, watching him is like determining the direction of the Muppitt Show by watching Kermit the Frog, rather than understanding the vision of Jim Henson.
 

PPCLI Guy

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Rifleman62 said:
An example would be Trudeau's letters to his Ministers. I do not see him even coming up with the idea, let alone the direction. He signed the letters though, as he was told to do. Understand that a leader may formulate an intent and someone drafts the executables.

IMHO.

You do know that mandate letters are the norm in our system right?  That all of the last government's ministers also received them right?

What was different is that they were made public.
 

Infanteer

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Thucydides said:
The Young Dauphin

You realize that title was reserved for the heir apparent of the crown of France.  Justin Trudeau is the Prime Minister now, not the leader of the third place party, so you need to get a new nickname for your favorite bête noire.
 

Kirkhill

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Infanteer said:
You realize that title was reserved for the heir apparent of the crown of France.  Justin Trudeau is the Prime Minister now, not the leader of the third place party, so you need to get a new nickname for your favorite bête noire.

The Sun King?
 

Edward Campbell

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Thucydides said:
Frankly, if we want to have a serious discussion about this government, its priorities and goals we should be making this a discussion about Gerald Butts and whoever else in the Liberal cabal that can be identified. The Young Dauphin is merely the front, watching him is like determining the direction of the Muppitt Show by watching Kermit the Frog, rather than understanding the vision of Jim Henson.


You are watching a political machine in action ... it is not unlike the one which was in control for the past nine years, except that the management is, for now, at least, much more dispersed.

Prime Minister Harper had two problems that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does not face:

    1. An abundance (in politics two is too many) of conservative crackpots wanting to push the party out of the policy centre, the mushy middle; and

    2. A need to drag his party's two factions (PCs and Reform) into something like a cohesive whole.

Management of the Trudeau regime may, almost certainly will become more and more centralized as some ministers screw up or step on one another's toes. Mr Butts and Ms Telford are not all that much different, in either substance or style, from what went before.

 

Rifleman62

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PPCLI Guy:
You do know that mandate letters are the norm in our system right?  That all of the last government's ministers also received them right?

Yes, I received mandate letters from the Bde Comd on appointment a couple of times.
What was different is that they were made public.

Made public was a PR exercise for obvious reasons.

Do you really think the PM gave intent, direction or was the finished product presented for signature?
 

PPCLI Guy

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Rifleman62 said:
PPCLI Guy:
Yes, I received mandate letters from the Bde Comd on appointment a couple of times.

Do you really think the Bde Comd wrote the mandate letter you received (BTW, I have never heard of a Brigade level mandate letter before...), or do you think he passed on his intent to a Staff Officer who prepared it for his or her review?

Made public was a PR exercise for obvious reasons.

Or a firm belief in the principle of transparency.


 

Altair

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The 2016 speculation and feelings based statements thread seems to be going just as planned.

The truthiness of 2016 thread.
 

PuckChaser

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PPCLI Guy said:
Or a firm belief in the principle of transparency.

The content of the letters read like a campaign speech, and a mirror of the Liberal campaign from the election. If Trudeau actually wrote like that, he's clearly a political robot from another dimension. The link to "transparency" is dubious at best.
 

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PuckChaser said:
The content of the letters read like a campaign speech, and a mirror of the Liberal campaign from the election. If Trudeau actually wrote like that, he's clearly a political robot from another dimension. The link to "transparency" is dubious at best.

Compared to all the other mandate letters you have read?

Oh that's right, no other letters have ever been publicly released......

I think perhaps it is time for me to leave this so-called discussion to the foam-at-the mouthers of both political stripes.
 

Altair

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PPCLI Guy said:
Compared to all the other mandate letters you have read?

Oh that's right, no other letters have ever been publicly released......

I think perhaps it is time for me to leave this so-called discussion to the foam-at-the mouthers of both political stripes.
It's very rare that actual discussions happen in politics threads.
 

ballz

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I am not a fan of PM Trudeau, I don't trust his ability to lead or his ability to use his head and create good policy, but I'm still waiting for him to actually do all kinds of stupid before I hop all over it. The electoral reform, for example, is one of those things worth chastising him over. But the Conservative-supporters on this site are starting to drive me much more batshit insane than PM Trudeau.

Who cares about his mandate letters? Who cares if they were a PR stunt or genuine? It's like the CO's first speech to the troops on his first Battalion parade after the Change of Command. It is a lot of PR and also genuine at the same time usually, but it doesn't mean s**t and no one really takes it all word-for-word until he gets his feet under him and starts to actually command and see the problems / strengths / weaknesses he has to deal with and consider before making decisions.
 

Edward Campbell

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Mandate letters from e.g. the PM to ministers, or from CEOs to regional VPs or from Boards of Directors to COOs/managers, are pretty much standard practice and, in my (limited) experience pretty generic ~ mostly "motherhood" with a few good management platitudes thrown in for effect.

In business what counts are the conversations with e.g. the VP Sales regarding the head office's expectation for your region or, perhaps, from one particular member of the executive committee to the new general manager expressing the Board's wishes on one or two specific issues. In th case of ministers the politics will be found in very few, very unofficial notes from the PMO to ministers' (political) chiefs of staff.

These are the first ministerial mandate letters I have ever seen, but they "ring true," to me ... which is worth  :2c:

Transparency is never a bad thing ... but you remember what the road to hell is paved with, don't you?  :nod:
 

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So far, in a thread where E.R. Campbell posted an article, there has been 14 posts that have merely been insults and accusations hurled at politicians and between members themselves.

Again proves why the Politics forum of Army.ca needs a firewall.
 

PPCLI Guy

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Infanteer said:
So far, in a thread where E.R. Campbell posted an article, there has been 14 posts that have merely been insults and accusations hurled at politicians and between members themselves.

My bad.  This thread speaks to my lesser angels.
 

Edward Campbell

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PPCLI Guy said:
...
I think perhaps it is time for me to leave this so-called discussion to the foam-at-the mouthers of both political stripes.


:ditto: ... back to "listening watch."
 
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