The Morning Brief – 07.22.21

By Bruce Carson


The recently passed budget sets out spending initiatives plus a $100 billion recovery fund to be accessed by a prime minister and cabinet, bound to spend their way to a majority government.

The question is whether unprecedented spending will result in more Liberals seats and Trudeau’s sought after majority?

For those who may wonder from to time, if Prime Minister Trudeau, outside of talking points, really knows what is going on, one thing that can be said is that in the lead up to a general election, he knows exactly what he wants to do.

Given his government’s and his own announcements over the past few weeks, certainly since the time the House adjourned in June, he has given new and precise meaning to the phrase “clear the decks.”

In different financial circumstances, he would be accused of spending the country into bankruptcy, but we are not dealing with ordinary times.

The recently passed budget sets out spending initiatives plus a $100 billion recovery fund to be accessed by a prime minister and cabinet, bound to spend their way to a majority government.

The question is whether unprecedented spending will result in more Liberals seats and Trudeau’s sought after majority?

Throughout the pandemic the Trudeau government lived on the government credit card, Canadians are now used to problems being solved by government spending. While the spending which went directly to Canadians and businesses during the pandemic when the country was shut down was necessary, continuing with new initiatives without a plan is questionable.

This approach by Trudeau makes it difficult for opposition parties; there are no guarantees that whatever is promised will actually be implemented.

Paul Martin, both as finance minister and then as prime minister was a master at using the federal spending power to put before Canadians a buffet of spending initiatives, and then let voters know that in the event of a change of government, all that was promised would be lost.

This worked in the spring of 2005, but not in the fall when Jack Layton withdrew NDP support from Martin’s government.

We don’t seem to have reached that stage where there are threats to withdraw spending or programs, if the government is not re-elected, but no doubt we will get there, perhaps during the leaders’ debates.

And just a note, hopefully the leaders of opposition parties are spending time each week during this run up period practicing for the debates; Trudeau will be.

Unfortunately the temporary truce within the Green Party did not last and leader Annamie Paul will be in the unenviable position of fighting an election while extracting knives from her back. She may not be the first leader to do this, but this time disagreements are in the public domain and in the courts.

On the list of matters that Trudeau has dealt with in the last months are vaccines and the fact that despite criticism, they did arrive, to be put into arms. Canada’s rate of COVID-19 vaccination for both first and second doses is enviable. We don’t know the costs involved, nor the details of the path taken to get to this stage, we will eventually, but not before voting day.

The supply of vaccines and at this point, the low COVID-19 infection rate provides Trudeau with talking points to kick off any stump speech, with appropriate pauses for applause.

In addition, surprisingly, Trudeau has been able to announce the conclusion of agreements with the Governments of British Columbia and Nova Scotia regarding the federal government’s Early Learning and Childcare initiative. Surprisingly, because a number of those we who have been watching this matter evolve since the 1993 Chretien Red book might have put the Trudeau promise in the same bucket as all previous promises, but perhaps not now.

The world of work and how we view it has changed through and because of the pandemic. There is a better appreciation of the supports necessary for women to achieve equality in the work force. Part of that is, of course pay equity, but post pandemic a major part is Early Learning and Childcare.

For this to be looked upon as a government program which can be part of the Liberal campaign, Trudeau knows that he has to get at least one, better if it is two, provinces led by Conservative premiers onside.

There is some speculation that Ontario likes the program, its apparent flexibility and that federal funding is attached. Getting one of these premiers signed up before the election is called would solidify the program and make life difficult for the opposition.

Vaccine supply, partial opening of the Canada-U.S. border, plus a couple more adherents to the Liberal Early Learning and Childcare promise would be a boost for the Grits. Trudeau has said the agreements signed are government to government agreements and a change in government won’t affect them.

While these are two positives that Trudeau takes into the election, he will be aware that negatives will be following him.

There are at least four of them that if they begin to dominate the narrative could block that road to majority.

First, it is inevitable that during the writ period more unmarked burial sites will be found at or near former residential schools. This could create a problem for Trudeau, who ignored this part of the Truth and Reconciliation report for years, but now Canada’s Indigenous people have found their voices.

Well known and respected Indigenous author Tanya Talaga in an opinion piece in the Globe wrote “why aren’t the findings at the Kamloops school being made an example of by Ottawa to act as a template of how to proceed finding loved ones of all the lost children.” She suggests that a Commissioner be appointed with investigative powers who can compel evidence to be disclosed.

The discoveries at Kamloops “woke up the world” and it could be that it also woke up Canadian voters. The new Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald speaking of Kamloops said “this is a crime scene, and Canada has a conflict of interest in pursuing justice and truth considering it was Canadian policies that caused the deaths in the first place.”

The words of Canada’s Indigenous leaders and Indigenous people which have grown stronger over the past months will not be mollified by words without action.

Also it should be noted that in mid-September Jody Wilson-Raybould’s book about her time in government will hit bookstore shelves.

In addition, Trudeau has not been able to put the sexual harassment scandal in the Canadian Armed Forces behind him. This is a difficult position for a self-proclaimed feminist prime minister to find himself in. If more charges are brought, it will again shine a bright light on the incompetence of Defence Minister Sajjan and the inability of Trudeau to deal with this matter.

Also Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor remain in Chinese custody. Surely the Conservative Party will talk about Trudeau being soft on China and his inability to bring the Michaels home.

And there are the COVID-19 variants which if they begin to spread could side swipe the election.

While the last few weeks have seen Trudeau and his Ministers crossing the country in order to put a positive face on the government and its policies, if the negatives begin to surface this election may be less of a coronation than the Liberals believe it will be.

To Come

  • National summit on combatting Islamophobia
July 23
  • Opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games
  • Retail trade numbers for May to be released
July 26
  • Installation of the Governor General
July 28
  • CPI numbers for June to be released
July 30
  • GDP numbers for May to be released
August 5
  • Government Analytics convenes a webinar with former Governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen Poloz as its guest
August 6
  • Job numbers for July to be released

The Morning Brief returns after the long weekend on Thursday, August 5.

– BC