As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged his party’s third straight election victory, he could be excused for being somewhat awed by the sheer ferocity of the campaign he had just been through and enormity of the challenges ahead of him. Following an often bitter and divisive campaign, the prime minister must quickly get back to business, contending with some of the most pressing issues which have ever faced our country in peace time.
From guiding Canada safely out of the pandemic to grappling with a massive debt and deficit, Prime Minister Trudeau will have no time to lose in embracing and enacting his new mandate. The coming weeks and months will be critical to his success going forward:
- Reshaping Cabinet
- Crafting a Throne Speech
- Navigating a minority Parliament
- Delivering a Fall Economic Statement
- Launching the budget cycle
- Re-engaging with the provinces.
Chief among the prime minister’s tasks will be determining the make-up of cabinet, expected to be sworn into office by mid October. Cabinetmaking is always a delicate and diverse balance of regional and sectoral interests which could include both re-elected and newly elected members (likely including a Liberal MP in Calgary Skyview). This process is made more complex by a reshaped Liberal caucus and the retirement or defeat of key players, with two, possibly three, ministers having lost their seats on election night).
The prime minister must also contend with staffing changes at the most senior levels of his government. After six years, there is likely to be at least some turnover in the senior ranks of Mr. Trudeau’s staff and those of his most senior ministers. Some injection of new blood and renewed energy may be warranted, requiring hard decisions and difficult conversations.
Following the appointment of Cabinet, the inaugural Throne Speech of a re-elected government is disproportionately important. Crafting the Throne Speech will necessitate that the Liberal election platform is given voice.
Thereafter, the Liberal government will likely have to contend with a short-lived post-election honeymoon and a cantankerous parliament. The ability of the government to deal with the opposition parties will be made far more difficult by the election campaign itself and the divisions it highlighted. There will be little love lost on the floor of the House of Commons, and we might expect the tone to be especially partisan.
The federal budget cycle must also get underway almost immediately, against the backdrop of the pandemic’s fourth wave and soaring debt and deficit levels. In some respects, this is the most daunting challenge facing the government, specifically, how to ensure the needs of Canadians are met as the country struggles to emerge from the pandemic, while at the same time beginning to put the government’s fiscal house in order. We can also expect a Fall Economic Statement in the coming weeks that should clearly outline the state of the government’s finances.
Partnerships are a key component of any successful prime minister’s tenure, and nowhere is this more the case than with the premiers and foreign leaders — most notably the president of the United States. Mr. Trudeau will face challenges from the large number of Conservative premiers across Canada on a range of key issues, including the continued management of the COVID-19 pandemic. He will also need to re-engage with the Democratic administration in Washington. Look for our PM to meet individually with the premiers on climate change and childcare, and to pay a visit to Washington before year’s end.
With a renewed mandate alongside a robust agenda, the best move for the government will be to charge forward while the prime minister has momentum. Navel-gazing by Opposition parties mulling their own leadership could offer welcome political cover and something of a reprieve to allow Mr. Trudeau to forge ahead. Despite a return that fell short of the government’s original hopes, the immediate prospects are solid for a relatively stable launch of the next phase of the Trudeau government – an open window to start to implement a robust election platform, hopefully absent undue opposition and political risk.