It fell to Marc Miller, an outspoken federal cabinet minister who rarely seeks refuge behind political spin, to state the obvious this week.
A litany of problems faced by an increasingly nervous electorate “should never have happened in the first place,” said Miller, minister of Crown-Indigenous relations.
But they did happen, and Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is rightly blamed.
Airport arrears. Passport delays. International students are being held in limbo due to visa delays. Households squeezed by persistent inflation. And God forbid you get sick and have to seek emergency care in the country’s chaotic healthcare system in 2022.
There are days when Canadians may rightly ask themselves, “Nothing works anymore?
A year after an unnecessary election, which Trudeau said was necessary because the country was at a pivotal moment in its history, the Liberals seem caught off guard and perpetually surprised.
Historical delays for passports? The demand “far exceeded” the government’s expectations, according to the Minister for Families, Children and Social Development, Karina Gould.
Student visa arrears? There has been an “explosion” in demand, said Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.
Chaos at the airport? Well, the number of air travelers jumped 250% between January and August, said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, who called the delays “unacceptably frustrating”.
The question that begs an answer is why this government seemed so unprepared for the demand for basic services as pandemic restrictions were lifted.
Since its election in 2015, the Trudeau government has had to deal with a series of problems that it could not have foreseen, including, but not limited to, the election of Donald Trump, a global pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This meant that too often, through no fault of its own, the Trudeau government was forced to be reactive, not proactive.
He handled, or is handling, those crises as well as one would expect, but he now has serious problems managing the affairs of Canada. That moved Trudeau and his Liberals into uncharted territory, with the highest disapproval ratings for the prime minister and his government since taking office seven years ago, according to Abacus Data. His July 30 poll found that only one in three Canadians believe this country is moving in the right direction.
As Labor Day passes, more so as the weather changes. The political rhythm of the country too.
The House of Commons will meet again on September 19, but this time the myriad vulnerabilities of this government will be exposed by a new Conservative leader. If that new leader is Pierre Poilievre, as expected, the Liberals will face an opposition leader who has spent his campaign on concerns about the cost of living, tax inequities and government inefficiencies.
This will be fertile ground for Poilievre and the Liberals must do more than try to exploit his weaknesses for political gain. The more grocery bills get longer and cause pain and financial stress, the more attractive the new leader will become to Canadian voters.
So, starting with a cabinet retreat in Vancouver next week, Trudeau and his bewildered ministers need to start showing Canadians that they can take care of the basics and have a plan to make everyday life more affordable for the middle class, whose interests they have always claimed to defend. champion.
More importantly, Trudeau must act to ensure the triage of a broken health care system while assuring Canadians that he will not allow premiers to privatize on the sly. He and his ministers must stop responding to prime ministers by playing the numbers game. Closed emergency rooms, overcrowded hospitals and a shortage of medical professionals demand action.
A good start would be to implement a dental plan and move to a long-promised national pharmacare plan. The former is key to a deal with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and the latter has been pushed back during the pandemic, but both would bring potential relief to low-income Canadians and relieve pressure from overcrowded emergency rooms.
Miller thought this week his government could have sat back and blamed others. . . blame this, that and the other”, for the problems. (Spoiler alert: they did).
“To some extent, we have been slow to respond to a number of unprecedented requests. . . things that Canadians expect to see from their governments.
The Liberals need to get back to basics and address the issues that Canadians face every day. If they don’t do it soon, they will find this upcoming parliamentary session to be like a long search for luggage in the middle of summer at Pearson.