While Trudeau may think the action of appealing and admitting no fault on the use of the Emergencies Act is what his voter base wants from him, the fact of the matter is he risks alienating the Canadians who increasingly think the federal government is not functioning as it should. Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick.
Convoy protests and leadership reviews are back in the news. This time around, it has nothing to do with the Conservative Party of Canada.
Turns out it’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cross to bear.
While the news dump may suggest otherwise, the week started on the right note for the besieged Liberal government. To anchor itself on domestic issues ahead of parliament resuming next week, Trudeau’s cabinet led the charge on a communications rollout that included announcements on capping student visas, the launching of an engagement strategy on Canada-U.S. relations in advance of November’s presidential election, and the creation of a national auto summit to crack down on vehicle theft.
All was well and good until a judgement landed from the Federal Court declaring the Trudeau government’s use of the Emergencies Act was unreasonable and infringed on the Charter rights of protesters. According to the ruling, the government had the jurisdiction and ability to enforce the letter of the law to end the blockades and that the invocation of the Emergencies Act was out of bounds.
While most Canadians have picked a position on the 2022 convoy protests that shut down the major arteries of Ottawa, most have also moved on from the issue. In the minds of Canadians who are struggling with affordability issues, this is a secondary problem that much like the COVID-19 pandemic has all but been put in the rear-view mirror.
Rather than accepting the reality of the situation and taking a similar tact, the Trudeau government has announced it will appeal the ruling and will continue to drag the issue out in the courts at the expense of taxpayers. The decision is par for the course for Liberal leadership and shows a frustrating trendline of elected officials refusing to take ownership of their actions.
While Trudeau may think the action of appealing and admitting no fault on the use of the Emergencies Act is what his voter base wants from him, the fact of the matter is he risks alienating the Canadians who increasingly think the federal government is not functioning as it should.
Instead, we will see this story and subsequent court rulings continue to ebb and flow in the news cycle. The polarizing narratives generated from stories of the convoy and the use of the Emergencies Act also bear some similarity to the questions surrounding Trudeau’s hold on his caucus, and whether he can continue as leader heading into the next election.
Should he stay, or should he go? One outspoken Liberal MP called for Trudeau to face a leadership review this week before quickly walking back the comments. Notably, this is the first time a sitting caucus member has publicly put the idea of a leadership review out into the public domain.
After the 2021 election, Trudeau had unanimous support to stay on as leader. Fast forward to the present day, and the calls are coming from inside the house.
In theory, Trudeau could choose to head to the polls sooner rather than later to take the question of his leadership straight to the source: Canadians. If he waits until 2025, he will have to find new ways to deal with the growing wrath of a frustrated caucus.
Either way, it’s no longer a question of if he stays, it’s when he goes and on whose terms.
Josie Sabatino is a Senior Consultant at Summa Strategies, focused on providing strategic insight and helping clients meet their objectives in an ever changing and complex political and regulatory environment. Prior to joining Summa, Josie spent nearly a decade in political communications and most recently served as the Director of Communications to the Hon. Erin O’Toole, former Leader of the Official Opposition.