Canada’s next federal election is scheduled for this fall. We have a prime minister facing his first re-election bid, and two rookies leading the main opposition parties. Unfortunately, Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh have all shown serious lapses in judgment since they took over, which doesn’t bode well for Canada’s future.
When he first became NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh got off to a really good start when he skilfully handled a bigoted heckler who falsely accused him of wanting to impose sharia law on Canada. Unfortunately, he then wasted the next 18 months thinking he could ‘lead’ the NDP from outside Parliament. Singh could have used that time to bond with his caucus and get positive media exposure, but he didn’t. What Singh apparently forgot was that the NDP started the 2015 election in the polling lead because Tom Mulcair had been appearing on the news every night hammering Stephen Harper in Question Period.
Andrew Scheer hasn’t done much to disassociate the Conservative party from white nationalists like the Sons of Odin, who are increasingly attaching themselves to the conservative movement. Not only is this electoral poison that undoes the hard work conservatives like Jason Kenney did to broaden the Conservatives’ base among voters of colour, but it also betrays conservatism’s own tradition of striving for equality and rights. John Diefenbaker dismantling Canada’s race-based immigration system and recognizing Indigenous voting rights, Ralph Klein refusing to keep gay rights out of Alberta’s human rights code and Preston Manning dissuading Reform grassroots from nominating bigoted candidates, and Diefenbaker and Brian Mulroney opposing South African apartheid are all examples of this tradition. Groups like the Sons of Odin are a betrayal of Canadian conservatism, not a continuance of it.
As for Justin Trudeau ... where to begin? From saying he admired China’s ‘basic dictatorship’ to playing dressup during his visit to India to his vacations with the Aga Khan making him look like an out-of-touch elitist, Trudeau has repeatedly damaged his own public image. Worse are his various policy gaffes ranging from his mishandling of Indigenous issues (perhaps best represented by his sneering thanks to an Indigenous protester for her ‘donation’ to the Liberal party as security dragged her away) to his bungling of the SNC-Lavalin scandal, keeping it in the public eye when a brief apology could have quickly ended it.
Unfortunately, the prospects don’t look good for any of the major party leaders heading into the fall election. Some very serious questions can be asked about all of them and their political skills. In fact, the best thing for Canada may actually be a minority government where Trudeau, Scheer and Singh keep each other in check. It’s not a coincidence that Stephen Harper’s best years as prime minister were when the Opposition could keep him on a leash.
Of course, I might be wrong. Any or all of the leaders might improve their performances between now and the election.
Unfortunately, their track records don’t fill me with confidence.
Jared Milne is a St. Albert resident with a passion for Canadian history and politics.