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Why Trudeau's cabinet shuffle doesn't matter
I have to make a bit of a confession. I found myself getting sucked into the parsing, analyzing and theorizing about Justin Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle this week.
Ooh, Anita Anand is out of Defence – was she too threatening to Trudeau as a potential leadership contender?
Uh oh, Trudeau put a rookie Mississauga MP in cabinet. He must be serious about holding onto those GTA seats.
Trudeau is trying to hit the reset button ahead of the fall legislative session, clearly.
Yawn. Who cares? Snap out of it, Andrew.
I concede there is a bit of news value in it all as it was a sizeable shake-up as far as cabinet moves go. Trudeau ditched seven ministers and promoted as many backbenchers.
In the lead-up to Wednesday’s shuffle, many of the outgoing ministers got to publish face-saving videos and statements to come up with politically palatable reasons for their demotions.
The exception was David Lametti, who openly confessed to a CBC reporter he was surprised to be out of cabinet (but nonetheless wants to keep carrying the Liberal banner into the next election).
Like many Canadians under Lametti’s reign as justice minister, his political career received a premature assisted death.
There’s been no shortage of speculation about whether this shuffle is a sign of a government in trouble or of a Liberal party gearing up for a fall election.
So you can understand how I got sucked into embracing my inner political nerd, though rest assured I’m once again firmly planted in reality, with the understanding that this cabinet shuffle means absolutely nothing.
In fact, when you look beneath the surface you realize it’s hardly the seismic change much of the media has made it out to be.
It reminds me of the Post’s brilliant “Diamond Shreddies” marketing campaign from a few years back, in which a 45-degree skew was trumpeted as an entirely new product. Unlike Trudeau, Post and its customers were in on the joke, however.
The cabinet shuffle serves only to get the media talking about things that don’t matter. Or perhaps people who don’t.
It seems to be working. I’ve lost count of the fawning puff pieces about some of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers that were written with curious speed after Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony.
“New Heritage Minister Pascale St-Onge says she will stand ground against Facebook, Google on Bill C-18,” the Globe’s headline reads.
“Former rocker is sent into the fight for Canada’s digital rights,” the National Post proclaims.
“As Heritage Minister, up against Big Tech, Pascale St-Onge steps into a role she’s been rehearsing for.”
It sounds like the tagline for a budget Canadian political thriller – the kind you’ll have to watch under C-11 – but no, it’s supposedly a piece of journalism.
Absent from the articles were any criticism of St-Onge or the suite of legislation now under her mandate. Also absent was any disclosure about Postmedia’s and the Globe’s ongoing pursuit of money from the government under the auspices of Bill C-18.
As Ezra Levant pointed out, this wasn’t journalism, but rather a “grant application.”
There’s no reason to believe that St-Onge will take a different approach on the internet regulation file than her predecessor, Pablo Rodriguez, did. (Though admittedly, his incompetent messaging did set a low bar).
The same is true of everyone else taking on a new position. Trudeau has not signalled any change in focus or direction for his government, so it doesn’t really matter which minister goes where.
While I can delight in Marco Mendicino being out of cabinet, his ineptitude and bumbling failures were on-brand with his membership in Trudeau’s cabinet, as evidenced by the elevation of Bill Blair to defence minister.
Justin Trudeau’s government has trampled on civil liberties, ballooned federal debt and spending, divided Canadians across every conceivable fault line, and bought off the media. No rearranging of the seats around the cabinet table will change this.
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said something to this effect when he pointed out one of the few cabinet changes that wasn’t made.
“The minister that really needs to be shuffled out is Justin Trudeau,” he said Wednesday. “His record is one of failure, and he is shuffling nearly his entire cabinet in a desperate attempt to distract from all that he has broken.”
I think Poilievre is giving Trudeau credit for more self-awareness than is warranted. For his explanation to be true, Trudeau would need to realize that he is at the helm of a sinking ship. Trudeau has a caucus full of sycophants, an uncritical media, and a predisposition to thinking anyone who criticizes him is a racist, misogynist, troglodyte – not exactly a recipe for introspection.
I’ve gone back and forth on whether I think Trudeau can last until the next election. He says he will, and also that it won’t happen until 2025, giving him at least a decade in power (just to edge out Stephen Harper).
My fear has always been that Canadians will continue rewarding Trudeau unless Liberal MPs manage to outgrow their own doe-eyed Trudeaumanic delusions and oust him. Whatever Trudeau’s shortcomings, he’s got a knack for quashing dissent.
Regardless of whether Canadians or Liberal MPs get rid of Trudeau, or when such a thing happens, don’t mistake the “fresh faces” in cabinet for a change in course. It’s business as usual in Trudeauland.
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