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Opinion

What Santa ought to bring party leaders this Christmas

By Tim Powers      

Singh and Scheer both need to matter more in the political conversation, while Trudeau is likely wishing for a smooth-sailing economy and more chances to position himself in contrast to Trump and Ford.

With recent provincial elections showing a shift in some jurisdictions, Liberal Leader and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh are all searching for solid ground to anchor themselves to get through this election year, says Tim Powers. The Hill Times photographs by Andrew Meade
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OTTAWA—The Christmas and holiday season is upon us. Many, including me, will be thankful to have a little break from all things politics as well as commenting on the same. Relaxation and recharging are in order. But before checking out for a couple weeks, how about some Christmas wish lists for our main national party leaders?

This year seems to have been one of tumult and turbulence. Britain and America had major political realignment in 2016 as populism in different forms reared its head. The Canadian political map started to change colour in 2018 as new provincial political leaders often championing an anti-elite, anti-establishment sentiment took office in some Canadian jurisdictions. Most notable of course would be Doug Ford becoming premier of Ontario. Looking forward to more provincial elections in 2019 and the federal vote, our leaders federally are all searching for solid ground to anchor themselves to get through next year.

Jagmeet Singh, the head of the New Democratic Party, is the leader in need of the most magical Christmas ever. He has all limbs crossed hoping that Santa brings him a byelection win early in the new year. Well, I suppose he dreams the contest actually gets called first.

Singh is also wishing that his own Members of Parliament stop seeing him as one gigantic lump of coal. We all know how NDP supporters feel about fossil fuels. Singh’s biggest desire, other than having Canadians actually know who he is, is to actually matter in the political conversation. Right now, he doesn’t.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer would also welcome a little more recognition from the Canadian public. He likely figures that will come anyway by the time Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 rolls around and the ballots are cast. Right now, broad swaths of the public know more about Ford and view him as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s political competition. Stealing some of that spotlight away from the Ontario premier is right on top of his list. Like a good cheese fondue at a Christmas party, Scheer would like to see Maxime Bernier become a hot mess and eventually vanish from sight.

The official opposition leader isn’t just looking to Santa for gifts; he is all for the prime minister gift-wrapping him some more opportunities. Another all-Canadian-taxpayer all-expenses-paid trip to a far-flung destination where the PM could bring out his tickle trunk would be welcome. Scheer might even buy Trudeau a Mr. Dressup costume kit.

The prime minister wishes Father Christmas could administer a magical memory-erasing drug to the Canadian public so that the Indian adventure could be permanently deleted from their minds. He is also asking that his major gift be no major Canadian recession. With economic anxiety high among Canadians, an economy on the decline might hurt his political fortunes. The PM would like an error-free spring and summer with no cabinet calamity. Over the past three years, if that was part of his gift order, he mostly got that present.

Justin Trudeau will be delighted if United States President Donald Trump and Ontario Premier Ford continue to be portrayed as naughty by the national electorate. That configuration is a gift he and his Liberal advisers believe keeps on giving. Despite a number of significant broken promises as well as a governing record that has its challenges, the Liberals love the contrast Trudeau provides to Trump and Ford. They want that to be on the minds of Canadians next year at voting time.

Rarely do we all get what we want during the holidays. But Singh, Scheer, and Trudeau will be hoping all their dreams do come true. None of them want to be part of next year’s never-used gift exchange.

Tim Powers is vice-chairman of Summa Strategies and managing director of Abacus Data. He is a former adviser to Conservative political leaders.

The Hill Times

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