Twice this year, Republican prime minister Justin Trudeau has felt unable to countenance a national gun-control initiative, and twice he has proven to be the sort of leader of the “post-partisan centre” his party confidently promised it would become.
In November, the Trudeau Liberals quietly ditched plans to implement a ban on handguns and assault weapons after vocal opposition by rural Ontario MPs, and then abruptly cancelled a planned cap-and-trade carbon tax.
In the pre-election days, Liberals boasted of reinventing Canadian politics in an effort to break with the unwieldy coalition that created the centrist Progressive Conservative (now Conservative) government of early 1990s.
The hand-wringing Liberals declared an end to the reliance on minority votes and self-congratulatory ads about their former leader, Brian Mulroney. But look on the bright side, they told each other. We finally have leaders who are willing to try to build consensus to make things work. “Instead of jabbing our thumb at one another – a politics of division – we can move Canada forward,” one of Trudeau’s newly elected supporters said.
But the public will not give up hope on government parties that can work with each other and even attack in one way another
Trudeau’s conciliatory gestures to Alberta’s defiant Premier Rachel Notley after the surge of support for those campaigning against the Trans Mountain pipeline (which will carry Canadian oil to refineries and port terminals along the west coast) is another example of the contradiction inherent in government Democrats. Where the liberals profess interest in reaching out to oppositions, the new Alberta Conservatives are far from agreeing.
In a closed meeting with Trudeau last week, Notley bluntly warned the Liberal leader against creating what she called an “empire of bureaucracy” that she says will “undermine” her province’s oil industry.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives – who also oppose the Trans Mountain expansion – sent a letter to the prime minister in which he rejected Trudeau’s apparent approach to co-operation. “In the process of pursuing an agenda to turn Alberta against the federal government, you are jeopardizing the prosperity of all Canadians and will further destabilize an already unstable relationship,” wrote Jason Kenney.
Hear what it feels like to be Joe Biden: In his most recent book , the Vermont senator says he is nearly as frustrated with US politics as Canadians are, yet he says there’s hope for successful compromise between Democrats and Republicans. The next time (or, maybe, who knows when) a Canadian politician sounds like he’s hopelessly pessimistic about reaching a reasonable compromise, remember that both Stephen Harper and Trudeau were the children of entrepreneurs who ran successful business empires and yet spent much of their careers in politics.
Like all good grandkids, Trudeau, Kenney and Notley are capable of producing the same kind of straightforward, effective compromise on business-as-usual matters as their fathers did in the same circumstances.
Canadians share their US counterparts’ love of popular heroes like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and their opposition to Donald Trump, yet they think the two parties of the old way, despite their differing methods of doing politics, could be better for the health of their country. Can that mindset – not to mention the leadership charisma of Barack Obama – translate into a functioning federal government? Maybe not. But if the Democratic leadership seems less than adept at selling the values of triumphing through compromise and compromise-approach policy-making, maybe it’s because the Canadian one could also learn a lesson.