L. Ian MacDonald: Now that he’s had his little vacation, it’s time for Trudeau to get back to work

, L. Ian MacDonald: Now that he’s had his little vacation, it’s time for Trudeau to get back to work, The Evepost National News

As Trudeau strikes a theme of ‘Let’s get back to work’ after an unnecessary election that changed nothing, it’s vital for his team to stay on message

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Instead of stopping in Kamloops, B.C., Prime Minister Justin Trudeau flew over it.

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That’s what it comes down to in terms of the entirely avoidable mess he created by taking a family holiday at the beach in Tofino, B.C., rather than attending a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation event at the former residential school where a national reckoning began over 215 unmarked graves of Indigenous children.

Trudeau could have done both, one on the way to the other, and it would have saved him all that trouble for what he later acknowledged was “a mistake.”

Leaving aside Trudeau’s sense of entitlement and propensity for embarking on ill-conceived vacations — see Aga Khan’s private island — there’s the shockingly inept management by the Prime Minister’s Office.

All the PMO had to do was accept an invitation by the local First Nation for Trudeau to participate in its ceremony in Kamloops. Perhaps those in the PMO were unaware, since they didn’t even acknowledge the invitation, but instead initially released an itinerary stating that the prime minister would be in Ottawa for private meetings.

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Yet anyone who’s ever worked there knows you don’t just put the prime minister on a plane. Someone has to call the Canadian Forces and reserve a Challenger jet and crew, while also informing the RCMP that it will need to provide a security detail to travel and stay with him.

Stopping in Kamloops would have provided compelling visuals for Canadians of a family learning experience on an important day, and would have completely justified the use of a military aircraft. Instead, Trudeau commandeered one for a private holiday at government expense.

And that’s where this is going, in a minority Parliament where the Liberals don’t control committees, and where the opposition will be asking embarrassing questions about the cost, including the fuel for a 7,500-kilometre return trip. Oh, climate change and the carbon tax. That, too.

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Not to mention who’s paying the bill for the long weekend at the rented Tofino beach house. If it’s the Liberal party, to give its leader a well-earned family holiday after the stress of an election campaign, that’s fine. Just as long as it’s not the public, since we already pay for the prime minister’s official country residence at Harrington Lake, which is a mere 20 minutes from Ottawa in the beautiful Gatineau Hills of Quebec.

Quite apart from senior staff, every prime minister needs a close personal adviser who can tell him when something is a really bad idea, or how to avoid a self-inflicted wound. In Trudeau’s case, that would have been Gerry Butts, his former principal secretary who left two and a half years ago. He’s been Trudeau’s close friend and confidant since their student days at McGill University nearly 30 years ago. There’s been no one to replace him in that role, and sometimes it shows.

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As Trudeau strikes a theme of “Let’s get back to work” after an unnecessary election that changed nothing, it’s vital for his team to stay on message. That begins with a cabinet shuffle, in the full ceremonial setting of the swearing-in of a new government at Rideau Hall by Governor General Mary May Simon.

, L. Ian MacDonald: Now that he’s had his little vacation, it’s time for Trudeau to get back to work, The Evepost National News

She’s an impressive figure and her recent appointment was one that Trudeau got right. But in terms of presenting a new cabinet, the question is: who’s due to be shuffled, and who has earned a promotion?

The obvious answer to the first question is Harjit Sajjan, who’s been defence minister for six years and has failed to get control of the sexual harassment problem and the cover-ups by high-ranking officers. Trudeau said dismissively the other day that senior military officers “still don’t get it,” but that’s just passing the buck. The chief of defence staff is appointed by the prime minister and reports to him. That’s where the chain of command leads. Period.

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One answer as to who could become defence minister is Anita Anand, not only because she’s a woman who could kick butt at National Defence, but because she proved herself in her role as procurement minister during the pandemic.

Trudeau also remains committed to gender equality in cabinet, and after losing three female ministers to defeat and a fourth to retirement, he must decide which women to promote or name to cabinet.

Back to work? Yes. ASAP.

National Post

L. Ian MacDonald is editor of Policy Magazine and a former national affairs columnist with the Montreal Gazette.

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