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Paul Wells on PM Trudeau’s cabinet shake up

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Rechie Valdez teared up a bit taking her oath. It was nice.


Posted with permission from Substack author Paul Wells


The army you have

Exciting new combinations of Liberals and syllables

I skipped almost the entire cabinet-shuffle business on Wednesday. I think I’ve mostly managed to avoid getting jaded in this job, but there are days, boy howdy. Welcome, Minister Blah Blah Blah to the crucial office of Provision, Preparedness, Children and Popular Song. Congratulations, hug your kids. Next.

Then here was Rechie Valdez’s voice catching as she took the oaths (one for entry into the Council of the Elders and the other to join the Resonant Circle of the One, or whatever) and for just a minute, boredom took a holiday. The people who do these jobs should be emotional about them. Optimism is a good thing. Small businesses are definitely on the list of things worth caring about. Go get ’em, minister.

 

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A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of days like this. During the 2021 campaign, when things were going badly, the official line out of the Trudeau brain trust was that the prime minister “doesn’t do shakeups.” And yet here’s one now. What’s changed?

There are always two ready answers to such a question. For one, the world has changed, as it always does. Previous shuffles addressed the astonishing 2016 votes for Brexit and Trump, and the less epochal but still significant election of Doug Ford as Ontario premier in 2018. In late 2021, when Trudeau was randomly firing one of the most experienced ministers in his cabinet, it might still have been possible to believe the PM’s third term in office wouldn’t be dominated by Russia, China, and the knock-on effects from a sharp increase in immigration. The misplaced optimism of that bygone era 20 months ago can no longer be maintained.

Second, the electoral context has changed. “We have all the time in the world before the next election” has become “We sure don’t,” and the readers who get cross when I link to horse-race polls are going to hate clicking on this.

I guess this shuffle is designed to address the Poilievre threat? Kind of? Listlessly? A year ago Trudeau was already getting advice to make sharp, noticeable changes in his team, message and style. (Yes, I just linked to myself.) Today he put Sean Fraser in charge of Housing and Marc Miller in charge of Immigration. Those might be the two most encouraging moves among dozens, both for Liberals who hope “good communicators” won’t turn out to be a sad joke, and for citizens who hope strong administrators might, even if only occasionally, be put in charge of challenging files.

 

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The rest of the day’s news is puzzling. Seamus O’Regan to Labour? I thought the boss liked him. Pablo Rodriguez to Transport would seem to be yet another case of ministerial burnout on all those Web Giant-Killer bills that have become the torment of a succession of Heritage ministers. Pascale St.-Onge replaces him on the censorship ‘n’ subsidies beat, ringing a new variation on the eternal question: Why do they call it Canadian Heritage if only ministers from Quebec are allowed to do the job?

Gary Anandasangaree at Crown-Indigenous Relations and Arif Virani as Minister of Justice and Attorney-General are two cases of rookie ministers promoted to tough jobs. I’ve heard good things about both of them. Both have relevant committee and parliamentary-secretary experience. Virani was Jody Wilson-Raybould’s parliamentary secretary; she seems not to have kept many fond memories. (In her memoir she calls him one of the “talking heads” who were sent out “to make comments that evidence has now shown were not accurate or right.” In general, Trudeau, a non-lawyer mostly counselled by non-lawyers, seems to be chronically unsure why he should have a justice minister or what they are good for.)

Freeland, Guilbeault, Champagne and Joly remain in their previous jobs, evidence of their clout. On the other hand, I maintain that Rodriguez’s being shuffled was evidence of his clout. By now it’s clear that Freeland writes her own rules: she does the work she wants to do, to varying degrees of success, and nobody in this government can make her do anything else. Her fate is bound up with the prime minister’s. Probably neither of them expected it, but the stability of the tandem is now part of Trudeauworld’s game physics.

Cabinet shuffles defy confident prediction, or should. Will Jean-Yves Duclos make a difference as Public Services and Procurement Minister? He should. He’s a detail man in a detail job. But ministers are rarely better than they are permitted to be by circumstances and by the circle around the PM. Duclos will shine if this government wants to buy stuff, and not if it doesn’t.

That 2021 bit of campaign spin wasn’t entirely false. In some ways this prime minister really doesn’t do shakeups. He keeps his chief of staff, his indispensable deputy, his own way of thinking and talking about his government. Everything else swirls around. He came to office promising real change. Increasingly what’s real is what doesn’t change.

 

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Economy

Canadians experiencing second-longest and third steepest decline in living standards in last 40 years

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From the Fraser Institute

From 2019 to 2023, Canadian living standards declined—and as of the end of 2023, the decline had not yet ended, finds a new study published today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

“Despite claims to the contrary, living standards are declining in Canada,” said Grady Munro, policy analyst at the Fraser Institute and co-author of Changes in Per-Person GDP (Income): 1985 to 2023.

Specifically, from April 2019 to the end of 2023, inflation-adjusted per-person GDP, a broad measure of living standards, declined from $59,905 to $58,111 or by 3.0 per cent. This decline is exceeded only by the decline in 1989 to 1992 (-5.3 per cent) and 2008 to 2009 (-5.2 per cent). In other words, it’s the third-steepest decline in 40 years.

Moreover, the latest decline (which comprises 18 fiscal quarters) is already the second-longest in the last 40 years, surpassed only by the decline from 1989 to 1994 (which lasted 21 quarters). And if not stabilized in 2024, this decline could be the steepest and longest in four decades.

“The severity of the decline in living standards should be a wake-up call for policymakers across Canada to immediately enact fundamental policy reforms to help spur economic growth and productivity,” said Jason Clemens, study co-author and executive vice-president at the Fraser Institute.

  • Real GDP per person is a broad measure of incomes (and consequently living standards). This paper analyzes changes in quarterly per-person GDP, adjusted for inflation from 1985 through to the end of 2023, the most recent data available at the time of writing.
  • The study assesses the length (number of quarters) as well the percentage decline and the length of time required to recover the income lost during the decline.
  • Over the period covered (1985 to 2023), Canada experienced nine periods of decline and recovery in real GDP per person.
  • Of those nine periods, three (Q2 1989 to Q3 1994, Q3 2008 to Q4 2011, and Q2 2019 to Q2 2022) were most severe when comparing the length and depth of the declines along with number of quarters required for real GDP per person to recover.
  • The experience following Q2 2019 is unlike any decline and recovery since 1985 because, though per person GDP recovered for one quarter in Q2 2022, it immediately began declining again and by Q4 2023 remains below the level in Q2 2019.
  • This lack of meaningful recovery suggests that since mid-2019, Canada has experienced one of the longest and deepest declines in real GDP per person since 1985, exceeded only by the decline and recovery from Q2 1989 to Q3 1994.
  • If per-capita GDP does not recover in 2024, this period may be the longest and largest decline in per-person GDP over the last four decades.

Adobe PDF Read the Full Report

 

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Economy

Feds spend $3 million to fly 182 politicians and bureaucrats to climate conference

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Ryan Thorpe 

Feds trip to COP28 in Dubai cost $3 million

The cost for Canada to send hundreds of people to COP28 in Dubai has doubled, rising to nearly $3 million, according to government records obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Included in those costs is $1.3 million the federal government dished out to host a “Canada Pavilion” at the summit, which featured a rapper performing a song on “climate disinformation,” while giving a shoutout to Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault.

“Nothing screams fighting climate change like flying around the world burning through jet fuel and millions of tax dollars,” said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director. “Here’s a crazy idea: maybe the feds don’t need to spend $3 million flying 182 politicians and bureaucrats to Dubai.”

The federal government paid for at least 182 people to go to COP28, held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A previous report from the National Post pegged the cost for Canada’s delegation at $1.4 million.

But the bill now sits at $2,954,188, including $825,466 for transportation, $472,570 for accommodations and $295,455 for meals and incidentals, according to the records.

The records indicate the cost could rise even higher, as certain invoices and travel claims “have yet to be processed.”

Costs included $1.3 million for a “Canada Pavilion” to “showcase the breadth of Canadian climate leadership.”

At the Canada Pavilion, a Canadian rapper known as Baba Brinkman – the son of Liberal MP Joyce Murray – performed a rap on “climate disinformation.”

“Climate disinformation, get that immunization, the vaccine for bad meme infiltration,” Brinkman rapped. “Climate misinformation, it leads to polarization, which leads to radical conspiracy ideation.”

Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault also received a shoutout during Brinkman’s rap.

“Really? Hosting a rapper half-way around the world to drop rhymes at a government podium will help the environment?” Terrazzano said.

The records were released in response to an order paper question from Conservative MP Dan Mazier (Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa).

Most of the hotel expenses came from the Dubai Marriott and the Premier Inn at the Dubai Investment Park, with rooms coming in between $150 and $400 per night.

The most expensive digs was a $816-per-night suite at the Pullman Dubai Jumeriah Lakes Towers, a “five-star hotel offering upscale accommodations.”

The Canadian delegation also handed out $650 worth of gifts during the trip.

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