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Winning four elections in a row is a rare feat in Canadian politics, and it’s one Justin Trudeau seems determined to match. But with his party trailing Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives by as much as 10 points, it’s increasingly clear that the prime minister had to do something drastic. And yes, pulling the trigger on one of the biggest cabinet shuffles we’ve seen in decades certainly meets that test.

There’s no shortage of change in the changes. Seven new MPs joined his cabinet, replacing the seven that were booted out, with 23 getting their job descriptions changed and just eight emerging unscathed. But for all the churn, little has changed when it comes to how this government actually operates. Trudeau’s longtime chief of staff, Katie Telford, remains firmly ensconced in her job. So do Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly, his two most likely successors as leader. His longtime friend Dominic LeBlanc, meanwhile, will take on an even bigger role as minister of public safety, democratic institutions and intergovernmental affairs.

Even some of the new ministers have long-standing ties to the prime minister. Ya’ara Saks, the new minister of mental health and addictions, was the prime minister’s long-standing walking partner back in university. Arif Virani, the new minister of justice, is his former classmate at McGill (class of 1994). They join a group of former classmates and staffers that includes Marc Miller and Mary Ng. It’s a safe bet that Anna Gainey, the newly elected MP for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount and a very close personal friend of the Trudeaus, will join them in cabinet in the not-so-distant future.

The gang, in other words, is still very much together. As Paul Wells wrote on his Substack, “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.”

In fairness, there’s a certain logic here. Loyalty goes a long way in politics, and that’s especially true when your back is against the wall the way Trudeau’s is right now. Surrounding yourself with people you can trust is an understandable instinct, and it speaks well of Trudeau’s instincts as a human being and friend.

As a politician, though, it could be a trap of his own making. After all, these are people who see him as much as their friend as they do their boss, and they may not be able to see him and his decisions in the sort of neutral light that tends to illuminate the truth. Even if they can, they might not be able or inclined to share that truth with him given how uncomfortable it’s becoming.

If this government is going to last beyond the next election, it has to do more than wait for Poilievre’s Conservatives to step on its own shoelaces. As I’ve said before, with more than 80 per cent of Canadians wanting some form of change, the Trudeau Liberals have to find a way to give it to them. And while a few new faces is a step in that direction, it’s not nearly big enough to get them where they need to be.

They need new energy, new ideas and a team that Canadians can trust to deliver on them. As former Trudeau adviser Tyler Meredith tweeted, “ultimately renewal comes down to ideas. And new Ministers can bring new ideas.” Perhaps. But that’s only true if they’re actually willing to speak truth to his power, something that can be hard for old friends and colleagues to do.

In hindsight, then, this shuffle could easily end up looking like so many deck chairs being rearranged rather than a new path being charted to avoid the Poilievre-shaped iceberg lurking out there. But if the prime minister has to go down with the Liberal ship, as seems increasingly likely, at least he’ll be surrounded by plenty of familiar faces.

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As much as I would never vote conservative, or any other party for that matter, Trudeau needs to step aside and get some fresh blood to lead the party. There is a lot of fake anger targeted towards Trudeau by fringe groups that have drank way too much conservative propaganda through social media sites, and are incapable of sorting fact from fiction.

Even as a Liberal supporter, Trudeau is getting old in the tooth and think Canadians want a fresh face, with fresh ideas. Someone serious enough to tackle climate change, while getting the message across how serious of a problem it is. Messaging has been a major fault with Trudeau.

I personally believe we are past the tipping point on climate change and if not tackled now, the world will continue to burn, flood and experience worse events than we are seeing this year.

I agree with you, John, on two points especially.

1. "Messaging has been a major fault with Trudeau." It's almost freaky how little I know about the Trudeau Liberal government. Every once in a while, I think to myself "Oh, they promised this." So I go to check it out and find out they've accomplished a great deal on that project — but I've heard nothing about their progress. (The same thing happened with Notley's Alberta NDPs. They accomplished a huge amount of good in that province, but I only know that because I once saw on Facebook a tiny-lettered list of all they'd done.)
2. Trudeau isn't the PM to walk us through the climate hell we've embarked on. (If only he had made the right decision on the TransMountain Pipeline.) But is it just me, or has PP suddenly gone silent? Perhaps after finally grasping how excruciatingly urgent and horrific all the climate chaos and catastrophes are and will be, he's decided he doesn't want the job and is slowly ... backing ... away ... from the climate emergency.

It might simply be one of the fundamental differences between the right and left because Democrats apparently have the same problem......Liberals/progressives are definitively, naturally more generous types who are simply less inclined to focus on broadcasting details of that generosity because a)that's not WHY they do it; they tend to consider it to be just the right or decent thing to do, to help each other when we can and b) because it's kind of arrogant and "unseemly," even un-Canadian.
On the other hand, conservatives clutch more tightly to things as they are and what they have first and foremost (conserve it i.e.) and therefore balk at change more than usual. It's a personality thing that can be described as "a gloomy pedagogy of ideologies in service to fragile psyches." (Therein lies that stubborn and utterly predictable suite of stupidity attached to the right.) And remember those signs Harper trotted out all over the country touting "Canada's Economic Action Plan?" They were so excessive that it became a joke, but also accurately reflects the conservative style in a nutshell. A bit fanatical and obsessive actually, just like the Republicans because they're NOT the actual majority and simply refuse to accept that truth. Sound familiar? Climate change?
All you really need to remember about the cons is how obsessively avid they are about "owning the Libs" and how utterly graceless they are in victory, every time.
It should matter that they're the worst among us, hands down because "cheap runs deep."

The Liberals are particularly generous to fossil fuel companies.

I think PP's silence is a little simpler. When you're ahead in the polls, keep your trap shut. Someone actually convinced him to keep it buttoned, except for his shirt which became unbuttoned after he ditched the glasses to appear more "human" and less bot-like. This is where an election campaign must expose PP for what he is, a No Plan man.

The anti-Trudeau messaging isn't really that important. That stuff isn't really for doing politics in the sense of winning new votes. It's for keeping the choir herded nicely together and maintaining the rage, but they can pump up the hate against whoever comes up as leader.

A cabinet shuffle will not save the Liberals' sinking ship.
Few, if any, voters, will base or change their vote on a cabinet shuffle.

The next election is Trudeau's to lose.
If the Conservatives win the next election, it will not be because progressive and centrist Canadians embrace Poilievre and his policies. The Conservatives will retain their 35-40% popular vote, but no more.
Liberal voters will stay home in large numbers. Why? Because Trudeau has offered them so little to vote for.
Progressive voters are turned off the Liberals' deep cynicism and betrayals. From electoral reform to indigenous affairs to climate change.
It is as if Trudeau is taunting voters: "I can break my promises. I can buy a pipeline. I can fail on climate. I can mock First Nations. But you know and I know you'll still vote Liberal. Because however much I disappoint you, you fear Poilievre and the Conservatives even more."

What might turn the game around for Trudeau is a bold reversal:
Cast off the cynical politics. Don't just talk like a progressive. Act like one.
End the policy incoherence and take real action on climate.
Pull the plug on TMX. Reject carbon capture and other fake climate solutions.
Take on the O&G industry. Stand up to Alberta's oil mafia.
Take on Corporate Canada, the Big Banks, and Bay St.
Enact real electoral reform.
Make a real difference in the lives of indigenous communities and families.
Take on spiralling home and rental costs, inflation, homelessness, inner city violence, drug deaths, and urban decay.

Canadians are looking for reasons for hope. A brighter vision. Excite the electorate. Give progressive voters a reason to come out and vote. In short, become the optimistic, hopeful, energetic leader Canadians thought they were voting for in 2015.
Otherwise, Liberal voters will stay home in large numbers, handing the reins to Poilievre and the Conservatives by default.

Except that we know the parable of the frog and the scorpion. Hypothetically, the Liberals could do what you've written and they would probably get elected with a majority. It just doesn't seem to be in their nature.

I would suggest that half of Trudeau's two-faced narrative and policy weaknesses can be attributable to the Liberal Party's executive's blind and faithful adherence to its corporate donors. It's a mystery where the Kid would be without SNC Lavelin, CAPP, several big law firms and so on. Removing private money from politics would change the landscape dramatically. Even so, your guess is as good as mine just how deep JT's core beliefs really are.

I just can't see Trudeau taking dramatic action . . . of any sort. He's a half-measures kind of guy in a half-measures kind of party. Our main hope in my opinion is just that Poilievre is such a jerk. He, and his party, have a lead in the polls, because people are vaguely sick of Trudeau and vaguely wouldn't mind a change. But on the campaign trail, people will actually be paying attention to him, and with luck they will notice that he's a nasty creepy whiny little scum.

Remember back when George W. Bush got (sort of) elected the first time? It was clear to everyone that Gore was more competent; Bush came within shouting distance of winning based purely on the "guy you'd want to have a beer with" factor. Not that I'd want to hang out with the guy, but my point is, Poilievre does not have a trace of that. He's way more Dick Cheney than George Bush, and everyone knew Cheney couldn't have been elected dogcatcher. He might still win, but his personality and the way he looks and yaps like a rabid chihuahua will make it harder. He's no Lyin' Brian Mulroney, that's for sure. Except for the lies part.