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Over the last week, two things have become abundantly obvious to anyone watching Canadian politics. First, Justin Trudeau is in deep, deep trouble — deeper even than the SNC-Lavalin scandal or the revelation of his Blackface photos in 2019. And second, Mark Carney’s interest in his job is much more than just a rumour. As Carney told the Globe and Mail, running for Trudeau’s job isn’t a decision he’s ruled out. In the dialect of aspiring political leaders, that’s as close an answer to “hell yes” as you’re going to get.

These two things are closely related, of course. Carney wouldn’t be getting asked about his own leadership aspirations if Trudeau’s standing wasn’t so diminished, and Trudeau’s political problems might not be quite so dire if he had more people with Carney’s economic credentials — which is to say, any — in his caucus and cabinet. But Carney’s willingness to talk so openly about his intentions speaks to a fundamental shift in the political winds, one that could easily send the Liberals even further out to sea if they can’t figure out how to harness it.

There’s no realistic universe where Carney could waltz in, take over the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada and win the next election. Politics isn’t as complicated as central banking and monetary policy, but its learning curve is still painfully steep. Michael Ignatieff learned that lesson the hard way and nearly took the entire party down with him in the process.

Carney is no Ignatieff, though. For one thing, his stint as governor of the Bank of England was a blip compared to the decades Ignatieff spent living and working outside Canada. More importantly, his field of expertise just so happens to align with the Trudeau Liberals’ Achilles heel: the economy.

As a recent Abacus Data poll showed, 43 per cent of respondents think Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is better at managing the economy, with just 28 per cent saying the same about Trudeau. And Poilievre’s steadfast refusal to talk about anything other than the economy reflects what the Toronto Star’s Susan Delacourt describes as “the core belief among his inner circle that the next election will be fought and won on the economy and little else.”

By breaking in Carney the way Lester Pearson did with his own father back in 1965, letting him run for office and then appointing him to a key cabinet role (like, say, finance minister), Trudeau can benefit from his economic gravitas without having to hand over the reins. That would protect his party’s base of support in Quebec, without which re-election is impossible, and allow the Liberals to start pushing in Ontario, B.C., and other key parts of English Canada. He could let Carney take Poilievre into the deeper end of the economic pool and see if he actually knows how to swim. If it works, the leadership question will eventually answer itself — just as it did with Pierre Trudeau and Lester Pearson.

This is a long shot right now, given how much water the Liberal ship is taking on. Their recent decision on the carbon tax, one I’ve criticized repeatedly, speaks to a leadership team around the prime minister that is either unable to detect obvious political danger or too tired to help him avoid it. No single person, no matter how smart or talented they are, can revive a government that has lost the will to live.

But if the Trudeau team still has some fight left, bringing Carney on board would be a good way to signal that to their caucus and the country. Let him help clean up the mess they’ve made on carbon pricing and find a clear position on climate change they can actually defend. Give him the opportunity to challenge Poilievre on his economic prescriptions for the country, ones that look an awful lot like a placebo rather than real medicine. And let his very presence show that this is a government that isn't afraid of embracing expertise, something that creates a clear contrast with the official Opposition right now.

There’s no guarantee it will work. But it can’t be any worse than what they’re doing right now.

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Fantastic idea! Are you sending this article to the PMO and Mark Carney? I sure hope so.

Hindsight is always 20/20 but it's unfortunate that after the last election there was not a move to oust Trudeau as leader. Failing that, another opportunity could have come from Trudeau himself at the time of his marriage break up - personal price too high, time for me to step down. Such an action could have garnered him some public sympathy and allowed someone like Mark Carney to step forward. Unfortunately, there are now so many people tired of Trudeau that they are willing to vote simply for change, even though it means falling over the populist abyss.

Can Mark Carney save Justin Trudeau?
Not Carney's responsibility or role. His mission, should he choose to accept it, is to save Canada from Poilievre, not from Trudeau.

The Trudeau brand is finished. He's done.
Let the captain go down with his ship.
Carney should stand by and watch.

If Carney steps aboard now, he'll go down with the ship. Come the next election, he will be tainted by the Trudeau fiasco. He should put as much space between himself and Trudeau as he can.

One term of Poilievre, and voters will rebound back to the centre.
Wait until after the next election, win the Liberal leadership race, then run in a by-election.
Be patient. Be strategic. Think three steps ahead.

The problem with allowing Poilievre even one term as PM, especially if backed by a strong Conservative majority under our current winner-takes-all system that tends to exaggerate majorities, is that he could bring down a tremendous amount of damage not just to climate policy but to healthcare, childcare, housing, efforts to relieve poverty, an independent judiciary and economic management.

He will give conservative premiers everything they ever dreamed of, locking in the devolvement of federal power to the regions and empowering small minded feifdoms that could give a flying fig about confederation and international diplomacy.

I am very doubtful our country can survive intact four years of Poilievre.

Alex wrote: "He could bring down a tremendous amount of damage not just to climate policy but to healthcare, childcare, housing, efforts to relieve poverty, an independent judiciary and economic management."
Yes.

Alex wrote: "He will give conservative premiers everything they ever dreamed of, locking in the devolvement of federal power to the regions and empowering small minded feifdoms that could give a flying fig about confederation and international diplomacy."
Yes.

Alex wrote: "I am very doubtful our country can survive intact four years of Poilievre."
Many progressives were doubtful our country could survive intact ten years of Harper.

Unfortunately, the Liberals' goose is cooked.
Right now Canadians are clamoring for Poilievre. Fine, give them the government they deserve.
Carney and his prospects will look much better after four years of Poilievre. Trudeau will be a distant memory. Canadians will be ready for a return to rational, competent, progressive government.

Nearly two years to go before the next election. Opinions change, and they can change very quickly.

The polls would likely register a strong bump a month after Mark Carney announces his intention to run for office. A month after Trudeau announces his retirement from leadership and candidates like Carney and Freeland announce their intentions to run for leadership, Poilievre's lead in the polls will no doubt capsize. A month after a strong, very credible candidate like Carney wins a Liberal leadership contest, there is nothing but clear blue sky over the Libs heads in the polls and the next government.

Canadians are not conservative minded. They are a majority middle ground electorate. Right now Poilievre is nothing but a loudmouth placeholder until the nation's chief middle ground party changes its leader and develops stronger and bolder policies and acts on them with strength and boldness.

Strength and boldness is respected far more than weak, watered down fence sitting. But being a strong and bold asshole may win an election on appearances butvwill never have staying power in the intricacies of governing. Strength and boldness founded on a mountain of prior credibility and experience will win over Canadians every time.

"the Trudeau Liberals’ Achilles heel: the economy"

Do the Trudeau Liberals have an Achilles heel — or is the current regime just a general disaster?

After eight years, the Trudeau government appears less competent than ever. Completely lacking in political smarts. Negative learning curve. Tired, out of ideas, and flailing. Reacting to criticism rather than getting out ahead of the issue. Letting the opposition define the issues and misrepresent policy. Simply failing to show up.

Canada has been spinning its wheels on climate. (See environmental commissioner's latest report.) Now it's going to go in reverse.

You can thank the Trudeau Liberals for the demise of Canada's incoherent and contradictory climate policy. Small wonder they failed to sell it. Just as they failed to anticipate criticisms and counter misrepresentations.
Woeful.

Mark Carney understands Canadian and global economics, that much is widely accepted. But Carney is also explicitly literate about climate change. He wrote a book largely about climate solutions from an economist's point of view ('Value(s)') and every few weeks makes educated statements about the much higher cost of inaction. He understands very intimately how government policy influences economics and national finances.

Putting Mark Carney into an elected government position now would give him nearly two years to define policy direction, give advice on putting the best MPs into cabinet and learn how to be an attack dog when needed, and to suit up with a Teflon overcoat.

If given a chance, Mark Carney will eat Pierre Poilievre's lunch during every Question Period, especially on economics and climate change and a plethora of other topics that require a full-sized brain to address.

Chrystia Freeland is another worthy candidate for leadership in the PMO. However, Carney has two advantages: he's fresh blood and he brings top level international economic expertise to the table.

I always thought Freeland made an excellent International Affairs minister. Her intellect would be very complementary to Carney's; she speaks several languages well and possesses economic experience from handling the trade file where she earned kudos for maintaining the few advantages Canada had that Trump tried to take away. Trump hated her. To many that would be a badge of honour.

The Libs have two star leadership candidates to choose from in Mark Carney and Chrystia Freeland. A Liberal leadership convention sometime in spring would energize federal politics a year before the next election and put Poilievre in his place.

The two things that stand in the way: Trudeau's vacuous and egotistical stubbornness, and the possibility that the NDP will prematurely pull the plug on the Lib-NDP minority government agreement over a single issue. Last time that happened under Jack Layton we ended up with a painful decade under Harper.

Everyone needs to take a few breaths and do the math on what's best for the nation.

I agree entirely with all you have written here on the embarrassment of riches when it comes to the serious depth of the talent pool on the left AND how we absolutely can NOT withstand the poisonously shallow offerings of the conservatives at this point.
But I again take issue with what has pretty well become not only the reflexive, summary exclusion of Trudeau from the first group but also the distinctly conservative-flavoured denigration of him as "vacuous and egotistical." What else but the relentlessness of their vicious contempt all these years explains how much of a whipping boy he has unwittingly been for so many from early on, unfairly starting with who his impressive, charismatic father was. I think his overall more youthful style has been viewed (mostly unwittingly I think) as simply too atypical for someone in political leadership, but is probably a sneak peek at how a woman would be viewed.
Even on CBC's 22 Minutes show last night they felt they could joke about his marriage breakup, the sort of American/tacky thing that would not have happened before. So there's a surprisingly disproportionate refusal to give credit where it's due, even in the exceptional context of the last few years, a context thoroughly laced with unprecedentedly vitriolic attacks on him personally.
But he's the one who marshalled the talented group in question and HE signed the agreement ALONG with the NDP that he probably initiated after the alarm of the convoy; that was artful, subtle and effective, but the media can only describe it as him being "propped up." And then there was covid where zero appreciation was shown.
So I think the conservative narrative has had more of an effect than anyone seems to realize; note how they're still working this myth about them being better with the economy when they're bloody well NOT. Of course Poilievre's solutions are a placebo; HE is that.
By the way, also on 22 Minutes they showed a clip of him in Question Period, the truly boyish and truly bratty one in the room doing "come-on" hands at Trudeau.

My household practiced strategic voting in 2015 to get rid of Harper. It worked. Much to our delight we elected Jody Wilson Raybould in our riding, who was elevated to Attorney General. We looked forward to Trudeau holding a referendum on proportionality and electoral reform. We looked forward to his genuine climate action and were very happy to see women occupying half of the cabinet.

By the next election Jody was ejected for standing up for the principles of law and against interference by the PMO in a suit against a shady Montreal firm that bribed corrupt, dictatorial foreign governments while giving donations to the Libs, but she popped right back up and ran as an independent. The sole woman who defended her, then the Minister of Health, was also ejected. She went back to private medical practice.

We voted for Jody in the next election and she handily won because thousands of voters here were angry at Trudeau's impetuous, kneejerk and unfair treatment of two highly qualified and intelligent women whose only sin was to hold independent views and were strong enough to stand up to unfair and legally questionable interference for a company under court scrutiny that was also a friend of Trudeau. I will never believe that Justin's father would have interfered in favour of a favoured donor that broke the law and befriended tyrants as a matter of daily business.

Electoral reform was dropped within months. It was then clear Trudeau never intended to deal with it.

Then he impetuously bought a pipeline a day after announcing a climate emergency. He ignored the critics who did the only real economic analysis of TMX and now we have a 30+ billion dollar hole to fill with "profits" that, according to Trudeau's own rather dumb narrative that was never backed by analysis, were supposed to pay for renewables.

It goes on, but I am loathe to regurgitate all Trudeau's / Liberal sins. Yes, all politicians lie and sin and are self-aggrandizing, but there is a limit to the electorate's tolerance, as the Liberal Party dude campaigning only on the boy prince's image found out when he showed up at my door. Once Jody retired form Ottawa, we returned to strategic voting to discover the Libs were still capable of winning the riding over all other candidates, but the NDP came withon 4% of winning in last election. So be it.

Yes, we were very appreciative of Trudeau pulling out all the stops on COVID vaccines and saving tens of thousands of lives, but remember that was less than a year after he cancelled Canada's only pandemic surveillance program, one that the international medical community relied upon, and after being caught short on pandemic-oriented supplies.

Since then we've got the oilogopoly still making donations to the Libs and the Libs following suit with billions in subsidies for the world's most profitable corporations for infeasible CCUS projects and to continue the appeasement of Alberta where the Libs have virtually no traction despite Canadian taxpayer's largesse.

It is unfortunate that Chrystia Freeland has played along with the PMO all this time and never once expressed a hint of independent opinion. A good leader INVITES independent opinion and uses it to make consultative policy making better; an insecure leader is intolerant of independent thought no matter how good it may be and lashes out to strike it down while demanding unwavering loyalty. Now Freeland holds the financial cards on TMX and the growing national debt. Her private musings must venture into questioning the economic sustainability of TMX and other expensive line items that she is forced to defend. It's time for her to speak up and gently tug the royal robe sleeve and remind her friend that there is more than one passenger in the Liberal boat, which is now listing as much on flawed policies as on personality.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply Alex.
All understandable points you make but in a nutshell what I'm mainly talking about is the relatively recent introduction of unprecedented disrespect (and pure hatred actually) into our political discourse and my surprise and alarm at how easily SO many people seem to have just succumbed, automatically joining in without even thinking about it. So the infernal "conservative narrative" is working beyond their wildest dreams, taking us all into the weeds while the far more important bigger picture recedes.
It's obviously our human Achilles heel to indulge in our personal opinions above anything else so although I also want Trudeau to move on, and think he will, I think all those impressive people he has around him, including Chrystia (not exactly a sign of a WEAK leader to gather people smarter and more talented than you is it?) absolutely GET that party solidarity is essential right now.

It was a treat to read this thoughtful analysis and thread. I have just returned to Canada from many years in the US and am slightly appalled that Canadian discourse and wit has devolved into very American-style ignorant rants. It is partly the media in some provinces which are stoking the ire to enhance readership, and then there are the Twitter trolls which, with any sensible government post, pile on the derision and whining. I strongly suspect they are actually paid political consultants. It's clearly working.

If anything, we need to save Canada from Pierre Poilievre who is economically illiterate. Poilievre bitcoin solution was the icing on the cake of stupidity by the conservatives. Wonder how many of his naive followers invested and then watch their investment tank.

One thing, Justin Trudeau does need to step down and get some fresh blood running the party. Now is the best time for this, not before the next election. Whether that is Mark Carney or not is up to the Liberal Party to decide. But if the PMO office is listening, there have been many calls for Justin Trudeau to step down, so we can save our country from Pierre Poilievre. If Trudeau continues to refuse to do so, the Liberals will not win the next election.

The Liberals are not a very good government at this point, if they ever were. They're not actually a terrible government, just not very good.

But that said, the notion that the modern Conservatives under Pierre Poilievre could be considered remotely competent on the economy is ludicrous, and the fact that it apparently is widely believed is a devastating indictment of Canadian news media. What kind of nonsense is the media feeding people that they imagine Pierre Poilievre has the tiniest shred of economic credibility?

Long ago, there was a time when Conservatives, although I hated their agenda, did have a certain competence at keeping corporations doing corporate stuff. Sure, it was all in the name of siphoning more money to the richest, but at least they wanted the economy to be doing things and had some understanding of how to make that happen, sort of. Then came neoliberal economics and Conservatives had an ideology which actually tended to destroy economies, but which the economic priesthood approved of. And hey, Liberals mostly shared that ideology from the 90s on, so the Conservatives weren't that much worse.

But now?! They got nothing. The newfangled alt-right Conservatives have NO coherent economic ideology; their policies are based on alternating kowtows to the latest big bribe on one hand, and the latest nonsense ignorant right wing populist social media trend on the other. The only remnant even of neoliberalism is a vague but strong commitment to keeping on cutting government revenue. Look at Alberta--the premier BANNED the fastest growing part of the province's economy (theoretically, just till February; we'll see). What the hell kind of economic strategy is that?! Old Conservatives, up to Lyin' Brian, would never have done that. It is shameful and revolting that the country's media can manage to portray this kind of political party as steady economic hands.

Mark Carney has integrity, a rare quality in leadership these days. He would be an excellent choice. I don't relish a term under Poilievre who specializes in divisive policies and politics. He is bent on reshaping the Country along Conservative U.S. Republican lines and might well destroy the country.

My wish is for a conservative minority to show the true colors of Poilievre, and then back to the poles after a non confidence vote. Just need to let this man sink his own ship.