Lawrie McFarlane: PM’s pretend solutions for real problems

Not long after Justin Trudeau became prime minister — the most deeply unserious person ever to occupy that office — he created a “Results and Delivery Unit.” The purpose, we were told, was to ensure that ministers focussed with laser-like concentration on the job at hand.

You’ll have noticed of late how well that worked out. In a recent poll by Dart & Maru/Blue, 69 per cent of Canadians say the country is “broken.” By 82 per cent to 18, they believe partisanship has become the ruling force.

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And 64 per cent believe the prime minister is making a mess of things — the same number reported in a recent Angus Reid poll.

In fairness, not all of this is Trudeau’s fault. The recent series of Wet’suwet’en blockades no doubt played a part in these dismal numbers.

But believing you can improve the performance of government by hiring a handful of bureaucrats to oversee the performance of ministers (something Trudeau should have been doing himself), is laughable.

In any event, the head of the unit recently quit, with little or nothing to show for several years of work and with no replacement in sight.

The prime minister then followed up this exercise in silliness by appointing a “Minister of Middle Class Prosperity.” As blatant pandering goes, this takes the cake.

The minister herself, Mona Fortier, explained that recent public consultations had revealed deep concerns among the middle class across a range of issues. Hence her elevation.

But what are these concerns? First off, lack of adequate health care. But is Fortier now responsible for the health file?

Of course not. Patty Hajdu has that task, and she’s been doing the kind of bang-up job we’ve come to associate with Health Canada.

Then there was global warming. Same question. Is Fortier now the environment minister?

Nope, Jonathan Wilkinson is minister of environment and climate change.

I could go on, but you get the point. Fortier can roam the country holding anxious hands, as she has been doing, but she has no power to act.

Nor could she. The responsibilities of federal ministers, as with their provincial counterparts, are laid out with great detail in legislation. They cannot simply take a paid leave while Fortier steps in.

This is on a par with Trudeau’s creation of a ministry of innovation, or a ministry of digital government. Evidently, he seems to believe you solve genuine problems by anointing some unsuspecting backbencher as flak-catcher and storyteller.

Now if our federal government were actually serious about improving the plight of middle-class families, there is plenty that could be done.

Get rid of the job-killing carbon tax. Cut regulations and red tape to give industry a boost. Balance the budget and lower taxes.

But there’s a problem with that. Those are all small-c conservative policies. And whatever kind of administration the prime minister is running, conservative it ain’t. Hence they resort to pretend solutions instead of real ones.

In one respect, Trudeau has been lucky to date. He faced a Tory opposition led by Andrew Scheer, a man with all the personal magnetism and flair of a burned-out light bulb.

But Scheer is gone come June. And the prohibitive favourite to replace him, Nova Scotia’s Peter Mackay, while not himself a high-energy candidate, is generally admired.

Equally important, he’s not from western Canada, as the past two Conservative leaders were. That makes him more electable where the majority of votes are located — in the centre of the country.

If the polls are right, I’d say the prime minister has until Christmas to turn his ship around. And he has to do that by exerting real leadership, not the mock variety we’ve seen so far.

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