Troubled Trudeau turns to the power of the pivot

Troubled Trudeau turns to the power of the pivot

By Shachi Kurl, Executive Director

If the WE Charity scandal demonstrates – yet again – the ways in which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is utterly incapable of avoiding political landmines related to ethics and conflicts of interest, it has also shown that he is more adroit at another manoeuvre: the pivot.

Like a magician conjuring with sleight-of-hand to a bewitched audience, or a parent desperately jangling keys in front of an angry baby, Trudeau appears at least in the short term to be successfully trying out his new distraction against the ethics affair: the argument that he’s done well on managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

These have not been kind days to the prime minister. His personal popularity, having restored itself during the early months of the coronavirus response to levels not seen in three years, has once again succumbed to gravity. His momentum numbers are trending in the wrong direction.

In the face of this and under grilling by opposition MPs, we recently heard the new line. That in the “fog of war” of administering an unprecedented economic response to an unprecedented health crisis, what’s a few hundred million dollars between his government and those mere acquaintances, the Kielburger brothers? After all, hadn’t he successfully pushed billions of dollars out the door and into the pockets of Canadians to help them in their time of need? And besides, hasn’t Canada come out of this much, much better than other countries have?

Many would argue the ham-fisted handling of the Canada Student Service Grant and Trudeau’s subsequent blame of just about everyone else involved in it – the public service, his own cabinet – was a key part of the overall handling of the pandemic, and thus, speaks to his own performance on an issue.

Canadians themselves may not be prepared to draw that line so directly, just yet. Upcoming data from the Angus Reid Institute will suggest a majority say the prime minister is doing a “good job” handling the coronavirus response, while a minority say the WE affair will have a fatal effect on his government. Indeed, as long as the pandemic remains the national issue most important to them, more people appear prepared to accept the prime minister’s pivot away from conflict-of-interest issues and towards crisis management than appear to reject that move.

For the rest of this piece, please view it on the Ottawa Citizen’s site where it was initially published.

Want advance notice for our latest polls? Sign up here!