3 min read
Discussion on Canadian Politics with Linda Frum

Earlier this week, Platform got the chance to sit down with former senator and chair of the conservative senate caucus Linda Frum, to get her thoughts on the recent cabinet reshuffling of Prime minister Trudeau and the overall direction of Canadian politics, following the September elections.

The Platform: what could be the reasons behind Trudeau's reshuffling of his cabinet in October?

Linda Frum: It is customary to refresh the cabinet after an election. For Trudeau to call an election in the first place he has to justify the fact that he called an election. The results of that election left the balance of power in parliament the same as before the election. Most Canadians did not want the election. A lot of people felt it was an unnecessary, wasteful election. So how do you rationalize and justify the election? You change your cabinet up and make it look like " look, we needed a fresh start". Of course, you can still change your cabinet without an election, but given how unpopular the election turned out to be I think changing his cabinet was very important for him because he had to put a positive spin on the fact that he had this election, that he was having a fresh start.

The Platform: What do you think was the reason he called the election?

Linda Frum: I think the reason he called the election was because he believed that Canadians were very pleased with the job that he was doing and that they would give him a majority government instead of the minority that he had . After the election he returned with virtually the same number of seats that he had before. I think it would be hard for him not to receive the message that Canadians were not that pleased with his government and that they see shortcomings, some of which are very obvious and glaring shortcomings. The Minister of Defense had a terrible track record of addressing sexual harassment in the military, that Minister should have been long gone but this was just the opportunity to switch him out. The Health Minister was perceived as not doing a very good job, so she got switched out, the Indigenous Affairs Minister was also perceived as not doing a good job, so she was replaced, at least one of the 2 (There are two Indigenous Affairs ministers). So it's definitely a moment for the prime minister to do an accounting and say who's doing a good job and who isn't and for sure the people who are understood to be doing a very poor job, they were put into different portfolios.

The Platform: Do you think there could be any tangible differences in the execution of Trudeau's policy goals? Or are the moves mostly symbolic?

Linda Frum: Well based on the first 6 years where symbolism trumped everything, I would be shocked if that changed very much. For example, he did put into the environment portfolio a former Greenpeace leader, someone who's seen as being very radical on the environment. So you'd think that means the policies will be shifting in a more aggressive and what some would consider a more progressive Direction. But there was also a poll saying most Canadians do not want to see their standard of living impacted by climate policy. So this is a choice for the prime minister. He's either going to have to put in some measures that are going to be painful, in order to achieve change in climate behavior, or he's going to keep Canadians happy, but not affecting their standard of living and just mouthing the words that they want to hear, about climate change. So which of those things do I think he's going to do? I think he's going to do the latter. He's going to say the things that people want to hear is that going to do the things that will cause people discomfort or anything with real cost to their pocketbooks.

The Platform: So really he's putting up a symbolic fence but he's not gonna ruffle any feathers to get his end results?

Linda Frum: Exactly and if you look at almost every file that he has that's how he does it. On the Israeli-Palestinian question depending on who he's talking to that's whose side he's on that's always been the way he's delivered messages and unfortunately it works. The Jewish Community thinks he's on their side and the Palestinian Community, thinks he's on their side.

The Platform: Which cabinet member sacking was the worst move for Trudeau? Which cabinet change could be the smartest?

Linda Frum: Well I think the woman he chose as Minister of Defense, was one of our best preforming ministers, she was in charge of the procurement of our vaccines and now shes in charge of cleaning up sexual harrasment in the millatary. She's a former law professor and she’s clearly a very thoughtful and serious person and I do respect her, so I think that's a big win and his best move. Trudeau’s cabinet move that people can't seem to understand is the appointment of our new foreign minister. She has very little experience in foireign affairs and people are baffled and so we’ll see. I think she's a very nice person, I just dont think she has the credentials.

The Platform: There was talk that many Canadian voters felt anger over their return to the ballot box for an election that they failed to see a need or reason for. Do you feel this tangibly impacted the election results, or was this issue overhyped?

Linda Frum: No, I think this is a very real issue and the fact that Trudeau called the election two years before it was necessary, in the middle of a pandemic, means that his polling told him he was gonna do well, or else he wouldn't have bothered. So the fact that he didn't do well means that something changed during the election period and I really believe that the people sent him a message, don't take us for granted, just because you're popular in the polls doesn't mean we wanted an election, it just meant we were happy with the way things were going particularly with your pandemic management, that's the poll he was doing very well in. I find that fact very bizarre cause Canada was very late to get the vaccine, we still have some of the most irrational covid measures. So I don't know why the Canadian public is so supportive of his performance but the fact is, according to the polls Canadians think the pandemic was well handled in canada. So he took that and thought ‘ok that'll get me a majority government’ and that was a bad mistake.

The Platform: Trudeau called for elections in an effort to receive more of a mandate to govern and an outright majority, however after the dust has settled the Liberals are in more or less the same position as they were before. Do you think the election results will have any affect on his governing style and future policies?

Linda Frum: No. I think he is who he is. I don't really think there's much that people can do to shake him from his governing style. His governing style when he had a minority government the first time was to govern as if he had a majority, that's just how he does it. The fact that today (November 22nd) is the first day that parliament is gonna be back, after an election that was called back in the summer, shows that. He hasn't allowed parliament to sit very often, hes tried to avoid scrutiny by expanding committees, hes done all kinds of things to keep the concentration of power in his office. When your heading a minority government, your supposed to be consultative, your supposed to work well with the other parties. Hes never been good at that and he never will be good at that.

The Platform: Erin O'Toole appeared to be in a near statistical tie going into election day, but the conservatives failed to surpass the liberals, let alone break even. What lessons can conservatives take out of the September elections?

Linda Frum: This is referred to as the conservative electoral deficit, meaning that when we are statistically tied, our share of the vote does not give us the same share of parliamentary power as the conservatives. This is because support for the conservative party is concentrated in certain ridings and provinces, whereas support for the liberals is more evenly spread across the country. So because of this we need to be quite ahead of the liberals in our share of the overall nationwide vote count, in order to come away with a better result.

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