Stalled vaccine, Biden speed bump on Trudeau’s re-election road

Justin Trudeau deserves credit for determining the pandemic was his moment of calling, of his resurrection, of his opportunity to etch himself into Canadian history as his father had.

Let’s not go too far for the time being, though. There is a detour to discuss.

We should remember Canada was slow off the mark with COVID-19 assistance. People and businesses were sent to the curb or ghosted, and it was weeks before then-finance minister Bill Morneau announced, then amended, then refined the federal support that arrived late to the party. Yet Trudeau redeemed rather swiftly, and once the Kielburger brothers were yesterday’s news he asserted himself as no western leader has in devoting his government’s all into refilling a void of lost personal income and corporate cash flow.

The Conservative opposition was in basic shambles, the NDP was salivating at riding the spending train as minority government baggage, so nothing stood to stop him. When we review the year, who else, after all, doubled spending and devoted such a slab of gross domestic product? Who else seems willing to stay that course, even if the country’s balance sheet looks in respects Third Worldly? Thank heavens for low interest rates.

Trudeau watched as New Brunswick’s provincial government renewed its mandate in the midst of coronavirus, as British Columbia’s shed minority status frustrations to gain agency with a wide representational edge, and as even repugnant Donald Trump nearly earned re-election despite handling the delicate pandemic as an anxious dog handles a squeaky chew toy.

Only Trump had to actually stage an election – that pesky Constitution was something he must have asked about bypassing, given his other attempted aversions. The others were mid-mandate opportunists, but voters flocked. They were being financed well in crisis, and they rewarded with replenishment.

And Trudeau must have thought – might even be thinking – if he can peel the New Democrats off his back and get the more solid third mandate. If only.

Problem is twofold: the new vaccine and the new American president. The former is not going as intended, dismayingly; the latter is, dismayingly.

The militaristic requirement of disbursing the world’s fastest-created vaccine against the century’s most virulent health menace is something few could have expected to run like salmon on the Fraser. The best laid plans are waylaid of late. The situation is hardly campaign-friendly.

Pfizer Inc.’s saviour, as the first vaccine to be approved, is also first to be blamed when the pandemic does not disappear overnight.

Trudeau and team assumed a mellifluous distribution, both from the Big Pharma maker and the provincial dispensers. Ha!

Then there is president 46. Almost any carbon-based form of life would improve upon an incumbent who defies eclipses, denies climate change and calls university-educated officials to overturn electoral colleges. Hold on, though: those who brought Joe Biden to the party are the ones he will dance with, and Canada is going to be at the side of the darkened room nursing its glass of punch for the time being. Double Ha!

The Albertan leadership, momentarily leavened by Trump’s gesture to Big Oil in proceeding with the project, forgot that Barack Obama with Biden in tow were the original Kibosh Kidz on the Keystone XL pipeline.

And, waiting as Robin to the pipeline-killing Batman is this Buy America mantra, this version 2.0 of Make America Great Again that Biden would decry as malarkey if weren’t so crucial to his base. Ontario and Quebec, notable for their populations and House of Commons seats, are soon to wonder what hit them when Biden signals appeasement of the manufacturing states that made him the world’s most powerful person, next to Jeff Bezos. It may dissipate in time and become America Buy instead of Buy America, but for now it is fashionable to fantasize on repatriating sub-minimum-wage labour abroad for middle-class jobs domestically. Such is idealism and innumeracy.

I’m no wizard, but it doesn’t take one to realize that these two factors dampen the spring election Trudeau contemplates. How do you stickhandle your ineffectiveness with 46 without running against him? How do you crow about your pandemic ministering if you can’t muster a rollout of the cure?

Things change, and sometimes we should be grateful for that. But if a week is an eternity in politics, even a couple of bad days are a lifetime. Our prime minister must now look at the slow-to-move vaccinations and the fast-to-move presidency and wonder how he persuades the country for a new term when he can’t determine, much less direct neither’s next moves.

It would be a campaign without agency on the central issues of our public and economic health, of aggrieved unvaccinated Canadians hearing that the new American president is no soft touch. Six or so such campaign weeks in politics can send you packing. •

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of BIV and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.