• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

It’s Time for the Prime Minister to Govern

The Prime Minister is no longer young. Youthful, yes, with his mother’s good looks and a photogenic family, but Justin Pierre James Trudeau recently celebrated his 46th birthday. And it’s past time he made the transition from campaigner to governor.

Prime ministers who hold majorities in Parliament are virtual dictators, benevolent or otherwise. Only the Supreme Court, a badly attenuated press corps, and their own party—whose leaders enjoy plum positions only at the Prime Minister’s pleasure—hold them in check. As David Frum once told me, there are only half a dozen truly important political offices in Canada, and none comes even close to the tremendous power wielded by a prime minister enjoying a majority.

Mr. Trudeau has had lots of experience in electoral politics, but very little experience in running anything. He presided over a few classrooms in Vancouver for a few years: an experience that, I am sure, taught him a lot about human nature and the complexities of authority. But still: only a few classes. Otherwise, besides chairing the Katimavik youth program, he hasn’t had to run anything: no business, no charity, no government department, nothing.

It is time, then, for him to move from advocate, at which he has done well, to statesman, at which we can hope he will do well.

By “statesman” I have in mind the realism, humility, and magnanimity of an Abraham Lincoln who, despite the atrocious violence of the Civil War and the vicious shenanigans of the politics of his day that would have driven a lesser man to vindictive tunnel vision somehow managed to see things whole and to remember the faults of his side and the credentials of the other.

Lincoln’s brief but powerful Second Inaugural Address speaks to the fractious politics of our own day, whether prochoice vs. prolife, markets vs. regulations, opportunities vs. welfare, capital vs. labour, innovation vs. tradition, left vs. right.

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