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Tom Mulcair: Trudeau outplayed and trapped ahead of fiscal update

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There is nothing more distracting to a hockey coach than a defense that passes the puck back and forth, instead of moving it up the ice. This is how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first line seems to be handling the big issues of the day, appearing largely trapped by a disciplined Conservative team with its eyes on the prize.

Big players like Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland give the impression that they have no idea how to get into the opposing zone, let alone score points with voters. .

To continue the metaphor, the collapse of Freeland’s economic update felt like a punishment. He is alone on the ice and all eyes are on him as he makes moves that could determine his chances of eventually succeeding Trudeau, or achieve a come-from-behind boost in the polls. He shot her…?

Guilbeault’s case is more difficult. A savvy communicator when it comes to talking to the more progressive side of the Liberal base, he’s learning that you can’t just pass on your left wing.

Like Stéphane Dion in 2008, Trudeau bet the farm on a carbon tax. The problem is, it’s the farm that doesn’t want to pay, and now Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre is running a play he learned from Harper in 2008. You’re chasing one part of the carbon tax at a time. Home heating oil, then agricultural fuels…and so on. For your opponent, it’s like slowly peeling an onion, you’re just making them cry.

Like Dion’s carbon tax plan, which he called the “Green Shift,” Guilbeault’s scheme was attacked as a tax on everyone. Dion paid a heavy price for not understanding the effectiveness of the Conservative line of attack.

Guilbeault worked tirelessly to develop his climate plan, paying a heavy price with his former colleagues in the environmental movement for siding with Trudeau as he poured tens of billions into a new oil pipeline and offshore drilling approved. He is now left to flounder about staying as minister if Trudeau continues to scrap parts of the carbon tax plan, just as he did when he stopped the home heating oil tax to appease his Atlantic MPs.

There is a potential star on the Liberal bench who was brought in mid-season and is showing strength and determination. Housing Minister Sean Fraser knows what to do with the puck. The problem is that no one on Trudeau’s team sees anything different.

Not only was he a clear speaker, he achieved an incredible feat in going from almost no knowledge of French at the time of his appointment to an almost fluent command of the language of Molière.

He was given a housing file and his age group knew they were the first Canadian generation to have less opportunity than their parents to own a home. He will be promised a lot of money but little time to get enough wins to reach the playoffs.

In today’s fiscal update, Trudeau and Freeland will again talk about groceries, as they did in the spring budget. At least then, there was money attached, about $500 for a working family of four. The problem is, the family’s grocery bill went up $1,100 this year, and they’re still hurting.

Instead of continuing to help directly, as he did last spring, Trudeau will promise to bring in new legislation to try and stop price gouging and collusion in the grocery oligopoly. The obvious difficulty with that promise is that it provides absolutely no help to working families who, more and more, are giving the Liberals and NDP a pass and paying attention to Poilievre, who has managed to convince them that he is on their side.

Like many townspeople in arenas across Canada, Canadian voters will be rooting for a good result.

In Ottawa, there seems to be only one dominant team on the ice right now and no amount of stickhandling is likely to convince voters to root for the team that has promised — and failed to deliver — for most of the past decade.


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