Money in the bank earns interest. Capital, prudently invested increases in value. About the only unspent capital that doesn’t offer a return, is political capital. In fact unspent political capital quickly depreciates.
Prime Minister Trudeau-the-Younger understands this. To date, there’s no indication that Premier MacLauchlan gets it.
After his election the Prime Minister moved quickly on a number of fronts, from a gender-balanced and diverse cabinet to keeping campaign promises that he might well have broken or moderated, i.e. the withdrawal of the Canada’s jets from the Middle East.
There’s a political axiom that says politicians have a limited time to begin the process of initiating the programs they wish to accomplish while in office. It’s generally believed that window of opportunity occurs in the first 18 months. After that, political leaders get too bogged down in the day-to-day minutiae of governing. Then, before they know it, it’s time to gear-up for the next election.
Trudeau-the-Elder learned the nature of political capital, especially after his defeat by Joe Clark in 1979. When he returned to power in 1980, Pierre Trudeau quickly utilized his new-found political capital and began the process of Constitutional reform which became the hallmark of his political career.
In just over three weeks, Wade MacLauchlan will celebrate his first anniversary as Premier. Which means the shades will soon be drawn on his window of opportunity.
In comparing the Premier to the Prime Minister it may be Mr. MacLauchlan has the greater challenge; given the strength of his cabinet, the strength of his office and the strength of the Island’s senior bureaucrats.
The Prime Minister has a cabinet composed of talented and experienced people who are supported by competent bureaucrats and he has an office, staffed by people he trusts with whom he has worked for a number of years. Given all this support, Trudeau-the-Younger has the luxury of being able to spend more time being leader, than on governing.
Of the two, even given the complexities of governing a country as large and diverse as Canada, the Prime Minister may well have an easier time of it than the Premier of Prince Edward Island.
Mr. MacLauchlan likely spends more time in the actual hands-on governing of the province, than Mr. Trudeau does running the country. Mr. Trudeau can delegate; to his office staff, to his ministers, and to the bureaucracy, with a confidence that Mr. MacLauchlan can only dream of.
In part, this is a reflection on how the two came to office.
Justin Trudeau spent six years as an opposition MP and two years as party leader before he became prime minister. It was time well spent. He immersed himself in the party’s culture, he got to know the elected
MPs, and Liberals across the country. And he took the time to create the team that got him elected.
Mr. MacLauchlan decided in the fall of 2014 to try and become Liberal leader and premier. With no competition, and mainly through his own efforts, he was Premier three months later. And, in the spring election, though successful, he attracted very little new blood.
On the Island its mostly old hands on deck, 80 per cent of the cabinet and 80 per cent of the Liberal MLAs are hold-overs from the Ghiz years. In Ottawa it’s just the opposite; 80 per cent of Liberal caucus and about 80 per cent of the cabinet are newly elected MPs.
The government of Trudeau-the-Younger is, in many ways, a sharp contrast to the former Harper administration. On the Island it’s mainly a difference in tone, not personnel, with a policy tweak her and there.
Mr. MacLauchlan has a cache of political capital, but he needs to start spending it. Hopefully, in the up-coming Throne Speech he’ll give an indication of what he wants to accomplish before his time in office runs out.
And it will run out.
Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: email@example.com