It hasn’t been a perfect 100 days in office but The West Block’s panel of experts is giving the new Liberal government good marks for effort as it searches to find its feet.
Joining Tom Clark in The West Block studio this week were Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star and Paul Wells of Maclean’s magazine. Asked how they would rate the Trudeau government after the first three months, both said it would be a solid “B” grade.
“I would say they get points for playing well with others … they’re still ambitious,” Delacourt said.
“I think the honeymoon is still on and that may be more a function of the fact that there is no real competition to them right now, but I’d give them a B for at least making the effort and trying to move the ball down the road a bit.”
The balls that have already started rolling include tax breaks for the middle class, around 20,000 Syrian refugees now on Canadian soil, initial steps toward an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, and the pulling out of Canada’s CF-18 bombers in Syria and Iraq on Feb. 22.
But there have also been setbacks, with a struggling economy at the top of the list – and an enormous number of promised tasks still incomplete.
“It is going to be a more expensive government than some people might have thought,” said Wells, pointing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent admission that his government will blow through a promised $10-billion deficit ceiling and probably fail to balance the books within four years.
“On a whole bunch of things, they have decided not to course correct immediately after the election and say ‘well we didn’t realize it would be hard.’ They’ve decided they’re actually going to try, and do a bunch of these hard things simultaneously.”
There is undoubtedly more willingness to speak to the media on the part of the new government, Delacourt noted, but “I’m not sure a whole lot is being said at the moment.” That may partly be because the government itself is still trying to set a clear direction, Wells said.
Over the next three years, Ottawa will need to contend with the challenges of setting up climate change targets and re-focus the economy on renewable energy, the panelists agreed, but it will probably face grumbling from various provinces. The next sit-down between the prime minister and premiers is set for Vancouver in early March.
“I think we’re going to learn again that federalism is hard,” Delacourt said.
“In the next few months, we’re going to start realizing why Stephen Harper didn’t want to have these meetings of the premiers. And I think we’ll be trying to figure out how long goodwill lasts. You know, how long is it sufficient just to have people talking to each other before we want something actually done?”
Watch the full panel discussion above.