MONTREAL—In a CTV interview earlier this week, former Liberal cabinet minister Marc Garneau described the defence of the language rights of Quebec’s anglophone minority as a “hill worth dying on.”
Garneau was referring to his concerns about his own government’s revised version of the Official Languages Act and the door it has opened to harmonizing the federal bilingualism legislation with Quebec’s language law.
In other circumstances, his fighting words would have resonated loudly on Parliament Hill, for they would rightly have been interpreted as a sign that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had not yet succeeded in resolving the internal caucus divisions that Bill C-13 has brought to light.
Few other government bills have elicited as much public dissent from within the Liberal ranks.
Except that this is a battle Garneau himself is no longer going to be a part of. The former astronaut gave the interview on the aftermath of his resignation from the House of Commons.
When the votes on the final version of C-13 are counted in the House of Commons later this spring, his will not be in the mix. He is leaving it to others to choose to die on the hill he has described.
If only for that reason, the timing of his resignation made it a good-news story for the otherwise embattled Liberal government.
Among the handful of Montreal MPs who have reservations about C-13, Garneau — a star in his own right by virtue of his feats as an astronaut, but also from his tenure as a front-line minister in Trudeau’s previous cabinets — had the highest profile.
His departure spares the government the embarrassment of having a backbencher of such stature vote against its language bill. And Garneau — who went out of his way to say he still disagreed with C-13 but was not leaving on account of it — did not really need to have a showdown with his own government define the end of a productive 15-year spell in politics.
All that being said, no one expected him to run in the next election. Had he known he would be dropped from cabinet after the last campaign, chances are he might have retired in 2021. After Garneau lost his seat at the cabinet table, he had been offered but declined the post of ambassador to France.
The NDG-Westmount riding he is vacating is one of the safest Liberal seats in the country. Past Liberal leaders have often used it to land a star recruit. Garneau’s departure could set the stage for a hard-fought nomination battle.
Given all of the above, it would be wrong to see Garneau’s resignation as the signal of an upcoming exodus of high-profile Liberal MPs. His case is more a one-off than part of an emerging pattern. But that does not mean he will be the last to not re-offer in the next election.
If the past is any indication, more than a few government MPs are at this very juncture weighing whether they want to sign up for another campaign. That introspective exercise is not limited to backbenchers.
In the lead-up to what turned out to be his last campaign, Stephen Harper saw a half-dozen veteran ministers decline to run again. Those included, among others, James Moore, Peter MacKay and John Baird.
The prospect that their party could wake up in opposition on the morning after the next election undoubtedly provides some impetus for such waves of departures.
But there is also the fact that after a decade or more in politics, it is normal and essentially healthy to consider whether the time has come for a change.
On that basis, it is probably no accident there is now more backroom speculation as to whether Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will run again than there is about her leadership prospects.
Trudeau’s deputy prime minister would not lack for interesting challenges outside of federal politics. Some of them could be more attractive than waiting for the prime minister to hand over a flickering leadership torch.
A word in closing on Trudeau’s own sense of his standing: Earlier this week, he offered a rather remarkable rationale for his decision to delegate to a yet-to-be appointed independent expert the duty of determining whether a public inquiry should be tasked with looking into the China electoral interference file.
In response to a barrage of criticism from the opposition parties, Trudeau argued that had he taken the initiative to set up an inquiry, a significant number of Canadians would have concluded the government was loading the dice in its favour.
But if the prime minister seriously believes he no longer has enough moral authority to proceed with something as basic as the creation of an independent body to shed light on his actions and those of his government, how can he think he is still fit to hold his current position?
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
does not endorse these opinions.
Denial of responsibility! galaxyconcerns is an automatic aggregator around the global media. All the content are available free on Internet. We have just arranged it in one platform for educational purpose only. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials on our website, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.