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As election speculation reaches a fever pitch, some advice for our federal party leaders

Finally, summer is well and truly here.

After a particularly gruelling spring complete with a few intermittent “false” summer days, the weather has warmed and reminded us just how lucky we are to live in this beautiful country — glorious and free.

Yet, as the idyll of summer approaches, there lurks a disruption on our road to a return to a new normal: a federal election campaign.

With vaccine rates outpacing most predictions and months of election speculation reaching a fever pitch, it seems ever more likely that Trudeau will push forward to the polls.

So, before the summer break begins in earnest, a bit of advice for each leader as they prepare for a gruelling campaign.

First, Green Party Leader Annamie Paul.

If you hadn’t heard of Paul before, you may well have been introduced to her through reports of party infighting, or the floor crossing of former Green MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals.

Notwithstanding all that noise, Paul is a figure to watch. She is the first Black Canadian and the first Jewish woman to lead a federal party. She is also the subject of a leadership review that could see her removed as leader on July 15.

If she survives, my advice is simple: prove your mettle. If racism and misogyny in the Green ranks is indeed the root of this leadership challenge, clean it up. Fast.

At the same time, make the most of this moment, because the Greens may never get more coverage than they will in the coming months.

For Jagmeet Singh, this election will be pivotal.

The NDP have been largely absent over the course of the pandemic, forced to prop up Trudeau’s recovery agenda while the Liberals eat their lunch with big spending on socially liberal policies.

So far, Singh has failed to show that his party can form an effective opposition. It is time for him to do so, or risk proving right those in his caucus who have accused him of frittering away the last year.

Next up, with 32 seats in the House, Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet.

Of all the leaders, I would bet that Blanchet is sleeping most soundly ahead of a pending campaign.

That’s because he has the lowest bar to reach. Having won 22 new seats in 2019 and proven himself adept at winning concessions in Parliament for Quebecers, Blanchet simply has to hold enough seats to maintain that influence.

Now, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole.

In normal times, the campaign would be a proving ground for a rookie leader like O’Toole — but these are not normal times. O’Toole’s party members will expect him to hold the Liberals to at least a minority if he is going to be secure in his leadership.

My advice? Think beyond COVID. Show Canadians you can lead the country. Demonstrate how you will deliver on a broader range of issues.

And keep moving fast. While members have complained of O’Toole’s decisive action on items like climate policy and removing Derek Sloan from caucus, he has proven himself so far. O’Toole has shown a pragmatic determination to make the party more competitive in today’s world.

He knows, after all, that come fall, the Liberals will do what they do best: tie Conservatives to the spectre of a hidden anti-choice and climate-skeptical agenda. If O’Toole maintains his momentum, he will be much better positioned to defend himself.

Finally, to the prime minister: prepare for the fight of your life.

The pandemic has bought the Liberals breathing room as the opposition parties avoid division and the country has “rallied around the flag.”

But once the writ is dropped, all bets are off. The opposition parties will be out to tar the Liberals for their COVID record. And the patty-cake relationship with provincial leaders will fall to the wayside.

For Justin Trudeau, a minority win is not enough. If he can’t win a majority, he may as well hit the road.

But don’t count the PM out. He is at his best when he is in a fight — and he and his team know how to fight. Trudeau has the best pathway to a win of any of the leaders. His challenge will be having the discipline to stay the course.

Finale (w/ Michael Cooke)

This week, Political Traction says farewell to its seventh season. 

Joining host Amanda Galbraith for a special finale episode with a live virtual audience, Navigator Senior Advisor, Michael Cooke, discusses his former life as an Editor and tackles a year in review: through the biggest winners, the biggest self-owns, best headlines, and election predictions.

World leaders seem to think the Trump years were nothing but a bad dream. It’s time for them to wake up

Last week’s G7 summit in Cornwall was the very model of modern, multilateral politicking. Against the backdrop of sunny beaches and clear blue skies, leaders of some of the world’s largest economies walked and talked, posing together every step of the way.

Pre-summit hopes had been in overdrive. Cornwall was, after all, the first such summit in the so-called post-COVID era, and the first G7 attended by the new leaders of Italy, Japan, the United States and the European Union. A more civilized, internationalist approach to the issues of the day seemed to be heralded by the inclusion of leaders from Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa.

But despite all the promise of a brighter tomorrow inherent in the summit, a crippling sense of nostalgia or, more accurately, amnesia turned out to be the dominant theme.

Perhaps that’s because, to a person, the leaders onstage seemed content to pretend the last four years of contentious feuding, silly gamesmanship and embarrassing breaches of protocol and convention had been a blip. A speed bump on the otherwise open road to greater co-operation and interdependence among nations.

Indeed, apart from elbow bumping in lieu of handshakes, the summit could well have taken place in 2015 — before COVID wrought havoc over the globe; before Donald Trump walked all over the idea of unity among western allies with his grandstanding.

But no amount of self-congratulatory affection between western leaders could return us to that halcyon era. So, we were instead forced to watch as the G7 proved itself unable to grapple with reality. In the process, it became painfully obvious that the institution is not fit for purpose.

Sure, some accomplishments were achieved — but they entailed a healthy dose of hypocrisy.

The meeting agreed to donate one billion COVID vaccines to the COVAX sharing initiative — though Canada’s own contributions will only come from returning the vaccines it took from COVAX in the first place!

The gathered countries also pledged to support the education of 40 million girls globally. Sadly, this pledge has been described as an “empty promise,” given the host country’s own decision to cut its overseas aid commitments — including those aimed at girls’ education!

Although leaders reached an agreement on reducing carbon emissions, ultimately it is woefully insufficient in the eyes of climate advocates. Activist Greta Thunberg sarcastically noted that “G7 leaders seem to be having a good time presenting their empty climate commitments.”

But perhaps the greatest oversight of all was on the part of world leaders who celebrated the return of a U.S. president who is “part of the club,” to quote French President Macron.

The unfortunate reality seems to be that Macron, German Chancellor Merkel and their fellow internationalists — our prime minister included — are behaving as though the Trump years were an aberration, rather than a sign of the times. They forget that a plurality of Americans and a majority of Republicans have made it clear they’d rather blow up their club altogether.

Of course, a large part of this complex stems from the group’s disdain for Trump. Aside from Britain’s Boris Johnson, no G7 leader could stand the former president. Because they found him so repugnant, they refused to acknowledge his legitimacy or his impact on the global order. And they refuse to imagine that the U.S. may well return to his form of politics.

But given the state of the American public opinion, it is not inconceivable that a more palatable Trump minion could be sworn into the Oval Office in 2024.

And there is one leader who is wise to this possibility: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Following their meeting, Putin capitalized on political rifts in the U.S. by questioning the legitimacy of arresting those involved in the Jan. 6 uprising.

“People came to the U.S. Congress with political demands … they’re being called domestic terrorists,” Putin said.

For his part, Putin clearly understands the same fault lines that delivered Donald Trump to office are still very much active. Let’s hope his western counterparts wake up to the same.