The byelection is on – and hopefully soon Trudeau will face the tough questions

This afternoon – a Wednesday for some reason – Prime Minister finally called three byelections, including the much-anticipated Burnaby South, where NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is running.

Of course, as now seems inalienable from the Trudeau style, even when the games of delay and deception appeared to be over, they weren’t. Usually a byelection is 36 days long – but for Singh, the PM has called a 47-day campaign that would land the NDP Leader in the Commons the week before a two-week break.

Through the whole byelection game, Mr. Trudeau’s pettiness has appeared as an extension of his self-obsessed effort to turn everything – from International Women’s Day to Valentines’ Day – into an opportunity to reflect upon and advance himself. And it strikes a stark contrast with his apparent indifference to the challenges Canadians face with the cost of everyday life.

Three years into his mandate, Mr. Trudeau has failed to address the cost of housing and rents – or act with provinces to do so. A plan unveiled last year with headline spending of $40 billion on housing construction turned out to be a mirage, with the federal contribution only half the claimed amount, all federal money contingent on matching provincial funds and a timeline stretching far into the future. When one-third of the country is being run by the ax-wielding Doug Ford, it’s a good bet even the mirage will be further reduced to a small gust of hot air.

And despite decades of study and the known savings of a public, single-payer, universal prescription drug insurance plan — a plan that could ensure coverage for the millions of Canadians without any prescription drug insurance — Trudeau’s only concrete step has been to appoint a Liberal with personal ties to the pharmaceutical industry to write a report.

Even Trudeau’s signature infrastructure promise has been a cruel hoax. His pledge to use historically low interest rates to build infrastructure, create jobs and prime the economic pump was turned into another Liberal banking scheme. Trudeau’s Infrastructure Bank will forego the cheapest source of funds – public borrowing – for higher priced private finance capital. And it has yet to sign any new deals.

Trudeau’s climate change plan is so weak that the gap between our projected carbon emissions and our 2030 targets is growing, not shrinking. Many provinces still generate electricity using large doses of coal – and rather than help them move to clean production, Trudeau has exempted those power stations from his carbon pricing plans, encouraging their continued use.

And despite a wonderful Haida tattoo, it has recently become more than clear that Mr. Trudeau has no comprehension of what reconciliation means — or even the case law our courts have settled on Indigenous rights.

In other words, Trudeau has given the NDP leader a lot of tough questions to ask when, we assume, Singh arrives in the Commons in February.

And Canadians need Singh to ask those tough questions. Scheer’s constant pandering to far right identity politics is not only nauseating but has given Trudeau a free ride on questions about the costs of everyday life. If Scheer asks a question about affordable housing, it’s usually to complain that asylum-seekers are using it. If he asks a question about a universal pharma plan…well, that’s just never happened.

So hopefully Singh will win so the tough questions can finally be asked.

But Burnaby South is no NDP bastion – it’s a competitive seat and Singh and his team are going to have to fight hard and make a connection with voters’ concerns. In that regard Singh may be helped by the Liberals’ nomination of Karen Wang who, far from being an advocate for affordability, has been a fundraising favourite of real estate interests.

But if you are one for bets, I’d wager it is unlikely voters in Burnaby South will choose to elect another voice who will sing from the back row in Trudeau’s Red Army Choir when they can instead send Trudeau a message he can’t ignore.

Polls show Canadians are disappointed with Trudeau. The darling of the liberal establishment needs to be put on notice, and only a vote for Singh will do that.

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