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Ujjal Dosanjh

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Prime MinisterTrudeau, your PMO too needs a shuffle!

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Justin Trudeau just shuffled his cabinet on Tuesday, November 10th. It was needed and timely and not just because of the impending reincarnation of a self confessed pussy grabber, liar, racist, misogynist, xenophobe and a bully billionaire celebrity into President Trump. There were other legitimate reasons obvious for anyone to see such as rookie ministers screwing up simple or not so simple issues and damaging the Trudeau brand. The shuffle while staunching the bleeding on the electoral reform and some other files also prepares Canada for a fast changing world with violent turmoil in the Middle East and parts of Africa, the insurgent radical Right in Europe, Brexit as well as the Trump upheaval causing tremors in the politics and economy of our next door neighbour and the world. 

Chrystia Freeland moved from Trade to foreign affairs and veterans such as John McCallum and Stephane Dion, both whom have served Canada with dedication and distinction are gone from the cabinet table. Maryam Monsef has been shifted from the difficult Electoral Reform to the Status of Women. There are some new faces including Ahmed Hussen in Immigration. Beyond that the Trudeau shuffle is already old news and the business as usual, Ottawa style, is likely to take over in Ottawa.

But Trudeau needed another shuffle; no, not a cabinet shuffle but a shuffle nonetheless-- to shake up the PMO that has brought him so much grief in the last several months. In his heart of hearts he probably knows he needs it. Those in the PMO around him may not yet or ever see the need for one; they may be wilfully blind because, if ever the emperor so realised and decided, it is some of them who would need to be shuffled out or dumped.

Who deserves to be fired or demoted from Trudeau's PMO? Some of the powerful political appointees who are the architects of government's policies, strategies and tactics and advise the prime minister and cabinet on the ever evolving policy and the shifting and turbulent sands of question period. The powerful men and women in the PMO who send forth ministers armed with questionable pronouncements clad in what they deem clever words to perform impossible somersaults, twists and turns in the House on serious issues had obviously crafted the scripts for Monsef and the House Leader Bardish Chaggar--something they do for most ministers.

Monsef was a rookie minister and clearly didn't remember that her brief was not to lecture colleagues but to shepherd the electoral reform through the House. Only a rookie minister armed with talking points from the PMO and its wordsmiths would have publicly reasoned that public consultations were superior to public referendums as a way of deciding what kind of an electoral system Canadians prefer. Chaggar, also a rookie obviously guided by the PMO, droned endlessly in and outside of the House about how access for cash being granted by the prime minister and his ministers was all well and good and within the ambit of the law while she and her boss the PM knew all along that the latter's direction in the original ministerial mandates was being grossly and blatantly violated.

It was also the PMO that advised and/or insisted that Trudeau's inadvisable, secret and ultimately not so secret vacation on Aga Khan's private Island didn't raise any conflict of interest or ethical questions. The advisers must have been wilfully blind to the clear but awful optics of the prime minister-- and a champion of middle class Canadians no less-- spending secret time at a private island of a billionaire; and even more troubling is the fact that the prime minister or no one around him saw any ethical concerns in the fact that said billionaire's charitable foundations have received and may continue to receive money from the government that Trudeau now heads. How could they, and how could the PM let them, bungle things so badly?

As a consequence of PMO's bad advice and /or untimely silence, when speaking truth to the prime ministerial power may have been warranted, Trudeau has had to embark on a hastily scheduled Canadian "listening tour." To do the "listening" he is even giving the Trump inauguration a miss. Talking to Canadians is always important for any prime minister. However it is not responsible for Trudeau to skip Trump's swearing-in. Despite most Canadians' dislike of what Trump stands for, US-Canada relationship is the most important among the country to country relationships for Canada.

In sum Trudeau's inner circle/PMO is mainly responsible for the mess he faces. His PMO team requires strengthening, adding to it or subtracting from it; it certainly needs overhauling substantially, if not fully. If Trudeau doesn't do it soon, he may have to be on a permanent stand by for more hurriedly scheduled listening tours of the country.  

Prime Minister! Happy listening, and shuffling in 2017.


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