FIRST READING: A brief history of politicians calling for Trudeau’s resignation

It’s been happening for quite a while now

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The last week saw two politicians make headlines by calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Former Conservative cabinet minister Joe Oliver did so in the National Post, which isn’t too surprising. More unexpected is the warning that came from Liberal-appointed Senator Percy Downe, who said in a new column that the Liberal Party is unelectable so long as Trudeau remains at the helm.

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And both Oliver and Downe are in line with current public opinion on this. A recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute found that 57 per cent of Canadians – including a not-insubstantial number of Liberals – wanted someone new in the PMO. That’s almost exactly the same finding as an August Abacus Data poll that found 56 per cent of Canadians wanting Trudeau’s resignation. 

It’s certainly not unusual for a Canadian prime minister to face public calls for his resignation. So far this year, the word “resign” or “resignation” has been entered into the public record more than 350 times on Parliament Hill – which is about average.

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Trudeau has arguably gotten more of these calls than usual. Opposition leaders usually avoid using the “r word” until they’re reasonably sure it’s going to yield results. But if there’s one thing that’s defined Trudeau’s premiership, it’s the ability to plough through scandals that would have ruined any other Commonwealth leader.

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Below, a chronological list of all the times that a parliamentarian, past parliamentarian, provincial leader or public opinion poll called for Trudeau to resign.

2019: The Tories call for his resignation over SNC-Lavalin

This was the first high-profile call for Trudeau’s departure, and the one that sparked international headlines. In the midst of revelations that Trudeau had tried to block a bribery prosecution against engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer put out a lengthy statement outlining why he thought Trudeau should step down. “The details are as shocking as they are corrupt: multiple veiled threats to her job if she didn’t bow to their demands,” wrote Scheer about Trudeau’s treatment of his attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould. He added, “Mr. Trudeau can no longer, in good standing and with a clear conscience, lead this great nation.”

But the only ouster prompted by the scandal was Wilson-Raybould herself, as well as fellow Liberal cabinet minister Jane Philpott.

2019: Former premier calls for resignation over blackface photos

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When Trudeau’s 2019 re-election campaign was derailed by a cascade of photos showing the Liberal leader in blackface, it didn’t actually prompt all that many resignation calls from official quarters. It was the middle of an election, so anybody who would have done so simply figured he would be demoted by voters. But former N.W.T. premier Stephen Kakfwi did. “I think he should come out and be man enough to say, ‘There is real consequences to holding views and taking actions like this and I, Justin Trudeau, will resign,’” he told CBC.

2020: The Bloc (and the Tories again) call for resignation over WE Charity scandal

The WE Charity scandal was the one where the Trudeau government sole-sourced a massive contract to WE Charity, a group that had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees to Trudeau and his immediate family. Scheer was already on the way out as Conservative leader when the details of the scandal first came to light, so he threw out one last hail-mary call for Trudeau’s resignation. The prime minister and his finance minister Bill Morneau should resign “for the good of the country,” said Scheer. And this time he was joined by Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet.

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2021: First poll shows majority of Canadians backing resignation

Canadian prime ministers can typically spend almost their entire tenure with approval ratings below 50 per cent. But even a hated Canadian prime minister won’t necessarily inspire public calls for departure. But after the 2021 federal election – in which Trudeau’s attempt to secure a majority instead yielded a near-identical repeat of the 2019 election – it was a Maru Public Opinion poll that found Canadians were fed up with the prime minister they had just re-elected. Of respondents, 55 per cent said they wanted Trudeau to step aside and a new Liberal leader to take charge.

2023: Jean Chrétien’s former deputy says resignation is inevitable

John Manley, the former deputy prime minister under Jean Chrétien, didn’t outright call for Trudeau to resign before the next election. Arguably, Manley did something far worse: He said Trudeau is already doomed, and it doesn’t really matter if he leaves willingly. “Change is force of nature in politics,” Manley told Bloomberg News, before citing the “Seinfeld rule” – his personal metric holding that a Canadian prime ministers usually don’t last much longer than the nine years that Seinfeld was on the air.

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IN OTHER NEWS

After years of refusing any concessions whatsoever on the carbon tax, the Liberals recently announced a sudden exemption for home heating oil and then sternly warned that no other carve-outs would be coming. The exemption was a pretty brazen sop to Atlantic Canada, where the recent imposition of the carbon tax sent Liberal support into a tailspin (and where home heating oil usage is wildly disproportionate as compared to the rest of the country). But it turns out the NDP had some strong views about this new doctrine of “East Coasters don’t pay carbon tax while everybody else does.” This week the NDP teamed up with the Conservatives for a motion that would exempt the tax on all forms of home heating, not just the kinds used in Newfoundland and the Maritimes. “This is an issue of being the adults in the room,” said NDP House Leader Peter Julian, before immediately throwing a barb at the Tories to say that all their other motions are “generally” crazy and unsupportable.

Elizabeth May
Green Party co-leader Elizabeth May has never really attempted to be accurate in her characterizations of the Arab-Israeli conflict (not to mention her party having a bit of a perennial problem with Jews). But on Friday she released a statement accusing Israel of “indiscriminate” bombings in Gaza. As in; they’re just lobbing explosives into the area without caring what they hit. This is what Hamas is claiming, but it’s not really something repeated by any serious analysts of the conflict. Photo by X.com

The Supreme Court has once again discovered a new constitutional right. Specifically, they decided that it’s “cruel and unusual” punishment to prescribe mandatory minimum prison sentences for those convicted of child luring. Henceforth, the sentence received by convicted child lurers (if one is prescribed at all) will be up to individual judges rather than Parliament. It’s not entirely clear what kind of imprisonment the Supreme Court actually thinks is constitutional, because they’ve been doing this a lot. Most notoriously, last year the Supreme Court struck down a law that mandated consecutive prison sentences for mass murderers. The law held that for every person you killed, you had to spend at least 25 years in jail; so, five murders, 125 years in jail. But the Supreme Court ruled that no matter how many murders you rack up, you’re still up for parole after 25. Their reasoning in that case was similarly that it was “cruel and unusual punishment” to expect mass killers to die in jail.

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