Remember Deliverology? 2 years ago, Trudeau’s cabinet was sworn in at Rideau Hall and Ensight’s Jesse Robichaud & Shane Mackenzie review what cabinet ministers have delivered, what they need to deliver before the 2019 election and those items that the government would rather you forgot.
Back on November 4, 2015, change could not have felt more real for 184 Liberal MPs and the middle class (and those working hard to join it) who chose them. On that day the Trudeau assembled for the first time to form a new government propelled by sunny ways, a commitment to evidence-based policy decisions, and a solemn vow to be anything but Stephen Harper.
Rocketing back to a majority government from third party status, newly minted cabinet ministers arrived at the venerable Rideau Hall and would be given an ambitious new accessory: customized mandate letters.
Previous governments had kept those letters private, but the new Prime Minister brought them into the public domain, revealing 5 to 10 bulleted commitments for each portfolio. Drawn from the Liberals’ 2015 platform, the mandate items were considered timely, manageable, and staple promises to achieve in short order.
As we reach the two-year mark of Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet, political observers are prognosticating the path to the 2019 election. Drawing on the Liberal government’s early orthodoxy to “deliverology,” we have surveyed mandate letters to measure signature items that have been delivered, those that remain to be delivered, and those that have not been delivered.
Signalling the new government’s emphasis on tracking progress and getting results, Ministers’ offices appointed “deliverology leads” who would work with key bureaucrats tasked with tracking the rate of delivering on government commitments.
Fast forward two years to today, and the Cabinet has been shuffled twice (January 2017, August 2017), and the mandate letters of some shuffled Ministers were updated in September 2017. The government’s focus on deliverology has fallen off the radar screen of journalists for the most part, but it is still useful in measuring how the government has delivered on its own priorities as it prepares to defend its track record as the 2019 campaign approaches.
- Canada Child Benefit(CCB): The Liberals have repeated (more than anything else) that they increased the CCB, and have recently indexed it to inflation earlier than announced. This fits their retail politics mindset more than any of their other promises. This is their greatest achievement – and they’ll never let you forget it.
- Long-Form Census: This was more popular than you might think. It showcased a tangible example of the evidence-based governing promised by the Liberals, and consequentially 98.4% of Canadians filled out a census in 2016, versus 68% when Prime Minister Harper made it voluntary in 2011.
- Global Leadership: Trudeau has personally acted as Canada’s brand ambassador on the global stage, including signing the Paris Accord and promoting a message of gender-parity politics. He trumpeted, “Canada is Back!” and a recent Insights West poll for Maclean’s shows that 67% Canadians think that this element of his real change plan is his biggest asset.
- Partnering with provinces and territories: To effectively not be Stephen Harper, Trudeau committed to holding lots of meetings with Premiers. It panned out. The federal government has been able to get Health Accord, CPP enhancement, and carbon pricing agreements with their provincial and territorial partners. These are the big things that Canadians consistently say they care about, and the Liberals have gotten results with only a few feathers ruffled (and vocal opponents in Saskatchewan and Manitoba).
- Independent Senate: The government promised a non-partisan, independent Senate that would restore credibility to the Red Chamber in the wake of years of scandal and indifference. The Independent Senator’s Group has now become the biggest collective in the Senate and is formalizing its organization. Trudeau has succeeded in redefining the partisan nature of the Senate, but the pace of lawmaking has slowed to a degree that may pose new challenges to the government.
TO BE DELIVERED:
- Cannabis: The Liberals committed to legalizing and regulating cannabis during the campaign and in the mandate letters. They set a self-imposed deadline of July 1, 2018 and they are currently on track to meet it. Despite the protests and concerns of provinces, chiefs of police and activists, the Liberal government has navigated a minefield of issues by focusing on future consumers and the principles of cracking down on organized crime and reducing dangers to young people. Nevertheless, the pressure is on to deliver a win on time and without pitfalls.
- Infrastructure: The Liberals committed to ambitious, massive infrastructure investments. Yet most projects announced have not started and cannot be clearly connected to job numbers or economic growth. With the Canada Infrastructure Bank yet to officially star work and a recent delay in billions of planned spending – the Liberals have not charted a clear path to victory on this one.
- Innovation Agenda: The ambitious innovation talk of the government has not resulted in large-scale action that Canadians can touch and feel. Shortlisting superclusters, an expansion to Futurpreneur and Business Development Bank of Canada, immigration talent streamlining, and some clean growth funds have not yet constituted a slam dunk for government.
- Phoenix & Procurement: The Phoenix debacle coupled with the public fighter jets fiasco would usually be enough to draw the ire of the public. So far the government has been vocally onside with Canadians in calling it “unacceptable,” but has yet to fix the issues after two years in power.
- Free Trade: Before Donald Trump’s presidential election win in the United States disrupted the global order and raised NAFTA as a major political issue, the Liberal government began its mandate with the immediate priorities of moving free trade deals with Europe (CETA) and Pacific Rim nations (TPP) over the finish line. Trump’s pledge to renegotiate or kill NAFTA has occupied much of the Liberal government’s energy and attention. The stakes surrounding the ongoing negotiations could not be higher. To show their pro-trade economic bona fides to their centrist voting base – they must show that they can be successful free traders.
- Deficits & Path to Balance: The Liberals committed to small $10 billion deficits to start, then to reduce year-after-year, with balance coming back in 2019. They quickly abandoned a path to balance. Government talking points have fallen flat on this issue, Liberals are betting it won’t move votes in 2019.
- Electoral Reform: The Liberals committed that the 2015 election would be the last using “first past the post” balloting. While they met their mandate letter commitment of striking a Parliamentary committee to review options, they let the promise die. The move could have an impact on progressive voters choosing between Liberal and NDP candidates.
- National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: The Liberals will seek to shirk the blame on this one as it was an independent inquiry, however, the blame is being pointed squarely back at them for how the initiative has soured already. The bungling of this file will overshadow much of their other work that they consider successes on the Indigenous file.
- Peacekeeping & Fighter Jets: The Liberals are back on top on the global stage, except for when it comes to ponying up the support for peacekeeping efforts. The global community has noticed, but election impacts are less clear-cut. Meanwhile, a near trade war triggered by Boeing has derailed Liberal plans to replace aging F-18 fighter jets with Super Hornets as an interim measure while a promised permanent new fleet is sourced.
- Restore Home Mail Delivery: The Liberals may have fulfilled commitments around a Parliamentary committee to review options for helping Canada Post to restore door-to-door home mail delivery, but the Liberal mailman has not delivered. When it comes time for the next election, we can’t think of an issue closer to home than mail.
Has the government delivered more than it hasn’t? Yes.
However, when you stack up the promises that they said were do-able in each of these mandate letters – those not delivered stick out for Canadians.
Perhaps the government will shuffle the Cabinet again before the next election, update mandate letters, and rejig a few things in-and-out of the text to shape what reporters and Canadians Google search in 2019.
This Liberal government promised “real change” in power, which means delivering on their platform while also juggling things that came up along the way. At the half way mark, they admit there is always more work to be done. It’s the reason they believe Canadians will grant them another majority win in 2019.
Although, as former Liberal leader Stéphane Dion once opined, “It’s not easy to make priorities.”