Six politicos to watch in 2020

Justin Trudeau's new face of determination, Doug Ford's future run for mayor and Jagmeet Singh's make or break moment top the list of political trends to mark in 2020



Justin Trudeau: Fear the beard

The PM is growing a beard (shock and horror) and it’s become the subject of some speculation.

Is it to appear more serious? Is it because he was on vacation recently and just didn’t have the time to shave? Is he going through a midlife crisis? Or is it just to cover his chin? 

He can take a punch, but Trudeau’s past experiments with facial hair haven’t gone so well, so the media can be forgiven its obsession. Who could forget that Cyrano de Bergerac number just before he entered politics that made him look like he was auditioning for a part in an adult movie? He was so much younger then, he’s older than that now.

He recently turned 48. And if the rough ride of the last election taught him anything, it’s humility. Time for Trudeau to lose the smarmy and put on a more determined face. 

We were told post-election that we’d be seeing a more serious Trudeau after the Brownface/Blackface embarrassment. No more selfies. No more pics of the PM running bare-chested in the woods (although Russian president Vladimir Putin seems to be able to get away with photo ops of going shirtless astride a white horse). 

But those Kodak moments that drive his critics crazy are what made Trudeau attractive to voters, if a little flakey.

It may be time for the PM to change up his public image. But the truth is he’s been growing up before the Canadian public’s eyes ever since his late father was PM. 

By all means, fear the beard. It’s another sign Sunny Ways are over, and that we may be entering even more sobering times than the shitshow that was 2019. 

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Doug Ford: Is a run for mayor of Toronto next?

The last thing most of us want is for Doug Ford to be a constant presence in our lives. But it’s when Doug shuts up that we should all be worried.

Lately, he’s been reprising his role as Don Dougie, referring questions in the Legislature to his ministers (minions?) It’s the same tack he took just before recessing the government for five months in the heat of the summer patronage scandal engulfing his then-chief of staff Dean French. These days, it’s the mess his cuts are causing in education that Ford wants to avoid questions about, among other things.

His handlers figure the less he says, the better the odds of keeping his foot from finding his mouth. Have you noticed? Doug’s dismal approval ratings haven’t budged despite efforts in recent months to appear more conciliatory. That move to the political centre hasn’t translated into love, apparently. A few more weeks like this and we could see Dougie change his mind about taking a stab at the federal Conservative leadership.

He says he’s “laser-focused” on Ontario. But don’t believe it. He really wants to be the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, because his current job looks like a dead end and he doesn’t want to be a one-term premier. Doug hates to lose and at this rate he surely will.

But he’s being strongly discouraged against going for Andrew Scheer’s job. His federal cousins, Stephen Harper among them, don’t want anything to do with him. The next leader has to be someone Uncle Steve can go out and fundraise for (Harper is head of the Conservative Fund) and Doug just doesn’t fit the bill. Oh well, there’s always the mayor of Toronto job in a couple of years’ time. (See John Tory below.) Can’t wait to hear how Doug is going to spin that potential foray into how much he loves the city he loves to hate.

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Jagmeet Singh: It’s make or break

It’s been a challenging 2019 for the NDP leader. Being the first person of colour to lead a federal party has been no small matter.

It was thought the federal election would claim at least two party leaders, and that Singh would be among them if the party failed to do well. But it’s Elizabeth May and Andrew Scheer who won’t lead their respective parties into the next runoff.

The NDP lost more than 500,000 votes and 20 seats compared to 2015, but Singh has been spared. And a federal NDP convention won’t be held until late 2021 or 2022, so it’s possible that questions about his leadership may not have to be dealt with until after the next federal election, depending on how long the Liberals manage to survive.

The early returns on his post-election musings that the NDP would be willing to cozy up to the Cons to bring down the Libs suggest there’s room to grow, to put it mildly. Fact is, you can’t fight an election if you’re party’s broke and right now the NDP are having to mortgage assets to stay financially afloat.

Singh will be fighting for relevance in a House where the Bloc, not the NDP, holds the balance of power. He will have to play along to get along if he wants to be able to lay claim to any victories come the next election. There’s much for the Libs to like in the NDP’s pharmacare and affordable housing platform, for example. A lot will be riding on his performance over the next few weeks – while the country faces a crisis in the Middle East – if the NDP are to turn their electoral and financial fortunes around.  

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Jason Kenney: Time for the enfant terrible of the Conservative movement to grow up

He’s arguably the Conservative movement’s most important voice now that Andrew Scheer has stepped down as federal leader. He’s at the controls of Canada’s resource market.

Love him or hate him (and with most outside Con circles, it’s the latter), it must be acknowledged that Jason Kenney is a force to be reckoned with. The fact that deputy PM Chrystia Freeland has met with him several times since the election to discuss Alberta’s economy is proof of that. If it weren’t for certain circumstances, Kenney might be the leader of the official opposition. He still may be at some point in the future.

Yes, it’s a joke that he’s made environmentalists and anyone who opposes tar sands development the enemies of the petro-state, blowing $30 million to set up a “war room” to attack critics – to say nothing of how he has shamelessly played western separatist sentiment to his political advantage.

But right now, he’s also finding out that you can’t run a province on just rhetoric. His approval ratings have plummeted by some 15 points since his government’s first budget. Time has run out on blaming everyone else for Alberta’s problems.

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Steven Del Duca: Ontario Liberals eye a right turn 

The prohibitive favourite to take over the Ontario Liberal party has signed up twice as many members as his closest competitor (Michael Coteau). But is a right-leaning leader what the Liberal party really needs to beat Doug Ford? 

It seems every time the Libs hit a bump in the road, the instinct is to veer right, as if that’s where the votes are. Kathleen Wynne proved otherwise, winning a majority by turning left. We all know how that ended.

But Wynne’s loss was more a consequence of awful timing and voter fatigue than bad government. We’re finding that out with polls showing the Libs right there with the NDP and PCs despite not having a leader.

Enter Steven Del Duca, who has occupied several senior cabinet positions and, by most accounts, has acquitted himself well although not always without controversy. There was, for example, that auditor general’s report that found he intervened to influence a decision by Metrolinx on two GO stations, one of those in his Vaughan riding.

Clearly his 905 ties would come in handy when it comes to winning votes in the crucial vote-rich belt surrounding Toronto. But the big question for him – and Liberal party members who will be voting for a new leader on March 7 – is how will he play in big ole WASPy rural Ontario.

It’s a hurdle that Wynne (who was raised in rural Ontario) and Dalton McGuinty before her, were able to overcome.

He has worked to re-establish the party’s connections in the province’s north, making it a central plank in his campaign. But the impression among some of his challengers is that he’s lived too long in the bubble at Queen’s Park to really connect with voters outside his comfort zone. Already, there are rumblings of an anybody-but-Del Duca movement. 

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Cheol Joon Baek


John Tory: A question of legacy

The mayor of Toronto can do no wrong, it seems. His approval ratings are as high as they’ve ever been. He’s even winning kudos from the left for coming around on the question of property taxes – as in the need to raise them to pay for vital housing and public transit.

It took him a half a decade at the helm of the city to figure that one out. Why the turn?

For a time it seemed that just being liked would be enough for a guy who never thought he’d be mayor after crashing and burning as the Ontario PC leader. 

But it’s not a given he will seek re-election. He’ll be pushing 70 by the time the next municipal run-off rolls around in 2022. And word is he wants to spend more time with his wife.

But there’s his legacy to think about. That’s serious business for a guy whose establishment roots in the city go back generations. Tory has always fancied himself a city builder. He wants to be remembered as more than the guy who kept taxes low – or, for that matter, the guy who mortgaged the city’s future to keep up a crumbling two-kilometre stretch of highway.

Only right now, there’s no defining feature in his record to speak of. There has been some movement on waterfront development under his watch. But it’s still an open question whether Rail Deck Park, his signature proposal for the downtown, will ever be built.

And then there’s the rising homelessness crisis. That could be how he’s remembered most if he doesn’t do something about it. 

@nowtoronto

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