It was a self-inflicted bad week for the Liberals

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Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle was based on bad advice. Whoever recommended the demotion of Raybould-Wilson should bow out. Trudeau made the decision but, ultimately, hubris on the prime minister’s team is costing him.

By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on January 21, 2019.

OTTAWA—It was a self-inflicted bad week for the Liberals.

First was the cabinet shuffle, which ended up creating more questions than answers. Then followed the racially-based comments of Liberal candidate Karen Wang pitting Chinese against Indo voters in the British Columbia byelection including New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh.

On the cabinet shuffle, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau demoted a female aboriginal star when he shuffled Jody Wilson-Raybould out of the Justice portfolio.

Wilson-Raybould, an articulate former chief, was actively courted by the Liberals because of her reputation in legal and aboriginal circles.

The Justice portfolio was especially tricky because of her Indigenous roots.

As witnessed in the numerous western pipeline protests, the aboriginal community is split in its view of consultation and pipeline location.

In some instances, the chiefs who have actually been elected by their people, are on board with the projects but hereditary chiefs, whose title passes from father to son, are not.

It is difficult to blame governments when the consultation process is bifurcated between two groups in a single community who do not have their own consensus on the issues.

Wilson-Raybould navigated those murky waters very capably, privately pushing the government to move more quickly while publicly remaining on board in cabinet solidarity.

The prime minister’s explanation for why she was moved did not ring true. The notion that the veterans’ file needed a steadier hand was contradictory because the outgoing minister, Seamus O’Regan, was tasked to work on aboriginal issues.