Ottawa must appear to Justin Trudeau and the Liberals right now as a big rock in the woods. They tipped it over, and now they’re staring, aghast, at everything that’s crawled out from underneath.
The Conservatives seem to have spent the last year or so in power ignoring or papering over problems rather than solving them. Who wants to go into an election with a bunch of half-solved problems weighing down the party, after all?
Now, with the most recent report of the Auditor-General, we’re seeing many of the problems in the light for the first time, and some of them are ugly.
• Huge and increasing wait lists for Canada Pension Plan disability claims appeals. Some who have won their appeals are waiting a year or more to start getting paid.
• Canada Border Services is underfunded – which means stolen cars are flowing out of the country, along with illicit drugs.
• Shared Services Canada is over budget, behind schedule, or simply failing at providing information services. Most alarming is that a service it provided to connect thousands of emergency responders crashed for 40 full minutes in 2014. And because of poor oversight, no one knows how much some of its projects cost. (Just a guess here, but probably a lot more than the original budgets.)
• Military housing is in disarray, and there is no apparent plan to deal with empty on-base housing units.
Then there are the other problems that have been brewing through the Supreme Court.
• The Liberals are putting together a law for doctor-assisted suicide, after the Tories dragged their feet following the court overturning the old law.
• The Tories re-wrote prostitution laws following another court ruling on a charter, but Bill C-36 faces a challenge in the near future. So the Liberals will have to choose to let that go to the Supreme Court again, or to re-write a contentious piece of legislation, which is unlikely to win them a lot of friends no matter what they do.
And that’s on top of an already-ambitious legislative agenda that includes everything from the (delayed) Syrian refugee plan to legalizing pot to pumping money into infrastructure and the economy.
I doubt Stephen Harper is feeling good about any of this, really. He was always an ideologue and a policy wonk when he was in office, and I’m sure if he were still the PM, he’d be spinning away, promising to fix all of this.
But he may have a small smirk right now, watching Justin Trudeau walk into problem after problem. Now he gets to see what it’s like.
There’s always a few of these land mines waiting for any new government. But the new government’s path seems strewn with more than the normal amount. And in many ways, they’re the most dangerous kind of problems to have – the ones that have little to no partisan component.
Managing CPP files? Stopping stolen cars from heading overseas? Paying for proper electronic communications? These are something that every government is expected to do competently. And it doesn’t matter who created the original problems – they now belong to the Liberals.
Before the election, people talked about whether Trudeau could do everything he promised. But dealing with everything that crawled out from under the rock? That will be the big challenge for this government.