EDITORIAL: Liberals stuck between rock and hard place

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The Trudeau Liberals basically have three choices heading into next year’s federal election.

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They can change their leader, or they can change their policies, or they can change both.

The problem they face is whether any of the alternatives will improve their chances of winning in 2025.

If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decides to quit — and so far he’s given no public indication that he will — any would-be replacement from within the Liberal party is going to be saddled with the Liberal record under Trudeau.

If the Liberals change their policies, many Canadians will perceive it as a deathbed repentance and question its sincerity, based on the long record of broken Liberal promises, starting with Trudeau’s pledge when he was elected in 2015 to run an open, transparent and ethical government.

In addition, what policies would the Liberals change?

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Up to last week’s shocking byelection loss to the Conservatives in Toronto-St. Paul’s, a riding that had been Liberal since 1993 in a city that hadn’t elected a single Conservative since 2011, they claimed they were laser-focused on helping Canadians get through tough economic times.

If they honestly believe that’s what they were doing, what policies would they change?

In reality, in the the wake of their demoralizing byelection loss, the Liberals sound as if they’re more focused on their own political survival than on the struggles of ordinary Canadians facing an affordability crisis.

As things stand, nine years of Liberal caucus loyalty to and solidarity with Trudeau as the party leader who took them from third place to the seat of government in the 2015 election is cracking, with new fault lines appearing every day.

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As for Trudeau’s decision on whether he wants to stay or leave, he’s running out of runway to make up his mind.

While an election is more than a year away — assuming Trudeau’s supply and confidence deal with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds — leadership contests don’t happen overnight.

If Trudeau decides to retire as PM, the Liberals will face a divisive and expensive leadership contest, with the new leader having only a few months to convince Canadians to elect them for the fourth consecutive time in 10 years.

Whatever Trudeau decides, the Liberals are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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