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Justin Trudeau has a new roadmap for his retirement

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When it comes to finding his exit ramp, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a new retirement roadmap.

On the other side of the planet, a once-popular feminist prime minister, who battled violent filibuster protests in Parliament against pandemic politics, divided the public over their vaccination status, fought to green the resource industries and struggled with an economy swelling in recession, called for it to cease just as an election year dawns with its ballot numbers skidding lower.

This oddly familiar Trudeau-esque scenario marks the reign of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, which will come to an end after five years in office.

But her resignation on Feb. 7 contrasts sharply with Trudeau on one key point: Ardern knows she’s past her sell-by date and left before the electorate can issue a pink slip in the fall vote.

Trudeau, if the scripted whispers from the prime minister’s staff reflect his real thinking, seems reluctant to follow his lead and plans to fight for a fourth term to reach ten years in office.

This despite new polls placing the Liberals seven points below the Tories under Pierre Poilievre, with Liberal popularity set to be sorely tested by a green industry transition plan featuring heavy job losses in a economy which is starting to run out of steam.

This is where the Ardern model for strategic exits should get this prime minister’s attention.

Elected as one of the youngest prime ministers in the country’s history, Ardern has won worldwide acclaim for her handling of the Christchurch mosque massacre, the deadly fallout from a deadly volcanic eruption and some of the measures to the toughest pandemic lockdowns in the world.

But the glare didn’t last long in his own country, as voters grew weary of seeing their great communicator deliver a lesser record. With her popularity numbers down to mere mortal levels, Ardern shocked her country by declaring herself exhausted and ready to move on with no apparent heir in sight.

Which brings us back to Trudeau, who himself seems slightly exhausted showing little enthusiasm for work beyond funding announcements while avoiding prime ministers he doesn’t like and keeping his own Liberal cabinet ministers and MPs. from a distance.

Former Finance Minister Bill Morneau revealed this bluntly in his newly published account of life in government under Trudeau.

Morneau takes a blunt view of Trudeau’s performance, portraying him as a light leader who sacrifices serious management and budgetary restrictions “on the altar of image and presentation” and opts for easy headlines rather than sound fiscal policy.

It’s a devastating view of this PMO and it amplifies Trudeau’s image as an all-hats-no-cattle force of single personality, a perception that will haunt him until the next election.

Of course, armed with another two years of pledged NDP support for his government, Trudeau has time for people to forget all that Morneau has revealed while he charts the best path to a lucrative political retirement.

But former Alberta cabinet minister Gary Mar makes a good point, using the hockey analogy that the ideal retirement is one where the player could have returned for another season to popular applause.

The risk for Trudeau is to become another of “the many examples of federal and provincial politicians who have run in too many elections and found themselves walking away not as a winner but as a loser,” Mar warned on Power. CTV Play this week.

It’s a risk Trudeau doesn’t have to take.

With three elections won, Trudeau has an above-average electoral record. And while there is still a path to re-election in the next few years, the road to an all-powerful majority mandate looks set to end in a dead end with, at best, another liberal minority struggling to push through its agenda.

Ardern’s surprise resignation is the act of a smart politician creating a legacy that ends in a winning streak.

Like Ardern, Trudeau’s early handling of the pandemic was a reassuring communication exercise where harsh isolation measures were made easier with significant help from government support.

But like Ardern, his best days are arguably behind him.

Despite the outrageous scale of the debt, the fires about to be ignited by the loss of resource jobs in the Prairies or those alarming behemoths of control in the Prime Minister’s Office that are keeping even Trudeau’s Prime Minister, there is still a chance that this Prime Minister could enter another term.

But Trudeau is getting awfully close to his Ardern moment, that vanishing or vanishing point from which he can still bow out and leave his constituents, his cabinet and his caucus cheering for more.

This is the bottom line…

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