Mario Cuomo, the late governor of New York, once said, "You campaign in poetry; you govern in prose."
As good advice as those words are for politicians everywhere, Canada's world celebrity prime minister has been able to govern in poetry as well.
Justin Trudeau is 10 points ahead of the Conservatives in the polls. Canada now leads the G7 nations in gross domestic product growth, thanks to a surprisingly robust fourth quarter in 2016. And perhaps even more telling of political expertise, Canadians in general are pleased with the way his government is handling the unpredictable Trump administration.
And the federal government has just delivered on a major, if controversial campaign promise by tabling legislation to legalize recreational marijuana - without much visible damage.
All is not perfect, however. The Liberals did break their promise on electoral reform and have delayed promised reform of the Access to Information Act. But few outside the Ottawa Queensway seem to care about these failures, except the policy wallies.
As a bonus for the Liberals, the Conservatives have been accommodating enough to put on a cartoonish leadership race while the New Democratic Party continues to flatline in the polls. Imagining any Opposition party being in fighting shape for the next election (less than two and a half years from now) is hard.
Trudeau the Elder was showing signs of weakness in the polls by this point in his first term. In fact, had he not been bolstered by the FLQ crisis of October 1970, Pierre Trudeau may not have been able to squeak out a narrow re-election victory in 1972.
Trudeau the Younger and his handlers could easily fall into complacency.
But if they do, they will regret it - because cracks have begun to appear in this government. And the Liberals can't count on having an incompetent Opposition forever.
There is a pattern here. On the major headline issues, such as Trump or marijuana, this government shines because that is where the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has decided to devote its resources,
But on the smaller issues that many people don't care much about (apart from the Ottawa bubble), there is neglect because the PMO is busy with the big stuff.
A backlog of more than 300 important cabinet appointments, such as a new lobbying or ethics commissioner, indicates paralysis in some quarters. And a crisis is brewing in the courts across the country because the Department of Justice Canada can't solve a shortage of judges - for reasons that are unclear.
And the ongoing horror story of dysfunction in Phoenix, the year-old public-sector pay system, continues with no end in sight. Some 8,000 public servants are waiting to be paid still.
None of these issues will sink a government on their own. But, over time, they will add up to drip-by-drip erosion of credibility.
Trudeau probably could stop this erosion by borrowing a 1977 creation of his father's: the office of the deputy prime minister (DPM). Although the DPM has no formal authority in law, such as automatically succeeding the prime minister in the event of sudden vacancy, the appointment of Alan MacEachen to this post in 1977 is most likely why Pierre Trudeau ran the country, barring the nine-month Joe Clark government, until 1984.
Clark, Stephen Harper and, so far, Justin Trudeau never had a DPM. But Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien did.
Would Mulroney have been able to leave the legacy he did - several free trade agreements, the GST and the beginnings of an ongoing constitutional debate - had he not had Don Mazankowski chairing the all-important government operations committee every Monday morning at 8:30? Probably not.
Sheila Copps, who was DPM during Chrétien's first term, defined the role as defending the PM's credibility in question period when the boss was either out of the country or busy with one of the big files.
Justin Trudeau should give this job to his current deputy, Ralph Goodale. This would mean setting up a DPM office to handle what the PMO can't when it's busy marketing the prime minister.
This strategy may also teach the current PMO they are not infallible and are part of a team - not the centre of the universe.
Government today is a many-headed hydra that can't be run out of the Langevin Block in Ottawa.
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