One senior Liberal said this week that the Trudeau team needs to hammer home the instructions about co-operation because they represent a massive shakeup to the status quo, or at least the operating culture of the past decade or so in Ottawa. “A lot of people just aren’t used to this; it’s totally new,” the senior Liberal said.
All around Twitter today, federal critics are announcing their new files. In turn, the Ministers they will be criticizing are responding to these tweets with messages of welcome and "look forward to working with you."
Mandate letters to those Ministers are being made public - and what's more, they include protocols for how to interact with stakeholders, staff, opposition, etc. These mandates aren't just about task, but about team and self as well. The mission here isn't just legislative, it's cultural.
Much as they did with ousting Senators, Team Trudeau is really boxing themselves in on what they can do, what they can hide, and how they can deflect. In short, they're kinda doing to themselves what Team Harper (the small gov party) did to everyone else.
The reality is, not everyone will want to play by those rules. Within our current political culture, opposition tends to look for gotcha headline moments instead of actively helping to keep government on course. Media still struggling to adapt their business models to the digital world will still look for the story with the biggest appeal, not the most salient issue. Entrenched opposition groups and organizations will look only to the bad, and dismiss whatever good as being not good. The Clay Layer of the civil service who feels entitled, superior and comfortable will resist change in all sorts of ways. Even within the Liberal Caucus, there will be those who chafe against the new way of doing things.
Team Trudeau is carving out a mountain of challenges to climb with little shade to hide in. So much of what they're putting into place now goes against the political instincts of even their own seasoned vets.
Yet this is what they told us they believed in. It was a selling point, sure, but it's also a mission.
One I happen to believe in, too.
I'm not alone; there's a whole community of current and former political staff, current and former public servants and interested community folk who have been pushing for the changes we want to see in the world start at the centre - in government. Some have been at it more than others. Some have sacrificed more on the alter of commitment than others.
Is it happening? Is it really happening? Is the man clothed in immense power and his unelected, unaccountable team of backroomers actually bringing the vision of an open, engaged government to life? Can you change the system from within without falling to its vices, as every government previous has? Are we mature enough as a society to engage back meaningfully? What happens if we aren't?
I'm used to feeling determined; I'm not so used to feeling hopeful. It's an uncomfortable feeling, really - live being the first to say "I love you" or speaking before a crowd or walking on a tightrope. It could all go so wrong, the let-down could be devastating.
No one ever said hope was easy.
To quote another Liberal leader - "People don't look to leaders for despair; they can despair on their own. They look to us for inspiration; they look to us for hope."
Trudeau has done no more or less than he committed to - he has brought us hope. He's working to create a culture of openness in Ottawa and beyond; he's nurturing a community of engagement for all.
We have been turned from shadows on the wall towards a brave new world of open.
Now - where do we go from here?