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Liberal Party

Justin Trudeau on the Economy

Pierre’s Boy Child

In other words, the left won’t be uniting soon

This got ugly quickly

"That Justin Trudeau would use Jack Layton’s dying words as a political tool says everything that needs to be said about Justin Trudeau’s judgment and character," Mulcair said.

New Democrat MP Olivia Chow, Layton’s widow, focused her reaction on Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"I’m quite surprised that the leader of the Liberals used my late husband’s words, but at the end of the day Stephen Harper is the prime minister," Chow said.

"If we are to have a better country, and certainly Canadians deserve a lot better, we need to focus on Stephen Harper. Yes, we are the party of love, hope and optimism and let’s be hopeful. Let’s not be fearful of each other, but let’s train our eyes on the real problem, which is Stephen Harper’s government."

Trudeau, however, was unapologetic, accusing the NDP of being nasty and divisive in the hard-fought campaigns, which saw all three major parties use aggressive tactics.

In other words, it is okay for the NDP to use Layton’s dying words as a political tool but not Justin Trudeau.  I am glad we got that straight.

NDP Miffed At Justin Trudeau for Stealing Headlines

Doesn’t this mean that the Liberals are doing a better job than the NDP?

OTTAWA – The NDP is steamed about media attention lathered on Justin Trudeau and a party that fell out of public favour over the sponsorship scandal while the official opposition struggles to get ink.

The Liberal leader puts a bong in the window and stumps to tax pot and he’s suddenly prime ministerial after the last guy behind the wheel drove the party into the history books with the worst electoral showing ever, they say.

New Democrats can point to a summer tweet by Trudeau about his wife’s pregnancy that made the front page as another example of adoration.

The Liberals are betting the farm on their leader’s popularity.

Privately, New Democrats grumble about the media love-in and why news outlets don’t press the third-place party and expose its weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

The NDP spent the summer often being the only opposition party to challenge the Conservatives – its news releases flooding media inboxes and its critics standing before microphones.

Thomas Mulcair spent the better part of the House recess rolling out ideas and initiatives and teeing off on Senate spending abuses.

“When you go into a scrum and look at the body language of the reporters there, they act like groupies. It’s fascinating to watch,” a party official said about Trudeau’s extended honeymoon since his anointment in April.

Other New Democrats are optimistic that interest in Trudeau is waning and that next week’s resumption of Parliament after a month-long prorogation will remind Canadians why the Grits sit in a corner in the Commons.

Pro tip: Winning political parties also don’t allow process stories like this to be written.

The missed opportunity

Why Harper’s foes need to get off the pot by Paul Wells

Liberals, you see, are quite sure every Canadian is a Liberal whose vote was stolen by Conservative skullduggery in the elections of 2006, 2008 and 2011. Canadians, in this view, think marijuana use is harmless fun, and they will blame politicians who want to harsh the national buzz. So a Liberal friend of mine was genuinely surprised when she plunked herself down behind the Liberal party table at a local community event and got her ear bent by voters, many of them from immigrant communities, asking why Trudeau was soft on drugs.Ja

The realization that many Canadians believe illegal drugs should stay illegal is one surprise awaiting the Liberals. Another is that a lot more Canadians have complex, conflicting or frankly hypocritical views on drug policy— but that it’s not drug policy that will determine their next vote. Millions will vote based on their best guess about which party will best ensure a strong economy whose bounties improve their own life and their family’s. And Justin Trudeau just spent a month talking about something else.

This is something else that Liberals cannot understand: the notion that most Canadians are no longer properly grateful for the work Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin did to clean up deficits in the 1990s. In fact, a growing number of Canadians, even the ones who don’t smoke a lot of pot, have dim memories of the 1990s or none at all.

This helps explain a Harris-Decima poll from the end of August that inquired about respondents’ opinions of the national political parties. Trudeau’s net favourable impression is way higher than Harper’s and a fair bit higher than NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s. Respondents were likelier to believe Trudeau “shares your values.” He’s having a strong year in the polls. But Harper still has a slight edge over both Trudeau and Mulcair on “judgment,” and on “economic management” it was a blowout: 39 per cent prefer Harper to only 20 per cent for Trudeau and 15 per cent for Mulcair.

Trudeau hasn’t the faintest intention of campaigning in the 2015 election with pot legalization as his main plank. But changing deep-seated attitudes toward a party takes time. And because the Liberals took two years to pick a leader after the 2011 elections, Trudeau only has three summers to define himself before facing voters, and he pretty much just blew one.

For much the same reason, I’m not sure Tom Mulcair picked the right issue when he used part of his summer to travel coast-to-coast campaigning for Senate abolition. For reasons explained elsewhere in this issue, Canadians are angry at the Senate right now. That’s not the same as believing any party has the ability, once in power, to do much about it. His Senate tour illustrates a little-noticed difference between Mulcair and his predecessor Jack Layton. Layton came from Toronto city politics. He hadn’t the faintest interest in constitutional tinkering. The NDP stood for abolishing the Senate, as it always had, and Layton never talked about it. Mulcair comes from Quebec provincial politics, where a generation grew up believing that if you have no constitutional scheme to peddle you cannot be serious.

Layton’s prosaic fascination with voters’ kitchen-table preoccupations helped him supplant the Liberals as the first choice for voters eager to block the Conservatives. Next time around that vote will be up for grabs again. Mulcair and Trudeau both plan to try to take Harper’s economic credibility away from him. They haven’t gotten around to it yet, but they believe they have time. Harper’s opponents always believe they have plenty of time.

When One Has No Policies…

All you have is image

His body is his temple: no pollutants shall enter. When the Trudeau family wants some kicks, they all crowd into a canoe and go floating down the nearest river (where photographers just happen to pop up to record the occasion). Between family outings he installs dimmer switches in their typically suburban home, wearing his typical weekend garb of T-shirt and cargo shorts, (carefully recording it on Twitter, if a video crew doesn’t happen by.)

Raising the question: is this guy really one of us? He has no vices. He never enters the sort of places most average Canadians hang out. If he was somehow forced to visit a Timmies, he’d order a dry multigrain bagel and a small green tea. Remember when Stephane Dion was accused of eating a hot dog with a knife and fork? He never did connect with voters.

Seriously, the core of the emerging Liberal strategy is to position Justin Trudeau as a representative of a younger generation of middle class Canadians, in tune with their needs, concerns and aspirations. But, four months into his leadership, he seems about as middle class as Michael Bloomberg. He’s the millionaire son of a famous Canadian, who grew up with a trust fund and earned $277,000 in four years just giving speeches. He’s been in the public eye since birth. His wife is a model and TV host. You couldn’t sit down with him to discuss the issues over a beer or a coffee. Does he really understand what it is to deal with student debt, a hefty mortgage, maxed-out credit cards, an obnoxious boss or the simple, excruciating struggle to find a job?

Of course Bloomberg became a pretty good mayor of New York City and the same could be said about Trudeau’s father who ran on the idea of a just society.

Does it matter who we vote for federally?

Michael Den Tendt doesn’t think so

Which leads us back to this: Be it resolved, there is now a single homogeneous Canadian political culture, expressed via the three main party shadings. How long until platforms themselves become irrelevant? Partisans will argue their own beloved expression of Canadian liberal democracy is not only best, but distinct – as the Tories, Grits and NDP were a generation or two ago, when they disagreed about country-changing issues such as North American free trade, in 1988, or membership in NATO, in 1968.

But tick through the list of assumptions at the heart of the state today – from socialized health care to capital punishment, abortion or free trade, deficits or tax rates – and you find unanimity. The Conservatives must be for gay rights, or be written off as reactionary by the majority. The New Democrats must be for industry and thrift, or be written off as loopy dreamers by that same majority.

This convergence can create a mash-up, as political parties struggle to create differentiation amid their essential drab sameness. Thus, John Baird’s defence of gay rights in Russia doesn’t go far enough, says the NDP’s Paul Dewar. He must crank it up to 11, like the guitar amplifier in Rob Reiner’s Spinal Tap. The Liberals, meantime, are beginning a two-year effort to implant the idea, by every means other than saying it, that they can be more conservative than the Conservatives when it comes to economics, and more new and democratic than the New Democrats when it comes to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. “Tough on crime” is still exclusive Conservative territory – but only because it’s one of the few old planks they haven’t ditched in the hunt for centrist votes. And, to be frank, it’s not popular enough for the other parties to bother to steal.

Taken together, this still-unfolding spectrum collapse sets up a contest of almost pure personality in 2015. Through the next 24 months, Harper will seek to recast himself as more constructive; Mulcair, happier; and Trudeau, more solid. The ad war will be personal as never before, culminating in televised debates understood by all to be winner-take-all. And the pollsters, perhaps as never before, will be flying blind. Interesting times.

The Road to Patriation

The Road to Patriation by Robert Duncan

This feature documentary retraces the century of haggling by successive federal and provincial governments to agree on a formula to bring home the Canadian Constitution from England. This film concentrates on the politicking and lobbying that finally led to its patriation in 1982. Five prime ministers had failed before Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau took up the challenge in the early 1970s. Principal players in this documentary are federal Minister of Justice Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister Trudeau, 10 provincial premiers and a host of journalists, politicians, lawyers, and diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic.

This was an incredible documentary to watch.  One of the best things I have seen in the last couple of years.

Partisan mail-outs cross the line

Even the Ottawa Citizen thinks these bulk mailers by the Conservatives are out of line

Tories attacking Liberals is par for the course in Canadian politics. The style with which they stage these attacks is, of course, debatable. What is not up for debate should be MPs using their print budgets at the expense of taxpayers for partisan attacks.

According to documents made available by the Liberal party, the Tories plan to spend thousands on taxpayer-supported mailings to inform Canadians of the purported inadequacies of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Traditionally, these mail-outs are intended to update constituents on the doings of the House of Commons. Not surprisingly, MPs often use them to lecture riding residents on how well they’re being served and all the good things — or bad things, if you’re an opposition MP — the government is doing.

The Tories, however, appear intent on crossing the ethical divide with mail-outs that are nothing more than an extension of their attack ad campaign against the new Liberal leader. They should not. They can spend as much as they want to discredit Trudeau — whether it will do them any good is another matter — but not on the taxpayer’s dime.

The flyers, which were presented to the Conservative caucus in mid-April and are to be distributed June 1, show pictures of Trudeau with a moustache and jacket over his shoulder against a backdrop of quotes — “He’s in way over his head,” for example — and encircled by what looks like a comet trail of pixie dust sprinkled by Walt Disney’s wand-waving fairy. Another part of the mail-out suggests the Liberal leader is naive on such issues as Quebec separatism, tax credits for families and the economy.

The cost of mailing these attacks for 166 Conservative MPs comes in at about $29,000, but throw in the full price of printing and distribution and, according to the Liberals, it will be more than $220,000. The money will come out of the Tories’ House of Commons budget. In other words, taxpayers will pay.

Government House Leader Peter Van Loan defends the expenditure, saying it is within rules approved by Parliament and the all-party Board of Internal Economy that oversees MPs’ expenditures. He says it’s “entirely appropriate” for the Tories to inform Canadians in this way about Trudeau’s leadership qualities (or lack thereof).

What a specious justification for ripping off taxpayers. Householders were intended to provide MPs with a way to communicate “information” — farm subsidy programs, home renovation credits, etc. — to constituents. Yet they have become a vehicle for partisan propaganda.

The Premier’s Office Strikes Again (this time in Ontario)

So much for empowering your cabinet and MLAs

Ontario’s governing Liberals don’t just have a new leader, they’re also speaking a whole new language.

The cabinet office is circulating “style tips” to bureaucrats with “preferred” phrases and language the new government has been using since Premier Kathleen Wynne took office.

And by the way, it’s “the new Ontario government,” not “the Wynne government.”

The memo includes a litany of catch-phrases Wynne has used since she became Liberal leader, including her ubiquitous: “We must engage in a respectful dialogue/conversation.”

The premier’s proclivity for the word “conversation” has become so pervasive that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s favourite comeback is “there needs to be a little less conversation and a little more action.”

The style and tone of the new government includes a “can-do attitude” and “rousing enthusiasm,” according to the memo obtained by The Canadian Press.

Speeches should incorporate about 10 per cent of French, “personal anecdotes/stories (i.e. family history)” and the use of “active language — bold and direct.”

The government “likes to wrap speeches with ‘thank you and meegwetch” — or “thank you” in Algonquin _ something Wynne has been doing since she became the Liberal leader.

Other recurring phrases include “I’d like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of xxxx (at the start of most speeches)” — another sentence the premier uses frequently.

Do not forget: the preferred style includes short sentences and “limited use of contractions.”

Some bureaucrats are asking their staff to incorporate the language in both internal and external communications, including emails and correspondence to ministers.

I miss governments with strong ministers and MLAs.  We elect them and not the Premier’s Office.  

Justin Trudeau’s lacklustre reception outside Ontario, B.C. should worry Liberals: Hébert

Outside of Ontario and British Columbia, the Liberal leadership race isn’t making much of an impact

Meanwhile, the leadership campaign is largely a non-event in Quebec and a marginal one across the Prairies.

Coming as it does after months of campaigning, the tepid Quebec response has to be worrisome for the Liberals.

Besides Trudeau, two other well-known Quebecers — former astronaut Marc Garneau and former federal justice minister Martin Cauchon — are in the running.

But in spite of that, most polls show that the federal battle for francophone Quebec remains a two-way fight between the leading NDP and the Bloc Québécois, with the Liberals running a distant third.

Quebecers’ participation in the leadership campaign is on par with the party’s tepid standing in voting intentions.

With the drive to recruit supporters for the April 14 vote completed, its results suggest that the campaign has done little to energize the Liberals in Quebec.

According to a riding-by-riding breakdown obtained by the Globe and Mail, Quebec accounts for 16 of 27 ridings with less than 200 voters eligible to participate in next month’s leadership vote. Trudeau’s riding of Papineau is the only Quebec riding to boast more than 2,000 sign-ups.

So what will be the impact?

With Trudeau in the campaign, the third-place Liberals have enjoyed a disproportional amount of mostly positive media attention for months on end. It looks like it will take a lot more than that to put them back on the map of regions such as Quebec and the Prairies in which the party has become chronically weak.

If the past is any indication, popularity and the successful signing up of scores of non-paying supporters will not do the job — or at least not for long enough.
The precipitous 1993 election decline of the Progressive Conservatives under Kim Campbell demonstrated that fundamentals eventually reassert themselves, even in the face of an initially popular new leader.

In the past, a demonstrated capacity to recruit leadership supporters has not always translated into more support in the ballot box.

In 2005, a solid recruitment campaign allowed André Boisclair to beat Pauline Marois to the leadership of the Parti Québécois.

Like Trudeau, Boisclair was a big hit with younger voters and like the Liberal favourite he seduced much of his party’s aging establishment into believing that he could connect it with a new generation of voters.

Two years later, Boisclair led the PQ to its poorest showing in three decades.

Stephen Harper’s Secret Agenda

How is this any different than what the Liberals did to the Conservatives?

Of course, Harper wants to keep his majority in the next election. But the odds of that happening are already reasonably high. The House of Commons will have an additional 30 seats in the next Parliament, all but three of which will be in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. Simple math suggests the Conservatives will win far more than half of these and Harper will keep his hold on the House.

But his goals are much grander than just another majority. First, he wants to bring about the permanent weakening — though perhaps not the complete collapse — of the Liberal party. Second, he wishes to establish the Conservatives as “the natural governing party,” for much of the 20th century the descriptive given to the Liberals.

Odds are longer that he will achieve both. But the odds are not small.

Harper’s hope to permanently weaken the Liberals is helped in large part by the Liberals’ own myths and misconceptions about the reasons for their success. Principal among these is the party’s mistaken beliefs that it is a party of the centre and that this is an electoral virtue.

Here is how Harper is going to carry out his sinister plan (insert evil laughter here)

The strategy is threefold. First, Harper will continue the appropriation of national symbols. Second, he will further establish his base of support among Canada’s immigrant communities. Third, he will remain focused on delivering a managerially competent, slow moving federal government.

On the first score, one needs to look no further than the government’s continued efforts to bolster Canada’s military in both its current and past engagements. There is little need for a strong connection between the actual facts of military endeavours and their glorification. If there were, our national image of an actively engaged peacekeeping force would have ceased by the 1980s.

The government’s celebration of the British triumph in the War of 1812 and its slow and dignified drawdown of troops in Afghanistan are both part and parcel of a re-establishment of military endeavour as central to Canadian identity. What is the response of the Liberal and New Democratic parties to this? Not much, except objections over the cost of fighter jets.

On the second score, the strategy to win the support of immigrants, the government has both demographics and electoral savvy on its side. The composition of Canada’s immigrant communities, their average levels of wealth, their mean social values, all of these tip them toward the Conservatives. This combines neatly with the entrance of more than two million immigrants into Canada since the Conservatives took power in 2006. Add in the Tories’ regular courting of these communities and you have a recipe for continued and growing success among a group composing an ever-larger portion of the population.

Finally, Harper will likely eschew grand bargains in exchange for managerial, deliberate government. There is no apparent need for a deal to reconcile Quebec to the constitution, in large measure because of the low odds of a referendum ever being held again.

There is also no need to fundamentally change the constitutionally mandated fiscal structure of the country. Harper can merely back farther away from meddling in provincial jurisdictions. He has something of partner in this in Mulcair, as it happens. And he can likely dispense of what seem like major problems — the aforementioned procurement of fighter jets and the ongoing investigation over electoral manipulation — through changes in personnel. It is not apparent that other scandals abound.

The Conservatives will rot out like every other (Liberal, NDP, PQ, and Liberal) government in this country.  They will make mistakes, the public will grow tired of them, and we will support on mass another party.  It is even happening right now in Alberta.  In 2000 we had stories of a right wing permanent majority that Karl Rove was behind.  How did that turn out?  The same thing will happen here in Canada and the only question is if it is the Liberals or the NDP that bounce back.

Update: Warren Kinsella is saying the same thing in his Sun column.

Keith Davey’s Ten Commandments of Canadian Liberalism

  1. Revere the leader.
  2. Remember a leader is never cooked until people start to laugh at him.
  3. Stay on the road to reform; keep left of centre.
  4. Hang together.
  5. Build a poll organization worthy of the name.
  6. Lead to your strengths in campaigns; to your weakness in conventions.
  7. Never negotiate through fear; never fear to negotiate.
  8. Remember that in politics, perception is reality.
  9. Recruit new, bright, young people.
  10. Avoid public humour, but laugh a lot in private.

Just think at one time Liberals followed these rules… and won elections.

The lesson the Liberal Party can’t seem to learn

Excellent column by Susan Delacourt

Or, to keep it in driving terms, the Liberals have been simply taking leaders out for a spin since Chrétien made his exit, and then trading them in for a newer model.

At the moment, Justin Trudeau, the MP for Papineau, seems to be looming in a lot of Liberals’ eyes as next year’s model — at least until something else comes along.

This disposable-leader culture may tell us something deeper about why the Liberals are mired in third place — a sign of their inability to commit, or to tolerate anything except victory. That may not be the ideal quality to transmit to voters.

Within other parties, including the one in power in Canada at the moment, leadership comes with second chances.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper failed to win the 2004 election, even after uniting the right-wing parties. He almost resigned and consigned himself to history’s dustbin, according to subsequent stories by insiders.

But Harper ultimately decided to hang in and landed the prime minister’s job in 2006, where he remains today.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty didn’t win on his first try as provincial Liberal leader in the 1999 election, but he endured and led his party to victory in 2003. Nor did Mike Harris do well in the 1990 election, but by 1995, he earned the job of Ontario premier.

Perhaps with those McGuinty or Harris examples in mind, the provincial Progressive Conservatives in Ontario are sticking with leader Tim Hudak, even though he didn’t deliver an expected victory last fall.

The federal New Democrats also endured with Jack Layton through four elections from 2003 to 2011, their eyes fixed on long-term growth. The investment paid off with the reward of official Opposition status after the last election.

Liberals, though, don’t seem to have cultivated that kind of patience.

Martin struggled for 13 years to become prime minister, got the job for two, and walked away the night of his election defeat in 2006.

Some Liberals have since wondered whether this was the right decision — whether Martin, with his record as a finance minister, would have been seen by Canadians as the right man to steer through the 2008 economic downtown and the election that year.

She ends with this.

If history is a guide, anyone running for the Liberal-leader job —including Trudeau — should have two career plans.

Plan A should be focused on winning power in the 2015 election.

Plan B should be something out of politics, because Liberals haven’t been in a second-chance kind of mood since Chrétien began his exit 10 years ago.

A vision for Canada

Speaking of Liberals, here is a video of Ignatieff that I really enjoyed back in the day.

Too bad that the vision in the video never was able to get into the public consciousness.  Whether that Ignatieff or the Liberal Party’s fault, we all know the results.  Speaking of political videos, let me remind you of this video by Brian Topp.

Of course the right can put out some spectacular videos as well.  This one comes from the Saskatchewan Party.