Martyn Brown: Should Puglaas (Wilson-Raybould) and Philpott start their own party?
In the aftermath of Justin Trudeau’s unilateral decision to boot Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott out of his Liberal caucus and party, the talk of every town in Canada has turned to what those two extraordinary individuals will do next.
“Where will Jane and Jody go?” is the colloquial question on everyone’s lips.
Never before in Canadian political history have any two female politicians ever been on such a positive and grateful first name basis with most voters.
It reflects an unprecedented name recognition and intimacy of their relationship with voters that stems from an abiding interest in, familiarity with, and deep respect for Puglaas’s and Philpott’s (P&P) principled conduct in the LavScam scandal that Trudeau created.
Rarely, if ever, have two former cabinet ministers been so widely heralded as P&P for speaking truth to power.
Their brand is honesty and integrity. It is synonymous with nothing less than the rule of law itself.
Their brand-promise is now the one thing that most Canadians claim they want more than anything from their elected representatives: a proven commitment to put the public interest ahead of any partisan interest and to always remain true to their avowed principles.
Their unique selling proposition is their courage of conviction—to stand up for what is so self-evidently right over what was so demonstrably wrong, as personified by Trudeau and by his morally compromised cabinet and caucus.
P&P’s claim to fame is their mutual commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, to the independent administration of justice, and to the Liberal values, priorities and policies that they both did so much to advance in their respective former portfolios.
“In P&P we trust” might be their apt political tagline.
It just begs to be stamped on lawn signs, bumper stickers, fridge magnets, lapel pins, and other political paraphernalia for fans like me, who would love to see more of their ethical ilk in Ottawa.
So, where will P&P go? What will their political futures hold?
Stay tuned for Mercedes Stephenson’s interview with Wilson-Raybould on this Sunday’s West Block on Global.
The teaser clips from that interview suggest that it might gives us some hint of her future plans and aspirations. She looks and sounds great. Her presence and honest warmth reinforce her unique attributes as a national leader of unequalled appeal in her own right.
JWR said on CBC's The Early Edition that she's still "incredibly open" to considering her available political options.
"I still have a commitment to ensuring that our governments, the government politics in Ottawa, is and becomes a different way of making decisions, a different way of doing politics," she said.
“I will take the time to reflect & talk to my supporters about what happens next,” she said in her initial post-banishment statement.
“I ran to be a Member of Parliament for the purpose of improving people’s lives. Nothing will stop me from continuing in that pursuit,” Philpott said in her statement.
In the days since those comments, speculation about their futures has run wild.
Philpott has effectively thrown cold water on the suggestion that she might run for Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives. She repeated her assertion that she doesn’t want him to form the next government.
Yet in the so-called “905 belt” of the suburban GTA ridings in and around the Liberals’ political strongholds in the “416” Toronto core, it is the Conservatives—not Jagmeet Singh’s NDP or Elizabeth May’s Green Party—that typically fare the best.
Indeed, the Tories are well-positioned to sweep much of that seat-rich corridor, as they did in 2011, 2008, and in 2006 under Stephen Harper, as things stand in current opinion polls. Trudeau’s approval ratings are now lower than Donald Trump’s.
Philpott might well get elected if she chooses to run again in Markham-Stouffville as an independent; but campaigning as a New Democrat or as a Green candidate might make that prospect a tad tougher.
As for Wilson-Raybould, it would seem unthinkable to see her running for the Conservatives.
It is a leap too far for anyone with her deep commitment to reconciliation predicated on a recognition of Aboriginal rights that was itself a leap too far for the Trudeau government, under Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.
Scheer’s conservative ideology is not at all compatible with either JWR’s or Philpott’s liberal ideology, on the most salient issues of our time.
On climate action, health reform, affordable housing, resource extraction, environmental oversight and protection, immigration—you name it—Scheer’s views are anathema to P&P’s.
So what about running for one of the other parties?
In JWR’s riding of Vancouver Granville, I would bet that Puglaas could easily coast to victory as an independent, as a New Democrat, or probably even as a Green candidate.
One would think that she would feel most comfortable with the NDP.
Certainly, with Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs vice president Bob Chamberlin running for the NDP in the upcoming Nanaimo-Ladysmith byelection, and with John Horgan’s NDP government being so popular in so much of British Columbia, JWR would seem to be a natural fit with Singh’s party.
Its values and policies are not that much different than the ones that Trudeau purported to stand for, before he proved himself a fraud by throwing his avowed principles out the window.
The NDP is likely more popular than ever in most of Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey, New Westminster and in the critical northeast sector of Metro Vancouver, which held the key seats to John Horgan’s success in the 2017 provincial election.
But who knows? Puglaas might have different plans.
To land her as a candidate would be a major coup for either Singh or May. I wouldn’t be too quick to rule out her ultimately deciding to run for the Greens.
“Going Green” might be a newly viable option for many Canadian voters this fall.
The polls suggest that P.E.I. stands poised to elect Canada’s first-ever Green government. Andrew Weaver’s B.C. Green Party is doing much to bolster the federal Green party’s chances in Metro Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. There’s new hope for the party in pockets of Quebec.
Yet, here’s the thing, if we are all being totally honest.
The truth is, both Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott have proven themselves to be much stronger, much more politically compelling, and probably more broadly attractive leaders in their own right than either Singh or May.
I don’t say that to diminish either of those opposition party leaders. They have both done an admirable job of advancing their party’s policies and priorities.
Both are honourable individuals and the polls suggest that Canadians now view May as Canada’s most ethical leader. She is my MP and I will be happy to vote for her once again, as a leader of impeccable character, whose voice is so desperately needed in Parliament.
They are both working very hard as standard bearers for the center-left. Each of them are deeply committed to social democracy, climate action, reconciliation, and so much more.
But there’s always a “but”.
Trouble is, despite their best efforts, most Canadians simply do not view either of them as better potential prime ministers than either Trudeau or Scheer. Hard to fathom, in my view, but true.
I very much doubt that will change between now and the October election vote.
The truth is, under Singh’s leadership the NDP appears to be headed for a very hard landing. Especially in Quebec. Trudeau certainly regards him as his best hope.
As likable and trusted as May is, her party still can’t seem to crack low single-digit support in almost any region outside of the seat-rich southwest corner of B.C. and in seat-poor P.E.I.
Having P&P run for either the NDP or the Greens would obviously do much to change that reality for those parties. But it still seems to me like a half measure and a lost opportunity.
Which is why I would love to see them start their own party.
If only to establish a foothold upon which to build, in creating a new and exciting political alternative that might forever change Canada’s stale and disheartening political landscape. Particularly for progressive voters.
What if they formed their own party?
Hell, they might call it the Just Society Party, I suggest with tongue in cheek.
That label would sure distinguish their party and its vision from the all that Justin Trudeau and his apologists have so clearly demonstrated they never really ran to advance.
Call that new party whatever you want. I couldn’t care less.
Yet just imagine if Canadians could actually vote for a party led by Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, with Puglaas as its most likely titular leader.
Far-fetched, you say? Agreed. But hardly impossible.
If Maxime Bernier’s fledgling People’s Party could somehow form electoral district associations in all 338 Canadian ridings in barely three months last fall, it is entirely plausible that P&P could do likewise in the same or less time.
If Bernier can somehow field candidates in all those ridings—under a party that most voters regard as too extreme in its views on immigration and other issues for their liking—it should be a relative snap for Puglaas and Philpott to attract qualified candidates to run for their new party.
After all, its mainstream appeal would essentially be all that the Liberals promised and failed to deliver.
Think of it as Liberal-plus, unbound by party dogma and slavish devotion to any ideology. A new postpartisan party, as it were, tailor-made for millennials and for those Canadians whose voices have been discounted for too long by the Laurentian elites who live to elect those who view power as its own end game.
Who wouldn’t love to see Jody Wilson-Raybould on the podium facing off against Justin Trudeau in a leader’s debate?
It would be ratings gold.
What would it take for that to happen under the three criteria established by the Leaders’ Debates Commission for participating in the two leaders’ debates that will be held and broadcast?
Essentially, the first rule precludes even Bernier from participating in the leaders’ debates, since he didn’t get elected as a member of the party he now leads.
That would equally disqualify either JWR or Philpott.
But with five months to go until the scheduled election, it might be possible to convince 304 good Canadians to represent their new party in 90 percent of the 338 ridings across Canada.
With the attention and broad support those remarkable politicians now enjoy, the Debates Commissioner would be hard-pressed to deny them as participants, in view of the “recent political context”.
Chances are, the public opinion polls would soon show their new party has much more support than Bernier’s flat-lined offering.
In any case, JWR could give all party leaders a real run for their money, regardless of how many candidates she and Philpott managed to field under a new party label.
You can bet that thousands of Canadians would support their cause with hard cash, not dissimilar to the success that Bernie Sanders has once again enjoyed in his fundraising efforts in the U.S. presidential campaign.
Sanders raised $18.2 million in his first 41 days since announcing his presidential bid.
Wilson-Raybould could raise at least a few million dollars over the next five months, to give a new party under her leadership a fighting shot at winning seats.
Go fund her and it. Beats handing Trudeau your hard-earned dough.
Wouldn’t it be something if Puglaas and Philpott got elected, along with even a handful of other new candidates, to potentially hold the balance of power in a minority government?
As the B.C. Greens have shown, stranger things might happen.
I’d bet that even if they fielded candidates in a couple dozen strategically fertile ridings across Canada, P&P’s odds of winning seats would probably exceed those of May’s Green party.
Because it would essentially be a renewed Liberal party with a leader who is arguably more attractive on any number of criteria than the current alternatives.
If nothing else, it would be Trudeau’s worst nightmare, as it would bleed off so many Liberal votes.
If P&P were afraid of splitting the vote and benefitting Scheer’s party, they could target the ridings that are traditionally won by the Liberals at the expense of the NDP and Greens, where the Conservatives would not stand a prayer of getting elected.
In British Columbia there are 17 degrees of separation between another Trudeau government and a more likely minority government that might put P&P in the cat bird’s seat.
They are the 17 people who now sit as Liberals, not including JWR.
Sixteen of them represent seats in Wilson-Raybould’s backyard—in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
All of them would be newly vulnerable if P&P offered an alternative party that presented voters a new venue for venting their anger.
Believe me, many British Columbians are spitting mad at those Liberal lickspittles who stood and cheered when Trudeau punted Puglaas out of caucus and tried to brand her actions as “unconscionable”.
Would any of those Liberal MPs or their colleagues finally find their moral compass?
Would any of them decide to cross the floor and run with P&P under a new party banner, if given the chance to right their own wrongs in blindly supporting a leader who has caused so much harm to his party and country?
I expect there would be a tsunami of support—not least, from Indigenous communities that would instantly rally and mobilize on its behalf—were P&P to start their own party.
Indigenous rights and title would suddenly take centre-stage in Canada’s long overdue political debate. Justice and the constitution would suddenly become election issues.
That, too, would be a good thing.
P&P could do so much to advance that cause by offering a new political option that is first and foremost a party dedicated to upholding the constitutional rights of all Canadians, without political fear or favour.
The so-called “earned media” that would flow from simply launching that enterprise would give Trudeau fits.
It would also make Scheer very nervous about the populist impacts of the movement that his party has done so much to help precipitate by holding out P&P as examples par excellence of the face of integrity in Canadian politics.
Go for it, JWR and Philpott, I say.
Start your own party.
Don’t settle for isolating yourselves as independents.
Don’t settle for running under other leaders’ party banners, which would not fully allow your leadership to make the most of the promise you might hold out for all Canadians.
Make your indelible mark on Canadian political history that much more meaningful and everlasting.
For the opportunity that you have both created by your selfless and wholly honourable acts, in defence of the rule of law, could be Canada’s moment to shine.
In celebration of your virtuous conduct and true leadership.
In faith of the public trust that you have shown is your highest calling.
In nation-building as true servants of the public interest.
Because, you know, it’s 2019.