Martyn Brown: Extinction Rebellion, Jagmeet-style. As Singh goes up, Trudeau goes down and Scheer jumps for joy

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      Everybody: jump. To the left. Left. Right!

      Up, up, up! Jagmeet-style.

      It’s the hottest new dance in this federal election: the viral sensation that is rocking the Liberals to the core, lifting New Democrats’ spirits from the depths of despair to Laytonesque heights, and making the Conservatives jump for joy.

      With a little over a week to go until election day, Jagmeet Singh is suddenly taking Progressive Canada by storm, in the wake of his pitch-perfect response to Justin Trudeau’s racist brownface/blackface antics and of his stellar performance in the leaders debates.

      As the Straight’s Charlie Smith predicted and reported, Singh is defying the pollsters’ and pundits’ earlier expectations and has been soaring in the public opinion polls.

      The number crunchers’ pre-election rumours of the NDP’s death were greatly exaggerated, it seems.

      As Extinction Rebellion protesters were making their own mark last week in highlighting the climate crisis, Singh was newly defining himself in the one-and-only English-language leaders debate as a breath of fresh air who stands convivially apart from Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny.

      His favourability has increased 20 points, from 39 percent to 59 percent since the campaign began, according to Angus Reid.

      At 0:45 of this video, watch Jagmeet Singh call Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer "Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny".

      Sure, the NDP’s national numbers are only up three points, to a six-month high of 17 percent. And the Conservatives’ support actually fell from 37 to 34 percent from October 1 to 10, while the Liberals went from 30 to 29 percent.  

      Most other polls show the Liberals with a slight lead, but the NDP’s upward trend is clear. And that resurgence is sweet music to Scheer’s ears.

      An NDP revival at the Liberals’ expense, aided by even a little Green growth in key swing ridings has always been the Conservatives’ critical strategic path to victory.

      It wouldn’t take much to cause a seismic shift in projected seat counts, with one in five 2015 NDP voters currently parking their support with the Liberals.

      Angus Reid found that “A staggering six-in-ten Liberal supporters (58%) say they would consider changing their vote intention for strategic purposes…” And “one-in-three voters with a second choice say that the NDP is their backup plan, including six-in-ten Liberals (62%) and Greens (56%).”

      As Trudeau’s star fades and Singh’s stardom rockets, Scheer’s moonshot has suddenly become more viable.

      Especially with the Yves-François Blanchet lifting the Bloc Québécois higher into the Liberals’ previously impenetrable stratosphere, in and around Montreal; and with the human scud that is Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party burning itself out in its racist silo. 

      Watch out, Canada. An actual election is threatening to break out.

      Orange is the new track for all Canadians to watch in making Scheer’s dreams come true.

      Aided and abetted by the likes of veteran Liberal MP Judy Sgro (Humber River-Black Creek), whose astounding defence of Prime Minister Blackface certainly put a new picture besides the Liberals’ textbook definition of “stupid is as stupid does.” Notwithstanding her subsequent apology.

      Once again, Team Trudeau donned its racist dunce cap to not only reoffend racialized Canadians with blinding dimwittedness, but to also provide Singh a new forum to win over alienated Liberals in support of his uniquely inspiring leadership.

      Platforms aren't swaying voters

      The trouble for the Grits is, the more stridently they go after the NDP to stop the bleeding, the more they will put Singh in the spotlight that favorably showcases him in contrast to Trudeau. 

      Today (October 11), the NDP and Conservatives offered the Liberals new fodder for attack in releasing their respective costed platforms.

      The Conservative fiscal plan is both the left’s nightmare and Trudeau’s wet dream, with “only” $49 billion worth of increased program spending and new tax cuts on the table. 

      The horror. Worse than Stephen Harper or Doug Ford, according to the Father of Affectation, who only four years ago was dishonestly promising to eventually restrain his irresponsible vote-buying and balance the budget this fiscal year. 

      Shame on made-an-American Andy, suggests the Counterfeit Trudeau, for his heartless plan to cut the Trudeau government's previously budgeted infrastructure spending hikes by $18 billion over four years, cut foreign aid by 25 percent, and cut unidentified existing operating expenses by $14 billion.

      What “heartless” right-wing extremism is this, to balance the budget five years hence, with $69 billion in new revenue and such reckless austerity? Please. In Paul Martin’s time as finance minister, many progressives would have thought they died and went to Heaven if that was the plan to balance the budget “come hell or high water".

      The NDP’s fiscal plan envisions spending hikes of $130 billion over four years that are “minuscule” compared to the $293 billion in vote-buying that the Green Party proposes, but more than double the $57 billion in added spending that Trudeau’s Liberals are promising.

      Singh would finance his election goody-bag with $130 billion in new and/or higher taxes—most notably, by raising the portion of capital gains income that is taxable for individuals and corporations from 50 percent to 75 percent.

      And also, by raising income taxes for wealthier Canadians, hiking the corporate tax rate by three points, and reducing the wriggle room for corporate tax write-offs and offshore tax avoidance.

      Singh’s proposed $130,000,000,000 tax-hike plan makes Trudeau’s $25.4 billion planned additional tax grab look paltry by comparison, yet “reasonable” in contrast to May’s $288 billion higher tax bonanza over the next four years.

      Who cares?! It’s all b.s.—as most Canadians too well know from being burned every time in placing any faith in either the veracity of the parties’ “fully costed” election “commitments” or in the leaders’ political will to honour their word.

      No matter who becomes prime minister, we have become conditioned through chronic abuse to accept the fact that election “budgets” are all fake news.

      They are the trumped-up “big, beautiful walls” that are held out by all leaders to separate their parties from the others, ever founded on fear, hope and anger, and never grounded in truth, serious conviction, or post-election political reality.

      Which is why no one much gives a damn that all parties are once again trying to buy them with their own tax dollars, albeit this time without even the pretense of paying lip service to living within taxpayers’ means.

      Today, there’s no percentage in that value or in advancing the worth and strengthened buying power of balanced budgets.

      Justin Trudeau knows that if the NDP eats into the Liberal vote, it could enable Andrew Scheer's Conservatives to win more seats in Ontario.

      Personality reigns supreme nowadays

      Here’s the thing: whatever holes the Liberals might find to poke in Jagmeet Singh’s spend-and-tax fantasy, they will be mostly irrelevant to his target voter universe.

      One, because he stands zero chance of becoming the prime minister and will have zero power to implement the NDP’s election platform. And everyone knows that.

      Two, because most of the voters who are being wooed by Singh’s spending and taxing proposals fundamentally buy the ideological thrust of that vision. Which in classic NDP form, vilifies “the rich and powerful”, amplifies class warfare, and is as green as orange can be.

      And three, because in this age of leadership-centric politics, what most voters are shopping around for is a leader who they can admire and like, if not also fully trust.

      It’s the personality that will persuade them to take a flyer on any leader whose party is within their ideological comfort zone, and the values that individual seems to represent. As Mr. Sunny Ways, of all people, should know.

      And if Justin Trudeau was the anti-Harper poster child for 2015, Jagmeet Singh is Canada’s calendar-darling for 2019.

      He’s not topless, as he readily jokes, but his naked essence is a sight to behold and treasure in its historic significance for a nation newly facing itself as the rainbow of hope it stands to be in all its banded colours.

      If Jagmeet-mania feels good, it’s because of Canada’s aspirational yearning to dance forward with transformative pride in the newly visible mosaic we are fashioning as a nation.

      The one waiting to break out of its safe, traditional white shell and let its freak flag fly, led by a boundlessly energetic, infectiously happy hipster, who is more in step with the times that are all about defying the past with new vigour, intent, and imagination.

      Forget policy. Or at least put it in its proper place, in trying to fathom why Singh is resonating as a Canadian cultural force in his own right, however many seats his party manages to win.

      His millennial appeal is all about who he is: his redeeming brand is authenticity and his unique selling proposition is his own difference.

      It is less about what he says than how he says it and how he looks. Especially when he is talking about the ugly truths that haunt our country, racism chief among them, and equally, the strength of conviction required to march forward in the face of systemic and structural adversity.

      In that sense, his style is his substance: younger voters are especially attracted to him for what he represents: diversity, tolerance, optimism, integrity, and humour. And above all, hope, unbridled by ancestry, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic disadvantage.

      In Singh they see the proudly hopeful face of Canada’s future: a youthful figure of colour in every sense, whose personal story and triumph of leadership speaks to the too-unspoken reality of who we are today as Canadians and of the better collective we might become as a nation.

      The policies Singh cites as NDP articles of faith are of decidedly secondary importance.

      What matters is his affirmative example, as a lovable and courageous oracle of change long overdue.

      Scheer's prospects could improve

      All that aside, it’s probably too late in the election game for Singh to translate his personal cachet into the type of electoral success for the NDP that Jack Layton fashioned through his instant stardom.

      Andrew Scheer just hopes it will be enough to win the NDP 25 to 35 seats and to sufficiently knock Trudeau’s numbers back by five or more points.

      At 17 percent now, give or take, a five-point surge for the NDP doesn’t seem too hard to imagine. Much of that would surely come from the 905-belt around Toronto that the Tories so desperately need as their Golden Horseshoe.

      Extract another couple points from the Liberals largely concentrated in Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island, southern Ontario, and Atlantic Canada that might yet go to Elizabeth May’s Greens, and Bob's your uncle, as far as Scheer is concerned.

      “Canadians can know one thing: at this point, Mr. Scheer, with all due respect, you’re not going to be prime minister,” May said in the English-language debate. “The question is going to be on a seat count—Mr. Trudeau in a minority, or Mr. Trudeau in a majority.”

      Singh’s surge might yet make Elizabeth May eat those words.

      In that debate, in contrast to Thursdays’ French-language debate, May brilliantly berated Trudeau as a climate-action fraud who “bought a pipeline”, repeatedly broke his word, and won’t even meet Stephen Harper’s weak emissions reduction targets for 2030.

      “Please God, you don’t get a majority this time around, because you won’t keep your promises,” she told her “good friend” Trudeau, as everyone on-stage mentally nodded.

      “Voting for Green MPs is your very best guarantee, Canada, you don’t get the government you least want,” she argued. By which, she seemed to suggest a Liberal majority government, given that she had just suggested Scheer couldn’t possibly form the government.

      It’s no mystery why May would have Canadians believe that the Conservatives haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming prime minister.

      It’s because the Greens’ target voters are disproportionately traditional Liberal and NDP voters.

      Indeed, she knows that the thing most of those swing voters least want is not a Trudeau majority government, but rather, a Scheer government.

      With the Greens’ own party numbers hovering at single digits in the polls, with NDP support wallowing in the mid-teens, and with Trudeau’s projected seat counts typically doubling or even tripling those of Scheer’s party, both the Greens and New Democrats have not had to combat the usual fears about vote-splitting that the Liberals have historically exploited in scaring voters back into their own camp.

      That’s about to change, big time.

      The NDP is certainly no stranger to that tactic. And it is already using it with a vengeance to fight back the Green onslaught from Victoria to Nanaimo.

      As Global’s Keith Baldrey reported, the NDP is now so nervous about the Greens’ growing popularity on Vancouver Island, as borne out by its electoral successes federally and provincially and by polls showing them leading in several seats, it has dispatched former NDP star MP Nathan Cullen to shore up support.

      Too little, too late to work, is my guess.

      The N-dippers are also distributing leaflets in desperately trying to tar Elizabeth May as essentially a closet pro-lifer on abortion whose personal values and party are not progressive.

      Good luck with that. It is dishonest as the day is long and hardly befitting of a party whose leader is also playing that card to disparage the only woman leading a federal party.

      Absurd as those attacks are, it is a curious strategy, to say the least.

      Because the NDP is arguing that a vote for the Greens is essentially a vote for the Conservatives. That might be true in other parts of Canada, but on our country’s far left coast, especially on Vancouver Island, not so much.

      What the NDP really fears in that region is not inadvertently electing Tories by splitting the progressive vote; it’s that the Greens are well-positioned to “steal” seats won by the NDP in 2015, including the one it lost to Paul Manley in Nanaimo in the recent by-election.

      Singh should be worried about that prospect, with three provincial Green MLAs and now two federal Green MPs, including May, all of whom are deservedly very popular.

      B.C.'s NDP premier John Horgan has given Justin Trudeau a boost, mainly because Horgan doesn't want Andrew Scheer becoming prime minister.

      B.C. premier validates Trudeau

      More telling for the NDP’s chances in British Columbia is that the most popular New Democrat in British Columbia—Premier John Horgan—hasn’t seen fit to hit the hustings for his federal colleagues.

      What’s up with that?

      After all, unlike other parties, the New Democrats across Canada are not just ideologically joined at the hip, federally and provincially, they are one and the same party.

      And unlike Jason Kenney, who has been campaigning for Scheer & Co., Horgan doesn’t seem too keen on spending his limited political capital in trying to help out Singh’s Soldiers.

      Yes, he made one surprise flash appearance at one of Singh’s pre-campaign events. But the fact is, Horgan has done more to help Trudeau’s street cred with B.C.’s small-l liberals than just about anyone. 

      Horgan has been Trudeau’s number one validator, grateful as Horgan is for Trudeau’s funding support for his government’s infrastructure and program priorities, and intent as he seems to be at not alienating the guy who he’s gambling will be returned as Canada’s next prime minister.

      Yet, the NDP needs to think twice about attacking the Greens for splitting the progressive vote and risking the election of a Scheer government. For that is even more the NDP’s Achilles heel, and the Liberals are going to stab it without mercy.

      Will Canadians ultimately buy the counterfeit Trudeau, or Made-an-American Andrew?

      Flip a loonie. But my money’s on a minority government. And I wouldn’t bet a plug nickel that it won’t be one led by Scheer.

      Heresy, I know, for Canada’s progressives.

      That outcome wouldn’t be the end of the world as we know it, especially if the Bloc doesn’t hold the balance of power.

      Canada needs a stronger, more representative opposition to balance out that very real threat from the separatists who, as Blanchet said in no uncertain terms in the media scrum following last night’s debate, will only represent Quebec’s interests in Ottawa.

      No matter who forms the government, Trudeau or Scheer, for me, Singh’s main message is the value of strength through diversity.

      It’s about not fearing to be honest with ourselves about who are and standing up for the values that we think are important across the political spectrum.

      Green, Orange, Red, or Blue—they all have their place in Parliament and they all should have a strong voice in the next government.

      Ideally in holding a minority government and Trudeau especially accountable, come what may.

      To the extent that Singh’s extinction rebellion gives new hope and added strength of numbers to both distant third parties, the NDP and Greens alike, I’m aboard to party, Jagmeet-style.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at bcpundit@gmail.com.

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