It's too early to write off Justin Trudeau and the Liberals
A headline last week on the Global News site caught my attention because it captured the conventional wisdom of many of us in the media.
"Prime Minister Tom Mulcair? New seat projection, poll show NDP surging across Canada," it stated.
The story focused on an analysis by the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy.
Drawing on recent polls by the Angus Reid Institute, Ekos Research Associates, and Ipsos Reid, it projected the NDP winning 130 seats. That compared to 119 for the Conservatives, 86 for the Liberals, two for the Bloc Québécois, and one other.
There's a widespread belief that Conservative attack ads against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have worked. And they've caused the anti–Stephen Harper vote to move to Mulcair.
Trudeau's problems are partially self-inflicted. His party's support for the Conservatives' antiterrorism legislation, Bill C-51, pushed many progressives back into the arms of the NDP.
In B.C., Trudeau's difficulties are compounded because some his key organizers and supporters are the same people who back Premier Christy Clark. And she's viewed with considerable disdain by many progressives across the province.
Despite this, it's still far too early to count out the Liberals.
Trudeau reaches out to mainstream
Just as the national media underestimated Trudeau before his charity boxing match with now-suspended senator Patrick Brazeau, the scribes risk making the same mistake with regard to the next election.
That's because part of Trudeau's appeal is that he often reflects the values of a majority of Canadians. In this respect, he's similar to his father Pierre, who was elected to lead four governments.
Trudeau Sr. knew that most Canadians didn't want a thoroughly weakened federal government. The premiers and federal Conservatives, on the other hand, were eager to dilute the authority of the central government when they agreed to the Meech Lake and Charlottetown constitutional accords.
Trudeau Sr. also recognized that most Canadians were not in favour of giving a voice to premiers in the selection of Supreme Court of Canada justices. Nor did most Canadians want limitations on federal spending powers in areas of provincial jurisdiction, such as health care and postsecondary education.
More importantly, Canadians wanted their rights protected against governments of all stripes, which is what Trudeau Sr.'s charter of rights accomplished. And the public appreciated his efforts near the end of his tenure to enhance North-South relations and promote peace between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
Nowadays, his son is in tune with most Canadians over legalizing marijuana and in opposing sending the armed forces to fight an endless war in the Middle East.
The Liberal leader's tough stance against Quebec's odious charter of values, his consistent opposition to Conservative Islamophobia, his uncompromising pro-choice stance, and his willingness to end the first-past-the-post electoral system also show he's in sync with the values of a vast number of Canadians.
NDP pleases soft Quebec nationalists
Meanwhile, the NDP under Mulcair will likely remain extremely sensitive to some Quebeckers' desire for further decentralization.
It's rooted in the belief among some Quebeckers that Trudeau Sr. double-crossed his home province in the "night of the long knives" in November 1981. That's when nine premiers agreed to his constitutional package in return for insertion of a "notwithstanding clause" to override the charter of rights.
Quebec's premier at the time, Rene Levesque, objected to elimination of a clause that would have allowed provinces to opt out of federal-provincial programs.
Levesque had previously given up on a Quebec veto over constitutional change many months earlier. That occurred when he joined a group of premiers supporting an amending formula allowing changes with the support of seven provinces representing 50 percent of the population.
In Quebec, the loss of the constitutional veto was seen as treachery on the part of Trudeau Sr. But the overall constitutional package played well in the rest of Canada, which still largely embraces the charter of rights.
Trudeau on the campaign trail
As the last provincial elections in Alberta, Ontario, and B.C. demonstrated, campaigns can make a huge difference.
An optimistic-sounding, charismatic, extroverted leader with a sense of humour can demolish dour, introverted opponents. If the candidate has policies that don't ruffle the electorate, his or her chances of winning increase even further.
If there's a mood to get rid of Harper after nearly 10 years in power, voters have two choices: Trudeau or Mulcair.
Mulcair has come across exceptionally well over the past year and he will remain a formidable opponent for Trudeau. Mulcair has an advantage right now with progressives for demonstrating character in opposing Bill C-51 when it was unpopular to do so.
But at the same time, the NDP leader has been far more cautious when it comes to electoral reform and the war on drugs—two bellwether issues for many younger voters. And if the Conservatives create a nasty ad campaign to stigmatize Mulcair as being soft on Quebec separatism, some progressive voters in English-speaking Canada may go back to the Liberals.
Trudeau's Liberals will also be a safer choice for Conservative voters who want to punish Harper.
That's because Liberals have traditionally been more supportive than the NDP of oilsands developments, foreign investment, and free-trade deals.
If the so-called Blue Liberals who loved former prime minister Paul Martin return to the fold, all bets are off in the next election.
And if that happens, the recent Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy seat count will look as ridiculous as that famous Chicago Daily Tribune headline in 1948 declaring "Dewey Defeats Truman".
Jun 28, 2015 at 2:26pm
Good article. However, Charlie Smith, Canadians WANT a Prime Minister who is Principled; who is not going to "join the enemy" like Justin did.
Canadians who want Harper out NEEDED to see Mulcair & Trudeau both oppose Bill C-51....Canadians won't forget that on October 19th .....The Majority of them will vote NDP and Tom Mulcair will beCanada's next Prime Minister!
Jun 28, 2015 at 3:16pm
An odd article - at times I was unsure if it was about Justin or his dad.
Which raises the reality that if Justin's surname was Jones he would not be an MP let alone a leader of the Liberal party!
Justine's celebrity - stemming only from his father's - has worn thin and his many gaffes have piled up over two years of incoherence and opportunism.
His claim to be a progressive has been lost with unforced errors such as his:
- support -before even reading Harper"s terror bill - for C-51;
- welcoming lifelong right wing Conservative Eve Adams into the Liberal caucus;
- boasting of an "open, transparent' Liberal candidate nomination process that has been anything but in almost every Cdn province where he has appointed his "Star" candidates;
- support for Harper's massive corporate tax cuts, and the XL pipeline the will export raw bitumen - and good middle class Cdn jobs - to the US!
While Tom Mulcair - who has grilled Harper like a fat barbecued chicken in Question Period - has shown his experience, skills and gravitas, Justin has demonstrated none of these vital traits necessary for leadership of this great nation..
Jun 28, 2015 at 3:57pm
Humour and charisma? Whenever Mr Trudeau has whipped out his humour in the past, it has fallen pathetically flat. He is spectacularly good at addressing the thunder-stick crowd and at being irresistible in brief selfie interactions but there has been no evidence of sharp wit. To get a laugh, he resorts to swinging one of his children around in front of a camera while he grins.
The fact is, the more Canadians have had opportunities to hear him speak, the less they like him. Mr. Mulcair,on the other hand, has experienced the reverse.
Jun 28, 2015 at 4:09pm
Recently I caught Steve Paikin and his gallery of mainly older white men dumping all over Trudeau!
Brooke Jeffrey was utterly delightful and articulate and truthful.
How PAIKIN could sit there and allow that imbecile Nicholls to call Trudeau a 'one trick pony, etc'
Nicholls is a fool by any reasonable person's standards.
If this is what Paikin has in store for us we may as well tune right out.
It was a sham of a 'debate.'
Jun 28, 2015 at 5:31pm
The progressive vote will mostly go to Mulcair. Trudeau has taken the Liberal Party to the right and in doing so has lost most of his momentum. He won't get it back. Reform of cannabis laws and the electoral system are low priorities for most voters. Election prediction: a Conservative minority with the NDP in opposition. The Liberals may do better than in 2008 but I won't be surprised if they get hammered once again.
Jun 28, 2015 at 5:35pm
I find the arrogance and entitlement of the NDP to be unbearable now that they’ve peaked in the polls. I also find it nauseating that because we spend more time discussing the NDP's popularity rather then substantive policy discussions, that Thomas Mulcair gets to spew total an utter nonsense without repercussions or elaborating on his stances.
Case in point:
Statements like “I have never met a single useful Senator doing any useful work”. Or “I will wipe the floor with Justin”, and his “joke” about Bob Rae are incredibly boorish and not worthy of anyone standing to be a consensus building Prime Minister. It’s a disgusting attitude to treat your political opponents in such a manner and prove just how egotistical Mulcair is. His disingenuous stance on the constitution and Quebec or the Senate just prove how opportunist he is.
Its ironic that Mulcair would criticize anyone on principles given he didn’t realize he was a dyed in the fibres organ NDPer until after he spent his career as a Liberal and after approaching the Conservatives for a seat on their bench.
Jun 28, 2015 at 6:13pm
Just because Justin Trudeau might still become Prime Minister doesn't mean I haven't forever written him off.
His father was a brilliant scholar, activist, and intellectual aside from a political animal and patriotic nation builder. (Yes, the Charter was a nation-making document.) "JT" is none of these things. And this isn't a charity boxing match, Mr. Smith.
Besides, fuck dynasties. This is a democracy, damn it.
I like Thomas Mulcair for a number of very important reasons: he's very smart, he's a beyond-talented politician, he knows Quebec better than anyone out there, and he's a true principled progressive. His work on the environmental file in Quebec was excellent. I have faith that he actually gives a shit about big issues like global warming, and has the mind and guts to fight for working people's rights AND the environment, which is what is needed in this increasingly unequal, environmentally threatened world. Aside from this, he's the eldest of a family of -- what was it? -- ten kids? A talented scholar who worked his ass off to go to McGill, etc... I have respect for that.
Trudeau is a dilettante slacker who never worked that hard for anything... that's fine. I've been a slacker too. I have friends who are slackers. No one likes to have a beer with a try hard...
...but I want my Prime Minister to be a try hard. I want him to be an pain-in-the-ass try hard because that's what it will take to fix the shit numbnuts Harper did. I want someone who won't bend with the corporate wind, or because his advisers -- or the Americans -- tell him to. "JT" has demonstrated that, despite his alleged personal values, he can't do that. Liberal support for Bill C-51 is a disgrace to the spirit of the Charter his father gave to this country.
And I felt this way well before that dipshit Harper ever ran an ad.
Jun 28, 2015 at 6:27pm
indulge in any wishful thinking you like Liberals, he is done. it is something sad but true, he is finished
Jun 28, 2015 at 6:38pm
Some progressives are having issue with the NDP refusing to vote for CPC and LPC suggested amendments to C51 that safeguarded protest and set limits on information sharing for example, even though they knew the bill was going to pass no matter what.
Jun 28, 2015 at 8:02pm
"There's a widespread belief that Conservative attack ads against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau have worked."
Actually, the position on C-51 has probably done more damage than the CONs' attack ads have done. Proof of politics over principle, same old same old. What a shame, Trudeau just looks like Harper Lite.