Tag Archives: Liberal

Justin Trudeau and the Cult of Personality

By Jason Menard,

Some may say he’s a political lightweight. Some may say he’s nothing more than great hair and a winning grin. Some may say he’s all style over substance.

And some may say that Justin Trudeau is exactly what the Liberal Party of Canada needs. Continue reading

Will Liberals be Served Crow on a Much Cosier Table?

By Jason Menard

Remember the old jokes? A PC dinner reservation would be announced by the maitre d’ as, “Conservatives – Party of Two.” That was back in 1993 when, after the failure of both Meech Lake and Charlottetown, along with the residual distaste of the GST implementation and the rise of the Reform Party left the once-mighty Progressive Conservatives a shell of their former selves.

So could the Liberals now be preparing for a similar serving of crow in an election that suggests that the once lightly regarded NDP has passed the once-mighty Liberal Party of Canada in the polls? Continue reading

A Political Lesson – What’s in a Name?

By Jason Menard

What’s in a name? And does carrying one of the iconic surnames of Canadian politics hold any sway in today’s day and age? Justin Trudeau is hankering to find out, but chances are any victory he’ll enjoy in an upcoming federal election will be more due to geography than genealogy.

Love him or hate him – and there are few Canadians who are indifferent – it would be hard to vote against Pierre Yves Elliot Trudeau as the most dynamic politician ever produced in the Great White North. Prime Minister from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 until 1984, Trudeau guided this country through both its most defining and divisive period – ushering in the Constitution and dealing with the ramifications of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution and the October Crisis.

To this day, the name Trudeau inspires reverence in some and utter disgust in others. And it is into a wide and powerful wake that his son Justin has officially thrown himself, in announcing his intention to run as a Liberal candidate in the next federal election.

To his credit, the younger Trudeau has taken his time coming to this announcement. To many, the public’s seeds of interest were planted during Prime Minister Trudeau’s state funeral in 2000, wherein Justin delivered a compelling speech that prompted many to see that the elder’s gift for oratory had passed to his offspring. At that time, speculation began that Justin was planning a foray into politics – something he continually brushed aside as a concept that was before its time.

Seven years later, the time is now. The writing was on the wall even during the Liberal leadership convention where Justin was a dominant presence in the failed bid of Gerard Kennedy, and eventually joined Kennedy in throwing his support behind the eventual victor Stéphane Dion.

And now, Canadian politics again has the name Trudeau as part of its vocabulary. The question is, does that matter?

In certain levels of politics, name recognition carries an enormous amount of weight. Municipal politics, for sure, is one forum where a familiar name can sway those voters who haven’t taken an active interest in the issues or candidates. But federally the equation changes. At the federal level there’s a delicate balance between voting for the candidate and the party. In fact, we’ve seen recent examples of parties that have specifically counseled for strategic voting in order to keep a less-than-savoury party out of power.

So does the Trudeau name matter? In the end, no. But what it does do is put an enormous amount of pressure on Pierre’s eldest. It can be argued that Justin enters the political fray as an outsider with limited political experience, in addition to being the ultimate insider, privy to a familiarity that can only be bred by being born into the arena.

Because of that, there is a heightened requirement for the younger Trudeau to show that there’s more to him than a pretty face and iconic name. He will have to work harder than most to ensure that his policies are firm, the research behind them is solid, and his ability to clearly and directly express his points is at its peak.

To start, Trudeau has to win back a long-assumed riding for his party. After speculation that he would be parachuted into the safer confines of Outremont, a Liberal – and federalist – stronghold, Justin will now run in the Papineau riding of Montreal. In fact, he’s literally taking baby steps in his progression — according to the Government of Canada Website, it’s the smallest riding in all of Canada at only nine square kilometers in size.

However, it’s a riding that after years of Liberal rule fell into Bloc hands during the last election. Since 1957 the riding has been officially Liberal – and prior to that it was held by an Independent Liberal Adrien Munier (who later joined the official ranks). Only in 1949 did a candidate with Conservative leanings win the riding – Montreal mayor Camillien Houde. In the 2006 election, Bloc candidate Vivian Barbot wrested power for Liberal incumbent Pierre Pettigrew by less than 1,000 votes.

So with almost 50 years of Liberal ties – and a continued preference for left-leaning parties, it’s not as if Trudeau has been thrown into the lion’s den. It’s the perfect, safe, choice for the Liberal party to find out what’s in a name.

A teacher by trade, Justin now has time to learn the job on his own. Because as familiar as his name may be, when it comes to federal politics one’s birth certificate can only get you so far. And if he doesn’t believe it, he can turn to another former Montreal MP with political family ties for confirmation – Paul Martin.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Home is Where the Opportunity Lies

By Jason Menard

Liberal or local? For constituents in the London North Centre federal riding, that’s a question they may soon have to answer.

With Joe Fontana’s expected announcement that he will vacate his duly-elected seat in Parliament in favour of making a challenge for the mayor’s office, rumours have started floating regarding who would be a replacement candidate in the required by-election. And one name that’s been bandied about? Gerard Kennedy.

You know, Gerard Kennedy, born in La Pas, Manitoba and former Member of Provincial Parliament of Parkdale-High Park, in Toronto, who resigned his seat and his position as Minister of Education in his bid to lead the federal Liberals. In addition, Kennedy also lived in Edmonton and studied in Peterborough.

All of which makes him qualified to represent the good people of London North Centre how? As well travelled as Mr. Kennedy may be in this great land of ours, there is a noticeable lack of residency in the Forest City on his resume. The question is, should that matter?

This isn’t a new aspect of party politics. In fact, parties have long made it a habit of parachuting star candidates into warm ridings in order to get them official representation in the House of Commons – even if it means that a dedicated member of the community has to take one for the team and put aside their political aspirations, at least for the time being.

But whose team are we talking about? Does the Liberal Party – or any party for that sake – matter more than the representation of the people in the riding? Aren’t elected representatives supposed to be just that? The representatives of the people in a specific region or district? So how well represented will the people of London North Centre be if their potential MP has never spent any meaningful time in the riding?

That’s a question the voters have to ask. And they have to balance it with their political leanings. It’s a hard choice to reconcile and it represents the worst of party politics. If you are a tied-in-the-wool Liberal, do you put the needs of your party over your personal aspirations? Does voting in a representative, who by the very fact that they’re not of your riding – or even within the general vicinity of the area — diminish the sound of your voice in parliament? More importantly, does this type of activity not undermine the entire concept of representative government?

Admittedly, how one votes is a debate that is undertaken with each and every election. Do you vote for the person who appears to be most representative of your views and hopes for your riding, or do you choose the person who is a member of the party whose national view you favour? Do you vote for the local candidate with deep roots in the riding, even if you are skeptical about their party affiliation? Or do you roll the dice and support a candidate whose tethers to the riding are as thin as a spider’s web?

It all depends on how much value you place on individual representation. We have long been conditioned to look at the big picture, as opposed to focusing on the individual players. Coverage of elections and politics in general is greatly focused on Ottawa, as opposed to the impact that our Members of Parliament are having in their own ridings. Even election platforms, where local issues should be at the fore, are largely decided by national politicking and strategies.

So, should Kennedy be parachuted in with much fanfare and bluster, the voters in the London North Centre riding may have to decide where their sensibilities lie. Does the appeal of being the quote-unquote home riding of a potential future Prime Minister outweigh the fact that your representative may not even know who or what he’s representing.

Everyone can learn and a candidate can be well-versed on local concerns by his or her support staff, fellow regional MPs, and even a potential mayor. And there’s no questioning Kennedy’s intelligence, capability, and dedication to his cause. As well, this country has been built by those who have come from other places to settle throughout Canada, who eventually grow roots in their community and eventually become a natural part of the landscape. Can that same community entrenchment happen in a matter of months?

The old adage states that home is where the heart is and the constituents of London North Centre may soon have to decide whether they’re willing to accept someone for whom home is merely where the opportunity lies.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Political Strength is Home Grown

By Jason Menard

Is it any shock that Belinda Stronach has decided not to run for the federal Liberal leadership? After all, to do so at this juncture would have been committing political suicide.

Regardless of Ms. Stronach’s qualifications – and one would think having been in a management role in the multi-billion dollar Magna International would lend itself well to the managing of a country – she’s been caught up in the groundswell of anger over David Emerson’s defection to the Conservative party for a cabinet seat.

The fact of the matter is that the only difference between Stronach and Emerson’s respective party flopping is in the degree of brazenness that both parties displayed. Stronach, at least, put in a solid tenure with the Conservatives and was known as a Red Tory before she made the jump. Emerson’s defection reeked of opportunism. And while Stronach’s decision was validated in the recent federal election by her constituency, it’s hard to even suggest that Emerson’s electorate would afford him the same vote of confidence.

But, overall, the two politicians made similar moves, which not only have been met with disapproval within their own ranks, but they’ve served to cast doubt on the candidates’ very integrity and loyalty. Essentially, they’re not home-grown candidates and for that reason Stronach would be a liability in a leadership role – despite her qualifications.

And it’s for that same reason that Bob Rae should be pulling his hat tighter around his head instead of considering throwing it into the ring. Rae will always be NDP. His legacy will be that of a promising Ontario leadership bid that quickly descended into the land of mockery.

One of the things that Canadians look for in their leaders is fidelity. We want to believe that our leaders have bled the party colours, that their ideals and beliefs are ingrained – not buffeted and shaped by the winds of popular opinion. That’s why Stephen Harper can come across as a credible Conservative, while Jean Charest continues to see his True Grit tainted by Tory Blue.

It’s somewhat ironic that we want our politicians to be flexible, understanding of the differing opinions of the Canadian populace, and willing to change with the times – yet we vilify those who switch parties simply because we look at them as traitors to the cause.

That’s what sets apart the Pat O’Briens of the country from the Emersons, the Stronachs, and – potentially – the Raes: the decision to switch affiliation based upon strongly held personal beliefs as opposed to simply peddling their fidelity for a Cabinet position or a shot at a premium job.

Rae will never been convincing as a Liberal – not when he spent so many years in the NDP camp taking shots at the opposition. In essence, are we to believe that the Liberal Party has undergone such a philosophical shift to the point where Rae has not had to compromise his ideals? Or, more likely, will we believe that this is just another indication that everyone has his or her own price – and for our politicians influence outweighs integrity.

That’s why Stronach can’t run – at least not for the next couple of elections. Until she’s been accepted as a long-standing Liberal and not just a recent convert, she’ll be tainted with the stain of opportunism. A few years of being the good soldier and adhering to the Grit cause should make that year in the Conservative camp just a distant memory.

And that’s why the current Liberals need to either find someone from within, such as Gerald Kennedy, or someone with no prior political affiliation, like Michael Ignatieff, to lead their ranks into the next federal battle. In a country where our confidence in the political system has been shaken, voters need to feel that their potential leaders are committed to the cause and faithful to their party.

After all, we need to know that our leaders will work with our own best interests — not their own personal goals – at heart.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Putting New Words in the Electorate’s Mouth

By Jason Menard

Pat O’Brien’s decision to jump ship from the Liberal Party hasn’t silenced the voices of his constituency – his actions have his electorate singing a different tune, and some of his electorate may be choking on the words.

When does one’s obligations to their constituents outweigh the need to satisfy one’s personal beliefs? The line is often blurred when we look at the actions of our politicians. Elected on a specific mandate – usually determined, in large part, by their Party affiliation — our elected representatives convene on Parliament Hill to debate our nation’s future.

However, at times the ideals of an elected official outweigh their mandate to represent their electorate. Or the beliefs of the Party run counter to the representative’s personal opinions. It is with that conflict, based upon his disagreement with the Liberal Party leadership over the issue of gay marriage that London Fanshawe MP Pat O’Brien has chosen to leave the Liberal Party of Canada and sit as an independent.

While I disagree with O’Brien’s politics, I commend him for standing up for his beliefs. However he did not do enough. To be fair to the constituents who elected him as a representative of the Liberal government he must not simply continue his term as an independent, but rather resign his seat and request a by-election.

Our electoral system, however flawed we may feel it is at times, is based in large part on Party representation. An unfortunate number of the electorate couldn’t tell you who their Member of Parliament is, but are well aware of the differences between the various political parties. They vote red, blue, orange, or green – not for individual candidates.

As such, federal representatives like O’Brien and, on the flip side, Belinda Stronach, have deceived a large number of people who cast their ballots based on the belief that party-hopping was not on the agenda. Instead of working to affect change from within, these politicians – and others like them in the past – have flipped sides for their own advantage, not for the benefit of their constituents.

Both O’Brien and Stronach have not just ignored the voices of those who have voted for them in the past – they have bastardized their message and converted it to a cause that may be anathema to their voters’ personal beliefs. A Conservative supporter who voted for Stronach, no matter how centre-left she appeared to be, has every expectation that their vote for the Conservative candidate will be just that – and it won’t eventually evolve into support for the opposition!

The voice of the electorate has not just been muted – it’s been completely changed and words have been force-fed into the mouths of the voters. To make sure the right message is heard, it is imperative that the electorate in these particular ridings are allowed to opportunity to participate in a by-election.

That way, those who voted for Mr. O’Brien – the man, would be able to do so again, either as an independent candidate or, more likely, under the guise as the Conservative candidate he’s always appeared to be and seems destined to become. And those who voted for Mr. O’Brien – the Liberal, need to have the right to continue to support their party with their votes, as they believed they had during the last election.

Both Belinda Stronach and Mr. O’Brien need to do the right thing and step down. If they truly represent the will of the people, they will be duly elected by their constituency and can then – in good conscience – govern with the mandate of the people.

Both of these candidates made their respective jumps because they felt the need to stand up for what they believe in. But we did not vote these people in to act as freelance contractors, jumping from side to side depending on which way the political breeze is blowing. O’Brien and Stronach have forgotten that they are elected representatives – and that they represent voters who made their choices based upon now-flawed logic and expectations.

If these candidates are truly so high-minded in their belief of doing the right thing, then surely being fair to their constituents should not be too much to ask?

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved