Tag Archives: Liberals

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

Left-Leaners Must Decide Whether to Vote with Head or Heart

By Jason Menard, 

If you’re a left-leaning voter in this Canadian federal election, you’re faced with more than the obvious four options when you step up to the ballot box — you’ve also got to deal with an even harder question: to vote with your head or with your heart.

Oh to be a conservative voter. It would be so much easier, since you really and truly only have one choice. But for those of us who find ourselves on the left-hand side of the political spectrum, in addition to the Liberal/NDP/Green debate, you also have to whether you’re willing to engage in strategic voting. Continue reading

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble

By Jason Menard

It’s almost time for the bell to ring, announcing the first round of this Parliamentary battle, and the only question that remains is whether the opposition will come out swinging or if they’re prepared to feel out the competition for a while and wait for the right time to deliver the knockout blow.

As the Conservatives and the opposition Liberals prepare to go toe-to-toe in the ring over issues like childcare and taxation it will be interesting to Canadians to see whether the Grits, still licking their wounds from the spanking they received in the recent federal election, are willing to throw down the gloves and get ugly in defense of their principles.

For the Liberals, they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Allow such show-stoppers as the scrapping of the Liberal daycare plan in favour of the $100 per month per kid plan favoured by the Tories or the slashing of the GST and rollback of previous Liberal personal tax cuts, and the Liberals run the risk of being perceived as compromising their ideals. And for a party that’s reeling from the sponsorship scandal and a public that questions its integrity, this is one perception that must be shed.

Unfortunately for Canadians, the only way that can be done is for the Liberals to stand their ground, come hell or high water – or at least yet another election call.

Already, Opposition House Leader Ralph Goodale has started to hedge the Party’s bets, casting the burden of responsibility to its co-opposition members, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc. By stating that these two parties could conceivably prop up the Tories, even if the Liberal vote against these key measures, he’s effectively deflected the question of standing for one’s ideals two the smaller members of the opposition.

This will be a Parliament of perception and posturing. The NDP is on the verge of slipping from the image of being the King Maker to becoming the royal whore – hopping into bed with whomever’s in power to further their own agenda of power. If anything, the NDP should be philosophically more opposed to the Conservative agenda, especially when it comes to issues like social programs, yet they’ve been the most conciliatory speakers when it comes to consensus building in the House of Commons. The NDP runs the risk of alienating its very own traditional supporters and losing them to a newly emboldened Liberal Party – especially if Jack Layton supports a less-than-favourable Omnibus bill in order to maintain political continuity.

On the other side, Gilles Duceppe has to be a little worried about support in his own back yard. While talking the good talk about the idea of his party sweeping through la belle province, he has to be a little rocked by the fact that it was Stephen Harper who walked the walk and eroded his base of support by scoring huge gains in Quebec. Does he risk returning to the polls and testing his supporters’ patience for yet another election?

In the end, does this all embolden Stephen Harper even more? After a few missteps in the early part of his tenure, the ducks are all in a row for him to push through an aggressive first foray into this political battle. Does he gamble that the leaderless Liberals don’t have the stomach for jumping into a snap election? Does he hope that the question marks surrounding the other opposition parties mean that their preference will be to wait for a better time to act?

Harper has to decide what the more prudent strategy will be. Does he enter the House of Commons in a consensus-building manner and hope to negotiate what he wants, or does he seize the opportunity to make dramatic changes and enact a substantial – and controversial – component of his party’s political platform, trusting that the time isn’t right for his opponents to make a move. It’s a bitter pill that he’ll be forcing the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc to swallow – Harper just has to judge whether they have the stomach for it.

In the world of boxing, the boxer always has the edge on the puncher – but in the Canadian political ring, Harper has to opportunity to be both. He can come out swinging, landing the heavy blows, and out-strategize his opponents right from the opening bell. But the only way that works is if the opposition isn’t willing to step up and go toe-to-toe with the Conservatives.

The opening bell is about to ring. This is sure to be one fight to watch.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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

Headless Liberals Could Return Sooner Than Expected

By Jason Menard

If Canadians are willing to throw their support behind a rudderless ship, can you imagine what will happen when the Liberals finally choose a leader to guide it into the next election?

Listen, we all know what dogs do to polls, but the latest one from Sun Media-SES Research is interesting that the top-driven, Stephen Harper-led Conservative Party now finds itself in a neck-and-neck struggle with the headless, directionless, confused Liberal Party of Canada in the hearts and minds of the voters. With a slim 34 per cent to 32 per cent advantage (which is wiped out thanks to statistical variation), the Conservatives may find that their stay at the helm of Canada may be brief.

The thing the Conservatives have going against them is that they represent only a small minority of Canadians. Most Canucks are socially left-wing, fiscally conservative, and looking for a party that’s willing to take progressive action on soft causes, like social growth and the environment. They also want a party that’s going to balance the books and ensure that the coffers are filled for the future.

Frustratingly enough for Elizabeth May, the Green Party seems to embody most of those ideals – it’s just too few Canadians are willing to seriously consider handing her party the keys to the country. Green policy may be solid in theory, but practically several Canadians hear Green and think Rhino. That’s not a good combination.

But when you look at the national support for Liberal (centre-left), NDP (left), Green (centre-left), and Bloc (get beyond the whole separation thing and you’ll find a big, squishy, socially conscious core), and it’s easy to see that the majority of Canadians don’t consider themselves small c conservative.

While Stephen Harper was able to benefit from Liberal disenchantment and a split left-of-centre vote, it appears this brief taste of Conservative governance has sent a few Canadians running back to the comfort of their social safety net – the left-wing parties.

When people think of Canadians, they think of tolerance, social consciousness, and environmental concern. And these are hardly the hallmarks of the Tories. Rightly or wrongly, many Canadians view the Conservatives as being nothing more than the Republican Party-lite. They see a party willing to cut literacy programs and spend more on military.

So just when everyone was writing off the Liberals as dead in the water for the foreseeable future, here comes the opportunity they’ve been looking for. And that makes the upcoming leadership convention, to be held in Montreal between Nov. 28 and Dec. 2, even more important to the future of the party – and this country as a whole.

Essentially, the delegates flocking to Montreal have an opportunity to elect the Prime Minister in Waiting. Canadians from coast to coast are looking for a party that reflects their values – but they want one that they can believe in. There’s a reason why the Liberal Party of Canada had a stranglehold on Canadian politics for years – and that’s because they represented a palatable compromise for voters from Newfoundland to B.C.

They were the party that would show compassion where it was needed, but still make decisions with the bottom line in mind. When that trust was breached with the sponsorship scandal and various other Liberal missteps, Canadians were left without a place to go.

Hence the minority Conservative government. For some reason in this country we’re not willing to hand the reins over to someone other than the Tories or the Grits. Many-a-time the comment of “well, I like the NDP, but I don’t think they can actually run the country,” has been uttered.

So with Canadians unwilling to embrace the NDP and Green in anything more than a secondary or advocacy capacity, it falls to the Liberals to be the standard bearer for the majority of Canadians. But will the voters agree that the Grits have suffered enough for their transgressions? Will they believe that an adequate lesson has been learned since the last election?

The new leader, whomever it may be, must take the opportunity to position the party as the Liberal party of old. One would think that would favour the Michael Ignatieffs or the Bob Raes who are coming in as relative outsiders, but regardless of who is chosen, they will have to commit to a new dawn of Liberal politics.

Getting back to the basics: fiscal responsibility and a social conscience. It’s a winning recipe for the Liberal Party of Canada and the political environment is ripe for a return to power. After all, when Canadians are willing to cast their ballots for a rudderless ship, imagine what would happen if that vessel was captained by someone with a clear vision and an appreciation of the best that the past has to offer.

Majority rules may come sooner than we all think!

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Stars Aligned for Martin to Pull a Trudeau

By Jason Menard

Is it fair to say that Paul Martin got Kim Campbelled? And since we’re looking at former Prime Ministers, with a minority government always a sketchy and short-lived proposition, will he be able to pull a Pierre Trudeau and rise to power for one last legacy-making tour of duty?

As the Liberal leadership race slowly trudges along, time is running short for a suitable candidate to step to the fore. Big names like Frank McKenna and John Manley dropped out early in the process; others have question marks attached to their names – such as Michael Ignatieff, Belinda Stronach, and former Ontario NDP leader Bob Rae; and others, like Joe Fontana, David McGuinty, and Ken Dryden may choose to play the long-shot role in a wide-open race.

But time is not on the Liberals’ side. And if Stephen Harper attempts to be too aggressive with his budget and force a non-confidence vote, Canadians could find themselves heading back to the polls for the third time in two years. And, for Martin, the third time may prove to be the charm.

After 10 years of waiting – with a couple in exile – and a stellar reputation as a tough, but fiscally prescient, finance minister, Martin swam up to the head seat in the wake of Jean Chrétien’s departure from the PMO. Of course, as we found out, the waves created by the Chrétien government ended up drowning Martin and served as the anchor that dragged him and his party down.

Like Kim Campbell, who’s known less for being the first female Prime Minister, and more for being the final nail in the Progressive Conservative party’s coffin, Martin will be remembered for the brevity of his political reign. His entire Prime Ministerial legacy will be defined by his predecessor’s actions and how they stained his tenure.

That is, unless he gets another chance. If an election is called sooner than later, the Liberal Party might have to look to its past to resurrect its future. And it’s not unprecedented, even within the party’s own history.

Back in 1979, with a sliding economy, a public rapidly tiring of his perceived attitude, and increasing debt, Pierre Trudeau was forced to call an election in 1979. After suffering a defeat to Joe Clark, Trudeau announced his retirement, only to return to power after a vote of no confidence brought down the Tory minority. Trudeau’s return to majority prominence offered him the opportunity to polish his reputation, forge a new Constitution ratified by nine of the 10 provinces, and go into history as one of the country’s most dynamic leaders – love him or hate him. After a self-proclaimed long walk in the snow, Trudeau retired, on his own terms, in 1984.

Martin, on the other hand, spent the majority of his time fighting off the Mr. Dithers label that was placed on him by The Economist. However, a more apt title would have been The Fireman, as the beleaguered Prime Minister spent his 27 months putting out the myriad of blazes left behind by his predecessor: AdScam and the Gomery Report, Income Trust, and – of course – the perceived culture of entitlement that 13 years of unchallenged leadership had created within the Grit rank-and-file.

Now, the opportunity is there for Paul Martin to return to the ranks of the Liberal leadership, brandishing a humbled sword and commitment to honesty in the battle against a rapidly beleaguered Conservative Party with no natural ally in a fractured House of Commons. While the Liberals of the last Parliament could find some affiliation with the NDP and left-leaning views of the Bloc, the Conservatives are on their own island. Their skills in consensus-building will be put to the test if they are able to withstand the early assaults that will greet their minority status.

Of course, the other parties will also have to gauge the public’s appetite for yet another expensive election campaign. They’ll have to determine whether a less-than-ideal budget is more appealing than being blamed for causing even more political fatigue within the electorate. And, depending on how aggressively Prime Minister Harper plays his cards, they may have to ante up earlier in the game than they would like.

If that’s the case, look for Martin to be called back to the table, because no one else has shown that they’re ready to go all-in. They say that politics is a game and, for the foreseeable future, the Canadian version is looking more and more like a high-stakes came of poker.

And maybe, like Trudeau before him, Martin will get the chance to reshape his legacy into one that’s more appealing to him.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved