Monday, October 08, 2012

Trudeaumania part II

Conservatives and New Democrats alike would love to categorize Justin Trudeau as a lightweight celebrity, cashing in on his father's notoriety and aplomb, to hoodwink voters into putting him into power. For what end, they can't say, but it must be nefarious if he's fighting so hard for it. It confounds them that polls state he would be the next Prime Minister if he attained the Liberal leadership role.

Justin Trudeau speaking to a full house in Belleville, Ontario

If there isn't an old saying that goes 'if you're surprised in politics, you're out of touch', then there should be. And right now, both extreme parties are out of touch. This is why seemingly every criticism of the old Liberal Party, and every misconception about its support, its revival, and its gains in the polls, is tacked onto the Trudeau name. They want it to be Trudeau's game, even though it has all happened before his leadership bid. Now they want to jump on him quickly to attack, hoping that if they define him as lightweight, that support will vanish.

A quick sampling of NDP and Conservative critics shows that they say he is not experienced enough to lead a party, which could be true, but we don't know that yet. Not only will he have an entire system of ground-up Riding Associations behind him, but also some of the greatest political minds of the past fifty years. The party is already rallying behind him, people who have run the country with great popularity, defined the social systems Canadians value, AND balanced many budgets.

Another argument goes that Justin Trudeau is young. I'm turning 41 this month as well, only two months older than he is. Young? Thank you. I do feel young now, if only for a fleeting second.

They also say that it is a popularity contest. Show me a party that isn't. NDP leadership hopefuls were so reluctant to actually criticise each other that they had a love-in instead, and all the real politicking went on behind closed doors. They loved themselves into a position where Mulcair won. Thomas Mulcair had never led a party either.

It seems silly to then criticise the Liberals for picking the most popular politician among all Canadians, as the best choice to lead the party to victory. The NDP chose Jack Layton the same way. If elected, it doesn't matter which person takes the Liberals there, so long as someone does. It may be the only way to save what makes Canada ... well ... Canada, before the extremes polarise us to the point where we can't relate across the spectrum.

At any rate, even though the NDP have more reason to fear a Trudeau win, the Conservatives are even more afraid than the NDP are. That fear is exactly why the new Infrastructure ads show working people put to work, I'm assuming, by Federal Government funds. They don't mention those funds were cut off abruptly in May of this year, with no extension, even while our infrastructure is crumbling, nor that the Conservatives have spent all the money, and no more will be coming. The ads aren't about construction. They are about connecting to the average working person, whose support the Conservative government is losing fast with its latest draconian laws against EI recipients and Unions.

Justin Trudeau was a school teacher, sure, but he scares the crap out of Stephen Harper. Not in the House of Commons, where Harper's smug, clever, and contrite responses are legendary in their vitriol against Liberals and New Democrats alike. No, he connects to the average person in a way that Harper couldn't buy, even if he was Bill Gates. Justin is everything Stephen is not, personable, a man who can talk to anyone, and with charm. He's natural, and real, and talks like an average Canadian. He can relate. He is already an exceptional orator, and people love that he's NOT the autocratic controller of the Liberal political machine.

Both Harper and Mulcair, in backing down from Pauline Marois when she took down the Canadian flag from the Quebec National Assembly, showed their true colours. They were spineless in their lack of criticism for the blatantly anti-federalist move. When it looked as if it would harm them in the polls, they backed down, proving themselves only as patriotic as is politically expedient.

It doesn't surprise me from Harper, the endless game-player, but Mulcair? His reasoning is more complex. The Quebec NDP vote is now precarious because their position in the middle of the separation debate leaves them open for all kinds of damage. Their Sherbrooke declaration, which allows separation from Canada at 50% plus-one-vote, frankly scares me. It is a timid shadow of Chretien's Clarity Act that set out the firm rules for Quebec sovereignty, and yet there is no way they can back down from it now that their support is in Quebec. Hell, they have MP's in their caucus who are sworn separatists.

A Trudeau win would steal all the support they've built in Quebec, and move it to a Federalist party. The New Democrats rely on the consolidated protest vote, where the Liberals pull the middle class, so it's going to end badly for them. Quebec will be where the next election is decided, and the NDP, far from embracing it as the Liberals always do, are running from the fight. Many voters don't even know their MP's there. In fact, what has put the Liberals into office more often than not in a hundred years is their ability to duke it out in Quebec and Ontario, and win.

The extreme parties are in a delicate situation. They've expended their best arguments against a party that was down for the kicking after last election. Instead, less than seven months later, they face a newly envigorated Liberal party. They face a foe that has signed over 25,000 new supporters, and that stands at 25% popularity in the polls and continues gaining.

(update: The polls as they stand November 3, 2012 are CPC- 33%, Lib 30%, and NDP 26%)

It is solid popularity, built from the ground up by listening to people, and making their views the next party platform. What the extremes call pandering to the electorate, Canadians see as listening, at a time when both the NDP and Conservatives are clinging to their top-down policy making model. The extreme parties refuse to see this as a three-way race, which is going to hurt them even more in 2015. In ignoring this, they are setting themselves up for failure.

They also like to ignore that "Young" Mr. Trudeau has skills. He fought it out with the Bloc Quebecois in the diverse riding of Papineau, knocking on doors and speaking to people, and won. Twice. The riding looks as if it will keep putting him in office, so his critics will have to get used to him in Ottawa. He does not sit like a wallflower in the House, and his genuine 'average guy fighting for good' persona fires people up. His speeches about inclusion, about what he loves about Canada, and his vision for how we are going to rebuild the country from this polarisation, are inspiring. He packs every house.

The extremes fail to see that Canadians don't want another autocratic, crafty, go-for-the-throat debater like they have in Harper and Mulcair. They can see these men are in power simply for power's sake. Canadians are sick of the internal politics, the endless control, the answers-from-a-page in the House of Commons. They want 'Answer Period', not an ignored Question Period. They want 'real people', and that's why Trudeau scares them. He is real, and he's been doing the work. Those skills used to stand up for the average Canadian ... it's no wonder both parties on the extremes are afraid of him.

They should be.

In ignoring Mr. Trudeau's skills, and in going for the cheap shots as they've been doing with the Liberal Party, they are already losing the next election. Liberals, in fighting for their survival, are already building their campaign where it matters most. With the people.

Justin Trudeau's website can be found here.

My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:
Cleverly Disguised as Cake

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:
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