Over the past year, there have been thousands of articles written about Justin Trudeau, his father, and his leadership campaign. Since it hasn’t been a big secret he was going to come out on top, we’ve also seen thousands of articles about what his win means.
So rather than rehash what has already been written, allow me to provide the cold hard numbers behind his victory.
NUMBER OF VOTES: 104,552
That’s more than voted in the most recent NDP (65,108) or Conservative (97,397) leadership races – indeed, it might very well be the most Canadians to ever vote directly for the leader in a federal leadership race. I say “federal”, because, despite what was claimed earlier today, the 2006 Alberta PC leadership race drew 144,289 votes.
Either way, I wouldn’t read too much into this. Both the BC and Alberta Liberals had high turnout leadership races in 2011, and it doesn’t appear to have translated to general public support. But at the very least, Justin Trudeau now has a lot of semi-engaged Liberals to draw from for donations and volunteers.
TRUDEAU’S FIRST BALLOT SUPPORT: 80.1%
It’s difficult to compare this total to delegated conventions – especially delegated conventions from the good old days. But, for fun, Trudeau’s first ballot support ranks behind Martin (94%), is comparable to Pearson (78%), and is decidedly ahead of St. Laurent (69%), Chretien (57%), Turner (46%), King (36%), the other Trudeau (32%), and Dion (18%). Trudeau performed slightly better than Stephen Harper, who received 69% of the votes and 56% of the points (after they were weighted by riding) in 2004.
WAS IT INEVITABLE?
Trudeau’s crushing triumph certainly makes it look inevitable in hindsight. Maybe it was, but we’ve seen “can’t miss” candidates miss before.
If you look at the Intrade stock for a Trudeau victory, it ranged from 75% to 91%, showing that at least some people were willing to bet against him. Back in December, I asked readers of this blog to offer their predictions on the race, and while every entry except one had Trudeau winning, he was only given an average score of 41% on the first ballot. Remember, these are people who follow politics closely.
Even a few days ago, my poll of readers predicted an average first ballot figure of 65%, and only one-in-ten thought he’d crack 80%.
Of course, the support was always there, even if we didn’t all see it. But speaking as someone who was convinced to vote for Trudeau based on his performance during this race, I think the candidate and the campaign deserve a certain amount of credit for the magnitude of his victory.
ABOUT THOSE POWER RANKINGS
Here are my final Power Rankings, with each metric converted to a percentage:
|Total $||Donors||Endorsement||Media||Power Rank|
|Justin Trudeau||63%||68%||90%||77%||84%||91%||78% (+3)|
|Joyce Murray||13%||16%||8%||7%||2%||3%||9% (–)|
|Martha Hall Findlay||11%||9%||1%||7%||10%||4%||6% (-1)|
|Martin Cauchon||9%||2%||1%||4%||3%||1%||4% (–)|
|Karen McCrimmon||2%||2%||0%||3%||0%||0%||1.7% (–)|
|Deborah Coyne||2%||3%||0%||2%||1%||1%||1.5% (-1)|
Even though these power rankings weren’t intended to predict first ballot support, they came within 2 percentage points for every candidate:
|Martha Hall Findlay||6%||6%|
I’m sure some of that is luck, but this is definitely an exercise I plan to continue on future leadership races.
Unlike past leadership contests where I’ve been fighting on the front lines for my candidate, I’ve watched the federal race largely as a spectator. Being away from a campaign offers a different vantage point, and I’ve enjoyed blogging my opinions candidly, as I slowly made up my mind who to support.
I wouldn’t consider this post an endorsement – as Allan Rock, Sheila Copps, John Manley, Gerard Kennedy (twice), and Dominic Leblanc will tell you, the Calgary Grit leadership endorsement is generally the kiss of death. So by all means, vote for who you think would make the best candidate – this post merely reflects my thought process for coming to a decision.
The Long Shots
This leadership race is being decided by ranked ballot, so I’m sure a few Liberals will toss a symbolic first choice vote to Karen McCrimmon or Deborah Coyne. Both have conceded they cannot win, but both have demonstrated they would make excellent MPs.
McCrimmon has been this race’s version of 2006 Martha Hall Findlay – that spunky underdog who shows she belongs. She is the least refined of the candidates, but that gives her a genuineness that often gets polished out of politicians. Yes, she lacks political experience, but she has an impressive CV, as the first woman to command a Canadian Forces air force squadron. She’s exactly the type of person we need in the Liberal Party and the type of politician we need more of in Ottawa.
When Deborah Coyne floated the idea of running for LPC leader last spring, I felt that, although she couldn’t win, her presence would bring a lot to the race. Indeed, it has. She has shown herself to be one of the sharpest policy minds in the Liberal Party, and has not been afraid to challenge the other candidates – but always in a respectful manner. She has not looked at all out of place on the debate stage, and has demonstrated retail political skills far more impressive than what you would expect from a “policy wonk”.
Good Candidates – Just Not My Cup of Tea
There are four candidates with MP experience who are presumably in it to win it. Of the four, Martin Cauchon has dissapointed me the most – but only because I had high hopes for him. Had he ran for leader in 2006 or 2009, I would have been very tempted to support him. The man is well spoken, experienced, and a shrewd political mind.
However, I’ve had great difficulty understanding the raison d’etre of the Martin Cauchon candidacy this time around. While his Cabinet experience is an asset, his entire campaign has had a “back to the 90s” feel to it, hyping the Liberal record and playing the same tired songs we’ve heard before – Kelowna, Kyoto, gun registry, Iraq. He has relied on the type uber-partisan rhetoric that turns me off, pepering his speeches with phrases like “Conservatives don’t like immigration“.
Make no mistake, Martin Cauchon is a good Liberal and a talented politician, but the overall message of his campaign just never resonated with me. I really think it’s a case of Cauchon coming late to the race, and not having time to find his feet. After all, he was scrambling for signatures just hours before the deadline.
Joyce Murray has run a very strong campaign and has sounded confident in the debates. I was quite moved by the story she told at the Showcase of growing up in South Africa during apartheid then being exposed to multiculturalism in full colour at Expo ’67.
But regardless what you think of Joyce, it’s impossible to separate the candidate from the plan. While I don’t think it’s treasonous to talk co-operation, and I might even be willing to try a strategic strike during a by-election, the NDP has closed the door to this so it’s really a bridge to nowhere. More importantly, the Liberal Party needs to give voters a reason to vote for it, other than “defeat Stephen Harper”. A pact with the NDP would only add noise to any positive message we try to broadcast during the campaign.
In fairness to Murray, she has given Liberals plenty of other reasons to vote for her – a carbon tax, legalized pot, and a focus on the environment. These are all things I agree with, but, in the end, I have my doubts about her ability to win. Still, she deserves credit for putting big ideas on the table, and adding spice to an otherwise dull leadership contest.
I mentioned earlier that Martha Hall Findlay was the “spunky underdog” in 2006. This time around she has shown she is ready to be a national party leader. She is strong, confident, and knows her stuff. Her communication skills have improved dramatically, and she has been able to explain herself well in a range of settings – shouting over the noise to supporters in a pub, in sit-down interviews, in debates, and on the big stage. I know many in the party establishment are not fans, but the Liberal Party could use a strong female leader willing to shake things up.
For me, her strongest moment this campaign came during the second leaders debate when, in two minutes, she provided a history and explanation of the supply management system, rebutted 6 common arguments for the status quo, and gave an impassioned plea for change. She showed substance and a willingness to take on sacred dairy cows, all the while making one of the most boring subjects possible relevant to the daily lives of average Canadians. She is someone you can imagine as Prime Minister without giggling.
And then, there’s Justin.
His name has been bandied about as a leadership candidate to varying degrees of seriousness for over a decade. Every single time it’s been floated, Liberals I’ve talked to have either proclaimed him to be our Messiah (he was born on December 25th), or dismissed him as our very own Sarah Palin. I’ve always fallen in the middle.
I recognize Justin has tremendous talents and potential, but the things that have drawn a lot of Liberals to him – his name and his inevitability – are both turn-offs for me. While I have a Pierre Trudeau picture hanging in my apartment, we’re not going to get to 24 Sussex on a wave of nostalgia. And as someone who has never voted for a winning leadership candidate, I’ve always been drawn to the underdog.
In all honesty, I would have liked to see a bit more policy from Justin this race, if only to innoculate himself against the “airhead” attack adds, but it’s completely unfair to say he lacks substance. He stuck his neck out on the Nexen takeover. He has called for open nominations in all ridings next election, as part of a well thought out democratic reform package. He’s pro-pot, is against co-operation, supports supply management, and thinks the gun registry was a failure.
I don’t neccesarily agree with all those positions, but he has struck a chord with me on the Quebec question. There’s a huge temptation to carve off those NDP nationalist seats, but Trudeau has instead adopted the, uhh, Trudeau approach to federalism. He has been clear in his support for the Clarity Act. He has said “non” to another round of constitutional debates. You’ll recall he spoke out strongly against the “Nation” resolution in 2006.
In the final leadership debate, in Montreal no less, he tossed away his closing statement to expand upon his vision for Canada – of a Canada where Quebecers’ voices and values are heard, rather than a Canada that tries to “buy them off”. It’s a vision of the country I agree with, and it’s one that can be used to differentiate the Liberals from the NDP next election.
Of course, it’s a vision I also share with Deborah Coyne and a host of other Liberals, so let’s stop dancing around on policy and cut to the one issue Liberals care about more than all others – winning. The Liberal Party is in third place, and there’s a very real chance we could get squeezed out of existence if we don’t make gains in 2015. Faced with this landscape, the fact that I may not like Justin’s position on supply management becomes rather insignificant.
Even Trudeau’s harshest detractors will acknowledge he has rock star appeal, and is blessed with more potential than any Canadian politician to come along over the last decade. Their concerns are, quite fairly, that he’ll be branded as a lightweight, or that he’ll gaffe himself out of contention. And while there were a few awkward moments in the Fall, Trudeau has exceeded expectations. Not only has he avoided stumbles and debated policy with the best of them, there have been flashes of brilliance. The moment that turned me squarely towards Justin came at the end of the Mississauga debate, when Martha Hall Findlay went in for the kill, asking the frontrunner how he can possibly speak about “the middle class” given his upbringing. Trudeau’s rebutal mixed reason and passion, drawing on his experiences as an MP in Papineau. I’m sure Harper and Mulcair won’t be so clumsy, but if they are, Trudeau has shown he can deliver the much talked about and rarely seen “knock-out punch”.
The man has a rare ability to connect with Canadians and inspire. His message of “hope and hard work” is exactly what the Liberal Party should be offering to a disengaged electorate, and I have confidence the team around him will continue to help him grow as a politician in the coming years.
So Trudeau has earned my vote. However, I won’t call it an endorsement, simply because the dreaded Calgary Grit endorsement is the only thing that could possibly derail him at this point.
There isn’t a lot of suspense surrounding Sunday’s Liberal leadership vote. Pick the metric of your choice – fundraising, endorsements, hair volume - and Trudeau leads his nearest challenger by at least a 4:1 ratio. I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in Twitter support, but Justin has 10 times more followers than the rest of the field combined.
The following table provides an overview of what little quantitative data we have on the race and offers a Power Rank, based on how these variables have translated to votes in past contests (methodology here).
|Justin Trudeau||$1,078,866||90%||77%||73,992||199,394||78% (+3)|
|Joyce Murray||$225,310||8%||7%||2,147||5,848||9% (–)|
|Martha Hall Findlay||$192,280||1%||7%||8,563||7,923||6% (-1)|
|Martin Cauchon||$148,739||1%||4%||2,612||1,655||4% (–)|
|Karen McCrimmon||$36,222||0%||3%||387||901||1.7% (–)|
|Deborah Coyne||$31,651||0%||2%||501||2,199||1.5% (-1)|
The bracketed number on the final column reflects changes from the last update – you can consider it a “momentum” score of sorts. Although that number shows Trudeau gaining ground, that’s completely a by-product of increased media attention – his share of the fundraising pie has actually dipped from 66% to 63%, with Joyce Murray and Martin Cauchon finishing strong on that front.
As I’ve stressed before, this isn’t a first ballot prediction, though it seems like as good a guess as any. I’d personally bet the “under” on 78% for Trudeau, but I do think he’s heading for a clear majority – and not just a “clear majority” by NDP standards.
In the end, whether Trudeau nabs 78%, or 63%, or the 112% some seem to be expecting, is irrelevant. Paul Martin received 94% of the vote and Michael Ignatieff got every vote, but both inherited deeply divided parties. While I have no doubt there will still be gripping from anonymous Liberals in the years to come, Team Trudeau has smartly run a positive and mostly unantagonistic campaign, that should leave Justin with relatively few enemies within the party.
That Trudeau exits this race untarnished and that the party exits this race united are far more important than whatever number is announced on Sunday.
It doesn’t compare to the high stakes floor crossings and backroom deals that define delegated conventions, but yesterday’s Liberal Showcase still offered the speeches, signs, buttons, and hospitality suites politicos have come to expect at these gatherings. Justin Trudeau had cowbells. Martin Cauchon made swag history, handing out Liberal-red socks. Joyce Murray brought in a west coast hippie fusion marimba band.
And just like “real” leadership conventions, the program started with a tribute to the outgoing leader featuring, among other things, the clip of Bob Rae skinny dipping with Rick Mercer. That left the candidates with the unenviable task of trying to make themselves more memorable than Bob Rae’s naked body glistening on a 70-foot High Definition screen. Bonne chance!
First up were Deborah Coyne and Karen McCrimmon – two candidates with little hope of winning, but who impressed for very different reasons.
McCrimmon is very much the anti-politician – she speaks honestly from the heart, in a style I truly hope never gets polished out by political consultants. She displayed her customary bluntness yet again, becoming the first politician to ever get bleeped on CPAC during a convention speech, after punctuating a colourful anecdote with a four letter word. The rest of her speech focused on the big picture, as she passionately urged Liberals to “follow your hearts and ignore the naysayers”.
If McCrimmon personified the Liberal Party’s heart at the Showcase, Coyne was the party’s head. While it may feel good to “ignore the naysayers”, the naysayers make a few valid points – especially those naysayers who no longer vote Liberal. Coyne gave Liberals the hard medicine they needed to hear, arguing “we are the third-place party today because, as we looked for the easy answer, Canadians lost sense of what we, as Liberals, stood for, and of what we bring to the table that is distinct from any other party.”
The other candidates performed largely as expected. Martin Cauchon gave a rousing speech, but he continued to play the golden oldies – same sex marriage, Kyoto, Kelowna, and Iraq. Joyce Murray offered a valiant defense of her co-operation plan, but connected far more with the crowd when talking about her experiences growing up in South Africa under apartheid. And while I question Martha Hall Findlay’s decision to borrow the theme song from “The Biggest Loser”, she looked relaxed and confident on stage, reminding Liberals that Harper wasn’t elected due to his sparkling personality and charisma but because he sticks to his convictions. Hint, hint.
Those were all fine speeches, but let’s be honest – Martin Cauchon could have healed a cripple with his touch on stage and the story of the day would still have been Justin Trudeau. Love him or hate him, his was the speech people came to watch.
With the current campaign all but over, Trudeau used his speech to signal what his next campaign, in 2015, will be about. He promised a message of “hope and hard work”, using optimism as a wedge issue against Harper and Mulcair. It’s a powerful message, because it’s one custom fit for Trudeau. The man oozes youthful optimism with every word he speaks, regardless of how hollow or cliche those words are.
Like hope, “hard work” is a promise Trudeau is especially well suited to deliver. Despite all the “silver spoon” attacks (or perhaps because of them), Trudeau has worked hard every step of his political career. While most in his position would have demanded appointment to a safe seat, Justin fought to win a contested nomination meeting many thought he would lose. He won back a Bloc riding in an election where the Liberal Party stumbled, and held it in an election where the party fell flat on its face. His insurmountable level of support this campaign is due as much to his willingness to attend hundreds of rubber chicken fundraisers coast-to-coast, as it is to his rock star appeal.
Liberals may not yet know where Justin stands on every issue, but they know they will soon have a leader who can credibly deliver a message of hope and a promise of hard work to voters. That’s a lethal combination, and it should give Liberals themselves a ray of hope that better days lay ahead.
When I released my first set of LPC Power Rankings in early February, I was a bit surprised to see Justin Trudeau up at 66%. These rankings aren’t intended to be a first ballot predictor, but they came pretty close to the mark in the NDP contest and it was still a bit of shock to see Trudeau 54 points above his nearest competitor. But wouldn’t you know it, Marc Garneau’s mystery poll was essentially spot on my numbers. So maybe there’s something to this.
And if there is, we are heading to an absolute rout.
|Justin Trudeau||$1,001,060||94%||60%||71,773||195,672||75% (+9)|
|Joyce Murray||$169,411||5%||13%||1,998||5,615||9% (+4)|
|Martha Hall Findlay||$178,590||1%||10%||8,571||7,819||7% (+1)|
|Martin Cauchon||$103,203||1%||7%||2,565||1,609||4% (+3)|
|Karen McCrimmon||$26,259||0%||6%||375||848||2% (+1)|
|Deborah Coyne||$27,385||0%||5%||479||2,155||2% (+1)|
You can see the methodology behind these rankings here. Since the last update, I’ve sweetened the recipe with ever-so-small weights for number of donors and Facebook “talking abouts”, but it doesn’t change the rankings.
The bracketed number on the final column reflects changes from the last update – you can consider it a “momentum” score of sorts, with everyone picking up some of the pieces from the Garneau, Takach, and Bertschi campaigns. Trudeau’s +9 score is nearly as much as the rest of the field combined, and he shows no signs of slowing down the stretch.
Nearly doubling her Power Score since the last update is Joyce Murray, who has raised an additional $100,000, picked up 1200 new Twitter followers and 800 likes, while earning an endorsement by Ted Hsu.
This sets up an interesting battle for second between Murray and Hall Findlay, but it appears to be a battle for a very, very distant second.
For a while we could pretend the Liberal leadership debates were going to effect the outcome of the race. It was just over a month ago that Martha Hall Findlay jabbed Justin Trudeau about his privileged upbringing, prompting many to wonder if this would be the turning point. A few weeks ago, all eyes were on the Trudeau-Garneau exchange, after the astronaut badgered the frontrunner over his lack of policy and substance.
Yesterday, everyone knew that what happened in Montreal would have little bearing on the outcome of a race which has already been decided. For a press corps who covers politics like sporting events, this was like sitting through the third period of a blowout – the signs of boredom were visible on Twitter, and their questions to the candidates in post debate scrums were essentially variations of “why aren’t you dropping out?“.
In response to said question, Deborah Coyne conceded she couldn’t win, but re-iterated the importance of debating ideas.
Indeed, if you looked beyond the sport and spectacle of it, there was real substance to be gleamed from yesterday’s debate.
In addition to what seem to have become the compulsory debate topics of pot legalization and supply management, there were meaningful exchanges on C-54, CIDA, open nominations, and the retirement age. There weren’t a lot of sound byte zingers, but for a party trying to figure out what it stands for, these were topics that needed to be discussed. Martha Hall Findlay and Deborah Coyne had a great exchange on education, identifying problems, quoting figures, and offering solutions. Later, it would be Findlay and Murray weighing the pros and cons of pipelines. And everyone got to have their say about co-operation with the Greens and NDP. While I’m not a co-operation proponent, it’s a debate the party needs to have, and it’s important for voters to know exactly where the frontrunner stands.
On that question, there was no doubt. Trudeau initiated the debate with Murray, and promptly dismissed co-operation as a “single minded, win-at-all-costs” idea that would remove choices from voters and leave Mulcair as PM. He, quite rightly in my opinion, argued that voters would not respond to a “hodge podge coalition” whose only uniting message was that they weren’t Stephen Harper. In the NDP leadership race, Mulcair’s victory slammed the orange door shut on co-operation, and it is now assured that Trudeau’s will have the exact same effect on the red door.
Another issue the Liberal Party needs to sort out is the “Quebec question”, especially in light of new Quebec Liberal leader Philippe Couillard’s musings this week. And once again, the next Liberal leader left no doubts where he stood. After touching on the topic in a break out debate with Martin Cauchon, Trudeau tossed out his prepared closing statement to revisit the issue. He talked of moving past “old squabbles and quarrels”, arguing we’ve spent too long trying to buy off Quebec rather than asking Quebecers to be at the table building the future of Canada.
Trudeau’s detractors will dismiss this as more “hopey changey” baffle-gab that sounds pretty but means nothing. However, in the process of gabbing, Trudeau said “non” to another round of constitutional talks and re-iterated his support for the Clarity Act. More importantly, he said it in language voters can relate to and feel good about – something Jack Layton was a master of, but Michael Ignatieff could never quite pull off. In two years, Trudeau will need to debate Thomas Mulcair on this very topic, so the practice was helpful.
Indeed, if this leadership race has been nothing more than a training exercise for Justin Trudeau, it’s training that will serve him well very soon.
Sen. Patrick Brazeau did not attend a brief hearing Friday over charges of assault and sexual assault against him, and maintained his innocence in a passionate tweet.
The 38-year-old’s lawyers claimed they had not received full disclosure of evidence against their client, forcing the hearing to be pushed to June.
Brazeau has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and on Friday afternoon made his first direct public comment on the allegations, tweeting, “I will fight these charges against me to prove my innocence. I shall return!”
If history is any indication, the smart money is on the charges knocking Brazeau out in the third round. (pause) OK, sometimes they’re just too easy.
But on a semi-serious note, we’re now coming up on the one-year anniversary of the much hyped fight between “Senator Soldier” and “the Shiny Pony”. I remember rolling my eyes at the metaphor overdrive that followed Trudeau’s upset victory – how it was a brilliant political calculation, how this showed his true grit. I know in politics a dropped football can become more than a dropped football, but the whole thing seemed too gimmicky to assign a greater meaning to it.
A year later, it’s impossible to look back and not be somewhat taken aback at just how dramatically the respective career paths of the two combatants have diverged. I didn’t think it was possible for one man to embroil himself in as many controversies in so short a time frame as Brazeau has – there was the sexist slur on Twitter, his abysmal attendance record, the residence audit, the Teresa Spence taunting, and finally domestic violence charges that saw him booted from the Tory Caucus. I know he wasn’t exactly a rising political star before the fight, but to see him pummeled to the mat time and time again over the past year has been shocking.
In the other corner, Justin Trudeau was already a rising star, but in March 2012 no one expected him to run for LPC leader and, if you floated his name as a candidate, many would have dismissed him outright. For all the talk we hear these days of his “inevitability”, you could have found more than a few Liberals willing to place money against Justin a year ago.
In the alternate Fringe universe where Patrick Brazeau knocks out Justin Trudeau, prompting squeals of delight from Ezra Levant, Brazeau probably still disgraces himself and Trudeau probably still becomes the next Liberal leader.
But the entire story certainly makes you wonder about how political metaphors can come alive and take on a life of their own.
The media reaction to Marc Garneau’s exit from the Liberal leadership race has not been kind. The party is “not a happy place“, the race is a “fiasco“, this is the “worst-case scenario“, “is the Liberal Party serious?”. I haven’t checked out SunNews’ take, but I’d imagine they aren’t overly ebullient either.
None of this should be surprising. The media treats politics like a sporting event, and it’s hard to write a compelling story about the Dream Team rolling over Kazakhstan by 40 points. This has led to the return of the dreaded “c” word – coronation (I’ve even been guilty of using it in a few posts). With a Trudeau victory now innevitable, the term is being flung around derisively, with many drawing parallels to Ignatieff’s ascension in 2009.
However, that’s a completely unfair characterization of the race, and comparisons to the Ignatieff coronation are laughable. Just a month into that contest, the National Executive named Ignatieff leader, denying party members a say in the process and effectively forcing Leblanc and Rae to drop out. There were no debates and the final ballot had just a single name on it.
This time, we’ve been treated to one of the most open leadership races in the history of Canadian politics. There were few restrictions to enter, and 9 candidates declared, giving Liberals uneasy about the frontrunner plenty of choices. Unlike past leaderships which have been decided by a select group of delegates and party elites at convention, this contest has been open to any Canadian who supports the Liberal Party. No backroom deals to deliver delegates, no rules restricting membership forms. Hell, you don’t even have to pay $10 to participate.
Anyone who wanted to run could run, anyone who wanted to vote could vote, and Liberals got a chance to see the candidates in a range of settings. Voters have had 6 months to scrutinize Justin, and they’ve reached their verdict. Even if the convention becomes a mere formality, much like those that follow US primaries, that doesn’t mean other candidates weren’t given a chance.
Now, it’s perfectly fair to say the Liberal Party is making the wrong choice. That they’ve been swept up in nostalgia and blinded by wavy hair. I can understand how many are frustrated at the lack of concrete policies coming from the frontrunner.
But when you run a fair and open leadership race with 9 candidates and one guy wins overwhelmingly, it’s not a coronation. It’s an election where the vast majority of voters came to the same conclusion.
Marc Garneau’s withdrawal from the Liberal Leadership Race will certainly be overshadowed by the other leadership race which wrapped up today. But that’s kind of appropriate, since that’s been the story of his candidacy – despite being a genuine canadian hero, he has constantly found himself overshadowed.
During the height of Liberal dominance, the Natural Governing Party would have surely turned towards Marc Garneau. They had a habit of picking distinguished and respected men, choosing Louis St. Laurent in 1948 and Lester B. Pearson a decade later. Neither excited the masses, but they had the CV for the job and could be counted on for competent and steady leadership.
But politics has changed over the past 60 years, and the Liberal Party has changed over the last 6. This leadership race isn’t about electing the Prime Minister, or even the leader of the Opposition – it’s about finding someone who can lead the Liberals back to relevance. When party members want someone who can excite the masses and change the story, suddenly being the “safe choice” is more of a liability than an asset.
From the start, this race was never going to be about Marc Garneau. Even though Garneau has schools named after him, he was always the Liberal Party’s “safety school”, who the party would only turn to if their Plan A imploded. Given that Garneau’s own polling had him more than 50 points behind Trudeau, it’s clear that hasn’t happened.
If there were any doubts before today that Justin Trudeau was going to be the next Liberal leader, Garneau’s announcement makes it all but official. Ironically enough, Garneau just didn’t have the star power to compete.
Despite the ever growing sense that the LPC leadership race is all but over, as a voting member, I still intend to do my due diligence and fully research the candidates before casting my vote. And since Deborah Coyne is on the top half of my ballot at this point, I recently gave her new 85-page e-book a read through.
Contrary to what the newspaper excerpts would suggest, the book is not a check-out line tabloid about Pierre Trudeau (apart from the bombshell that our 15th Prime Minister didn’t trust microwaves). Nor is it a policy-heavy leadership manifesto. Rather, it’s very much a political memoir – albeit one no doubt written with this leadership race fully in mind.
So like all Canadian political memoirs, we get a bit about Coyne’s upbringing, passing mentions of watching hockey as a child, and tales from youthful travels to Soviet Russia. While the memoir touches upon her time with Pierre, and has a few passing mentions of Justin (and Marc Garneau) that will no doubt make readers smile, the body of the book focuses on her work fighting against the Meech Lake Accord. As a someone who believes in a strong central government, that spoke to me – but even Meech supporters would have to give Coyne grudging credit for sticking to her convictions.
Memoirs always cast their subject in the most flattering light possible, and the picture this one paints of Coyne is certainly appealing – a bold and highly driven individual, who has seen the world and had her nose in politics from a young age. In her twenties, she wrote and called the PMO to get herself credentialed for a Summit in Mexico, as part of her thesis research. The girl has spunk and, unlike Lou Grant, I’m a fan of spunk.
Indeed, after reading through the book, I was left with a far more positive impression of Coyne than I had coming in (and not just because she quotes a certain progressive blogger in it). Here’s someone who was fighting for greater grassroots engagement in the Liberal Party 30 years ago. Someone who sees the Liberal Party’s inability to define what it stands for as its largest challenge. Someone who genuinely believes in politics for a purpose.
That’s not to say Coyne has my vote. Although she has seen the political process from many vantage points, she lacks the elected experience and political skills of her more polished opponents. However, Coyne’s book is certainly worth a read for any undecided Liberal supporters – and not just for the Trudeau gossip.
The Liberal leadership race is the first real test of the supporter system, and with the cut-off to sign up and vote now passed, we have our first indication of how successful the experiment has been:
That’s over twice as many members as the NDP recruited last spring, and over 100,000 more than the highly competitive 2006 Liberal Leadership Race. It’s hard to say if this boom is due to the supporter system or Trudeaumania II, but as the following table shows, by any metric you use it’s one of the most successful leadership drives in recent memory:
|Race||Format||Candidates||Eligible||Per Vote||Per Pop|
|2013 LPC||WOMOV Supporters||8||294,002||10.6%||0.9%|
|2013 OLP||Delegated Convention||7||45,000||2.8%||0.4%|
|2011 BC Libs||WOMOV||4||92,000||12.2%||2.1%|
|2011 AB Libs||WOMOV Supporters||5||27,567||21.6%||0.8%|
|2009 ON PC||WOMOV||4||42,000||2.9%||0.3%|
|2009 ON NDP||OMOV||4||23,908||2.8%||0.2%|
|2006 LPC||Delegates Convention||8||185,000||2.6%||0.6%|
|2004 ON PC||WOMOV||3||61,104||4.0%||0.5%|
It remains to be seen how many of these supporters will actually vote, but when it comes to collecting contact information and bringing new blood into the fold, the numbers are encouraging. The Liberals signed up 0.9% of all Canadians and 10.6% of their previous election voters – both totals greatly exceeding any federal leadership race of the past decade.
Of course, huge sign-ups for the 2011 Liberal leadership races in BC and Alberta haven’t translated to electoral success, so it’s a little premature to start measuring the drapes at 24 Sussex.
But this contest appears to have given the Liberals a jolt of life, which is not always the case during a de facto coronation. Paul Martin capped his decade-long regicide in 2003 with restrictive membership rules and a process that left the party divided. The Party establishment was so enthralled with Michael Ignatieff in 2009, that they didn’t even bother giving members a say.
You can argue all you want about Trudeau’s qualifications and readiness for the job, but at the very least this is a coronation that has brought hundreds of thousands of new Liberals into the fold. Open and competitive races are no doubt more difficult on the frontrunner than hotwired acclamations, but both the party and Trudeau will be stronger in the long run because of this process.
I’ve been on vacation for the past week and, surprisingly, there weren’t a lot of bars in New Orleans showing the Liberal Leadership Debate over the weekend, so I’m not able to weigh in on how the candidates fared. However, that question is becoming less and less relevant, as a Justin Trudeau victory becomes more and more inevitable.
While every bit of evidence we’ve seen so far has suggested Trudeau sits well ahead of the pack, the caveat has always been that leadership races are won on the ground. Just because you’ve got donors and Facebook likes, it doesn’t mean Canadians are actually signing up to vote for you.
However, it appears at least 150,000 of the 294,000 Canadians eligible to vote for the next Liberal leader were signed up by the Trudeau campaign. The other seven campaigns will be sure to remind everyone of the new set of caveats that come with these figures – votes in weak ridings are more important, turnout will be low, and just because you were signed up by the Trudeau campaign doesn’t mean you will vote for Justin Trudeau. But it’s also true there are Trudeau supporters who were members before the race started, or who signed up on their own.
So it’s not over yet, but with the deadline to sign-up now passed, it’s going to take more than a few stumbles by the frontrunner for this race to get close.
OTHER NEWS I MISSED LAST WEEK…
The big story is the implosion of Tom Flanagan’s career. Although I rarely agree with Dr. Tom, I’ve always found him more entertaining, candid, and insightful than most pundits, and he offers up a very compelling defense of the latest controversy.
Still, it’s somewhat bemusing to see the campaign manager of the campaign that accused Paul Martin of supporting child pornography brought down in this manner.
An NDP MP defects to the Bloc. The only surprise here is that it took 22 months to happen.
Takach-mania is over:
George Takach ends Liberal leadership campaign to support Justin Trudeau
Montreal – George Takach announced today that he is ending his Liberal leadership campaign to support Justin Trudeau.
Mr. Takach released the following statement:
“When I launched my campaign for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada three months ago, I wanted to lead a party that would transform our economy into one that would rely on innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainable development to secure our future prosperity. I wanted to lead a party that would bring people together, and give Canadians more rights, not less.
“Justin Trudeau has what it takes to be a great prime minister. He has brought an energy and purpose to the political scene and has proven himself to be an articulate leader focused on the future, not the past.
Although Takach appeared to be performing relatively well, when compared to the other candidates trying to make their mark, this isn’t overly surprising. Takach was never going to win this thing, and after firmly rooting himself as the “anti-tree” candidate in the most recent leadership debate, he no doubt learned that running for leader isn’t all fun and games – sometimes you’re booed on stage and criticized in the press.
This move allows Takach to exit gracefully, having left his mark on the race and introduced himself to Liberals. I expect we’ll see his name on the ballot in 2015.
While the sit-down interview format of the last “debate” served as a nice introduction, the timid questions served up by Harvey Locke didn’t give us any sense of how the candidates would perform in the heat of an election campaign.
Saturday, we were treated to a series of short two-way and three-way debates, with many of the questions asked by the candidates themselves. Yes, a few of the exchanges were so pleasant you’d think you were watching Liberal speed dating – as Karen McCrimmon playfully remarked at one point, “another opportunity for radical agreement“. But there were also difficult, substantive questions. Regardless of where Deborah Coyne ranks on your leadership ballot, she proved herself to be a fantastic moderator. Going head-to-head with Justin Trudeau, who dwarfs her both literally and figuratively, she held her ground asking him where he stood on granting Quebec special powers for immigration. After Marc Garneau dodged her question about the need for a national referendum on electoral reform, Coyne forcefully pressed him for an answer.
The more confrontational nature of the debate led to flubbed answers, awkward moments, and even a few boos. Joyce Murray and George Takach had a gawky exchange where Murray derisively referred to Takach as a “Bay Street Lawyer” with “experience off-shoring jobs to China”, prompting Takach to shoot back by belittling her work planting trees. When Takach tossed out another jab later in the debate, solidifying himself as the “anti-tree” candidate, he was met with smattered boos. Given the race isn’t going to come down to a Takach-Murray final ballot, this melee likely didn’t do either of them any favours.
Not every segment contained political oration that moved and inspired, but as a genuinely undecided Liberal member, this is exactly what I was looking for in a debate. By putting candidates’ feet to the fire, it became clear who could handle the heat of an election campaign and who would be deep fried by Harper and Mulcair during a federal election debate.
So we learned that Deborah Coyne knows her shit, Joyce Murray has a lot of bold ideas, Marc Garneau can be affable, and Martha Hall Findlay is confident. But the candidate who really impressed was Justin Trudeau.
No one has ever denied Justin’s talent and potential, but the ballot question of the entire race has been whether or not he’s ready for the big leagues.
Admittedly, debating Harper and Mulcair is an entirely different thing than debating David Bertschi and Karen McCrimmon, but Trudeau held his ground. After a shaky first exchange with Marc Garneau on his qualifications for the job, Trudeau bounced back in a big way. He answered Deb Coyne’s immigration question by showing he knew the issues, mixing reason and passion into his response. Responding to criticism he lacks substance, he sprinkled in policy nuggets on eliminating boutique tax credits and giving the federal government a larger role in education. No, there were no specifics, much to the chagrin of some of us, but it was meatier than the usual “help the middle class” platitudes.
Which brings us to the defining moment of the debate. In one of the final exchanges, Martha Hall Findlay moved in to attack Trudeau over the “middle class” focus of his campaign. Her point was a valid one – that we should aspire to be a classless society, and that a focus on the middle class leaves the less fortunate behind. However, Findlay turned her critique into an aggressive jab at Trudeau’s upbringing, telling him he couldn’t understand middle class issues, sine he wasn’t a member of it. Prefacing a call for a class-free society with a class-based attack was classless, and the crowd responded with another round of boos.
Trudeau seized the moment, responding with an eloquent and emotional rebuttal, pointing to his experiences as an MP in Papineau. It was a clip that would have led off every newscast had it occurred during a federal leaders debate.
There are still many questions about whether or not Justin is up for the job, but he answered a few of them Saturday.
Marc Garneau fires the first photon torpedo of the leadership race:
Leadership means taking a stand
I believe this leadership race is the time for the party to vigorously debate the issues of importance to Liberals, to Canadians; to define where we stand as a party; and to select the person who can best lead us.
That’s the fundamental difference between Justin Trudeau and myself.
Justin believes telling Canadians we need a ‘bold’ plan and a ‘clear vision’ without defining either is good enough. He speaks in vague generalities, and on his two key priorities – the middle-class and youth – he has presented no direction.
Justin says he will do that after the Liberal leadership race is over – sometime before the next election in 2015.
As Liberals, we cannot wait that long to find out what we signed up for.
That is like asking Canadians to buy a new car without first test-driving it.
We must know what we are voting for, not just who we are voting for.
On the whole, it’s a mostly valid critique. Outside of his article on the Nexen takeover and an impressive party reform package, Justin has run a typical frontrunner photo-op campaign. Of course, many of those photo ops have been followed by questions from the public, other candidates, and the media, so it’s unfair to say he hasn’t taken any clear stands – we know he’s for pot legalization, against co-operation with the NDP, for the Clarity Act, against a new gun registry, and for Supply Management.
So it’s not like Justin flew to Europe for the entire leadership contest, the way Mackenzie King did in 1919. And there’s certainly something appealing to his rebuttal that he wants the platform to be a collaborative effort, and not something he’d impose on the party.
Still, I can’t help returning to what I wroteback when Justin declared his intentions to run for leader:
With Trudeau’s objective re-defined as victory over Stephen Harper rather than victory over Marc Garneau, the wishy-washy rockstar campaign begins to look less appealing. We all know attack ads are coming, and we don’t need to see Conservative Party focus group reports to know these ads will try to brand Justin Trudeau as an airhead and a lightweight (or as Andrew Coyne put it on The National: “flibbertigibbet“). If Trudeau wants to erase this caricature before it is drawn, the leadership race is the perfect venue to do that. We know the media will hover on every word Justin says over the next six months, so he’d be foolish to not take advantage of the microphones that will be in front of his face.
I understand Trudeau wanting to keep his options open and I certainly don’t expect him to release a detailed platform. Nor should he, if he’s genuinely committed to engaging the grassroots in the process. However, the eyes of the country will be on Justin for the next two months and I’m sure he’d rather spend that time showing Canadians that he’s a substantive politician, rather than fending off accusations from all sides that he’s a lightweight.
During the NDP leadership race, I got into the habit of tabulating “Power Rankings” of how the different candidates fared on fundraising, Facebook, Twitter, polls, and any other shred of quantitative data I could claw my hands onto. The exercise wasn’t intended to predict the first ballot vote, but it actually came surprisingly close to the mark.
After measuring how closely correlated those various metrics were to candidate support in seven recent races (including the NDP contest), I’m ready to launch the Liberal Leadership Power Rankings, based on:
1. Fundraising (30%): My research showed total dollars raised to be a better predictor than total number of donors, so that’s what I’ll be looking at – using the figures helpfully compiled by Pundits Guide.
2. Endorsements (30%): In past contests, a simple count of caucus endorsers has been as good a predictor of success as more elaborate systems, but there aren’t a lot of Liberal MPs to count so I’ll be relying on Eric Grenier’s endorsement scores. Alison Redford and Christy Clark both showed that endorsements can be overrated but, on the whole, they were a better predictor of support than fundraising numbers in the races I looked at – and they provided a good picture of the NDP contest.
3. Media Mentions (30%): This simple count of Google news stories is incredibly crude but, for whatever reason, it turns out to be one of the strongest predictors of first ballot support. Just goes to show the media may not be as clueless about leadership races as they’re often painted to be.
4. Social Media (10%): Turns out this has next to no relationship with support but, hey, it’s fun to count. So I’ll give 5% to Twitter followers and 5% to Facebook likes.
This formula may be tweaked if new data (i.e. polls among Liberal members) is released, but here are the preliminary rankings:
|Martha Hall Findlay||$149,877||1%||7%||3,568||7,086||7%|
Again, this isn’t a first ballot prediction. The fundraising numbers are out of date, and this magic formula overlooks the most important variable in all of this – the ground game. These rankings are intended only as a fun exercise to give a sense of candidate support and momentum.
So when you see that “66%” next to Justin Trudeau’s name, don’t take it as proof this race is over. It’s possible someone might break free of the pack and narrow that gap. But as it sits now, every sign points to a crushing Trudeau victory.
My mind has been on the Ontario Liberal leadership race the past few months, so I’ll admit to not having paid close attention to the federal contest. Not wanting to feel left out the next time a lively debate over Karen McCrimmon’s proposals on income tax reform breaks out at a dinner party, I decided to tie myself down and watch the second Liberal Leadership Debate this weekend.
Of course “debate” is a charitable way to describe what took place Saturday, in much the same way “race” is a charitable way to describe Justin Trudeau’s victory march. Rather than the conventional debate format, Liberals were treated to defeated Calgary Centre by-election candidate Harvey Locke conducting nine separate one-in-one interviews. Sort of like Barbara Walters’ “10 most fascinating people”, except there were 9 people, and most of them weren’t very fascinating.
This format marked quite the deviation from the norm, so candidates could be forgiven for displaying a bit of confusion – I believe Marc Garneau thought he was a contestant on the Bachelorette, as he led off talking about how much he loves to vacuum and cook (his specialty is frittata). Snap this man up ladies!
Kidding aside, I actually think this was a worthwhile exercise. There are 5 official debates before the National Showcase, so why not experiment with different formats? After all, whoever wins will likely participate in 2 debates over the next five years and hundreds, if not thousands, of interviews. Personally, I found that Martha Hall Findlay, Deborah Coyne, and David Bertschi performed much better under this format than they did at the first debate, and that’s useful information for Liberals to consider while deciding who to support.
The interview format also puts the lie to the claim that leadership race debates are true debates, comparable to the ones we see in general election. Even though the media always acts surprised when leadership candidates trip over each other offering self-congratulatory pats on the back, that’s to be expected – no one wants to find themselves in the next “do you think it is easy to make priorities” commercial and, in the end, leadership candidates are all part of the same team and all share largely the same vision for the country. Forget the ellusive knock-out punch, there’s rarely so much as air boxing.
This leaves candidates with few opportunities for clash and rebuttal, turning the “debate” into nothing more than a series of 15-second sound bytes. So if we aren’t getting anything more than talking points, why not expand them out, offering candidates an opportunity to display substance?
And that’s exactly what we got Saturday. Case in point was Martha Hall Findlay’s response to a question on the breakout issue of this race – supply management. In two minutes, she provided a history and explanation of the system, rebutted 6 common arguments for the status quo, and gave an impassioned plea for change. It’s the type of substantive appeal you would never see in a debate, yet it shed a lot of light on the issue and on Martha’s candidacy.
So the problem was not so much the format, but the timidity with which Mr. Locke approached his job as moderator. He lobbed batting practice softballs, along the lines of “so…climate change…that’s a big deal, huh?”. Obviously enough, Locke’s role isn’t to dig for a “gotcha moment” or embarrass anyone, but there were times when a follow-up was called for. Take the question to Martin Cauchon on supply management. Cauchon gave an impassioned plea to preserve the system, for the sake of food safety, arguing that dismantling it would lead to contaminated eggs and milk. Surely that deserved some kind of follow up or, at the very least, a “say what?”.
On the few occasions Locke did ask follow-ups, it actually allowed the candidates shine. Probed on a toss-away point about minimum sentences, David Bertschi gave a very compelling argument against them. When Locke asked George Takach about international and border problems that would flow from pot legalization, Talach was able to confidently point to Washington State’s recent vote to legalize, showing he’d given the issue due consideration.
In US primaries, leadership candidates are treated like full fledged presidential contenders, allowing voters to separate the chaff from the wheat. The Liberal Party is searching for someone who can withstand the rigors and nastiness of an all-out election campaign, so it does the candidates a disservice to treat them with the kid gloves in these leadership forums. Only by asking the tough questions will we be able to see who is able to give compelling answers.
The always insightful Pundits Guide reviews the federal Liberal Leadership rules and deadlines here, and suggests someone take it upon themselves to set up a sample ballot for the people of the Internet to stuff.
So, here you go. Cast your vote.
Considering how long people have talked about Martin Cauchon running for leadership and how long Martin Cauchon has resisted the urge to run for leadership, it was surprising to see him jump into the LPC race mere hours before the deadline to declare.
It will be interesting to see how Cauchon positions himself, but he’s certainly a welcome addition to the contest. Despite being out of the game for a few years, he has nearly as much MP experience as the rest of the field combined. Cauchon will no doubt highlight his record as the Justice Minister who decriminalized pot and legalized same sex marriage – and who can forget the thrilling changes to the tax code he brought in as Minister of Revenue!
This sets the field at 9 candidates, with Justin in front, followed by 4 former or current MPs, and 4 long shots who are effectively in it to raise their profile. It will take a lot to knock Trudeau out but, at the very least, the presence of solid candidates like Martin Cauchon ensures Trudeau will be challenged on the issues, and that viable alternatives exist if he does stumble.
Today, Glen Murray bowed out of the Ontario Liberal leadership race and David Merner took a pass at the federal job. The reaction to both announcements has ranged from a shrug to an in-depth analysis on the impact this would have on the other candidates’ chances. Overlooked has been the human element.
It’s never easy for a politician to pull the plug on a leadership campaign. In most cases, it’s something they’ve dreamed about and worked towards for years. Imagine you’d devoted your entire life to a cause and were reaching for the pinnacle of your career…then imagine the realization slowly sinking in that it wasn’t going to happen. It’s not just a case of admitting failure – it’s giving up the dream.
Further below the surface is the impact a move like this has not just on a candidate, but on their supporters. Believe me, I’ve been there. Since getting into politics a decade ago, I’ve supported Allan Rock, John Manley, Sheila Copps, Gerard Kennedy, and Dominic Leblanc in five unsuccessful leadership bids. Three times, my candidate of choice dropped out before the convention, so I can sympathize with what David Merner and Glen Murray supporters are going through today.
No, it’s not the end of a lifelong dream, but you’ve still invested yourself behind an individual and a cause only to see it disappear in a blink. The candidates themselves come to the realization it wasn’t meant to be over time, but for their supporters the news is often a swift punch to the gut. I found out Dominic Leblanc wasn’t running when I got a call from a cheerful Bob Rae supporter asking me if I’d like to sign on. Surprise!
I don’t think David Merner’s supporters held out much hope of Merner-mania sweeping the nation, and they’ve been given plenty of time to mourn, move on, and find someone new.
The people I really feel bad for today are the nearly 500 Liberals who put their names forward last weekend to run as Glen Murray delegates at the OLP convention. They’ll now be forced to run as independents, effectively ending their chances of being elected. Had Murray dropped out one week earlier, they’d have been free to run for another candidate. One week later, they would have been wined and dined six times a day. Instead, they’re left twisting in the wind, with no real opportunity to go as a delegate to what might be Canada’s last great leadership convention.
On the surface, it’s hard to get too worked up when candidates with no real chance of victory speed up the inevitable. But hundreds of Liberals got dumped today, and that always hurts.