Justin Trudeau

Liberal Speed Dating Helps Voters Make Their Choice

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Featured Posts | 52 Comments

Trudeau Findlay
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.

Star Wars

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Federal Politics | 29 Comments
Don't let the astronaut puns and cute photo-ops fool you - Marc Garneau means business.

Don’t let the astronaut puns and cute photo-ops fool you – Marc Garneau means business.

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.

Liberals One-on-One

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race | 13 Comments

The moderator failed to ask the tough questions, such as “Mr. Bertschi, why on earth are you wearing that scarf?

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.

2013 A Make It Or Break It Year For The Liberal Party

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, 2013 OLP Leadership Race | 12 Comments

Making predictions in a sport as unpredictable as politics is very much a fool’s errand. I don’t think anyone saw Dalton McGuinty’s retirement or Justin Trudeau’s left hook coming in 2012. Hell, even something as routine as an Alberta PC election victory turned into a whirlwind thriller.

What we do know, however, is that amidst all the political surprises, 2013 is likely to be one of the most important years ever for big “L” Liberalism in Canada.

Most eyes will be on the federal race where, at the risk of brazenly going against my previous disclaimer about the unpredictable nature of politics, a Trudeau victory is basically a fait accomplit. More important than the vote totals announced on April 14th is what that victory looks like. If Trudeau takes the next four months to expand the Liberal base and dispel the “lightweight” label, he’ll be well positioned to fend off the inevitable attacks that come his way. If he limps across the finish line damaged, or runs an uninspiring and safe frontrunner campaign, his poll numbers may prove fleeting. I fully expect we’ll see Conservative (and NDP!) attack ads against the new Liberal leader by the end of 2013, so one year from now we’ll know just how resilient the Trudeau brand actually is, and how prepared the Liberal Party is to fight the 2015 election.

While “most important ever” leadership races seem to spring up every year or two, what makes 2013 a crossroads for the Liberal brand is what will be happening outside of Ottawa. After all, the Liberal Party is in the process of selecting new leaders in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland. To put things in perspective, Robert Ghiz and Stephen McNeil are the only Liberal leaders who have held their titles for at least two years.

The media’s attention will no doubt be on the Central Canadian races, but the situation on the Prairies should not be overlooked. The Manitoba Liberals are down to a single seat, held by outgoing leader Jon Gerrard. In Saskatchewan, the party faces the very real prospect of a leadership race with no candidates, or of dissolving completely, after receiving just 0.6% of the popular vote last election. And in the Liberal hotbed of Alberta, proposals to merge with the provincial NDP are expected to be front and centre at the party’s June convention.

Further west, the BC Liberals have put off talk of a name change until after this May’s election – but most expect Christy Clark to go down in flames, so it’s a debate they may revisit before year’s end. Across Western Canada, the question is therefore not just one of leadership, or even what the party stands for, but one of whether or not the brand is damaged beyond repair.

While the outlook is less bleak in the East, with Ontarians likely heading to the polls this year, there’s a very real possibility that PEI might soon stand alone as the last Liberal bastion in Canada.

On the flip side, the Nova Scotia Liberals lead in the polls and fresh leaders in Quebec and Ontario could very well give these parties a badly needed reboot. So…anywhere from a few dozen potato farmers to the majority of the country will be living under Liberal rule by the end of the next year.

If you close your eyes and try to play the foolish game of political prognostication, it’s not difficult to see a new generation of strong Liberal leaders emerging from coast to coast in 2013. These leaders could very well go on to dominate the political landscape over the next decade, the way McGuinty, Charest, and Campbell dominated the last. However, it’s just as easy to close your eyes and imagine a scenario where 2013 marks the year the Liberal Party began to slowly fade away to nothingness.

2012 Woman of the Year

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts, Person of the Year | 3 Comments

Every December, I like to name a “Person of the Year” – the individual who left their mark on Canadian politics over the past year. The only rules are that the PM is too obvious a choice, and that lame picks (“You!”) are strictly verboten. The Person of the Year doesn’t need to be someone who used the force for the powers of good, or someone I like – just someone who made a difference. Below is a list of recent choices:

2011: Jack Layton
2010: Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi
2009: Jim Flaherty
2008: Stephane Dion
2007: Jean Charest
2006: Michael Ignatieff
2005: Belinda Stronach
2004: Ralph Klein

Unlike 2011, when Jack Layton’s rise and death came to define the year that was in Canadian politics, no single event or person stands out in 2012. There was no federal election, and little that happened in Ottawa resonated outside the political bubble. After being warned about Harper’s “hidden agenda” for a decade, the most newsworthy item of Flaherty’s first majority budget was the death of the penny.

The robocon scandal might eventually stick, but we have no way of knowing, so selecting Pierre Poutine, or Misters McGregor and Maher is likely premature. A few people on Twitter nominated Mark Carney, but I’m not sure his flirtation with the Liberal Party or departure to England will really change much.

Rather, the focus in Ottawa this year was largely on leadership races in the opposition ranks. Thomas Mulcair deserves consideration for Person of the Year – he won a competitive race, allowing the NDP to complete their journey from protest to pragmatism. Mulcair proved himself to be a steady opposition leader, but his polling bounce has faded due to…

Justin Trudeau. I don’t doubt that Trudeaumania II will be the “Story of the Year” on a lot of recap lists, but it’s not clear to me Justin left any lasting mark on Canadian politics (other than the ones on Patrick Brazeau’s face). And being talked about isn’t enough to make you the Person of the Year, or else I’d be handing out this award to the IKEA Monkey.

If we move outside of federal politics, a couple of past winners find themselves on the short list again in 2012. Rob Ford was a headline machine this year, culminating with a judge ordering him to be removed from office. The only problem is, if we’re going to start naming troubled Mayors, it would make for one long list of co-winners, since you’d also need to include Gerard Tremblay, Gilles Vaillancourt, and Joe Fontana, among others.

It’s tempting to give my 2007 Person of the Year, Jean Charest, and fellow Liberal-on-the-way out Dalton McGuinty a lifetime achievement award for the impact they’ve had on Canadian politics over the past decade. After all, this fall’s Quebec election was a thriller, and Charest surprised everyone by nearly hanging on.

However, even more exciting and unpredictable was the Alberta election. Which brings us to our 2012 Woman of the Year:

Alison Redford poses with Daryl Katz

The PCs winning elections in Alberta is hardly news. They’ve now done that a dozen times in a row, and will soon break the record as the longest-serving government in Canadian history. Alison Redford won 61 of 87 seats which, admittedly, marks a down year for the PCs – but is still considered a rout in most functioning democracies.

But, oh, what an exciting rout that was.

Redford led by 37 points in a January Leger poll, and there were actually non-satirical articles printed citing senior Tories worried they’d win “too many” seats. Luckily for those senior Conservatives, Alison Redford quickly put those fears to rest.

The issue that landed Redford in dire straits and caused her to lose complete control of the agenda was the “money for nothing” controversy. When it came to light that MLAs were receiving $1,000 a month to sit on a committee which hadn’t met in four years, the opposition members did the sensible thing and returned the money. Redford did not. She called the gesture by the opposition MLAs a “stunt” and said there was nothing wrong with the committee – but hung her MLAs out to dry by suggesting there would be electoral consequences if they didn’t return the cash. Her caucus whip said voters were too stupid to understand the issue. Redford dithered and didn’t act until the polls went south a month after the story broke. But the damage was done. She had given the Wildrose Party all the ammunition they would need to run an “entitled to their entitlements” campaign.

In most years, Redford’s stumbles wouldn’t have been fatal, but what made this a truly great election was that the PCs were facing their strongest competition in 20 years. Smith versus Redford pitted two of the country’s strongest politicians head-to-head, in what is likely to become Canada’s most interesting political rivalry over the next few years. Contrary to what anyone reading news stories in 2010 or 2011 would believe, Danielle Smith isn’t perfect – she confusingly tried to brand herself as the “anti-change” candidate and presented voters with a gimmicky platform, offering Ralph Bucks and Doris Day petitions. But Smith is a smart, articulate, and charismatic politician, so it’s no surprise her campaign strategy of “let’s do photo-ops with cute animals” was paying off. Before long, the Wildrose Party had pulled ahead. Alison Redford was sounding more and more desperate by the day, accusing the Wildrosers of being the party of “old white men” (fun fact: Alison Redford’s Cabinet was 86% male and 95% white).

By this time, Wildrose campaign manager Tom Flanagan must have been having flashbacks to the 2004 federal election – a long time government brings in a new leader with expectations of a landslide victory, only to mismanage a scandal and see a new right wing party pull ahead. Sadly for Doctor Tom, the similarities would continue down the stretch, with voters en masse having second thoughts about what this new right wing party truly stood for.

For that, Redford can thank a pair of Wildrose candidates. Allan Hunsperger blogged that gays would burn for all eternity in a lake of fire in hell, and Danielle Smith didn’t seem too troubled. Ron Leech talked about “the white advantage”, and Danielle Smith didn’t seem too troubled, saying every candidate should put forward “their best argument for why they should be the person who can best represent the community”.

For a variety of reasons, the pundits and polls were as off the mark as Smith’s candidates, setting up one of the most stunning election nights in Canadian history. Columnists across the country were forced to madly re-write their columns on the demise of the PC dynasty. Some weren’t able to, hence Andrew Coyne’s first page Post column which beganUnless something astonishing happens, the Wildrose Party will form the next government of Alberta”. Turns out astonishing things can happen in politics every now and then – even in boring, predictable Alberta.

Redford has stayed in the news post-election, thanks mainly to two more badly mismanaged scandals. However, she’s also had an impact on the national stage, being at the centre of the Enbridge pipeline feud with Christy Clark. Although Redford has only been PC leader for a little over a year, she is quickly becoming one of the most well known and respected names on the national stage – and her prominence is likely to grow with new Premiers recently elected or on the way in Quebec, Ontario, and BC (unless something astonishing happens!). With Alberta continuing to grow, and Redford showing an eagerness to expand Alberta’s influence in Canada and around the world, expect to hear more from her in 2013.

Liberal Leadership Pool

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race | 30 Comments

Who will cross the finish line first?

While a Justin Trudeau cakewalk in the Liberal leadership race doesn’t seem quite as inevitable as it did two weeks ago, most pundits still regard his win as inevitable. However, while discussing the relative strengths of the Coyne and Takach campaigns over drinks last week, it occurred to me there’s a fair amount of intrigue as you move down the ballot. Kind of like betting whether the Marxist-Leninists can beat the Animal Alliance in your riding.

With that in mind, I present the ultimate test for policos – the Calgary Grit Liberal Leadership Pool. All you need to predict is the first ballot rank of the candidates, who will win, how many ballots it will go, and what percentage of the vote Justin Trudeau will receive on the first ballot. So, for example, your entry might, but likely won’t, look like:

1. Bertschi
2. Trudeau (31% on first ballot)
3. Murray (winner on third ballot)
4. Findlay
5. Takach
6. Coyne
7. Garneau

If you think someone is going to drop out before the votes are counted, then don’t include them on your list. For scoring, you’ll get 2 points for every candidate correctly ranked, 1 point if you’re off their rank by one spot, and -1 points if you list them on the ballot and they don’t make it to voting day. Toss in 5 bonus points for the correct winner, 2 for the right number of ballots, and up to 3 points depending how close you are to Trudeau’s vote share.

To enter, write down your picks in the comments section or e-mail them to me at calgarygrit@gmail.com. You can enter until Christmas Day, but the tie-break will be whoever submits their entry first.

And the tie-break matters because the winner’s prize will be an assortment of candidate memorabilia. I’ve already picked buttons up from George Takach and Martha Hall Findlay events, but this collection will grow as the campaign progresses.

If you want to do a bit of background research on your entries, feel free to check out my Liberal Party leadership portal for information, news, and contact information for the 6 official and 5 declared leadership candidates.

Old Habits Die Hard

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in by elections, Federal Politics | 13 Comments

“I’d like to thank the voters, my volunteers, and, of course, David McGuinty.”

In all my years blogging about Calgary politics, I never thought “Liberals blow by-election” is a story I’d have to write. “Liberals lose” is a common headline for a party that hasn’t won a seat in Calgary since 1968, during the height of Trudeaumania (the first round of Trudeaumania that is). But while some Liberals have come down with “candidate’s disease” over the years (symptoms include house hunting in Ottawa), the reality is the Liberal Party is never even in the game; there hasn’t been a Liberal candidate within 20 points of victory in Calgary this century. Usually, getting your deposit back and beating the NDP is reason enough to pop the champagne on election night.

This by-election however, represented a genuine opportunity for victory. After all, this was Calgary Centre, and downtown Calgarians have a lot more in common with downtown Torontonians than they do with Nanton ranchers. Progressives in the riding elected Joe Clark in 2000, routinely send Liberal MLAs to Edmonton, and voted overwhelmingly for Naheed Nenshi during the 2010 mayoral election. The Conservatives nominated a polarizing and unpopular candidate, and the Liberals had a good one in respected conservationist Harvey Locke. With polls showing Locke on the cusp of a breakthrough, Liberals threw everything they had at the campaign. Yes, it was still a long-shot – but that’s the best shot the party has had in Calgary in a long time.

Then, as they always seem to do, things fell apart. If anyone ever wants to modernize the myth of Sisyphus, I’d suggest a better punishment than forever pushing a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down would be forever volunteering on Alberta Liberal campaigns.

One week before the vote, David McGuinty accused Conservative MPs of being “shills for the oil industry”, telling them to “go home to Alberta”. Bob Rae apologized, McGuinty resigned his critic portfolio, and Justin Trudeau, fresh off his second tour of duty helping the Locke campaign, made it clear where he stood:

“My entire campaign has been about bringing people together, about not pitting region against region and about being a strong representative and a voice that says the same thing in Chicoutimi as we say in downtown Calgary as I’ll say in Toronto as I’ll say in B.C.”

The problem, as we would learn the next day, is that he hadn’t always been saying the same thing in Montreal:

“Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn’t work,” Trudeau told interviewer Patrick Lagacé.

When asked whether he thought Canada was “better served when there are more Quebecers in charge than Albertans,” Trudeau replied, “I’m a Liberal, so of course I think so, yes. Certainly when we look at the great prime ministers of the 20th century, those that really stood the test of time, they were MPs from Quebec. There was Trudeau, there was Mulroney, there was Chrétien, there was Paul Martin. We have a role. This country, Canada, it belongs to us.”

Many Liberals rushed to his defense, dismissing the attacks as a Conservative smear job and arguing that Justin’s 2010 comments had been “taken out of context”. However, it was clear to anyone who watched the full interview that the quotes were properly translated and represented. There really is no way to defend Trudeau – and not just because he feels Brian Mulroney is one of this country’s “great” Prime Ministers. In no uncertain terms, he belittled an entire province.

These comments might not have been the decisive factor – after all, the final results were close to polls taken before the controversy. It would be especially unfair to pin this one on Trudeau, given Locke may have only have been in the game in the first place due to the life Trudeau has injected into Liberal support levels from coast to coast. And both Liberal MPs were trying to make perfectly valid points when their comments “slipped out” – in McGuinty’s case, that national politicians should think of the good of Canada rather than just their own backyard, and in Trudeau’s, that francophones can thrive inside Canada.

However, it’s partly because these were throw-away off-the-cuff lapses that they’re so unsettling. Both comments suggested to voters that no matter how often the Liberal Party says all the right things and tries to reach out to the West, deep down inside, they’re still against Alberta. All it takes is a heated exchange in the House of Commons or a candid interview without talking points for their true nature to rise to the surface.

In all honesty, the Liberal Party has written off Alberta for decades, so it’s only natural for attitudes like this to become ingrained. You can’t simply flip a switch and ask your MPs to suddenly play nice because there’s a by-election going on. Even if they do, voters have long memories – to some extent, Stephen Harper is still paying for the sins of the Reform Party vis-a-vis Quebec and Atlantic Canada in the 90s.

The good news is, voters will eventually forgive if they see a genuine change in attitude. Bob Rae’s swift response to McGuinty’s misstep, and Justin Trudeau’s pro-oilsands positions are evidence that the Liberal Party is changing. Nearly every Liberal leadership candidate I’ve talked to has made growing the party in Western Canada a key theme of their campaign. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also good politics, with 12 new Western seats coming into play next election.

Last night, Harvey Locke received 32.7% of the vote, squeaking past Bev Longstaff’s post-1968 Calgary Liberal “record” of 32.6%. Locke’s campaign energized local Liberals, and showed the federal party why they can’t write off Alberta. If the LPC takes that message to heart, there’s every reason to believe they can snap their 44-year Calgary losing streak.

Bring on the Astronaut Puns

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Federal Politics | 11 Comments

Marc Garneau, C.C., CD, Ph.D., F.C.A.S.I., MP – Canadian hero and the Liberal Party’s “Plan B”

The moment headline writers have been waiting for all summer has finally arrived, with Marc Garneau set to formally launch his Liberal leadership candidacy this week. Despite having a lengthy string of post-nominal letters after his name, and the most impressive CV of any Member of Parliament, Garneau enters this leadership race as a heavy underdog. Ironically, the astronaut simply lacks the star power to compete with Justin Trudeau.

Despite being a genuine Canadian hero and an experienced parliamentarian, Garneau has zero chance of winning this race. However, should Trudeau lose the race, Garneau (and Martha Hall Findlay) now offer Liberals proven candidates to fall back on. After seeing the Justin Trudeau juggernaut hit its first road bump last week, the importance of that role should now be obvious to everyone. Politics is an unpredictable game, and it doesn’t take a long time for rising stars to get tossed out with yesterday’s news.

Leadership campaigns are about putting leaders to the test, but that principle only works if there’s some accountability for a failing grade. If Trudeau doesn’t have the right stuff, Liberals can’t afford to be in a position where a fatally wounded candidate becomes leader by default.

The role of “safety school” may sound demeaning for someone as accomplished as Garneau, but it’s an important role to play.

Let’s Not Get Ahead Of Ourselves

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Polls | 5 Comments

Lorne Bozinoff, discussing Forum’s latest poll, explains what “should be clear by now”:

“It’s clear by now that the Trudeau phenomenon is no one-day wonder, and that a Liberal Party led by him would be the prohibitive favourite to beat in the next federal election,” Forum Research President Dr. Lorne Bozinoff said.

This likely makes me a bad Liberal, but if Bozinoff thinks Justin Trudeau is the “prohibitive favourite” to win the next election, I’m willing to put $1,000 on Stephen Harper – so long as he gives me “prohibitive underdog” odds.

Not Just a Pretty Face

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Federal Politics | 8 Comments

The best kind of “gutsy” decisions, are the ones no one really cares about

To date, Justin Trudeau has run a safe leadership campaign. He’s smiled, talked about how he loves Canada, and made helping the Middle Class his core theme. That’s a perfectly acceptable way for Justin to introduce himself to voters, but it’s still the most innocuous campaign theme imaginable – even a “pro-sunshine and pro-puppies” message would have forced Justin to answer tough questions about skin cancer and pit bulls. You won’t find anyone who disagrees with helping the middle class.

And while Justin should be commended for voicing his support for pot decriminalization, that’s a policy that was long overdue when Jean Chretien introduced it a decade ago.

Yesterday, however, Justin Trudeau took his first controversial position of the leadership race, coming out in support of the Nexen takeover. It’s a deal the majority of Canadians oppose, and there’s a very real risk many Liberals will accuse him of “selling out” to the Chinese.

That’s what makes it a brilliant political move.

In most leadership campaigns, the frontrunner puts their head down and tries not to offend. However, as I wrote in September, Justin has the media spotlight on him now, and he’d be wasting it if he’s only playing to beat Martha Hall Findlay and Marc Garneau – rather than Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair. It’s almost a given Trudeau will win, so this campaign needs to be about inoculating him against the “lightweight” and “airhead” attacks we all know are coming.

With that in mind, Nexen is the perfect issue to plant his flag on. It shows Justin has guts, substance, and a desire to do what’s right, even if it means risking a public backlash. The thing is…there’s not going to be any substantive backlash to this position. Polls may show people oppose the deal at the conceptual level, but it’s not an issue the public understands or cares strongly about. It will be long forgotten by the time the next election rolls around – if the word “Nexen” is in your 2015 leaders debate drinking game, your Amish friends will be able to play along.

While the issue will fade, what people will remember is that Justin Trudeau showed some guts. It may not have been his “just watch me” moment, but it was an important first step in proving to Canadians he’s not just a pretty face.

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