Star Wars

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.

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29 responses to “Star Wars”

  1. A bit off topic, but: Does anyone feel that the age of the next leader is important? It strikes me that the Liberal Party has been burning through leaders at an incredible rate, and will need to stick with one for a reasonably long term, regardless of the outcome of the next election.

    I would hate to discount a good candidate on the basis of them being too old. But I am somewhat concerned that if, say, a 65 year-old takes the helm, and the Liberals do not win the next election (possible if not probable), Liberals might be left with someone pushing 70 years of age and looking to retire by the time the following election comes around. That doesn’t seem like the position Liberals ought to be in two elections from now.

    • I suppose it’s a consideration – but only one of many, and hardly the most important one.

      I certainly wouldn’t support JT simply because he’s the youngest in the race, nor disqualify Garneau just because he’s older.

    • I think it’s a fair point. Next election is in 2015, but 2019 (or sooner if minority) might be a more realistic timeline for power. Then you want someone to be PM for a few years…

      I wouldn’t exclude Garneau – he’s in great shape and could certainly put in the 10 year commitment. But it’s a factor worth considering.

  2. “Marc Garneau fires the first photon torpedo of the leadership race”

    I think you meant “proton torpedo”. The Proton Torpedo is ordnance from Star Wars. A Photon Torpedo is from Star Trek.

  3. In the U.S. liberal-left phonies like Noam Chomsky and John and Theresa Kerry avoid contributing taxes to social programs by putting their wealth in family trusts. I’ve read that these trusts are taxed at a lower rate than the lowest paid Wal-mart worker.
    With recent stories about Justin Trudeau’s wealth, I got the impression most of it is in a trust. I think someone in the Liberal party should raise the issue about whether the Trudeau’s avoid tax, and ask if the NDP will make it an issue.

    • If this is happening, it is an issue with the tax system and less so the people using it.

      I know people who specifically hate Apple because it pays a ridiculously low amount in taxes (in the US). Well you know what? Apple would be stupid to pay more than it is legally required to do, just out of the goodness of its corporate heart. Similarly, Trudeau/Kerry/Chompsky/Buffet/anyone would be fools to just pay more taxes for fun. It is the job of government to decide the rules governing taxation, so if it’s unfair, we have current or past government to blame, and future ones to look to to fix it.

      • Exactly. It would be a concern if Trudeau were campaigning to change the rules in his favour so he could get more money, or even just arguing against someone who wanted to make the rules more stringent. However, it’s unfair to single him out simply for exercising financial prudence under the current law.

      • @luke “Apple would be stupid to pay more than it is legally required to do,”

        This is a fundamental issue with the way Harper runs the Harper government. He follows the exact letter of the law and never rises above it. He say’s he’ll do something different when the law changes and does little to change the law.

        Just because you don’t have to doesn’t mean you can’t or could. The mark of a good leader is to say “I’ll go first”.

        • Sure, but the difference is that Harper has the power to change the law. If Trudeau manages to become PM, and we find him doing all kinds of technically legal but awful things, we can then make that criticism on much more solid footing.

          But I suppose, personally, I would not do any underhanded thing if it happened to be legal; actually I would need that kind of mentality repulsive. Still, in the case of corporations or even personal financial management, the rational thing to do seems to be what is in the best interest money-wise.

      • At least Trudeau doesn’t come across as “out of touch” the way Romney did. That’s really the bigger problem rich politicians face, rather than their wealth itself.

  4. Justin Trudeau will win the Liberal leadership race. The question of whether he SHOULD win is, I suppose, an open question – but not whether or not he WILL win.

    Furthermore Trudeau will be prime minister of Canada – possibly sooner rather than later. Whether that’s good or bad is also an open question, but not whether or not it will happen.

    As for being a lightweight – everything is relative. Compared to his father, sure. Compared to today’s politicians – no way.

    • Will he win the leadership race? At this point it seems likely – but there ARE still two months to go, which is plenty of time for things to go disastrously wrong.

      Will he become Prime Minster? It’s certainly possible, but it’s ridiculous to say that it’s guaranteed. I’m not even convinced that it’s likely.

  5. I don’t see engaging the grassroots as mutually exclusive from stating his personal vision and positions on policy.

    I want to know where each leader stands and what they will draw a line in the sand on. Otherwise you closer to being a puppet doing whatever it takes to get votes.

    Pure grassroots didn’t work so well for Danielle Smith.

    • I think something like Justin’s position on education today is a good approach. He stated that he wants the federal government to take a role even though it’s a provincial responsibility. So he’s taken a somewhat bold position.

      He then floated 3 or 4 specifics as possibilities to be studied and decided upon by the membership.

      If he did this on every issue, I’d be mostly happy. Like I said, I don’t need a full platform, but there needs to be some substance.

      • I don’t know. To be honest, calling for more investment in education sounds like a motherhood type issue that’s easy to say you support, because nobody’s going to come out and attack it. (Note that this is as true for Garneau’s policy as well). Didn’t Bush senior say he wanted to be the “education President”?

        Maybe I’m over cynical, but to me it still sounds like feel-good fluff that voters have learned to tune out. As I recall, Ignatieff had some sort of education-financing proposal in 2011 that failed to ignite the masses. Right, the “education passport” (thanks, Google).

  6. Nice subterfuge, fellow vancouverite. Truly, the big issue is who’s using a ‘Trust’ to shelter their own money. Can you tell me how many MPs are using trusts to keep the required distance from their roles as public servants and their own personal business affairs? Right — go back to stuffing envelopes for Libby Davies or brandishing James Moore’s backup blackberry.

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