justin trudeau

The Painful Demise of Thomas Mulcair


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By: james Di Fiore

When Olivia Chow announced she would run to become the mayor of Toronto it looked like she couldn’t lose. Toronto had just spent 4 years dealing with Rob Ford, a cartoon-like politician whose exploits need no rehashing.

Toronto knew Olivia. She had a presence in our city for decades. She had a famous husband who propelled the NDP to Official Opposition status and gave them 100+ seats in the House of Commons.

In short, we needed no introductions. We just needed Olivia to be herself.

Instead, in one of the most badly calculated political strategies in Canada’s history, Olivia gave us someone we had never met before. She changed her clothes, her way of speaking, her overall demeanor. She hired political goons while giving her rivals all they needed to completely destroy her.

Chow finished a distant third place as John Tory rode to victory ahead of Doug Ford, the conservative who finished second.

This federal election is showing a lot of parallels.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair had everything going for him. His party was well ahead of the conservatives and liberals in the polls. He had impressed Canadians over the past two years by holding Stephen Harper to account in the House of Commons, especially during Question Period. A majority of Canadians had become wise to the antics of Stephen Harper; his incremental strategy of ushering in anti-democratic policies, his disregard for evidence based decision-making, and his contempt for ethics, especially in regards to the Senate scandal.

Canada finally had a competent politician holding Harper’s feet to the fire, and Canadians rewarded his feistiness by propelling him to the top of the polls.

And then it happened. Harper announced an elongated 78 day campaign, and Mulcair decided to do his best Olivia Chow impersonation by needlessly reinventing himself. He or his handlers decided to abandon the Mulcair that won us over, and place a stiff, faux jovial imposter in his stead. His entire demeanor had all the authenticity of a wax museum figure, and his support began to plummet.

Mulcair had been known for years in Ottawa as Angry Tom, and it was Angry Tom who Canadians needed at a time when they felt exhausted by a prime minister only interested in retaining his power. Moreover, Mulcair’s new persona was matched only by his decision to push the party towards the right, alienating his base and confusing undecided voters who were not looking for outlandish promises like balanced budgets.

Add a masterful Liberal campaign and a surprising performance by Justin Trudeau, and the writing on the wall became ever more clear: the NDP were in third place, and the notion of their first crack at power had all but evaporated.

Campaigns are not all that complex at the end of the day. People are not always savvy, but almost all of us have instincts that tell us who is being real with us, and who is trying to play a role. In this election, Mulcair was playing the role of a guy who wasn’t being himself, and Canadians rewarded him by making sure he would never become prime minister.

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The Great Canadian Threeway

Some said it would never be.

After all, these are all very different types of people. They do not have needs that align just right, or any discernable chemistry whatsoever. One is too controlling; one is too rough; and the other is too pretty not to be the constant center of attention. He’s pretty much a tease. When under the same roof they tend to bicker with one another, providing theatrical styles of questions and answers, plus an uncanny ability to appear awkward or overly dramatic.

Incompatible, we said. We’re probably right, but this year’s election may provide just the right setting for this threesome to end up sleeping in the same bed nonetheless.

I predict the three major parties will each win between 90-125 seats and thus comprise the most complicated House of Commons in Canadian history. Canada will be a tripartite state at a time when polarization has never been more popular.

All euphemisms aside, this odd trio of leaders live in a constant state of strategy, mostly due to the government’s neo-PR style of leading. The Harper Government should be a case study for all PR students all across the country, a real life example of how to spin, pivot, flim-flam and deflect until the media is exhausted and citizens are too cloudy to care. Like a good celebrity caught in scandal, the Harper Government ignores its controversies, possibly to their detriment, and now must distract Canadians through national security lingo and fearful rhetoric. Instead of getting in front of a scandal they act like there has never been one.

With the prospect of a spring election nearly dead, Stephen Harper now hopes Canadians – a people not known for their emotional endurance in politics – can remain fearful for another seven months. Lots can happen in seven months, and Canadians are already showing they are not beholden to any given ideology or party, especially after nearly a decade of single party rule, even if half the ride was inside two minority governments.

National security issues have changed the landscape, making Harper and NDP leader Thomas Mulcair the natural spokespeople for the right and left, respectively. Justin Trudeau’s strategy of straddling the ideological fence on issues pertaining to national security is muddying his message. Mulcair has proven that thoughtful debate can co-exist with a staunchly left wing perspective, and, in turn, Harper’s aggressive military tendencies can be propped up by real, defendable arguments. You may not agree with either of them, but both make a decent case for their positions. Just try not to read the polling while parties make their case.

The shifting ground needs to settle, and new realities are shaping the landscape, adjusting the lens we peer through while we mull over whom to support. We tend to take a long time to learn the facts of an issue, or a piece of legislation, if we bother learning it at all, and polling companies do a disservice when they collect their premature and therefore toxic data indicating we support issues we do not yet understand. Those polls are cited for months, even as support for the legislation dwindles, losing undecided voters who feel strongly about whatever issue is being misrepresented. In the case of Bill C-51, Canadians are rapidly sliding towards a lack of support for the bill, making Trudeau’s position the weakest when he voted for legislation he said he did not believe in.

Mulcair stands alone as being secure in his opposition to Bill C-51 from the beginning, and the only leader riding a wave of momentum by an increasingly skeptical public. The NDP have figured out the best way to question a neo-PR government is to apply a neo-prosecutorial style of managing the issues. Mulcair is light on rhetoric, heavy on evidentiary-seeking queries. When Harper answers a Mulcair question in QP, you can almost see his mind analyzing how to dance around Mulcair’s finely placed demands for substantive answers.

Trudeau still has his appeal. His marijuana stance, while caricaturized by the right, does make him attractive to a niche of left-of-center voters who may not normally head to the polls on Election Day. Their “evidence-based policy making” promise allows the Liberals to take advantage of several single-issue voters, a strong positive for a party seeking support from both the left and the right.

As for Harper, he’s all-in. The political chess master has a million pieces on the board but very few pawns left to sacrifice. Nearly a dozen of his handpicked appointees are under criminal investigation, awaiting court appearances, out of public service altogether or languishing inside prison walls. He has all but lost his long awaited surplus and will eventually have to contend with dead Canadian soldiers and dead Iraqi/Syrian civilians from wayward Canadian bombs. After all, this is now the Harper Government’s War, meaning they take full responsibility for its glory and defeats alike.

Later this year, the 20% of us who are flexible with our ballots will sprinkle each party with just enough votes to hand victory to nobody. Perhaps the Conservatives will finish third. Maybe second. Three parties with 100 seats makes the results almost meaningless, and the ferocious partisanship will have to water itself down as two or more parties come together to decide policy. No party wants to draw the ire of frustrated Canadians after a majority of which did not cast a ballot for any one of them. Politicians will pretend to play nice while leaking committee minutes to the media or trading barbs during in-camera sessions.

Now, back to the euphemisms.

All the leaders’ antics on Parliament Hill will be on full display, and it won’t be pretty. It will be nauseating, full stop. They are three entities, bumping and scratching against one another, living in the same House, frothing and spitting, screaming and occasionally using dirty words, bound together on old English wood.

A three-way like no other, destining Parliament to become a very, very seaty place.

Catholic Church the Last Institution to Pass Judgment on Justin Trudeau

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Protecting pedophiles disqualifies Catholic Church from publicly lecturing anybody about abortion

 

By: James Di Fiore

Let’s face it; Justin Trudeau should have said nothing at all. But, much to the probable dismay of his chief strategist, he went off script and told a reporter that no future Liberal candidate would ever be permitted to vote against any abortion vote, no matter what their conscience says to them.
Now, I’m not sure anybody was under the impression the Liberal Party of Canada was a haven for pro-lifers. I was even surprised to find out there were a couple of sitting MPs who were anti-abortionists. Who knew?

But Trudeau could have said nothing and still charted a path where the party weeds out any potential anarchists on this issue. Or, he could have said nothing and allowed people who are pro-life to vote with their conscience. The point is, he should have said nothing at all.

So we can chalk this up as another Trudeau gaffe. It isn’t a major catastrophe, but it was a gaffe, especially if we define gaffes as uttering something that allows opponents to define you.

But the latest caveat – the public lecturing from senior members of the Catholic Church – is so blatantly hypocritical that Trudeau may want to just let the rest of the issue play out in silence. After all, is there one institution in this country less credible to the idea of decency than the Catholic Church? How can an organization known for enabling and protecting pedophiles lecture a public servant for wanting to keep his party a pro-choice party? Bishop Christian Riesbeck did just that, describing the idea of Trudeau receiving communion as “unseemly” and “scandalous.”

Really? An organization that spent decades putting child rapists into different communities, thus aiding their sex crimes, is somehow attempting to be seen as a moral authority? I guess self-awareness is not the strong suit of the Catholic Church, and with their history of lecturing Liberal politicians for progressive legislation, this latest foray into the political sphere seems dicey at best. The last time the Catholic Church tried to be seen as some sort of moral barometer was when former Prime Minister Paul Martin ushered in same-sex marriage. Well, that was an affront to God, according to Pope Benedict who publicly lectured Canada for going against God’s will. This was in 2005; the same year Irish authorities released a scathing indictment of the church for endangering children by allowing pedophiles to travel to other Catholic communities so they could continue raping and abusing their victims. Pope Benedict should also be remembered as the guy who literally wrote the church’s position on child raping priests; that they should be dealt with by the church and not by the proper authorities. After all, what’s another 100 raped altar boys when you have public relations to worry about?

 

Trudeau still has to learn the art of saying nothing, but the media, the public or his political rivals – not the most corrupted institution in the modern age – should be the ones to criticize his gaffes. The Catholic Church’s credibility on moralism died long ago, and those Canadians who consider themselves Catholic should think twice before pointing a finger at a politician for wanting abortion rights to remain undisturbed.

Justin Trudeau’s Abortion Comment Reiterates a 2 Year Old Liberal Policy

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By: James Di Fiore

Canadian conservatives are in a tizzy right now. Justin Trudeau told the press that the Liberal Party of Canada is a pro-choice party and that pro-life candidates need not apply to a Trudeau led LPC. 

Reaction was swift and relentless. Trudeau had gone too far! It was as if he had aborted baby Jesus with his bare hands, then ate the placenta on national television.

But is this really much of a newsflash? No, not really. Not at all, actually.

The Liberals had declared themselves to be a pro-choice party in 2012 at their federal convention. All Trudeau was doing was reiterating this factoid to a few reporters on Parliament Hill. What Trudeau did incorrectly was answer a question directly instead of drenching his response in public relations flim-flam. Confused yet?

Justin Trudeau’s error has nothing to do with his party’s position on abortion or the position of only wanting candidates to run if they first pass the litmus test of being pro-choice. All that is fine. His mistake was not to anticipate the operatives on the right who will use the sound bite to fan the flames of rage among the conservative base.

But what damage has Trudeau really done to himself or his party? The vast majority of Canadians are pro-choice. The vast majority of anyone who isn’t a conservative is pro-choice. In relative terms, being pro-choice is like being pro-gay marriage in 2014. And don’t forget, being pro-choice does not mean being pro-abortion. It means a woman’s right to choose life or abortion should not be challenged. Many of these women, obviously, choose life.

So desperate are the Harper conservatives to squish Trudeau into the “in over his head” tag line that they’ve watered down their own message by arbitrarily pasting it on every last thing the Liberal leader utters in public. It’s cringe worthy to watch, truly. They believe if they just show Canadians the clip of Trudeau taking off his shirt at a fundraiser a million more times, accompanied by random quotes about marijuana, terrorism and the economy, that we will all eventually have our Eureka moment and agree with the ad agency who pretended the gimmick was a good idea in the first place.

But the entire campaign is a dismal failure. Canadians never bought into it, and it became political porn for the conservative base, and the subject of relentless ridiculing by everyone else in the country. After all, politics is serious business. People care about taxes and the big issues affecting their lives. If your party’s main advertising dollars go to a singular campaign where an attempt to ridicule your main opponent is the only strategy, you better make sure it resonates with more than just the party loyalists. Trudeau’s comment on abortion will no doubt make the next version of the campaign. Once again we will see the clip of Trudeau taking his shirt off with his quote hastily inserted. The claim of him being way over his head will be declared once again, and the collective yawn of a nation, minus the conservative base, will do nothing to convince the Harper government to change course. They’re all in…it’s Trudeau taking off his shirt from now until the next election.

The most savvy conservatives are probably thinking only one thing these days: Abort….abort.

Political Ad Watch: Justin Trudeau Plays it Safe, and Tells Us Nothing

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By: James Di Fiore
There is a common theme among political parties and their go-to communications strategies these days; they seem to believe that barn burner speeches and stock music will entice voters to throw their support behind them.

Justin Trudeau has had a pretty good ride since he was crowned Liberal Party Leader last year. The Harper Government has been dealing with several scandals and missteps, and for a while Trudeau was simply playing it safe through vague policy mentions and a public ‘aw shucks’ image. His initial ads were strong in the sense that they correctly predicted the strategy of the CPC when he was elected as leader; that Trudeau was an intellectual lightweight who was ‘in over his head’. By anticipating this strategy, the LPC took the wind out of the sails of the conservatives who were left looking like a party without any serious ideas of their own, especially when trying to brand a leader who clearly had them spooked.

Below is the latest ad from the Liberal Party of Canada.


Style: I am not privy to who is producing political ads these days for the major parties, but whoever they are they need help, stat. This ad feels like an internal corporate video, from the lackluster voiceover to the Casio soundtrack playing in the background. The stock photos of Trudeau do not match the contents of the script, as if the editing did not take any time at all to match the words with the context conveyed in the images and video. Plus, the back and forth between Trudeau delivering a speech to the voiceover is hard to pull off. This ad is a cut and paste job masquerading as an inspirational 30 second spot.

Message: Trudeau’s strong suit is that he is not a staunch, old, stereotypical politician and he attracts young voters. This ad touches almost none of those key selling points. It appears to be directed towards the flexibly-defined ‘middle class Canadians’; the ones with kids, jobs, retirement savings….you know, almost everybody. But the ad begins by telling us there are new, positive ideas in the works, and it ends without reconciling what those new ideas are or how they differentiate from the other parties’ positions.

Effectiveness:  Similar to the ad Tim Hudak used to launch his campaign, Trudeau tries to firebomb every voter in one 30 second spot, but may have missed his target entirely. This is a feel good ad, but it’s the same-old strategy that plays it safe by being deliberately ambiguous while attempting to inspire votes. Ambiguity is not inspiring, and this is the first time we’ve seen Trudeau slide into the branding his opponents have already assigned to him. Namely, that the young leader is vague about policies and specifics.

Grade: C+

Manufacturing Outrage: The Justin Trudeau ‘Selfie”

dynamic_resizeThis is a the first of a weekly entry into the most sensationalized story of the week in Canadian politics.     By:  James Di Fiore  

 

It takes a special kind of tabloid, the partisan slanty stuff, to make my Dumb-dar kick into ludicrous speed, detecting the invented and highly ideological spin pertaining to Justin Trudeau.

And that’s a steep slope to climb if you are keeping score. Yes, the sometimes precocious one liners from ‘Justin’ often come off as misguided or un-PR, there’s no doubt. But immovable ideologues – that is to say those who will never, ever vote un-Conservative, are playing the kind of PR game where the sole tactic is to smear, animate and distort. ‘Trudeau,’ say the sensible flame throwers of the right, ‘is a commie-loving, dim-witted and privileged miscreant, whose father, incidentally, destroyed the country through his anti-western hatred!’ (that’s right HATRED!!)

‘Roar’!

Justin Trudeau stopped to take a few photos on the way to the Jim Flaherty funeral. But, the vitriolic flag bearers have spun it by relentlessly publicizing the word ‘selfie’. Apparently they get their advice on slang from tweens, seeing as these are merely first person photographs. It’s also worth mentioning the other politicians who stopped for photographs and interviews: John Tory, Jason Kenney, Peter MacKay, Stockwell Day, Rob Ford and various other politicians. Those are just the ones I witnessed personally.

Jack Layton’s funeral never resulted in people chomping at the bit for the smiles, photographs and interviews that were taken that day. Wait, my bad. Yes they were. The feel-good tributes were simply too much for the same rodeo clowns who are moaning about selfies today. This method of deliberately enraging the electorate is shameful. And yes the left aren’t exactly innocent in the age where everything is public relations.

Existing on the airwaves and digital frequencies are a customized, post-contextualized spin of recorded soundbites and images. It’s becoming noticeable, and it needs to stop. Remember, selfies are just photographs taken by the person who owns the camera. Nothing more. So if those are inappropriate, then every photograph and digital video are too.

Exclusive Video: Ezra Levant Accuses Justin Trudeau of Siding With Dictators

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Right Wing Commentator Makes Inflammatory Comments During His Defamation Trial

By: James Di Fiore

Ezra Levant took another shot at Justin Trudeau outside a Toronto courthouse today where the commentator was wrapping up his defamation trial. In true Levant form, he accused the Liberal leader of “siding with dictators”, referring to an interview given to Iranian journalists where Trudeau criticized Prime Minister Stephen Harper for pandering to ethnic communities for votes at the ballot box.

Levant was pressed after several prominent Jewish leaders backtracked on their initial criticism of Trudeau after they were emailed by the Huffington post to expand on their original comments. He continued to accuse Trudeau of pandering to voting groups but eventually conceded that Trudeau was not an anti-Semite, a rare admission from the pundit who is known for his tar and feathering tactics, especially against non-conservatives.

It’s The Thomas Mulcair Show

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By: James Di Fiore

Before 2013, Question Period was considered the ultimate in Ottawa grandstanding. The opposition would stand up, bellow out a cynical commentary followed by a question laced with bias and contempt for the government. Then, the government representative stood up, deflected the crux of the question with a transitional phrase, pivot towards an evasive response and end with an old man zinger against the opposition. And on and on it went.

So yes, the House of Commons is and always has been considered political theatre. It isn’t Stratford, however. Hell, it isn’t even a grade school play. It’s an exhausting display of political cynicism conducted by our beloved elected leaders who used to seek comfort in the fact that hardly anyone ever tuned in.

Thanks to Thomas Mulcair, Canadians are now tuning in. And they like about half of what they see.

Mulcair has decided to do away with the traditional redundant theatre and has opted for a more prosecutorial style of quizzing the prime minister. Gone are the self serving digs and slanted PR questions, replaced with pointed, deliberate inquisitions meant to make Harper look unclothed when he answers as if the old game was still being played. That’s the rub. He’s the only one trying to cling to how Question Period was conducted before Mulcair changed the game.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau hasn’t followed suit, perhaps because he does not want to appear like a rookie clinging to the coattails of his rival. But Trudeau’s lack of QP gusto only makes Mulcair’s tactics look even more impressive. Trudeau would be better served coming up with his own standout strategy while in the House, even if it does elevate Mulcair’s influence. Hell, if Trudeau really is a new kind of politician, one who is not afraid to be polite and cordial to the competition, then he would gladly join Mulcair in his quest to make Harper look like an evasive thief rather than a statesman. In fact, Trudeau should publicly tell Canadians he supports the new style of interrogation as it would reinforce his apparent puppies and rainbows strategy.

Then he should promptly drop the puppies and rainbows strategy.

Trudeau might be pleased with the polls, but Mulcair is no lightweight. He knows Canadians are watching the House closer than ever before, and he knows the reason is him. Therefore, every day that goes by where Trudeau looks like it’s his first Christmas sitting at the adult table is a day where his Liberals remain stagnant in the polls, as they have been for a month already.

If you can’t beat them, copy them…then give credit where it’s due.

Harper VS Trudeau – Canadians Want a Fight

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Conservatives in Canada could learn a tough lesson over the next 2 years. If the past month taught them anything, and there is no evidence to say it has, it should be as follows: do not blow the dust off the same old political playbook you have been recycling for half a dozen elections. There is something demonstrably different about this political cycle.

His name is Justin Trudeau. And no, he is not a proven leader whatsoever.

He is not the Canadian Barack Obama. Trudeau is a privileged trust fund kid who is just beginning to shed his precocious image, and at age 41 being precocious is not a favorable quality. He over annunciates his words, he sometimes refers to himself in the third person and his off the top banter is often ill advised. All that being said, his arrival happens to coincide with some of the most interesting political caveats the country has ever seen.

First and foremost, young people are becoming engaged. This has always been something conservatives feared, but the old adage is true; young people, for the most part, lean left. Always have, always will. The 2010 Calgary Mayoral election was the start of a brand new idea in electoral campaigns. Grass roots strategies reinforced a savvy, online presence that was not just directed towards younger voters, but executed by young people as well. Naheed Nenshi’s campaign ought to be in political science textbooks across the country. Trudeau knows this and has added something Nenshi did not have; name recognition and celebrity status.

Secondly, the recent presidential elections south of the border has made Canadians universally repulsed by dirty politics. We don’t just dislike ominous music, grainy footage and quotes taken out of context, we find it to be fundamentally un-Canadian and lacking even moderate ethics.

So when the conservatives released their first attack ad against Trudeau most people were expecting something to snooker the newly elected leader, something he couldn’t run from. Namely, himself. But instead of a savvy attack ad spotlighting Trudeau’s inexperience or rookie status, the conservatives opted for a misleading collage of half truths, cheap shots and blatant dishonesty. They did adjust their playbook from the days when they hammered Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, only they went in the wrong direction.

If the conservatives were playing baseball, this strategy of mocking the young Liberal leader would be akin to trying to execute the hidden ball trick. Sure, they may fool their opponents and the fans once in a while, but if everyone is expecting the same trick all the time, how successful will it be in the long run?

Meanwhile, Thomas Mulcair and the NDP are coming apart at the seams. Unlike the conservatives who are mildly concerned about the impact of Trudeau’s leadership, the NDP are frustrated at the prospect of their popularity lasting just one election cycle. When Trudeau made his first appearance at Question Period, Mulcair tried to overshadow the youngster by frantically screaming his inquiries about the temporary foreign workers issue, and by doing so he slid nicely into the exact generalizations his enemies have branded him with since he became leader; he’s angry, unstable and arrogant. You can now add ‘spooked’ to that list.

Not to be outdone, Harper managed to squander a golden opportunity to expose Trudeau’s lack of experience in the aftermath of the recent bombings in Boston. Trudeau sloppily pontificated about the motives and mindset of the bomber(s) saying “But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded.” This was a gaffe. Not only was it too soon to ponder the broader question of societal exclusion, or even mental illness, after all there was no suspect at the time of his interview. But it also showed Trudeau’s lack of statesmanship. But rather than take the high road and offer unsolicited advice to his young counterpart, a move that would have made Harper seem less wooden then he normally does (the backdrop of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral would have been a bonus too), he politicized the act of terror by accusing Trudeau of rationalizing the killings. In case you need a refresher on American politics, Harper’s statement was one knee-jerk away from saying Trudeau had emboldened the terrorists. It was a missed opportunity, for sure, but it was so much more than that. It punctuates a long term problem for a government who overtly disrespects everything about their rivals and reveals the mind of a Prime Minister who may be past his prime. He seems, for all intents and purposes, out of ideas.

It also doesn’t help to have your parliamentary mouthpiece oversimplify global terrorism. Pierre Poilievre, a normally articulate conservative MP, wanted to punctuate the idea that terrorists should not be coddled. The problem? Nobody said they should. Additionally, every intelligence agency on the planet believes in finding the root causes of terrorism. This technique is Tea Party politics in its purest form. What Poilievre was really doing, especially when he doubled down on that statement in the House the next day, was deliberately watering down the electorate by simplifying terrorism into a good VS evil context. In short, the conservatives do not trust Canadians with details. Trudeau, while silly for being so quick to opine about root causes, Forrest Gumped the conservatives through his gaffe and accidentally forced them to reply through several gaffes of their own.

A simple way to take the wind out of Trudeau’s sail immediately is for the Harper government to go positive. If Trudeau predicts more attack ads, hit the airwaves with your government’s success stories instead. If Trudeau stumbles during question period, don’t smirk with glee but ignore it and answer the question. The more Trudeau looks like he has a secret copy of the conservative playbook, the more attractive his leadership becomes.

One guarantee over the next two years will be Trudeau’s broken promise of not going negative. He genuinely believes he can win without attacking Harper, a monumental error in judgment. He has the opportunity to attack differently from his rivals who are stuck in a time warp where overly simplistic, inaccurate ads hit hard and resonate. They don’t. Not anymore. The only people responding to the school yard ads where facts don’t matter are the base of the conservative party and over the hill consultants who haven’t been relevant since Bob Rae was premiere of Ontario. And for all intents and purposes, this base has exactly zero influence on the rest of Canada. The conservative movement has relied on a peculiar strategy regarding their most loyal supporters; misinformation and ignorance. The last Alberta election spotlighted this disconnect when the far-right Wild Rose Party were trounced by the Progressive Conservatives. Even in Alberta, the bastion of conservativeness in Canada, people were gun shy to throw their votes behind climate change denying, uncomfortably religious people who more closely resembled the worst of the Tea Party movement rather than the best of Canadiana.

This country simply does not have the market necessary to move in a direction where science doesn’t matter, where sloganeering replaces substance and where condescension trumps respect for voters. This is Canada. We believe in man made global warming. We believe in evidence based policies. We believe marketing ploys should only be used when selling products we don’t need. But we do need leadership.

And if you are Justin Trudeau, stop pretending you are still getting to know Canadians. We got it. We get you. Now tell us your ideas or lose us forever.

And for heaven’s sake, put the boxing gloves back on and let’s see a fight.

Harper, Trudeau and Canadian Political Theater

If Trudeau wins leadership the next election will be the first of its kind

By: James Di Fiore

Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau all of a sudden have a lot in common: they are both starring in new roles in an old theater, Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Harper is currently king, but his new role will be a majority government incumbent.Trudeau plays the role of the prince looking for the same crown his father once wore. It’s all very theatrical, don’t you know.

The scripts for both sides are being written, ancillary issues are being considered and then discarded or approved. Real-time scandals and audience polling carve out the plot. Remembering your lines is crucial. In Canadian politics, this is going to be about as entertaining as it gets.

Harper and Trudeau both have clear strengths in opposite disciplines. You won’t see the prime minister waxing poetic to a throng of youthful supporters, just as you won’t see Trudeau giving a speech about how interest rates and subsidies help foster growth in energy sector commodities. These differences are stark and may prove to be a generational difference pitting the young against baby boomers and seniors. At least, that’s what Harper is hoping for. Conservatives at all levels of government in Canada have something other than faux fiscal conservatism in common; they all believe in the tried and true theory that young people will always be apathetic. It never fails. Until recently, that is.

In 2010, Calgary mayoral candidate Naheed Nenshi was looking like a 2nd or even 3rd place finisher. All pundits and pollsters saw conservative Ric McIvor as the front runner. About two weeks before the election I had a meet and greet with McIvor and his chief campaign adviser. I asked the adviser how they plan on mobilizing the youth vote. He replied emphatically “We aren’t. They never show up.” Two weeks later Nenshi won the election, and all the pundits, including Nenshi himself, credited his victory to mobilizing young people with grass roots tactics and inspirational dialogue. The campaign should be in text books and considered required reading for every political science student in the country.

And while federal and municipal politics are worlds apart, the overriding lesson is still the same: if you speak to them, they will vote. We can already see Canadian conservatives preemptively brand Trudeau as an unproven messiah being propped up by bleeding hearts and hippies. This shows both the cynicism and desperation of staunch conservatives who genuinely despise Trudeau but understand he still may win an election for the Liberals. It’s a schizophrenic existence to believe your political rival is both unqualified and a serious contender.

Meanwhile, Harper is still in the honeymoon stage of his first majority government. More omnibus bills are being drafted, more environmental regulations are being scrapped and more scrutiny is being lofted towards the government in the form of tainted meat and abortion debates. Forever the pragmatist, Harper knows his reign cannot sustain itself through polarizing social issues or defensive posturing. He has a tangible problem right now: how do I feed red meat to my base, maintain crucial support and continue to be perceived as governing from the center? The answer is the same now as it was in 2006 when Harper won his first minority government: rely on voter apathy while incrementally indoctrinating Canadians to the conservative fold. It is not only an uphill climb, it’s also very unrealistic. When you lead a country to a majority government with just 39% of the popular vote, you have a shaky majority. And while electoral reformers see this as evidence to support ideas like proportional representation, the reality is this kind of majority government is difficult to maintain.

All of this posturing and media driven showdown may look like it leaves Thomas Mulcair out in the cold. The conventional wisdom is as follows: Mulcair needs to block the Liberals from eating up seats in Quebec while growing party support in Ontario. Trudeau could be problematic for Mulcair if he can charm Quebeckers into coming back to the Liberal fold, and Harper is quietly relying on the vote being split in a province where he is enormously unpopular. Naturally, this potential reality makes merger talk behind the scenes more prevalent, an annoyance to party faithfuls who still have hope in ideology or their party’s historical importance for the country.

There is one dormant caveat Trudeau is thinking about constantly. If the youth can become inspired enough to shed their apathy and become engaged in politics, he will change the political landscape in Canada, at least for one election. Like Nenshi in Calgary, Trudeau needs to inspire young people, give them a seat at the political table and tap into the moderate wings of student unions and the Occupy movements. A measured approach to both these demographics is a tight-wire act and a tough task for any politician, especially a relative rookie on the national scene. However, perhaps Trudeau is the first Canadian politician we have seen who has the ability to throw roses to all sides without coming off as pandering. Or, perhaps his efforts will be seen as opportunistic and without substance, echoing Trudeau’s current critics who already believe the heir apparent is in way over his head.

But it all makes for great theater.