The sultan of smug

$(KGrHqVHJFYFGWZ7FSOoBRuQjvVlCQ--60_35With apologies to Babe Ruth, the Great Bambino, but there was, a few weeks ago, a very good opinion piece by Andrew MacDougall, Prime Minister Harper’s former communications director, in the Ottawa Citizen, in which he says, that we should not be quite so smug,  “We would do well to stand “the world needs more Canada” on its head …

Canada's PM Trudeau listens to a question from a journalist during an event at a restaurant in Gatineau

… he says, “to read “Canada isn’t doing enough.” You will not find a more privileged or fortunate place to live than Canada, and it’s foolish to think our advantages of geography can be exported to countries facing radically different pressures. A little humility would make our important message to our friends in Europe on integration and frictionless borders more palatable … [and] … What else can the government do? Whatever it can to get our economy back on track. It’s hard to wield influence if you can’t pay for it. It’s hard to be welcoming if people don’t feel secure about their own futures. The journey to nativism is shorter than you think. There are pockets of Canada that are struggling in ways the opinion-makers in cities are not. Trudeau must keep his ear to their ground … [but] … Whatever we do, we mustn’t become the guy who was born on third base thinking he hit a triple. The world doesn’t need that Canada.

But, evidently, Canadians don’t agree. Recent polling says that, after 10 months in office, a solid plurality of Canadians, and majorities in vote rich Ontario and in Atlantic Canada …

2016-07

… still prefers Justin Trudeau’s Liberals to any other party.

Prime Minister Trudeau has every right to feel smug … for now.

But, just for a few examples:

  • Both the Conservatives and the NDP will, eventually, have new leaders and new platforms that will challenge the Butts-Telford-Trudeau-Wynne narrative;
  • Team Trudeau will, soon, have to start explaining away broken and contradictory promises ~ think, just for example, an “open competition” that, somehow, excludes the F-35;
  • If we go on UN peacekeeping missions in Africa things will, I 99% guarantee it, go wrong and Trudeau will risk looking like a naive fool;
  • Nothing he does ~ no number of inquiries, no amounts of money ~ will ever satisfy some First Nations and most Canadians will, sooner, rather than later, get fed up with the whole thing; and
  • Canadians are, properly, nervous about deficit financing.

On the issues of “doing enough,” defence spending will rear its ugly head despite the fact that the ongoing Defence Review will keep it “off the table” for a year or so. The Liberals face, as Prof Bob Martyn (Queens University) points out in one chapter of a new book called Going to War? : Trends in Military Interventions (which I discussed yesterday) a dilemma. Canadians, he notes: are risk averse, war weary (after the Balkans and a dozen years in Afghanistan), and unwilling to spend on defence because they cannot see any existential threat to Canada. But, the Liberals promised to rebuild the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force but there is, simply, not anywhere near enough money in a defence budget that the Trudeau regime is loath to increase C4FrYaJto keep those promises. The Liberals swept every single seat in Atlantic Canada in some part because they promised to build new ships to replace the 40 years old, rusting out fleet we have ~ one that is rapidly shrinking as ships are scrapped. They won some seats because they promised to, somehow, “fix” the F-35 debacle (which has Dunne_1---Lockheed-Martin-F-35_Lightning_IIs2011-09-30nothing to do with the merits of the aircraft, it is all about confused and even dishonest or ignorant cost guesstimates by the cabinet, the Parliamentary Budget Office, corporations, the media and the military). But now they have to find ways to wiggle out of contradictory promises to Canadians, likely by deciding that Canada will not, at least not in any Liberal future, deploy fighter jets overseas to e.g. NATO missions. The plot appears to be to buy just enough “interim” fighters to meet our North American air defence (NORAD) commitments for a generation or so. The problem will be “punted” downfield, 7PoZvKgWxtpSQZr_j1h6Cg5rrzAB2DaMYz3gGAASQriwonce again “off the table.” (I expect some similar “solution” to the shipbuilding issue: too few to do the jobs that need doing.) They also won some votes by promising to do peacekeeping in Africa, despite (I am also 99% certain) having no idea of how “complex [and] often vicious,” as Prof Martyn describes them, peacekeeping missions can be in the 21st century. All of these things, related to just one “envelope,” will start to haunt Prime Minister Trudeau before the 2019 election.

The Canada that the world “needs” more of is one that can face and resolve those issues, not one that hides from them. We are, indeed, a fortunate nation and many, at home and abroad, believe that we need to do more because we are so fortunate.

It would be ironic, I think, if defence, an issue about which I believe Justin Trudeau knows nothing and cares even less, were to be the one that cracks the smug veneer that is, in his rookie year, the defining characteristic of his government.

But, Prime Minister Trudeau can feel smug, now, he’s earned that … but it will not last and I expect that he and his photogenic cabinet will start to look lass and less able to Canadians. It didn’t take much for Team Trudeau to:

  • persuade many young Canadians to come out an vote for a young, attractive, charismatic leader who promised change;
  • shift some votes from, mainly, the NDP to the Liberals; and
  • persuade some Conservatives to stay home …

… it will not take much for the right Conservative leader to do something similar:

  • persuade many young Canadians to vote for a new, young, attractive, charismatic leader who has a solid, experienced, competent team behind her/him;
  • remind the NDP voters why “strategic voting” never works for them; and
  • re-energize the “big tent” Conservative party …

… so, enjoy it while you can, M. Trudeau.

One thought on “The sultan of smug”

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