Now that the Liberal Convention is over the media critiques begin. There is an interesting article in the Hill Times which cites an unnamed Liberal who said: ““Just look at the time since we formed government, you take out the self-inflicted wounds, we have done very well” … [and] … This source and other Liberal sources referred to some of the mistakes the government has made since winning a majority in 2015, including the mishandling of corporate tax changes; the controversial attestation for the Canada Summer Jobs Program; Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s (Toronto Centre, Ont.) initially not placing his assets into a blind trust; the gaffe-plagued India trip; and Prime Minister Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.) inappropriate vacation to the Aga Khan’s private island in 2016, which is still being talked about two years later.“
Another Liberal spoke about “the government’s $7-billion Treasury Board request for a reserve fund to implement initiatives announced in the budget and inform Parliament about the details later is another problem. Sources said the government is giving an opportunity to the opposition parties to attack them because the Liberals went after the Conservatives in 2009 … [and] … “It’s mind-boggling to me. I was under the impression that the people at the top have learned their lessons, but, I guess, I was wrong,” another former senior Liberal said … [and, further] … Several former senior Liberals, MPs, and rank- and-file delegates told The Hill Times that their party is wasting a lot of political capital in managing these uncalled for mistakes and said they shouldn’t happen in the first place.“
The fact that some many Liberals are speaking out suggests, to me, one of two things, either:
- The Liberal Team is in serious trouble because it has cast aside its experienced, professional base; or
- Team Trudeau has wakened up and is using the media “back channel” to tell party members that it has seen the error of its ways and will grow up.
I might hope for the first but my money is on the second.
It appears, from a story on the CTV News website that Finance Minister Bill Morneau is taking (some) ownership of the Kinder Morgan/pipelines file ~ this may be a recognition that the Trudeau brand is blemished and that the prime minister does not have the . necessary “social licence” to either impose his will on BC or pacify Alberta. The solution may be to have Morneau take the blame until the next election.
There is a lot ~ never ending deficits, broken promises, costumed antics ~ that Canadians will hav to either forget or ignore in October 2019 if they are going to re-elect a Liberal government, but that is not an insurmountable hurdle … Canadians regularly, and willingly suspend rational thought in order to elect charisma over character.
It looks like the Liberals plan to move even farther left, keeping most of the young and progressive vote out of Jagmeet Singh’s hands and while that will worry the moderate (Manley) Liberals, they will keep them in check by running against the ghost of Stephen Harper and they will be able to do that because Andrew Scheer, while largely unknown, still, is a “nice guy” who has not put his own stamp on the Conservative Party.
Meanwhile, in the Globe and Mail, John Ibbitson, who recently said that ““Justin Trudeau’s handling of the Trans Mountain pipeline issue will decide the fate of his government. Nothing else is this important − not deficits-for-infrastructure, not legalizing cannabis, not the refugee situation, not even trade and NAFTA,”” now says that while “A year and a half before the next election, the Liberals are in decent shape. They have big trade wins with the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. They can point to pension improvements, a more-progressive tax and child-care system, funding for infrastructure, a national carbon tax to fight climate change and the Syrian refugee airlift, one of Canada’s proudest hours … [they face] … three major challenges. Failure on any one of them could fatally undermine public confidence in the Liberals’ ability to run the country.“
The three challenges that he sees now are:
- “Securing a renewed North American free-trade Agreement;”
- The Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain pipeline where, he says, “the Liberals have a lot of eggs and not much basket;” and
- “A third challenge [which is] is emerging, on the border. Last year, more than 20,000 people crossed from the United States into Canada by avoiding regular crossing points. Thanks to a legal loophole, by committing this illegal act, they stood a better chance of being accepted as refugees than if they showed up at a proper crossing. Mr. Trudeau may have worsened the situation when he tweeted in January, 2017: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.” It seemed like an open invitation to those fleeing the deportation efforts of the Trump administration.“
I have written a lot about all three and I am especially pleased to see that Michelle Rempel has tabled a motion to try to force the government to do something about the last item. She is displaying real leadership and is doing what Conservatives need to do over the next 15+ months: making concrete proposals to effect the kinds of changes that Canadians really want. Mt Ibbitson says that Mr Scheer should revel in the challenge of being “Stephen Harper 2.0” because “Although Mr. Harper lost the 2015 election, the Conservatives didn’t do badly, securing 32 per cent of the vote, less than eight points behind the Liberals, with at least decent representation everywhere outside Atlantic Canada. In almost a decade as prime minister, Mr. Harper established the Conservatives as a governing party, one that is in the running to win any given election, depending on the fortunes of political war. He did that by making conservatism coherent. Harper Conservatives support low taxes and balanced budgets. They are strict on law and order, while steering clear of hot-button social issues. They’re not anti-environment; it just isn’t a high priority. They don’t interfere in provincial jurisdictions. They encourage legal immigration while coming down hard on bogus refugee claims. They support the Western Alliance, oppose Russia and keep China at a respectful distance.” Some Canadians, perhaps even 20% of them, will never, ever vote Conservative, for almost 20% the CPC is far too far “right” and “Stephen Harper 2.0” is a curse, while for 2.5% the CPC is too moderate, but many, sometimes even most of the over 70% of Canadians who are in the moderate middle (or who are a bit right of centre) are “available” to be persuaded to vote Conservative IF the party offers reasonable solutions to the problems that matter. There are a whole hockey sock full of issues ~ from abortion rights through the Arctic and ballistic missile defence to the environment, First Nations, free trade, immigration, India and all the way through to peacekeeping, pipelines, transportation policy and zebra mussels ~ that matter and on which the Conservatives need to have sensible, practical, understandable and popular policies.
The Liberals are not going to keep on making the same mistakes over and over and over again. Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent trip to Paris and London was a success … sober suits and no juvenile antics. They have made mistakes but they will learn from them. The question is: will the Conservatives learn, too? And will they learn enough to turn voters’ affections away from Team Trudeau? The jury is out on both questions.