Greg Weston, a former journalist and now a principal at the Earnscliffe Strategy Group, suggested, over a week ago, on CTV‘s Power Play, that the October election may come down to which of the CPC and LPC can sling the most mud at the other leader. The election, he says, “if one party can make it about the other leader [then] that’s who will probably win this election.“
We can already see the outlines of a Liberal strategy which says, ‘OK, maybe we’re not as good as you hoped we would be, but Andrew Scheer is a Christian fundamentalist, white supremacist bigot who will take an axe to the social safety net and put troops on our streets.’ We can also see the outlines of a Conservative strategy which says that Justin Trudeau is a weak, unprincipled, ethically corrupt prime minister who has broken almost every promise he ever made to Canadians and alienated former friends and allies around the world.
The Liberal Party seems, to me, to be devoid of new ideas ~ Bill Morneau’s budget was pretty unimaginative for an election year. I’m not too surprised. The Liberal team, Team Trudeau, was full of newcomers, most of whom did not, in 2015, and still do not, now, have a vision for Canada beyond not being like Stephen Harper. They came in with a handful of Big Ideas: being bold on climate change, for example … but then they adopted Stephen Harper’s targets and now Environment Minister McKenna admits that we can only meet those if everyone switches to an electric car. They also promised an end to the first-past-the-post election system, but that fell apart when it became evident that they were only interested in one alternative. They promised to run a few small deficits and return to a balanced but in 2019; it looks like the budget will come in with another $15 Billion deficit. They delivered on a promise to decriminalize marijuana.
I suspect that Gerald Butts and Katie Telford expected that the civil service would be, as it so often has been in the past, a fount of liberal/progressive ideas. But, despite the enthusiasm with which many junior civil servants greeted the arrival of Justin Trudeau, my sense is that in the senior ranks, amongst the so-called ‘Mandarins‘ there was and remains considerable unease with Justin Trudeau and his ministry. Despite the fact that one can argue that running deficits in order to borrow when interest rates are low in order to fund long-term infrastructure programmes, is a good policy, the Liberals borrowed too much (higher than promised deficits) and spent like drunken sailors on programmes of little value to Canada. Similar tendencies were displayed in portfolio after portfolio and I think that many senior public servants miss Stephen Harper.
But the Conservatives have yet to offer Canadians a real alternative. There are promises to cut the carbon tax, but not much else. Now, the time to roll out the platform may not be until after Labour Day, when Canadians wake up from a long, hot summer and start to decide who will get their votes in October … I’m sure there are better political strategists than I surrounding Andrew Scheer.
Until then it seems that we will be treated to a mud-slinging match as the Liberals try to tar Andrew Scheer as a white supremacist and the Conservatives try to brand Justin Trudeau as a nincompoop and a congenital liar.
I, personally, find that a rather sad prospect; I would much prefer an election fought on issues and won by Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives because they offer Canadians a whole range of better policy choices.