Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Reform Act: Much Ado About Nothing

Almost everyone agrees, our political system is in need of fundamental, substantive repair.  Within that generalized view, there is a pre-disposed attraction to "reforms".   I would actually offer up the frenzied initial response to the mere mention of Michael Chong's looming "Reform Act", as proof of the serious undercurrent for change that exists within Canadian political circles.   It was quite heartening to see an otherwise apathetic political environment stir to life when talk emerged of a reform bill that would address some current ills.

Fast forward to the actual Reform Act tabled this week by Mr. Chong and I wonder what all the fuss was really about.  A scant eight page document-minus the padding- a few paragraphs of note at best.  I see nothing particularly revolutionary, or better put, progressive in nature.  On balance Chong's proposals offer a net neutral outcome at best, if one is truly committed to more representative, responsive and accountable democracy.

I support local riding associations deciding who runs under a party banner, without any interference from the party leader or the larger party apparatus.  Chong is spot on with this proposal, primarily because removing the paternal oversight allows for a more pronounced grassroots democratic expression.  If local ridings decide on a rogue representative that is their choice, parties must deal with these realities and there is nothing to preclude a leader from distancing themselves from this undesirable representation.  Political parties aren't monoliths, people have differing points of view, we should never fear democratic inputs, plenty of ways to still marginalize if certain rogue positions find concrete manifestation.

Now the problem with Chong's Reform Act.  This idea of allowing MP's the power to turf a Prime Minister completely, utterly, contradicts the spirit outlined in the previous paragraph.  The grassroots should have ultimate say on who represents them, but that same grassroots that ELECTED a leader is now rendered meaningless, replaced with a small cadre of MP's who can override their choice.  How anyone can reconcile the conflicting philosophical tenets escapes me, Chong essentially gives and takes from the grassroots with his proposals, and in essence creates a total wash in terms of thrust.

Our political system already has this incredibly inclusive process called a "leadership review", wherein rank and file, as well as MP's cast votes on the fitness of their leaders to continue.  Perhaps we need more frequent leadership reviews, but we certainly don't need MP's replacing the grassroots in determining who leads, that is elitist and above all paternal, which contradicts other "reforms".

Further, I don't want a system where poll gazing MP's consume themselves with reactionary considerations, as we've recently seen in Australia.  The modern political reality already spends an exorbitant amount of time on polling, all Chong does is introduce another mechanism for poll chasing politics.  As well, the potential for power plays, political gamesmanship, one can only imagine this tenet in place during the Chretien years.   I see no evolution with this proposal, in fact taking away the grassroots ultimate say is regression.

Removing caucus chairs tepid stuff, voting on inclusion or explusion of MP's a yawner on the grand scheme, basically a lot of attached rhetoric to elevate marginal "reform".  Chong's Reform Act is a tertiary distraction, which risks unnecessarily appeasing our desire for real change should this pass (and I suspect it will given the overarching simplistic narratives, desire to be attached to change).

The Reform Act doesn't even offer a consistent narrative, it gives and takes if one looks beyond MP's as sole democratic input.  In the end, the much hyped "Reform Act" is disappointingly thin, unimaginative in its desire to simply replicate other flawed jurisdictions and above all will have little practical impact.  Better than nothing as they say, but not much...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Congratulations to Nancy "Impolitical" Leblanc

The rumors are true, Nancy Leblanc is running for the Ontario Liberals in Parkdale-High Park.  I wish Nancy the best of luck in this new adventure, she will be an asset to the Ontario Liberals should she be successful in this endeavour.  I've known Nancy for awhile, she's a class act, earnest, thoughtful, challenging, strong, principled and determined.   Her blog Impolitical was a must read, her early adoption of twitter a testament to her social media sauvy, Nancy has been an online trailblazer.  Nancy has also been a tireless worker within the Liberal ranks,  which I've always admired and respected.

You Liberals are lucky to have her! Nancy Leblanc


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Trudeau Should Ignore The Media

I see we are entering that predictable phase in an opposition leaders tenure where pundits begin clamoring for "substance", "policy", the familiar lament.   Under normal circumstances,  a politician would be wise to ignore the bait, resist offering anything resembling a platform prematurely.  In the case of someone like Justin Trudeau, the pressure should be non-existent, because this isn't your average opposition leader.

The only argument for putting out policy early that carries weight for me is to help "define" an unknown quantity.  Opposition leaders are, in many cases, blank slates, barely recognizable to the average Canadian, so you could argue pumping out policy gives shape, definition.  Even in this instance, there are plenty of pitfalls in releasing too much "substance", because truth be told your audience is distracted and your opponents are keen to corner, label, define themselves.  A certain ambiguity does have upside, after all the role of opposition is to oppose, not lead.  It's a tricky proposition, what to release, how much to release, pros and cons, no question.

Justin Trudeau is not the typical opposition leader.  We have "known" Trudeau since he was a kid, he has been in the public eye throughout his life.  This reality means many had opinions of Justin, good and bad, prior to his ascension to Liberal leader.  In other words, Trudeau doesn't need to "introduce" himself to Canadians in the traditional sense, his celebrity is unique in this regard.  Within that then, this idea that Trudeau must put out policy is somewhat a non starter for me, because many of the arguments don't apply here.

I note, Trudeau and his new economic team floated some ideas yesterday.  Obviously, Trudeau has also given out some policy with regards to marijuana.  Trudeau has spoke forcefully on Quebec, broad strokes often, but more than enough to shore up federalist credentials, as well as basic individual rights.   I would argue, Trudeau is going far enough for the time being, he needn't succumb to any pressure to get more detailed two years prior to an election.  The distracted electorate are getting a sense of Trudeau's direction, emphasis on transparity-even the marijuana angle comes with the bonus pledge of openness-something different, something new, those are the broad themes, plenty for now.

We've seen other opposition leaders get pressured into releasing detail, entering policy wonk territory.  We've also seen one day stories, only to see the "policy" then be mostly ignored, primarily because the media in general ARE NOT issue orientated, attention spans are short, new realities preclude protracted analysis.   The cries for policy are sincere, but the reality is the mediums are mostly incapable of "getting into it", so it's a fools game to get lost in the finer strokes.  Keep it general, develop broad themes, hammer simple lines, oppose then contrast, attack don't create targets, that's the name of the game as I see it in the new media world.

Stephen Harper came up with FIVE ideas in the 2006 election, it took onservatives 13 years to develop this scant list.  On top of the miniscule platform, some of it was simply gimmicky, knee jerk counters to highlight government Achilles heels, not a deep philosophical treatise.   I seem to recall Harper becoming Prime Minister, as I also recall "policy wonk" Dion getting hammered.  Justin Trudeau would be wise to ignore the media, comforted in the fact only diehards are engaged and the real fight is many, many months away.  Build the team, build the organization, pump up the fundraising, develop the platform behind closed doors, look credible in opposition, when the election nears, that is the time, certainly not now.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

PMO Hands Trudeau A Gift

Chalk me up as amongst the majority of Canadians who will yawn at the Trudeau charity "controversy".  About the only reinforcing fallout within this affair, Justin Trudeau isn't like other MP's, which is already well established within the Canadian psyche; as a matter of fact that is partially WHY people actually pay to listen to him.   Couple the "star factor" with the fact Trudeau does plenty of free charity work, I declare a manufactured outrage story that will fade into nothingness, with no impact whatsoever.

However, those over zealous PMO staffers are at it again, and in so doing have put the focus back on the "priorities" of the Harper government:
The Prime Minister’s office has sent information to The Barrie Advance regarding a money-losing speech Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made in Barrie in 2007. 
On Monday, PMO communications officer Erica Meekes sent The Advance details of an engagement that netted Trudeau a $10,000 fee, but left Georgian College with a $4,118 shortfall. The information was sent via email with the caveat it be referred to as coming from a “source,” not the PMO, when used.
There seems a strange obsession with all things third party leader in the PMO and Conservative Party.  Perhaps a full circle moment, as we all recall the attack ad that featured Trudeau RAISING MONEY for a good cause.   What this latest attempt to manipulate the news reveals, the PMO seems to have plenty of time on its hands, pouring over Trudeau materials, rather than growing the Canadian economy and whatnot.

Interestingly, I just saw a quick morning news show segment completely mocking the PMO for their messed up priorities, part of an unfortunate pattern, that ends up saying more about the messenger than the message.   The fact the event in question occurred prior to Trudeau even becoming a MP, all the more delicious in terms of triviality, pettiness and misguided focus.  In other words, you've blown it PMO, this Trudeau "story" is now lost in the partisan nastiness realm, a guaranteed tune out with the public, with the added bad taste left on your brand.

Enjoy, I'm sure today the PMO is back to "focusing on the economy like a laser beam", right after they pour over all their internal polls that show Trudeau is potentially poised to kick their sorry asses.  The attention towards Trudeau is telling indeed.... 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Harper's "Accountability" Contradiction

The Harper Conservatives have always had a strange notion of what constitutes "accountability".  Perhaps more bizarre, despite being the most restrictive, message controlling government we've seen, Conservatives still proudly tout their accountability to anyone who'll listen.   The disconnect seems to surround the belief that the "media"should play no role in our political arena, despite the irrefutable fact that- like it or not- the medium remains a conduit between government and public.

Harper blew it yesterday, because at the heart these Conservatives have a deep paranoia about the media, to the point they actually convince themselves a  one way, scripted, lame speech will suffice to put out a burning maelstrom that surrounds.  To the point of delusional, there is resistance to the obvious, namely a PUBLIC review of the Senate scandal.  Emboldened by past "ride out the clock" strategies when confronted with controversy, this mentality lead to the farcical staged event yesterday, that ultimately devolved into a red faced, SILENT, Prime Minister looking downright foolish as reporters barked out questions.

This is a Conservative government that cages up the media during election campaigns, spends millions to train public servant on the art of speaking publicly without saying anything and generally does everything in their power to avoid answering any questions, on any topic.   This government isn't accountable, it's obstructionist and secretive, every potentially controversial detail, on any topic, must be pried from their hands, never relenting or forthcoming.  Despite this nature, the Conservatives have been quite successful manipulating the message, stonewalling until attention spans wane, but within it clearly betraying this supposed accountability forever touted.  Again, Conservatives have deluded themselves, they aren't accountable at all, anyone that dare question their reign is throw under the bus, personally attacked, they have created an air of intimidation the likes of which Ottawa has never seen.

Today reporters get their rare opportunity to ask dear leader two questions about the biggest scandal to hit Harper's government.  It's a forced collision, Harper can't avoid answering questions forever, despite a deliberate attempt to do just that.   There was something inherently pathetic about yesterday, the Harper "speech", then followed by a no show in QP, wherein his chief underlining repeated the same line over and over, no matter the content of any question coming.  The anti-thesis of accountability, Harper seemingly needs to be taken kicking and screaming to answer the most basic of questions.

This regime rode into town under the accountability banner.  They passed some initial legislation, and every since then have conducted themselves in a way that contradicts any tenet of true accountability.  Propaganda, paranoia, avoidance, aversion, denial, withholding, you name it, it's there for all to see.   Time for Conservatives to confront the blue sky reality that pierces their delusional veneer, you're not accountable, you never have been, in fact you're an obstacle to the very idea.  The Duffy affair simply crystallizes to the Canadian public what the rest of us who follow intently already know.  FRAUD.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Liberals: Cash, Polls, Attacks

A bit of a grab bag post on all things Liberal.  With the usual "moment in time" caveat understood, these are still encouraging times for the Liberals.  

The polling shows more a surge than a "bounce", even more pronounced when interpreting the regionals.   The Liberals lead in Quebec, Atlantic Canada, Ontario, and noticeably upticking in British Columbia, a regional coalition that provides a clear path to power.  What is particularly noteworthy, Trudeau is VERY well known in Quebec, a fact which makes the Liberal resurgence all the more instructive.

Apparently the Conservative attacks ads are focused heavily on Ontario and Atlantic Canada.  The latest from Ipsos Reid brings a curious result:
Interestingly, among those who have seen the ads on television, 41 per cent said they intended to vote for the Liberals as compared to 32 per cent for the Conservatives and 21 per cent for the NDP. 
Support numbers were much closer among those who have not seen the ads, with the Liberals and Conservatives split at 31 per cent and New Democrats at 27 per cent 
Wright says the numbers indicate the ads may have actually helped the Liberals by having a handful of New Democrats “switch their soft support from the NDP to soft support for Justin Trudeau.”
It is true, that with attack ads, one is wise to take the long view which accessing true damage.  That said, when you actually see a divergence that suggests a complete backfire- more support for the Liberals amongst those that have viewed the ad- that needs to be incorporated as to ultimate effectiveness.  I said from the outset, I questioned the wisdom of showing your opponent in an attractive light, no matter the message.  Normally, attack ads show the target in darkened tones, odd postures, unflattering facial expressions, not buff and attractive, wherein some quietly say to themselves "wow, great hair", "nice abs".  If these ads aren't hitting their mark, colour me not surprised.  If these ads are actually helping the Liberals, as Ipsos shows empirically, what a colossal failure.

Stepping off from the ad itself, the implications for the Liberals.  Lost in the bizarre fascination with Trudeau's casual attire, the fact Liberals have raised an impressive 1 million since he took office.  As well, some vindication of the "supporter" category, with six thousand new donors.  Critics argued that this new category would be the ruin of political participation, representing little commitment, to which I say, there is nothing more concrete than CASH.   These numbers suggest the hope we could cement the relationship, after an initial "foot in the door" approach,  is bearing fruit.  I'm not sure why anyone believed Trudeau's supporters would just disappear after the leadership, considering they SUPPORT him.

I note these fundraising numbers only suggest Liberals are back in the game, relative to the Conservatives.  However, if that is the lament, Liberals will take it every time, as many of us remember being outpaced four or five times, for years.  If Liberals can achieve anything close to a fundraising saw off under Trudeau, it will represent a fundamental change in the dynamics of federal politics.  The early signs are quite encouraging...

Obviously, we are in the "honeymoon" period of Trudeau's leadership.  However, there are unique factors at play when it comes to Justin.  Trudeau IS a known quantity, at least on a personal level.  As well, in Quebec, his federalist views are very well incorporated, which makes the "surge" in that province all the more meaningful.  Truth be told, the NDP have been completely derailed by Trudeau.  My pre-leadership win contention that Mulcair never becomes Prime Minister with a Trudeau led Liberal Party looks less far fetched as we move forward.  Either we see vote splitting that brings another Harper mandate- Liberals eroding NDP support- or we see the Liberals win outright, as Trudeau most easily claims the "change" mantle, should we reach that phase of a regime.

A snapshot in time, for certain, but a relatively pretty picture, no doubt.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Liberals Return Fire

Kudos to the Liberal brain trust for the relatively rapid response to the Conservative attack ad.  Quite pleased in this corner, both because of the quick response, as well as the decision to pivot off the Conservative attack ad.  There is some risk with this particular approach, some will accuse Liberals of being "reactionary", but when you consider the angle Liberals are trying to cement, completely in line.

I argued last week that the Liberals would be wise to respond in kind to the Conservative ad.  Given we've already been told Trudeau will attempt the high road- offer a "different" approach that conveys a certain positivity- contrasting with the Conservatives is already a chosen narrative.  In using the Conservative ad, Liberals frame them as negative and petty, then the contrast with a positive message. 

We can argue about the impact of attack ads, general consensus is they "work", although there are degrees of effectiveness that preclude blanket proclamations.   With this particular attack ad, I submit a measure of blowback, no question, both in terms of coverage and response.   The Liberals set a record for fundraising with their "call to arms", the manifestation of which is the ability to air a healthy retort ad.

While people can argue that attack ads work, there is also ample evidence that Canadians don't like these ads.  We have this tension, people don't like the presentation, yet that presentation still impacts opinion.  With this apparent contradiction in play, the Trudeau ad is quite clever that will help it resonate.  The ad essentially asks the viewer if they are sick of attack ads and want something different?  This frame will find fertile ground, because we repeatedly tell pollsters we tire of negative politics, we seek a positive vision.  In using the Conservative ad, we actually do attack their approach to politics by contrasting ourselves, making an appeal for something different.

It remains to be seen if the Liberals positive approach can work, many shrewd operatives believe you have to go negative to be effective.  That said, one has to appreciate the mood of the country to correctly gauge how a campaign thrust will play.   There is little doubt, within Canadian politics people are completely and utterly turned off by the current state of affairs.  If that is the backdrop, than a presentation which attempts to break free of the status quo, challenge us to rise above certain standard operating procedures, that thrust may find a waiting audience.

In addition, let's not lose sight of another critical dynamic.  The Conservatives attacked the Liberals, the Liberals are now responding to the Conservatives, the dialogue surrounds this "fight".  Where are the NDP in this discussion, are they not being completely squeezed?  An added bonus of a Liberal ad, it keeps the frame within the two party exchange, which is a positive all day long for the Liberals.

I love the ad focus, I love the direct response to the Conservative frame attempt, I love that we have responded in short order.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Liberals Must Run Ads

Within an article on the Conservative attack ads, I note this particular line:
A Liberal insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said TV ads can get very expensive, very quickly. 
“I could see that Justin Over His Head ad being done for $20,000 in production value. It really is when you’re buying air time that it gets really expensive.” 
The insider said the Liberals are weighing the possibility of running pro-Justin Trudeau ads and, if they do, they would have to include the cost of ads that run in Labrador in their byelection spending if the ads run before Labrador residents go to the polls.
 In the last week, the Liberals have raised upwards of a half million dollars in reaction to the Conservative ads.  This money was solicited within the context of fighting back against the Conservatives.  To think that the Liberals are "weighing" the "possibility" of running our own ads seems an unnecessary discussion.  Of course the Liberals develop our own ads, and quickly I would submit.

To my mind, it's a complete no brainer proposition for the Liberals.  The actual expenditure of  any advertising buy is one consideration, but within that there is a large "free media" element that would accompany any release.  Where is the logic in denying yourself the opportunity to benefit from this "free media"?

In addition, if the Liberals are truly ready to take on the Conservatives, then we must instill some confidence that we have the capacity.  Many Liberals have seen past failures, no response to attack ads, a confirmation of our inability to compete, demoralizing, an optical nightmare.  Again the actual expenditure is perhaps secondary to the spirit conveyed.  You take a shot at our leader, we will open our wallets and respond with our own presentation, we will react in kind.  This money raised was given to "arm" the party, it would be disappointing to risk definition when we have the means to frame ourselves.

I also read that the Trudeau campaign are transferring a million dollars to the Liberal Party from their incredibly successful leadership run.  That campaign raised five times that of Thomas Mulcair, despite all the coronation, fait accompli talk.  In other words, Liberals have a leader that has the capacity to raise considerable cash, we've seen it during the leadership, we've now seen the biggest fundraising call in his first week, there is plenty of reason for future optimism.  The Liberals have to operate with some moxy moving forward, in fact that confidence will feed upon itself. 

Liberals still have a long way to go before we can go "dollar for dollar" with the Conservative juggernaut.  That said, Liberals are now in a position where we are no longer impotent and defenceless.  We can debate the tone of any Liberal ads, positive, negative, inspirational, factual, but there should be no hesitation that we need to RESPOND.   No need to "weigh", let's see some action.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Conservative Ad Backfires

When the dust settles, I suspect the controversial Conservative attack ads see little air time, they quietly go away.  We can debate the effectiveness of attack ads in general, but this particular attack  directed towards Trudeau has clearly turned into an optical failure.  There are certain practical indicators that trump opinion, when trying to ascertain just how an attack ad is resonating.  I submit this overwhelming response as proof positive this Conservative ad is blowing up in their low rent face:
 Conservative attack ads against Justin Trudeau have turned into a financial boon for the Liberal party. 
The party raised $336,000 in the 48 hours following Trudeau's landslide victory in the Liberal leadership race Sunday. 
Officials say that's more than double the party's previous top haul for an e-mail fundraising campaign. 
They say the donations poured in after two back-to-back mass email solicitations that urged Liberals to fight back against Conservative attacks. 
The first, sent out just as Trudeau was leaving the stage Sunday after delivering his acceptance speech, urged Liberals not to let the coming barrage of "negative and misleading attacks" drown out the new leader's "positive message of change." 
The second was issued Monday evening — shortly after the Conservatives launched three television ads featuring video from 2011 of Trudeau doing a mock strip-tease for a charity event.
A staggering number by any definition, this particular attack clearly hit a nerve and motivated people to donate(myself included).   As stated, the response was double any previous mass email, a testament to the almost visceral reaction.  As well, perhaps some indication that the Trudeau "army" assembled during the leadership process is still engaged, something to monitor moving forward. 

I would argue this large figure be put towards a positive counter message. If Trudeau's handlers are choosing a positive approach, no greater contrast opportunity.

Things are changing, there is nothing more concrete than CASH.  Well done Conservative headquarters, well done indeed.


As of this morning LPC reports four hundred and eight thousand raised.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"Gambling" On Trudeau

Much of the commentary argues that Trudeau is a gamble for the Liberals, we're "rolling the dice", etc.  I believe that sentiment to be fair comment;  there are many unknowns, potential pitfalls, a work in progress for certain, as Liberals move forward.  That said, I believe this particular gamble is a good bet, when we review the various components that translate to winning conditions.

Lost in the leadership results, what the number of votes for Trudeau mean in a practical sense.  I admit some confusion with the "supporter" detractor logic.  Have we missed the core reality here, namely that the overwhelming majority of this new class voted for Justin Trudeau, meaning they don't necessarily "melt away" as argued, their guy WON?  You've signed on to support Justin, he wins the leadership, now you take leave, never to be heard from again?  Perhaps with some of the losing campaigns we will see a one off participation, but there is an element of common sense that foresees continued involvement for people who signed on for Justin.  Trudeau's overwhelming victory is good news for Liberals moving forward, in a very practical sense.

People have long argued that the Liberals need to close the fundraising gap to really compete, by extension requiring flight organizational might.  The Liberals have  made considerable progress on the fundraising front of late- generally outpacing the Official Opposition- but are clearly not in the league of the Conservative juggernaut.  One of Trudeau's great attributes is his ability to "pack them in", he already was our chief fundraising draw, which will now only intensify.  All those new Trudeau supporters are fair game, all have the potential to be mined, to become donors, volunteers, part of the new base.  In addition, in many respects the process has just begun, as the party apparatus adapts to a new leader, the potentialities are great, a fact few reasonable people would dispute.  The bottom line is this, in terms of probabilities, this Trudeau Liberal era will be better equipped to take on the Conservative machine than any manifestation since the 2006 defeat.

There was some criticism that the Liberal leadership wasn't a substantive affair.  Astute observers will note every leadership race draws this same criticism, so it's a bit more involved to ascertain anything unique about the Liberal race.   For myself, one of the critical story lines was to see how the Trudeau campaign performed, not just the actor but the production.   Objectively, hard to argue against the Trudeau team, slick, skilled, reactive, focused, conveying a confident, credible feel.  Moving forward, as we ponder how Trudeau will fair, of chief consideration is the competence of his core advisers, staff, and on that score people have reason for confidence.

Yesterday, a commentary from one of the press gallery journalists that the Trudeau scrum was the biggest of recent memory.  Within that reality, this debate about "saviours",  Liberals putting star power ahead of practical considerations.   There is a truth within this observation, but also true Liberals would be complete and utter fools to not appreciate said "star power".  The media criticism is a peculiar one, since it  is within that realm that the "hype" resides, it wasn't Liberals fawning all over Trudeau in the foyer yesterday, it was the assembled press.  These types of media expressions are nothing more than a recognition that out there in the remote hinterland this Trudeau  character brings with him a fascination, he "sells".  Again, keeping it real, party operatives spend all day conjuring up ways to get attention for their brand, to ignore the upside with Trudeau requires leave of all political sense.   The attention brings risk, but also incredible opportunity, which is all you can ask for in politics.

Stephen Harper was elected Prime Minister of Canada on a platform that consisted of FIVE pandering policy positions.  Jack Layton rode a orange wave, armed with nothing more than personality.  Liberals have played the deep policy game in the past-we've been burned bad-learning the messenger, the packaged delivery, supersedes the content.  With this learned reality in mind, it is important to remember Trudeau and his team WILL develop a platform, one that will appeal, ultimately left to the leader to sell.  It is here that the gamble is evident, can Trudeau deliver the message we craft, can he credibly convince Canadians that he can lead the country in a positive direction?  I would submit, there is nothing unique here, every opposition leader faces this challenge, until you win, an open question.  However, it is also true that Trudeau brings some unique  upside indicators that bode well moving forward, which need to be correctly incorporated to understand the true "odds".

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Trudeau: Be Afraid

Despite there being a national media obsession with everything Trudeau, there still seems a disconnect on the comprehension side.  People continually attaching their own cobbled benchmarks to a landscape that bears no relationship to those unilateral desires.  This past weekend some evolution, confronted with certain realities that challenge the punditry view of the world, nothing particularly surprising for those of us that take it like it is, rather than how it should be.

If there is one more overused word as it relates to Trudeau it's "substance".  It's as though people forget our current Prime Minister wasn't elected on FIVE THIN policy positions, mostly made up of gimmicky manipulations to curry favour.   It's as though we believe people in Quebec moved to Layton because of some deep philosophical epiphany, rather than being the only "fresh" option presented to a tired and cynical electorate.  It's as though we don't understand that individuals have talented teams behind them, capable of policy development, demographic appeals and organizational aptitude.

The other parties should be rightly afraid, and I don't believe I feel this way simply as an extension of mindless partisan want.   Trudeau has a unique potential demographic appeal, one that basically assures Mulcair never becomes Prime Minister, at the very least Trudeau is a spoiler, at the best Prime Minister himself.  Polls are encouraging, particularly with older demographics, people who vote consistently.  As well, there is no disputing Trudeau has potential appeal amongst the disengaged "younger" voter, which could provide the double whammy of inspired volunteers, as well as sleeper voting demographic.

Trudeau is cool, hip, energetic, the above picture an absolutely perfect snapshot in some many ways.  While the armchair types criticized this leadership process, they forget a certain practical truth: Trudeau packs them in.  Where ever Justin travels, he brings a "rock star" vibe, nobody disputes it, it will not wane in the short term, it will provide a powerful momentum boost during a campaign. 

Liberals have been burned bad prior, believing policy wonks can translate, resonate, reverberate, inspire and motivate.  Liberals have already played the movie the pundits now crave, which comes with a certain irony given the past criticisms when provided with their apparent desire.  Here's the rub, the media DOESN'T want substance, they want a story, they want intrigue, they want to be where "it's at", we needn't over analyze simplistic nature, despite protestations to the contrary.  Trudeau sells, Trudeau appeals, Trudeau provides a tension, the fascination will not end.  Add on a growing recognition that Trudeau actually does possess some chops, Liberals can certainly be optimistic about the future. 

If these views sound presumptuous, then certainly the caveat that things change on a dime in politics, it's all probability rather than assured.  That said, it is true we are dealing with a certain phenomenon here that shakes up the political metrics, obliterates recent assumptions and provides great possibilities moving forward.  Liberals need to manage expectations, although I suspect the obsessive attention continues, so perhaps better to embrace and direct, rather than balk. 

Despite all the cynicism in this world, people still crave positivity, we still want to believe in something.  A person that can actually tap into this latent desire, pierce the dismissive posture, is a force to be reckoned with, make no mistake about it...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Well Done Mr. Rae

Today marks Bob Rae's last caucus, Question Period as interim Liberal leader.  I think it objective fact that Rae has acquitted himself quite well in this transition role.  Also fair, there was nobody else in the Liberal ranks who could have handled this job as well as Rae did, he brought unique gravitas, experience and eloquence that served the party well.

In the past, I and others have been critical of Rae, as it related to his participation in the permanent Liberal leadership race.  Given the pledges Rae made himself, the unique advantages the interim tag brought, I stand by my concerns and in the end feel Rae made a classy decision that solidified his legacy as the ultimate "good soldier".   Fairly remarkable that Bob Rae, former New Democratic, will be remembered as a loyal Liberal, who put party first in the final analysis.

Bob Rae wanted to lead the Liberal Party.  Bob Rae wanted to become Prime Minister.  Bob Rae probably still believes he could have led the Liberal Party to victory and became Prime Minister.   However, events unfolded in such a way that we will never know how the party would have fared, had we had Rae at the helm during an election.  Hindsight is a tricky affair, better to focus on what Rae has brought to the table, rather than theoreticals that have a tinge of romanticism attached.

The Liberals were considered dead and buried after the last election.  Bob Rae played a critical role in keeping some focus on the Liberals, his intellectual stature, professionalism, wit and natural oratory charm, provided the party with credible, principled leadership.   It is easy now to take Rae's role for granted, as we get swept up in the Trudeau euphoria, bringing with it thoughts of the ultimate comeback.  However it was Rae that steadied the ship, helped maintain the coffers, spoke to the half empty rooms around the country, kept spirits elevated, provided hope and offered calm in the face of uncertainty.

Above all, it is hard to not have a certain respect for Bob Rae, he carries himself in a way few politicians can and this provides a unique stature.  I was always struck by the fact the normally abusive, childish antics in Parliament would immediately come to a halt when Bob Rae would rise to ask a question or comment.  It was obvious, people wanted to hear what Rae had to say, a certain reverence that NOBODY else enjoyed within that arena.   That relative quiet I think the most revealing expression of where Bob Rae sits in the political hierarchy.

Well done Mr. Rae, the Liberal Party of Canada couldn't have asked for anything more...

Monday, March 04, 2013

Trudeau's "Red Army"

I'm quite curious to see what all the various candidates tallies are on the Liberal "supporter" front today. But, given Trudeau is an almost certain winner, his staggering tally is particularly noteworthy for future prospects.  One thing is clear, the decision to introduce a supporter category has put wind in Liberal sails, an influx of energy that will be a pivotal development as we approach the next election.

Every "supporter" signed up is important for the Liberals.  That said, fair to say many people have signed up to support a candidate, their ideas, their direction, rather than a more general endorsement of the Liberal Party of Canada.  Particularly with a Murray campaign for instance, should she fail to win the leadership, I suspect the involvement of many ends with the process itself. 

With this sort of reality in mind, the supporters of the eventual winner are the key driver, as their preference wins, chances of continued engagement are quite high.   Assuming a Trudeau victory, the Liberals now have 150000 people who "support" him, as well as all the other Liberals outside of the "supporter" process.  In other words, Trudeau has a ready made "red army" at his disposal, which the Liberals can then "mine" in terms of fundraising, volunteering, etc.  If you've supported Trudeau for leader, there is really no reason to believe your participation ends there, the big fight will still remain.

I believe what has transpired with the new designation goes beyond any one's wildest imagination, a testament to the "star power" Trudeau brings to the process.  The reality is the Liberals are now re-energized with fresh voices that will change the rank and file, presenting a formidable backdrop in terms of organization.  More succinctly, guess what Ottawa, the Liberals are a force to be reckoned with!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sun Rising On Liberal "Darkhorse"

There is something very instructive occurring within the Liberal leadership race that deserves consideration beyond the process itself.   There is simply no question that apart from Justin Trudeau, Joyce Murray has the "momentum" in this race, turning an afterthought campaign into an intriguing potential coalition of like minded partisans and NON.  In fact, we are witnessing a repeat of the NDP leadership process, wherein "darkhorse" Nathan Cullen went from second tier candidate to contender on the back of "co-operation" musings, with the added empirical curiosity that the supporter category brings.  

Let's keep it real, Trudeau will win this leadership race. But, that fact doesn't distract from what amounts to a genuine grassroots movement that is developing behind the Murray campaign, one that gets louder with each passing day.  What remains to be seen is true manifestation, but there is no doubt the "buzz" is real, Murray has momentum.   The Liberal process is wide open- adding a new wrinkle to the Cullen model- perhaps providing further elevation for an idea which enjoys broad support outside of traditional tribal considerations.  That "outside" groups are lining up behind Murray, further evidence that an appetite exists for a united progressive alternative.

As I read the Murray campaign, it isn't just about co-operation, but a true BIG L LIBERAL agenda, that makes "support" all the more appealing.  When you look at some of the endorsements coming Murray's way, it is clear the intrigue begins with co-operation, but is affirmed with a coherent progressive policy agenda.  Observers should note the candidate with perceived traction in the race is the "leftie", not the Conservative-lite artriculations, perhaps a testament that the progressive wing of the Liberal Party is alive and well and recruiting more like minded people as we speak.

When I voted for the "supporter" designation at the Convention, what is transpiring now was my hope, namely someone would emerge and attract new people into the equation, breathing life into the Liberal Party.  Again, lets not forget the impact Trudeau has had, is having, and will in the future, but we can walk and chew gum at the same time here.  Joyce Murray is where the action is, the fact it comes under the co-operation banner, all the more enticing and interesting moving forward.  Let us also not forget that Trudeau has basically mused about the same need for co-operation in the recent past, latest "company man" articulations aside.

I have no idea the ultimate vote totals when the dust settles, but it is fair to draw some conclusions already.  There is an appeal in the land for co-operation, it exists, it is tangible and it seeks to organize itself under a unifying banner.  Big picture we have "star" power lining, anecdotally I can say I know of three in recent days signing up to support the Liberal Party because of Joyce Murray.  Something is clearly afoot and no matter the final result, people are foolish to ignore the potential impact moving forward.  Co-operation, mergers, arrangements, whatever, those that become proponents find fertile ground.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Liberal Leadership Race: Cutlery Edition

Much to my surprise, when Martha Hall Findlay launched her leadership bid she was immediately labelled a "front runner", despite a decided lack of real world evidence to support the designation.  Perhaps it was the almost seven years it took to pay off a past leadership debt, which spoke to the widespread genuine public groundswell for another run, we will never know.   Perhaps it was certain media entities already on record bashing supply management that arbitrarily elevated the "gutsy" entrant.  However, truth be told, Martha Hall Findlay has never had a chance of winning the Liberal leadership, no reasonable political observer would risk one cent predicting her ultimate triumph. 

Despite the fact MANY candidates have delivered a avalanche of hard policy, MHF has designated herself as THE person of substance in this race.  To my mind, MHF seems to be on a crusade to reconstitute the Progressive Conservative party- rather than anything resembling modern liberalism- but that is my own spectral consideration.  Apparently, the left and the right no longer exist in Canada, and yet nobody has any confusion over political direction when one contrasts a MHF and Joyce Murray for example.  But, I digress...

What happened yesterday at the Liberal leadership debate was unnecessary, contradictory, and low rent politics by any definition.  People seem to have short memories, because I've yet to see anyone trace back MHF's attack on silver spoon Trudeau to her campaign launch.  Fact is, Hall Findlay began her leadership run questioning Trudeau's upbringing:
But later, on CBC News Network's Power & Politics, she contrasted her experience with that of Trudeau's.

"I've lived my life in a very different…way than Justin has. I firmly believe that I bring a great deal of substance, intelligence, experience. I have huge business experience," she told host Evan Solomon. "I've worked as a lawyer on international transactions, I've run small businesses effectively and met payroll. I've run big businesses and managed large teams both here and in Canada and in Europe.
I thought this tweet yesterday summed up the "attack" on Trudeau quite succinctly:
MHF raises JT's class background then argues against a class-based way of looking at Canada. Worse than ridiculous.

Martha Hall Findlay isn't bringing intelligence and substance to the Liberal race, she's bringing low brow politics, with what amounts to a pathetic attack line.  Rather than challenge Trudeau on policy- as Garneau did- MHF does make it personal, to view it any other way requires leave of common sense.  The fact supposed wonder boy campaign manager Stephen Carter couldn't see this type of attack line would fall FLAT, also illuminating, in terms of his own political instincts.

Again, Martha Hall Findlay has ZERO chance of winning the Liberal leadership, that is a clear and honest reality.  Within that knowledge, it is entirely pointless for MHF to audition for future Conservative attack ads, her approach here is reckless and unfortunate.  Go after Trudeau on his policies, or lack thereof, contrast on the issues, but understand that playing the "silver spoon" card offers no internal benefit, unless simply throwing mud is her only purpose in this race.  MHF says she brings "intelligence" to the race, and yet yesterday represented the stupidest moment this entire campaign will probably see.  Enough talk of silver spoons, put a fork in it instead and dispense with the knife in the back routine..