Thursday, February 16, 2012

Trudeau: Crazy Like A Fox?

Justin Trudeau is getting ripped for his admittedly reckless comments, but I'm not sure the visceral reactions are accurately digesting the potential political ramifications. Trudeau is done as a political force, Trudeau is narcissistic, a lightweight, immature, needlessly theatrical, the pile on relentless. However, woven with the "outrage", some opinion, mostly Quebec-centric that picks up on perhaps the longer term impact of Trudeau's outburst.

I've argued for some time, the Liberals need to update their presentation to Quebecers. This belief doesn't abandon former stances, but the Liberals are perpetually stuck in outdated dichotomy that lacks any evolution. It could just be that Trudeau's apparent departure from traditional Liberal stances might register as a breath of fresh air. Truth be told, the old hardcore federalist "option" that Liberals have always played in Quebec appeals to an ever narrowing pool of voters. Quebec society is moving beyond the distinct lines that dominated the debate during Trudeau's fathers era. The recent NDP surge, while built on a singular persona, was also underpinned by a nuanced dance between the old federalist/separatist distinctions. Rather than "out there", Trudeau's recent musings might also simply serve as more of a mirror of current perceptions and realities, a bit of a weather vein.

There has been a great misconception in English Canada. With sovereignty numbers waning- separatism on the backburner- we've all assumed that the federation is in relatively good shape. The collapse of the Bloc only adds to this perception, but a look with any depth, reveals more malaise, alienation and disconnect than some grand endorsement of the status quo. Hebert's column touches on the state of things in Quebec, how this Harper government has fostered a disconnect, all is not well, unless withdrawal is a positive. Trudeau goes too far of course, but the sentiment he espouses isn't off side, rare or radical, in fact I suspect he's resonating quite well with mainstream Quebec society.

This may be an odd characterization, but Trudeau may have moved the ground in Quebec and made the Liberals "cool again". Beneath the unfortunate threatening language, opinions that speak to Quebecers values, what they stand for, Trudeau is championing those sensibilities. There is nothing offensive in the comments to Quebecers, if anything Trudeau is merely expressing a widely held opinion about the Harper government and how deep the chasm that has developed. Never has a federal government been so completely marginalized in Quebec, a state that begs for an alternative and we've seen the manifestations.

Trudeau was crude and unsophisticated, his words poorly chosen, but I'm not sure what most are fixating on truly captures the entire tone and how that may resonate. In English Canada, Trudeau's comments a blip on the screen, I fail to see any "legs". However, in Quebec, Trudeau may have modernized the Liberal view, not the official party line, but a sense that the conversation is current. We can pontificate how we feel Quebecers should view the federation, but that never understand how they DO view the federation, so let's be careful in assuming or declaring someone "dead" due to pointed musings. If anything, we may just look back on this entire Trudeau maelstrom as freshening up the Liberal brand in Quebec, because at the core Justin has a receptive audience in terms of frustration.


tono-bungay said...

It's interesting the difference in what you are expected to support unconditionally. Conservatives expect allegiance to the country and certain symbols of its power to be unconditional. For Quebecers, allegiance needs to be deserved and it is not so much allegiance to the institutions of state as to its values. The unconditional support they respect is to the values of a country, which is precisely what Trudeau was expressing support for.

There is a great danger when one political subculture tries to equate support for the country with support for their political values. The result won't be that people change their values to align with their national allegiance, but that their allegiance is reduced because it no longer reflects a consensus of shared values.

Steve V said...

Well put!

Calivancouver said...

'I understand why you would do that, but no you're wrong' has got to be a more effective message than 'you're wrong'

Mike said...

A perspective from living within Quebec (or at least Montreal) is that Trudeau is truly a native son. There are pictures posted of him in restaurants, he's seen out and about, and the younger generation really idealizes him. I really think that if Trudeau was the leader that a lot of Quebec would suddenly be in play.

In regards to his separatism comments, it was only 6 years ago when some prominent conservatives mused about wester separation if the Martin government was re-elected so I'm not overly concerned about Trudeau's comments.

Tof KW said...

Hey, Justin's not the only one. We're only a few months into this CPC majority, and already Harper has scrapped the Wheat Board (funny I don't recall that ever being mentioned during the election). Our OAS is being gutted to pay for corporate tax cuts, F35's and mega-prisons. Debate in the HOC is curtailed, and warrantless internet monitoring is just around the corner.

And we've still got 3 and 1/2 more years of this.

If after all that the folksy fascist voters re-elect this sack-of-shit gang back into power in 2015; I'm moving back to Quebec and helping them separate myself. I doubt I'm alone. And if Trudeau's still on side with us, that's cool.

Carmichael said...

It's very interesting finding out who has negative opinions to offer with Mssr Trudeau's musings.

For the most part it's the same people who would be happier with another Harper majority than they would be if a united opposition party defeated him and his gang of hillbillies.

sharonapple88 said...

Interesting article on what Trudeau's critics miss that seems to agree with you.

From the article:

"Anyone who says the contradictions and qualifiers don’t matter or shouldn’t exist hasn’t spent enough time in Quebec, in my view. Quebecers, especially federalist Quebecers, have always been conflicted about their place within Canada. In reflecting this view Trudeau established his street cred, in a way no senior Liberal has managed to do since the 1995 referendum, as a Liberal whom Quebecers could wholeheartedly adopt as their own."

liberal supporter said...

It's very different from the old "Quebec separatism". If Harper makes good on his promise to make "Canada" unrecognizable, then what would happen is the land where Quebec currently sits would continue as Canada, but politically separate from the fascist Harperland sheikdom.

So it's not so much separation from Quebec's point of view, it's throwing out the trash and staying as the real and original Canada.

Steve V said...

I think Trudeau just spoke to that internal conflict, and I bet it is going over very well in Quebec, he's in tune with mainstream thinking. Seriously, I think this might be one of the more important moments for the Liberals, if they have any chance of re-engaging with Quebecers outside of their narrowing strongholds. The polish was missing, but the underlying sentiment is spot on.

liberal supporter said...

Look no further than hockey. In Toronto they paint another row of seats gold every year and still fill the place, while in Montreal the Habs have to actually be winning to sell out the place.

Tof KW said...'s the same people who would be happier with another Harper majority than they would be if a united opposition party defeated him...

In other words, prior to Harper becoming PM, it's the same gang that bitched about the west needing to separate.

Likewise, I too noted just "who" seemed to wailing the most over Trudeau's statements, and my hypocrisy meter jumped into the red.