Smoke and Mirrors

As the debate on whether or not Canada should join the military campaign against ISIS heats up it is interesting to watch Justin Trudeau in action.

Remember this is the same newly minted Liberal leader who promised to do things differently. He was not going to be like Harper or other old style politicians; he was going to be different. Essentially he was preaching trust me, I am different, and I have a new way of doing things.

If we take Trudeau at face value, he doesn’t believe in negative attacks, but wasn’t he the one referring to the Conservatives trying to “whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are…” I don’t see him being any different there, insulting your opponents or belittling them isn’t new it’s an everyday item on the Hill.

Trudeau has demanded the Conservatives come clean and have an open debate on the Prime Minister’s motion to send our military into the Iraq conflict. That sounded good at the time, it even got him a few clips on the evening news, but there he was on Friday saying that the Liberals were voting against the motion before he has even heard the rational or details of the upcoming debate. I guess saying no before you know why, is his new way of doing things.

I may have missed it, but I don’t recall reading about a Liberal caucus meeting deciding that their position was to say no before hearing the debate. If they did and he listened all well and good, if they didn’t, then was it the party leader and a few unelected staff who made that decision (remember the abortion decision)? If the caucus as a whole didn’t make that decision, then again that is not a new way of doing things on the Hill, but more of Trudeau saying one thing and doing another. He sounds more and more like an old style politician.

When we include his interference in the nomination process in a few ridings one has to wonder just how is he different?

John Diefenbaker once said the “The Liberals are the flying saucers of politics. No one can make head nor tail of them and they never are seen twice in the same place.” A fitting description of Trudeau, in Trudeau’s case we never know from one day to the next what his latest policy announcement will be or on which side of an issue he will land. Sounds like an old fashioned Liberal to me.

When the debate ends next week there will be a vote. Trudeau has already stated that the Liberals will vote no. Party leaders making declarations and then telling their MPs how to vote is nothing new, party leaders have been doing that for years. The question in this case is will Trudeau allow his MPs a free vote? Now that would be different, that would help him to show that he is not an old fashioned politician. Will he insist that his MPs toe the line and do what he says or will they be able to vote their consciences?

It will be interesting to watch that vote and see just how different Justin Trudeau is from all the rest of the politicians that have gone before him. In spite of the hype surrounding Trudeau, so far he looks like all the other politicians we have seen on the Hill. Nothing new or different with this Liberal leader, he is just better at the art of smoke and mirrors.


Oct 3rd True North Panel CTV


So much talk about an early election

Speculation abounds right now that Prime Minister Harper will call the next election much sooner than October 2015. While PMO might want to damp down such speculation it is a legitimate issue that is up for discussion amongst both Conservatives, supporters of the opposition parties and the media.

The Duffy trial taking place as it will in the few months preceding the next stated election date will reignite a lot of questions around exactly what happened in the backrooms and what was said or understood “wink, wink.” Duffy will be a man on a mission and that is the most dangerous kind, especially when dealing with a master showman like “the Duff”.  If PMO and the PM think the Senate issue and PMOs role in it will be so boring that the public will pay scant attention to it in the lead up to an election, they better think again. Duffy has nothing to lose and everything to gain by trying to keep the focus on the Prime Minister’s Office and who knew what, said what, or suggested what to him.

PMO has stated they are sticking to the October 2015 timeline but really, when has such a statement ever stopped a Prime Minister from changing their mind? Harper has already violated the spirit of the fixed date election law once before, so what would be stop him from doing the same thing again? Believe me you can always find an issue if you need one and realistically the negative publicity around calling an early election will last just a few days and it will soon be replaced by more pressing campaign announcements and issues. Bad press from calling an early election is never enough to prevent an election from being called.

For example there are enough international issues that are already escalating if Harper really wanted to find a reason.

There is also the Fall Economic Update that could easily become much more especially if there is a healthy surplus to announce. It is not unusual in politics for positive economic news to precede an election.  He could announce a hefty series of personal tax cuts or tax credits and then in the spring after a good news budget call an election based on the Liberals and NDP wanting to take back those hard won dollars from all the Canadians who play by the rules and pay their taxes. Of course the Conservatives would highlight that the taxpayers gains under the Conservatives would end up being spent on Liberal and NDP projects and their supporters in special interest groups. All of this leaving the poor taxpayer worse off than before.

We also have the continuing rise of the Liberals under Justin Trudeau for the Conservatives to worry about. He is far from the perfect leader and often just a remark away from having egg on his face, but so far the population has cut him some slack and probably will continue to do so as he simply isn’t Stephen Harper, but a fresh face with a new team forming around him. A new face taking on an old established government with so many familiar faces in it, many who are getting a little shop worn can often upset a sitting government. Think of Joe Clark (Joe Who) beating Justin’s father (who would have expected that) or Mulroney’s win or later on Chretien’s or even Stephen Harper’s.  Remember how the Liberals were supposed to win 250 seats!

Both the Liberals and NDP are wise to prepare for an early election as the Conservative war machine is never really turned off and it can be cranked up to full speed much faster than the opposition parties.

One thing that we do know for sure is that Harper never wants to do anything suggested by the media and if they are suggesting he will go early he is quite liable to wait and certainly do something they don’t suspect. In the end only he knows for sure. But the longer the Conservatives wait the higher the risk increases- potentially damaging testimony, sudden foreign policy issues, an economic downturn, another scandal etc. Only the most partisan of Conservative supporters would fail to see that and not be concerned.

The final decision is up to Stephen Harper and he loves to keep the media guessing. Stay tuned for his next move.


CTV Question Period

As always lots of interesting discussion and topics today on Question Period. Here is my section today with Bob Fife looking at the Duffy issue.



Politics panel

Thanks to CTV News for the opportunity to appear on their True North political panel today. Link can be found here.