CTV News Channel

Enjoyed my participation on the CTV News Channel’s today. I was part of the True North Political panel. Always fun to share opinions with other representatives.


The Bar Has Been Set

Conservative and NDP fundraisers must be patting themselves on the back today and thanking Justin Trudeau for their good fortune.

With Trudeau’s pronouncement that he plans on winning a 170 seats and a majority in the next election, the fundraising letters to NDP and Conservative supporters almost write themselves.

Nothing rallies an organization and its supporters more than an opponent announcing in advance that he plans on beating your team. Such an announcement generates new enthusiasm in the ranks to make sure that doesn’t happen and I expect quite a few dollars into the other party’s bank accounts.

Admittedly no one campaigns to come in second or even third like the Liberals did last time. But plenty of voters will think it a little arrogant and over confident for a new leader to announce this early in the game that while he only has 37 MPs now, he will win at least 170 seats and form a majority government after the next election.

Trudeau hasn’t even announced his policy platform yet. Voters haven’t had the opportunity to look at his platform, nor to weigh what they like or dislike about it.

Good looks and a charming smile aren’t the only things that win elections. It reminds me of the ad “Where is the beef?” in this case the policies to back up the charisma and over-blown confidence.  This is the same over-blown confidence that predicted 600 supporters at a rally, when they could barely muster 300 for their leader. That doesn’t say much about their on the ground organization if that is the best they could do.

Trudeau has gone on the record now and set a very high bar for himself to which he will be held by the Conservatives, NDP, media and the voting public. To succeed he has to reach at least 170 seats, anything less amounts to failure.

Believing in your own rhetoric can be a dangerous thing for a politician. Sometimes it is better to be a little more humble in public and not walk into the trap of making announcements that may come back to bite you.


Will "Never" become "Maybe"

As someone who briefly worked for him when he was the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, it was interesting to watch the media speculation that emerged over part of an interview Jean Charest gave from Hong Kong.

His comment that “never say never” about a potential return to politics certainly stirred people up. Even after his exit from politics, Charest still commands attention and respect from both the media and the public which is more than you can say for most of the present bunch of politicians in Ottawa.

I didn’t hear anything in the voice clip that remotely sounded like Charest wanted to return to political life, but it was fun to briefly speculate about that happening. The present day Conservative Party would certainly gain an experienced political ally who as a former premier of Quebec understands it well and can present Quebec’s views to the cabinet table. Perhaps then we would be less likely to shoot ourselves in the foot on Quebec sensitive issues as we go into the next election. He might even be able to persuade the existing party structure and PMO that there is more than the Quebec City view of the province, views that don’t always mesh with the metropolitan Montreal area or even the West Island of Montreal.

As a former environment minister in the cabinet of the greenest Prime Minister Canada has had to date, namely another Conservative named Brian Mulroney, perhaps he could teach the present group in Ottawa that paying attention to the “environment” doesn’t have to be a bad thing for either the economy or for winning votes.

Who knows he might even be able to persuade some Red Tories (yes those dreaded Red Tories) to not only help out next time, but to vote for us. It might make quite a difference in ridings where the vote is very tight.

"Never say never" is a very accurate phrase in political life; the fun will be in watching to see if it ever becomes a “maybe”.


Ten Seats- Really?

Don’t you just love the summer doldrums and some of the political speculation that abounds in the news? One such story around speculation that the Conservatives under Harper could win ten seats in Quebec in the next election was certainly attention getting.

This would require quite an extensive and on-going charm offensive from the Prime Minister if he was to turn Conservative fortunes around, and at what cost to the Conservatives in other provinces? How will the Conservative base react if they see so much attention, time and effort being spent on Quebec?

Quebec voters are pretty astute and any last minute attempt to bring back votes to the CPC will be known for what it is, an attempt to hang on to power. This would require Quebec voters to ignore the CPC role in cultural cuts, the differing positions on justice and environmental issues and other areas as well.

One recent poll showed the Conservatives in last place (their usual place) in Quebec with 14% support. In other words some 83% of Quebec voters opposed them and supported the Liberals at 41%, the NDP 22% and Bloc 20%.

With Trudeau leading the charge for the Liberals does anyone seriously expect that the Liberals will remain at 6 seats in that province? Will Quebec voters shift to the right all the way to the Conservatives to stop Trudeau from winning? I hardly think so.

Nor can we discount Tom Mulcair as he is an effective campaigner and usually has a pretty good handle on Quebec issues. His caucus might be young, but they are the incumbents in 59 ridings. It is never easy to beat a sitting MP no matter which party they represent.

Quebec provincial politicians always put Quebec’s interests first and while relations with the premier might be good right now, the question is how long that will last before divisive issues arise?

Nor can we forget the on-going Senate scandal which has the potential to dominate the news as we lead up to the 2015 election. Quebec voters cannot be expected to ignore that (nor will Canadian voters in general).

The only hope the Conservatives have of winning 10 seats is some serious vote splitting in the ridings the Conservative previous held but lost. But with momentum slipping away from them nationally and towards the Liberals under Trudeau, it requires quite a leap of faith to accept that Quebec voters in any riding will think that voting Blue is the way to go in 2015.


No Real Surprise

Was anyone really surprised by the results of the June 30th bye-elections?

For the most part turnout was low and that has been blamed on the government because the date they picked was just before a long weekend. There will be some truth to that but if someone really wanted to vote, there were plenty of opportunities to do so at the advance polls. Having worked so often on Election Day, I would have to go back to the 1970s to find a time when I didn’t vote at an advanced poll. Excuses, excuses, but if it was important to you, you had a chance to vote.

Bye-elections are also a time for voters to safely send the sitting government a message if they are discontented with that government’s performance. Could the low turnout be partially because those given the opportunity to vote really didn’t have a bone to pick with the government at this time? There will be a lot of tea leaves read over the next month or so as the parties collectively try to extrapolate that answer from the results.

The Conservatives won what they were expected to win (Macleod and Fort McMurray-Athabasca). The Liberals did better than expected getting re-elected in one and capturing another urban seat (Trinity-Spadina) in the vote rich GTA. It’s a good start for the Liberals and gives them a bit more momentum than their left wing cousins in the NDP. Trudeau has served notice to the NDP that the Liberals can take the fight to them and win.

It will be interesting to watch how the NDP bounce back and what their strategy will be and how they position Mulcair over the next few months. Exactly how will they counter Trudeau’s momentum?

For the Liberals it will take some effort to keep the momentum going. With the vacation season upon us, how many voters will be the least bit interested in politics or following what the various leaders are doing? It’s always much harder for the opposition parties to stay in the spotlight over the summer?

The Tories can pretty much go on cruise control over the summer. There will be all sorts of funding announcements which are guaranteed to make the local press. They won’t consider a lack of national media coverage by the press gallery a problem as they continue to make little if any attempt to improve relations with the gallery.

But they will have to pay attention to the drop in support in their home ridings like Fort-McMurray-Athabasca.  They need to look at how the demographics in their ridings are changing especially in urban ridings. Which part of the country are the voters coming from? Did they bring a tradition of voting Conservative with them when they moved to Alberta?  What are the age groups making up the voter pool in those ridings? Are the voters getting younger? As the demographics change will the voter pool in 2015 be as receptive to the Harper style of government and policies that have been in place since 2006?

There are lots of questions and few answers, but enough to keep staff in all three parties busy over the summer.