As I responded to a commenter this aft:
Trudeau’s the luckiest guy I’ve ever run across in politics.
Just when you think he’s weak internationally (India, etc.), along comes Trump et al. to make him look like a genius.
Just when you think he’s weak domestically (no pipeline, no electoral reform, no First Nation empowerment, no big legislative achievements), along comes Messrs. Scheer and Singh to make him look like a Parliamentary giant.
Just when you think he’s weak ethically (Aga Khan, the grope thing, etc.), along comes serial scandals elsewhere – mainly from the U.S. – that make him look like a saint.
Luckiest guy, ever.
Could Justin Trudeau lose?
Because, increasingly, some smart politicos – including ones of the Liberal persuasion – are saying it’s possible. Likely, even.
Now, “loss,” here, includes loss of the Liberal leader’s Parliamentary majority. Not just losing power – which, most agree, is still unlikely. But losing the majority? That is decidedly within the realm of possibility.
This writer ran into a very senior and very experienced Liberal strategist on the street a few days ago. This strategist knew Justin Trudeau’s father well, and had campaigned for him. And he remembered, too, Pierre Trudeau losing his majority in 1972 – to a Conservative opponent who, like Andrew Scheer, had been routinely dismissed as dull and unremarkable.
Could Trudeau lose the majority, I asked this Liberal guru.
“Absolutely,” said the guru, without hesitating. “I’d say that’s what is going to happen, at this point.”
Huddled on a cold sidewalk, we riffed through the regions. Lower Mainland? Trudeau may lose seats to both the Tories and the Dippers, if the latter have the sense to acquire new and improved leadership. In Alberta, it’s worse than it was back in the NEP days: a total wipeout is inevitable. In Saskatchewan, the Goodale seat is safe, if turning-seventy Goodale sticks around. In Manitoba, some seats will be lost. Same goes for Southwestern Ontario, Eastern Ontario and the ‘burbs around Toronto.
In Quebec, Trudeau has been bested by the Conservatives in byelections – and he now faces Maxime Bernier around Quebec City, too. In Atlantic Canada, it will be impossible to hold onto as much as Trudeau won in 2015 – particularly with his provincial cousins diminishing the Liberal brand there.
“That all adds up to a minority, or worse,” said the Grit guru, preparing to head off for lunch. “It may not be pretty.”
Some pollsters are making similar noises. Some aren’t.
A few days ago, Forum came up with a whopper of a survey, one that claimed Scheer’s Conservatives were in majority territory, a full nine points ahead of the governing Liberals. That poll was dismissed by many (this writer included) – until Nanos revealed that it, too, found the Tories ahead of the Grits, but by just a point.
The arbiter, in these matters, has become the CBC’s guy with a calculator, Eric Grenier. Says Grenier: “[There was]a big jump for Nanos, and much of it has occurred in Ontario where the Liberals have dropped 12 points and the Conservatives have gained 12 points [in the] last week. This is unusual…and worth watching to see if trend continues.”
Even though Forum has consistently been out of step with other polls, Grenier says, the reality has been that “the Liberals slide, and the Conservatives make gains.”
What’s noteworthy is that the Conservatives have gained on the Liberals – or have eclipsed them, if you believe Forum – when the conventional wisdom has been that Andrew Scheer is being held back by factors beyond his control. Selfsame factors include: controversial decisions made by Ford Nation, Trudeau’s successful completion of a new NAFTA, and the aforementioned Mad Max refusing to disappear.
All of that said, Mainstreet’s Quito Maggi – one of the country’s best pollsters – insists it is still dangerous to bet against Trudeau. A minority, to Maggi, remains very unlikely.
“[A minority is] possible, yes. But, just because it’s possible, doesn’t mean it’s likely,” says Maggi.
Mainstreet’s founder says that the relative performance of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and People’s Party Maxime Bernier will signal what could happen next October. “If Singh wins in Burnaby and makes gains, in Ontario and Quebec especially, that starts eating into a majority,” says Maggi. “And if Bernier fades in the New Year – say, he can’t get any candidates to run in the coming by-elections for example, and his fundraising is reduced – that could mean that Scheer can consolidate the Right vote and cause a minority.”
Maggi adds: “Those are two big ifs. And that would be a complete reversal for both.”
The present reality is that Bernier’s ceiling is no more than around is seven per cent nationally. Singh, meanwhile, is moving in the opposite direction, Maggi says. “He might not even win Burnaby. His MPs are bailing for other levels of government – or announcing they won’t run. Fundraising is down. If he loses Burnaby, it could lead to a leadership race with months to the election.”
And that, says Maggi, ironically represents a real threat to Trudeau’s Liberals – and a possible minority. “[That] could actually be the likeliest path to a Liberal minority,” he says. “If a new NDP leader can capitalize on the attention of a [leadership] race and make gains in Quebec.”
Big ifs. Lots of variables. One thing is for certain: Justin Trudeau remains the guy to beat. And doing so, the pollsters agree, will be no simple task.
By our resident design geniuses, Katie and Zack!
Facts unreported to date:
The CJN story is here.
Key parts below:
An Ontario court has found James Sears, the editor-in-chief of Your Ward News, not guilty of uttering death threats against anti-racism activists Warren and Lisa Kinsella.
“Having considered all of the evidence, I am unable to find that the threat to kill interpretation … is even the most likely interpretation, let alone the only reasonable interpretation,” Ontario Superior Court Judge Dan Moore wrote.
The finding comes about six weeks after Judge Moore heard allegations that Sears had written an article that was a call to violence against the Kinsellas. Charges against LeRoy St. Germaine, the publisher of Your Ward News, were dropped in October.
Standing Together Against Mailing Prejudice (STAMP), an organization founded by the Kinsellas to fight Your Ward News, slammed the court ruling.
“STAMP is appalled that Sears has been allowed to get away with uttering death threats,” said Lisa Kinsella.
“This same judge previously dismissed an uttering death threats charge against the publisher of Your Ward News, Leroy St. Germaine – even though the courts had videotape evidence of St. Germaine confirming that nothing got into that hate rag without his approval,” said Warren Kinsella, the author of several books on organized racism.
“When that decision was made, we were expecting today’s unfortunate decision to set free a neo-Nazi with a history of advocating violence. Despite our disappointment, however, we will not relent in fighting this vile hate group. The fight goes on,” Warren Kinsella added.
…Testifying at the trial, Kinsella said that, “We regarded the article as a call to action, that we should be bludgeoned to death.”
Lisa Kinsella told the court that she felt that statement was a threat against “me, my husband, our six children and my grandchild.”
However, Sears’s lawyer, Chris Murphy, suggested to Warren Kinsella that the case was a “battle for publicity” and that the alleged death threat was not serious.
The case was only heard after the Kinsellas launched a private prosecution when police refused to lay charges. The Crown later agreed to take over the prosecution of it.
The morning after the by-election in Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, I know what Gordie and I would have been doing.
We would have been going through the numbers.
Look at that NDP result, he might have said. Three per cent! They only got three per cent! Same as the Green Party!
Over the phone, for years, we’d do that: go through the numbers in a by-election or a general. He encouraged me when I lost in North Vancouver in 1997, and I encouraged him when he lost the first time he ran in 2000, against our mutual friend Joe Jordan. He only lost by 55 votes, that time.
Next time he ran, in 2004, Gordie won – this time by a margin of 9,035 votes. He’d win every time after that, too, by bigger and bigger margins.
The morning after the December 3, 2018 by-election in Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, Gordie and I would have been on the phone again, laughing. The Conservative vote – Gordie’s vote, really – went up by nearly 11 percentage points. The Liberal vote went down, by five per cent.
Gordie – who was a great admirer of my former boss, Jean Chretien, but unlikely ever to advertise the fact publicly – knew what that result may mean. Not good for Justin Trudeau, he would have said. Not good.
The winningest Prime Minister, when it came to by-elections, was the Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien, Gordie and I knew. In his decade in power, Chretien led his party in the 29 by-elections. Over that decade, Chretien’s share of the vote increased. (Robert Borden, Lester Pearson and Wilfrid Laurier came next, in that order.)
Justin Trudeau? Justin Trudeau was in the middle of the prime Ministerial pack, Gordie and I might have noted. Brian Mulroney – the former Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the most – was at the very bottom, number seventeen. His vote share actually dropped in those contests, by more than 25 per cent.
“Your guy Chretien knows how to win,” Gordie used to say, and I sure wouldn’t disagree. “Harper really admired him, you know?”
I knew. (Harper ranks number ten on the by-election winner list, by the by.)
Now, Gordie and I would always preface these discussions about numbers with a rote acknowledgement of immutable electoral realties. Like, a by-election is not a general election. Like, governments (with the exception of Chretien’s governments) often lose them. Like, they are interesting – but not always a reliable portent of future events.
But. But, but, but, Gordie would have said. But, sometimes, by-elections do matter a lot. Did you see what that Eric Grenier guy wrote on the CBC web site?
I did, Gordie. Here’s what Grenier, another numbers guy, wrote the same week as the by-election in Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.
“In fact, there does seem to be a relationship between by-election performance and how a government does in a subsequent general election,” Grenier wrote. “This is where things get complicated for Trudeau. Of 15 prime ministers who saw an average increase in their share of the vote in by-elections during a single term, only one of them went on to defeat. That was King in 1930, when the country was in the grips of the Great Depression.”
So what, I might’ve said to Gordie. Keep reading, Gordie would’ve said. So I did.
Grenier’s conclusion: “[Justin Trudeau] sits in the murky middle when it comes to how his party has fared in the popular vote. Those above him in the rankings were nearly all re-elected. Those at the bottom of the rankings were nearly all defeated. Trudeau’s spot puts him in mixed company.”
Mixed company. Not necessarily all bad. But not all good, either.
My guy, Jean Chretien, remains a giant in this country. He’s in his eighties, now, but he’d win big if he was still leading the Liberal of Party of Canada. That’s what Gordie used to say.
“We Conservatives were never happier than we were when Jean Chretien retired, Warren,” he’d say, and we’d laugh.
Gordie Brown, of course, didn’t get a chance to retire. He was felled by a heart attack in his office on Parliament Hill back in May. That by-election in Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes was held to replace him – although he can never be replaced, to me. He’s still a giant, to me. In Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, too.
I had no one to talk about the numbers with, the morning after the by-election in Gordie’s beloved home riding. No one to talk about Chretien’s by-election record, or to compare it to Trudeau’s.
So, this column will have to do.
Christ, I miss you, brother.
For us, the fight goes on. We will not relent.