10.07.2012 09:32 AM

Team Trudeau: let’s talk about how we make sausages

I’ve received some pretty angry responses to the brief post below about the Trudeau folks from, er, Trudeau folks. Some have even taken the form of anonymous comments, which aren’t all that anonymous (I.P. and other identifying stuff load automatically).

Here’s my point, for those too obtuse to understand it: staffers shouldn’t talk about strategy in the media. Neither should candidates, for that matter.

When he oversaw the winning of three back-to-back majorities for Jean Chretien, John Rae would often say this: “When losing, say nothing. When winning, say less.” I don’t think he ever gave a single interview.

I mentioned that line to Don Guy, the Ontario Liberal campaign boss, and he had it made into a sign which went on the war room wall in 2003, 2007 and 2011. He didn’t give interviews about his world view, either.

In fairness, the Trudeau kids aren’t doing anything that a lot of the Martin, Dion and Ignatieff folks didn’t do, too. All of them were seduced by the media, and went along with fawning profiles about staff, interviews with Peter C. Newman, and so on.

But, in each of those cases, it’s interesting to note that no one ever found out all that much about the staff on the Conservative side. The Con staff refused to give interviews about anything. We all remember who won those elections, don’t we?

And while we are on this subject – which should be deeply boring for any sensible person – I don’t work for the Trudeau campaign. I don’t work for the Liberal Party of Canada, either. Instead, I am paid to write my views about politics. Most of the time, I’m pretty pro-Liberal. But not all the time.

Got that, Team Trudeau? I don’t work for Justin. And, in my opinion, nobody should be hearing about who does.


  1. Sean says:


    Many of the candidates you mentioned came with excellent credentials. In fact the best. By comparison their intellectual prowess and accomplishments either equalled or exceeded those of Harper. Do you remember when both Rae and Ignatieff were asked if Hezbollah was a terrorist group and both responded in the affirmative? No one questioned them because of their incredible depth of knowledge on the subject. But Justin????

    We don’t know a thing about him other than a bunch of superficial charismatic stuff. As defenders of our democratic process, the media must press Trudeau and flush him out from the shadows.

  2. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    They need to be tough as nails — not acting like a bunch of crybabies if indeed that is their attitude. What you wrote cannot be defined IMHO as anything other than sound advice. They should be, at the very least G-R-A-T-E-F-U-L for your insight.

    Now if they NEED to know what strident criticism actually is, perhaps they should tune in to CBC News Channel and catch Susan Riley’s remarks…now, that’s criticism. No doubt about it.

  3. Mulletaur says:

    It’s been a long time since leadership campaigns were about electing a leader that could take the party to victory. Leadership campaigns are now all about promoting the careers of those who work on them – and then making money doing GR in the private sector once it all turns sour. It’s only natural that these people talk to the media to promote themselves, it will boost their eventual incomes.

  4. Kelley says:

    I was thinking the same thing except more recently about the profiles of the Brian Topp team. Personally I can’t name one person on the Thomas Mulcair team. Maybe there’s a lesson in that.

  5. Kre8tv says:

    Listening to pols talk about their work is dull, dull, dull. To them, I say this: want to really show how good you are and how smart you are? Shut up and do the work. Your value is in the results you get.

  6. Will says:

    Excellent advice, Warren. You ought to send them a bill.

  7. Chris P says:

    Damn! Well stated WK. We won’t start winning until we start acknowledging and learning from past experiences. It used to drive me N-U-T-S to see Alfred Apps on CBC so eager to hear his own voice HE became the story more than the leader, policies did.

    I fear a coronation – we don’t need Justin to run only. We need Justin + Garneau + Carney + Manley + Mckenna (I still dream) + + + + to really ignite lasting and sustainable interest and momentum.

  8. frmr Disgruntled Con now Happy Lib says:

    Somebody just got spanked….

    These folks have already celebrated the royal ascencion, and are simply awaiting the coronation…….

    For the sake of the party, as Chris P stated above, I hope there are other pretenders to the throne…..

  9. the Real Sean says:

    Damn right Warren. That was one thing which pissed me off about Team Martin right from the get go. It is easier for team Trudeau to slide into that mess than they think. Dion’s group IMHO wasn’t nearly as bad. However, Iggy’s team had definitely left base camp to approach the Martinite zenith of stupid. Trudeau folks – learn from the past! Settle down.

    BTW, not that the other Sean is fake. But he is a different person and probably does not want to be confused with me.

  10. Tim Sullivan says:

    It is all about being important, in the know. The Liberal Party is structured in a way that the culture develops to be someone important and to let everyone know it.

    Case in point: the party has provincial wings, each with an executive like having a president, a vice president or 2, a communications guy etc., and some kind of top director, executive director etc., then there are the commissions, for seniors, aboriginals, whatever. We have a youth wing, in each province … On top of this, we have the national organization, and of course, some provincial parties, closely or loosely associated. Then there is caucus, the research bureau, leadership aspirants.

    That is a lot of important people, all who run for office or speak for the party in some manner.

    It is too much to understand sometimes. As Liberals, we are overloaded with bureaucracy, officials … important people with fancy titles. All the leadership personnel are just trying to keep their heads above the “important people” water level.

    All the coolest people prefer to be silently toiling in obscurity, but there are not too many people who want to be cool anymore. They want to be known, and know that they are known.

    The first thing the new leader has to do, or Rae should do it now, is get rid of the provincial wings and the commissions, that is, unless they can show they contribute to a) policy b) candidate recruitment or c) electoral success. I doubt any of them can show any of these.

    • Elizabeth says:

      The culture is not suppressive, that’s the problem. Liberals are verbal, intelligent, interesting, and talkative. Scatty at times. Tories remind me of a herd of buffalo, they don’t talk but they can sure run you over.

  11. ernest lustig says:

    Well said Warren. The problems we have had over the last number of elections is that everybody wants to be front row centre and get all the recog nition and are only worried about what they can get out of the party, namely jobs, money etc. They are not die hard LIBERALS. Do you want me to name some, no, you know who they are. Warren, how about you getting involved, maybe we can get the same results as Prov., They do not seem to have too many with any years of experience, such as you, maybe Eddie G and his partner etc. Cant just remember his name.

  12. Michael S says:

    Oldest adage in the book. “If you’re really good you STFU.”

  13. JStanton says:

    I agree that principle of keeping silent is generally a good one, but special circumstances arise that need their own response.

    Firstly, Trudeau needs to demonstrate that he has credible people within his inner circle – that he has won over sufficiently credible people who have more properly weighed his chances for success than can the MSM sound-bite delivery system and the sound-bite-knee-jerk-driven general public.

    Secondly, given that this early in the pre-game he cannot meet or maintain a burn-rate of a hundred thousand dollars or more every month, all he can provide for his people is notoriety, which, hopefully, will help to translate into their more easily being funded through other means.

    The CPC, in contrast, had deep pockets to tap and a large war chest to draw from, in order to fund their tactics. And of course, this has been augmented by tax payers ever since Harper won the election.


    • VH says:

      Trudeau doesn’t need to demonstrate anything about his inner circle to anybody. What he needs to do is to go sell the country on Justin Trudeau. Outside of the Liberal party, nobody cares who his chief of staff is.

      Regarding your second point…if Trudeau can’t even sell his *own* inner circle on the merits of his leadership bid but except to fluff their egos in the press, then he and they have got nothing anyways and the whole exercise is pointless. So that’s not a good reason. Either you believe in something or you don’t.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    Agreed. Keep your cards close to your chest, always. In addition – “Never miss a good chance to shut up.” – Will Rogers

    The worst thing they can do is start getting cocky. I’m sure we’ll see staffers blunder, fall by the wayside, have to leave – in the course of the next few years. They should all set themselves the goal of not becoming one of them.

  15. dave says:

    You sure don’t hear much from, or about, the back room people working for Burton, Mousley, or Coyne.

  16. blueworld says:

    I’m an idiot. Mock me.

  17. Lance says:

    You don’t work for them, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t listen. If I was in a trench somewhere I’d sure as hell would appreciate the guy with experience fighting in the previous two wars who had something to say, and I sure as hell wouldn’t be dismissing him.

  18. Allan MacDougall says:

    An audacious truth can accomplish what a conformed response cannot.

    What an almost obnoxiously-Liberal thing for me to say.. lol 🙂

  19. J.A. says:

    I agree with Lance about the wisdom of listening to experienced people. While I know there is a real need to appeal to youth, that should not mean ignoring older advisors completely. let’s hope that is not what will happen here.

  20. Jason says:

    Good advice, if they take it. Hard not to answer questions about the backroom when the media come asking

  21. james curran says:

    W! I think you’re being far, far too nice to these people. Waaaaaaaaay far. If you like, I’ll elaborate for you. But that will involve a lot of explicatives.

    BTW, Justin is here in Burlington Wednesday at 3.

  22. Bil H says:

    as an outsider (non-liberal) looking in, i can obviously see the appeal of JT.

    But i don’t get the continued facination with who the leader is. Is it that he/she provides a face and potential identity for party faithful?

    Is it old habits of assuming the votes are there and its just a matter of the messanger that hasn’t been found?

    every party is excited with new interesting leadership candidates, but it just seems like Liberals can’t get off the leader drug. Its like with each hit their eyes glaze over and the world becomes awesome again.

    how is it that vote splitting, fundraising, political/economic powershift westward, crowding of the centre, and potential shifting of traditional demographic voting patterns all get ‘fixed’ by ‘insert latest great white hope here’.

    is it not enough election losses?

    i’m not being obtuse or satirical, i really don’t get.

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