12.08.2012 09:22 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: Trudeau’s triangulation

A failure.

It isn’t something that anyone – particularly political partisans – ever like to admit to.

But that’s what the gun registry was, ultimately: a failure. And I say that as a Liberal, and a Liberal who owns firearms, too.

Justin Trudeau, who unnerves Harper Conservatives and Mulcair New Democrats in equal measure, said this week that the registry – however well-intentioned – was a failure. He said it with no enthusiasm, but he said it nonetheless.

The Cons and the Dippers quickly professed to be pleased by Trudeau’s change of opinion. But they shouldn’t be.

During a campaign-style stop in Hawkesbury, Ont., Trudeau said: “The long-gun registry, as it was, was a failure and I am not going to resuscitate that. But we will continue to look at ways of keeping our cities safe and making sure that we do address the concerns around domestic violence across the country in rural as well as urban areas.”

NDP principal secretary Karl Belanger and Conservative Senator Doug Finley made a big fuss about what Trudeau said, bleating and tweeting about Trudeau’s past voting record on the issue. But the government and the Official Opposition are fighting the last war.

Because the registry, as Trudeau said, is indeed dead. The Conservatives terminated the program earlier this year, and then made a big show out of erasing the many years of collected data (Quebec, however, is holding onto the information in the hopes of creating a registry of its own).

I’ve owned guns for a long time. So do members of my family. We didn’t think it was a big deal to register our guns. On one of the occasions I did so, it took less time that it took to register my bike. (I timed it.)

But that was then, this is now.

As with the NEP and a carbon tax, the Conservative Party is fond of droning on and on about assorted outrages, real or perceived. Politically, some work, and some do not. (Suggesting that opponents of an Internet surveillance bill were on the side of “the child pornographers” was one such canard that blew up in their faces.)

The gun registry, however, worked. As a political issue, it defeated more than a few Liberals, and elected untold numbers of Tory backbench trained seals. That’s why Harper and his party talked about for such a long time, without ever actually doing anything about it: it won them votes.

No longer. The registry has been relegated to the history books, and Trudeau – wisely, shrewdly – is serving notice that a Liberal government will be in no rush to bring it back.

Trudeau has also said he doesn’t regret voting to preserve the registry. That, too, isn’t really controversial. He’s simply saying it was part of the Liberal policy past – but it won’t be part of a Liberal policy future.

Like every successful aspiring Prime Minister, Trudeau knows that urban Canada alone can’t deliver a Parliamentary majority. He needs rural support, too. (A lesson Ontario Liberals will learn, the hard way, if they select a leader from downtown Toronto.)

Before the advent of the registry, Jean Chretien held all but one of Ontario’s seats, and he secured MPs in every province and region, urban and rural. When Justice Minister Allan Rock started marketing the registry, Liberals started losing seats.

Justin Trudeau is once again doing what he said he was going to do: borrowing policies from the Right, borrowing from the Left. The Clinton guys had a fancy name for it – triangulation – but its meaning is simple: doing what it takes, without being blinded by ideology.

That strategy, by the way, isn’t usually a failure.

It’s a winner.


  1. bluegreenblogger says:

    Warren, thank you very much, because that needed saying. Trudeau’s only mistake IMHO was in the timing. In a week or two, once the dust had settled, and the ‘anniversary’ was over, it would have been a traingulation worthy of Clinton. As it was, it was fumbled a bit, but still well done. The registry is now dead, the Conservatives have lost the gift that kept on giving, and Trudeau has earned something of inestimable value, he opened a lot of closed minds (even if they are empty ones). The registry was just tickety boo as far as policy goes, but it was NOT some golden solution to gun violence against women. It was merely a sensible idea, that cost about $900 million more than it was worth. It ended up creating a made in Canada gun lobby (what a disgusting thought, as if guns should have some sacred spot in our hearts, retch retch), and gifted us with a CPC majority. It basically decided me that Trudeau is not sleep walking, he is a shit together Conservative Killer. He will be the next Prime Minister.

    • Don`t forget, he first has to get the nomination from Liberals.

      • Gary says:

        Liberals and Supporters.

      • bluegreenblogger says:

        Looks to me like his eye is already on the main event. You are right of course, there has to be a solid leadership contest. If Trudeau keeps on at this pace though, the LPC is going to be growing in leaps and bounds, and it will redound to his credit. You are right though, it’s too early to be putting on our party hats and taking out the noisemakers.

    • billg says:

      So, it was a sensible idea that saved lives but it cost too much? And thats what you call getting your shit together?
      The CPC war room has that attack ad up and ready right now its so delicious, then, the anit Alberta/Western Canada ads. I have no idea what young Mr Trudeau stands for, I dont think anyone does right now because its a mish mash of off the cuff remarks. He may make a great PM one day if given the chance, but, his remarks and interviews over the last two years are going to make it next to impossible for him to win where he has to, which is rural Ontario and Western Canada. In 7 years….maybe.

      • bluegreenblogger says:

        “The CPC war room has that attack ad up and ready right now its so delicious, then, the anit Alberta/Western Canada ads.” lol, good luck with that one. It will be way too late to define Trudeau with some cheesy run of attack ads on such a lame premise. And do you really think you are going to suppress Liberal votes by telling Canadians that Trudeau, maybe doesn’t like Alberta? ROFL! Go ahead, make my day! Remember those eastern basterds freezing in the dark? Well, they remember Alberta. Not my sentiment, but enough Joe and Pierre Sixpacks will agree that Albertans borrowed the keys, and are now breaking all the furniture, so the ‘attack ad’ will only be of limited value in Alberta itself. But if you want to spend a whack of dough driving supporters in the Liberal Partys arms, feel free.

        • billg says:

          Most attack ads are based on lame premises, find something small and make a mountain of it, find a quote and run like hell with it. I have no idea what your rant was trying to say, but, if you believe young Mr Trudeau’s last few weeks are not going to come back and bite him then you havent been paying attention to the last 20 years of election campaigns.

  2. Steve T says:

    Just when I’m ready to write off Trudeau, he does something smart like this. The next few years are going to be very very interesting, as will the next federal election.

  3. !o! says:

    Interesting. Tactically brilliant piece. đŸ˜€

  4. Peter says:

    Good piece. This is why I enjoy Warren’s insight. Hearing Trudeau’s point of view on the registry, I must admit I was wondering what sort of political machination was evolving from his campaign war room. It was outspoken, but subtle, brazen but honest. But it also has underpinnings that when Trudeau does speak now…Canadians know he means it. So it should be very interesting when the Harper goon squad on that “parliamentary committee” forces trudeau to appear. I think Justin is spoiling for a fight on that one…and he’ll probably..use it…to frame the Reformacon McCarthyism bent…as amateur hour.
    So thank you Warren, I get it now.

    • Koffi says:

      “…..when Trudeau does speak now…Canadians know he means it.” The problem is, what he “means” is different, depending on the audience. I’m not sure he stands for anything other than getting himself elected….first as Liberal leader, and then as Prime Minister. I believe the Cons will rip him apart for what, on the surface, sounds and looks like a moving target in terms of his beliefs. I’m a Garneau fan as relates to party leader, but I’m not convinced that even Marc will be able to put this Party over the top in the next election.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I agree, he’s absolutely right. Basically, he took the Harpercons’ candy away from them, off the table. It has been a major bait-tactic for years, and now it’s gone. I’m sure he knew beforehand that he’d be saying it.

    Looking forward now to him appearing before committee.

    But omgod the way left-leaning people ranted at him, you’d think he was Harper. It really was a reaction similar to what Dylan got when he picked up an electric guitar.

    Very happy with Justin T so far, on both “blunders” he was actually right, he hasn’t said anything wrong, it’s just that he’s got a very quick mind that people have trouble catching up to — and he’s honest.

  6. Peter says:

    Very smart of him. It’s a bit like Harper firmly closing the file on gay marriage. Together with his pro-oil comments, it’s an indication he understands what a lot of Dipper and Lib partisans don’t, which is that it’s folly to pretend the HarperCon interlude is just a bad dream from which they will awaken and triumph with exactly the same rhetoric and policies they were touting two decades ago. It’s all very well to talk of mergers and cooperation and a big “progressive” majority, but unless the Libs accept shifting demographics and starts cultivating the West and the suburbs, they’re in for some more falls. I’m struck by how many progressives are stuck in an urban core time warp and just dismiss the burbs with their time-honoured, Bloor-and-Yonge sniffy disdain. Are they aware 100% of our population growth from the last census was in the suburbs? Wasn’t that the lesson of Ford’s win?

  7. Kaplan says:

    Warren, I have to disagree with you. The gun registry was not a failure. Police chiefs from across the country said it kept their officers safer. At $4 million a year to operate, I found it difficult (on a pragmatic, not political, level) to understand why law and order (and fiscal) conservatives could not support it, let alone so-called Liberals.

    Bill Clinton, who mastered the art of triangulation thanks to the morally-bankrupt Dick Morris, preserved his presidency. In the short run, triangulation can work. But it’s driven by the political necessity of the moment. It’s driven by polls. Like suicide, it’s a long-term solution to a short-term problem, with often tragic results. It moves our political parties away from clearly staked out positions, and more towards the values-barren wasteland of selfish political expediency.

    I’m really disappointed in Trudeau on this one. And I’m quite surprised you support this approach.

    • bluegreenblogger says:

      I don’t get it. Are you suggesting that the Liberal Party should campaign on a promise to restore the Gun Registry? The point is that the registry is gone now. Ipso facto, it failed. It did cause a lot of damage to the Liberal Party, basically wipingtem out in rural Ontario. Rura everywhere actually. and its existence created a hopefully temporarily powerful gun lobby in Canada. I just do not see what there is to do but get some distance between the Liberal party and the LGR, and think of better, or at least different ways to deal with the issue of gun violence. Ways that do not involve establishing the Conservative Party as a permanent government.

      • PETER says:

        I think Trudeau maybe using this pre-Christmas period to get a few “wedge” issues off the table. I don’t believe that LGR or such issues will be revived in any great fashion. I do believe that the “parliamentary Committee” on which the Harper goon squads takes it marching orders and talking points from the PMO McCarthyism will be covered by the media like the second coming. The Reformacons, are small minded people, they love vendetta’s — and these were the same neocon’s when gearing up for the Brazeau/Trudeau Charity Bout — behind closed doors were rubbing their hands in glee over the prospect of a bloodied and battered Trudeau being carried out of the ring. But the like the Mitt Romney Republican clan, all they did was talk among themselves about it and never looked the other way.

        So, this is a different so of “bout” — you can be sure that Harper Goon Squad, will hit the ground running with clips and quotes by Trudeau going back years…and it will absolutely nothing to do with the business of the committee they sit on…it’ll be the McCarthy Witch Hunt — 2013 Neocon style — it’s a good test for Trudeau…because should he prevail substance and flash?

        The media will surely give it all the air time it desires.
        For some reason I think Trudeau will turn the tables on this self styled Harper inquisition.

    • Graham says:

      The Canadian Association of Chief’s of Police supported it currently.

      That wasn’t always the case. When the registry was first introduced they were against it.

      When the FAC system was introduced by PET, retailers were required to record the FAC number and firearms serial number and send that info to the RCMP.

      The RCMP was supposed to keep that data which was a essentially the first long gun registry, albeit not computerized.

      You know what the RCMP did with those records? Destroyed them as soon as the got them.

      Despite what Justin said, a failed program isn’t one that is removed by another government, or whatever his convoluted explanation was.

      A failed program is one that fails to accomplish even a single of it’s publicly stated goals. The long gun registry was indeed a failed program.

    • Paul says:

      The thing is, that “officer safety” talking point is BS and any thinking person should realize that. Can you honestly imagine the following conversation between of a pair of police officers rolling up to a a domestic dispute call?

      “Oh lookie here, the registry check came up empty, Frank. I think I’m gonna leave my vest and sidearm in the car for this one, how about you?”

      “Sure why not? We sure won’t be needing them here.”

      The fact is that police are trained to be vigilant at all times, not just when a computer tells them there might be a hunting rifle locked up in home they are knocking on the door of. Let us remember that these same “police chiefs” were vehemently opposed to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and are also enthusiastic supporters of Vic Toews’ warrantless wiretapping ideas. The CACP are only interested in consolidating police power, and are certainly not friends of ordinary freedom-loving Canadians.

  8. JH says:

    There seems to be no doubt that Justin Trudeau is attempting to move the Liberals to the right and into Conservative territory i.e. Nexen deal and the LGR. Problem is will the party’s base want to move in this direction, leaving their progressive side of the spectrum open to inroads by the NDP and the Greens? I know you can’t be all things to all people all the time, but still?

    • steve w says:

      Is he really attempting to move the LPoC to the right and into Con territory or is he flipping on its head that old adage of campaigning on the left then governing from the right?

  9. Graham says:

    Except Justin never really called it a failure. He only kinda, sorta, did.

    He said the registry was a failure as it was and the Liberals wouldn’t be bringing that back.

    AS IT WAS, and won’t bring THAT back are the key parts of Trudeau’s statement.

    It’s going to take a hell of a lot more than that to trick gun owners into voting Liberal again.

    It’s isn’t courageous to kind of denounce a program that is already dead.

    • bluegreenblogger says:

      Are you serious? Do you think the typical farmer, with a couple of guns in the house will spend his vote 3 years from now based on the long gun registry? Farmers are more practical than you are my friend. The majority of them will have moved on.

  10. K says:

    You either support evidence-based policy, or you support populist pandering. There’s no in-betweens. I happen to think that populist pandering is best left to the CPC and NDP. Though given what polls say on this issue nationally, I’d be more inclined to call opposing the LGR demographic suicide than populist pandering.

    The bigger problem is here that he left us under the impression he thought it was a substantive failure — clearly it isn’t, and he said so after the fact — and then pivoted to say it was a substantive success but too politically difficult to implement again.

    What’s next — “marijuana legalization is bad” … followed by “I meant marijuana itself is bad, but I’m persuaded by the argument for legalization” a week later?

  11. Bruce says:

    A fawn: Cute, untested, wobbly, an easy target, needing guidance, shouldn’t wander off alone. Trudeau matches the description perfectly.
    Can’t wait to hear how he handles the tough issues (Israel v Hamas; anti-Americanism, growth v environment; centralization v provincial authority.)

  12. Paul says:

    Does the Liberal party have the balls to break the taboo on the war on drugs? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UtNF-Le2L0&feature=youtu.be This was put out by Richard Branson’s son and narrated by Morgan Freeman.

    Want to really get rid of gangs and guns and killings?

  13. GFMD says:

    When someone loses their right to own guns because they committed a serious violent crime, do you think it’s good the police have a list of the guns this person owns?

    Then I guess you’re voting for Mulciar in 2015.

  14. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    They can call it a failure. They can call it a non-issue going forward. I support the registry and that will not change.

    I look forward to see where Justin will come down on the eventual Marois registry. That should be interesting, to say the least.

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