02.25.2013 10:30 AM

Garneau vs. Trudeau: he could’ve been a contender

To wit:

Marc Garneau is challenging Justin Trudeau to a one-on-one debate.

“The leadership of the Liberal Party is too important a position to hand to an untested candidate hiding behind a carefully crafted public relations campaign,” Garneau said at a news conference Monday morning.

In his remarks, the candidate for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party said the format of candidate debates so far has been too limiting.

There are three problems with this:

1.  It’s arrogant.  It assumes (wrongly) that there are only two credible candidates in the race.  Murray and Cauchon would likely feel otherwise.

2. It’s desperate.  It’s what also-rans always do when they sense the end is near: they demand a match with the top dog. It’s grasping at straws. It never works.

3.  It breaks the rules.  They are leadership candidates, in a leadership race, with leadership rules – and lots of leadership debates. Garneau is losing, badly, so he’s started complaining about something that he never complained about before.

With the greatest of respect, I reiterate: this move is arrogant, it’s desperate, and it’s against the rules that everyone agreed to at the start.

Including Garneau.




  1. Eric Weiss says:

    As much as I would like to see it you’re 100% correct. Only losers try to change the rules in the middle of the game.

  2. Ted B says:

    Strange approach, I agree.

    It didn’t work for Ignatieff, even though you and I thought it would: http://warrenkinsella.com/2011/03/stephen-harper-chicken/#comment-31885. Worked for a day or two for the Libs, but ultimately it was the NDP who benefitted (which ultimately benefitted Harper). It backfired after the first couple of days, Layton was able to turn that into a “why are you so presumptuous to think that I can’t win?” that helped propel them upward and Libs down. Canadians didn’t like to be told that they only have two options.

    And it won’t work for Garneau and it may backfire as other candidates speak up. It could help the other candidates (which ultimately benefits Trudeau). Liberals don’t like to be told that they only have two options.

    • Warren says:

      No, what I thought would work for Ignatieff was Harper saying I dare you, then Ignatieff taking the dare, then Harper running away. That’s not the situation here.

      • Ted B says:

        True. And there was a moment in the campaign right after than and partly because of that where Iggy almost caught up to Harper.

        But then he backslid and could do the same for Garneau too. Harper and Layton pounded the theme of of his arrogance, which the challenge fed more than it beefed him up as tough. Harper looked weak for not following through, absolutely, but Layton ended up benefitting and Trudeau will as well.

  3. Thirstan Falconer says:


  4. Billy boy says:

    Of course what everyone is missing is that Garneau is actually right. Everyone knows that Trudeau is not only the front runner but the runaway winner of what was never really a contest. Despite Warren’s column recently, the “supporter” category is tailor made for a hype machine like Trudeau. This leadership race has been nothing but a coronation of the person LPC thinks has best shot a reviving electoral fortunes. It is not about renewal, ideas, nor even about a race.

    Garneau is right when he says: “The leadership of the Liberal Party is too important a position to hand to an untested candidate hiding behind a carefully crafted public relations campaign.”

    My suspicion is that Mr Kinsella is already or soon to be one of those crafters. I find it highly symptomatic that when either of the only viably worthy ( they’re all worthy) contenders took a shot at Trudeau (I.e. simply told the truth) there was immediate and disproportionate blowback.

    • Craig says:

      There’s nothing wrong with Garneau and Findlay engaging in legitimate criticisms of Trudeau – the vetting will be good for Justin if he becomes leader. He needs the experience of responding to criticisms if he is going to go up against Harper & Mulcair. The problem I have with Garneau & Findlay is not that they are engaging in some vetting of Trudeau but that they seem to be unaware of the fact that they themselves are not the strongest candidates and don’t have the best electoral track records. Findlay lost her seat in 2011 – she shouldn’t even be running for leader until she gets back into Parliament and proves she can hold Willowdale. And Garneau was given the safe Liberal seat of Westmount and nearly lost it in 2011. Why do either one of them assume they can do better than Trudeau in a general election?

  5. Swervin' Merv says:

    Nice headline, Warren. Turner Classic Movies Canada showed On the Waterfront again on Saturday night.

  6. Paul Fevrano says:

    Yes, good points, but most important is that it reveals a shocking lack of judgment and intelligence on Garneau’s part. When one sees the tide of history changing and the rise of a blessed sovereign democracy under the guidance of a truly dynamic leader, one should gracefully stand out of the way rather than shrilly attacking him. I for one give my complete and unreserved support, admiration, and dare I say love to this outstanding young man who has the passion, the genius to move the vanguard of the Canadian Nation forward. To continue with your On the Waterfront metaphor, Garneau and Findlay should play “D and D” (“deaf and dumb”), accepting their subservient position rather than risk the danger and shame. Viva Trudeau! Viva Trudeau!

  7. Kaplan says:

    It’s politics. I don’t blame Garneau for this move. He’s not breaking the rules, he’s challenging Trudeau – and he keeps the message (his main critique of Trudeau) out there. I don’t expect JT’s supporters to be happy about it, but, as Warren is doing, they can easily re-frame Garneau’s challenge in the guide of his three-point takedown.

    Like I said, it’s politics.

  8. Sean says:

    I seriously thought about supporting Garneau early on. However, putting this guy on the campaign team communicated to everyone that he wasn’t for real.


  9. Koffi says:

    I think Garneau is actually trying to do a work-around of a set of rules and procedures that, for whatever strange reason, seems designed to avoid discussion and debate about actual policies during the leadership race. Trudeau may win this thing on the first ballot for all we know at this point. But it would seem to me to be advantageous to have had him defend himself and his beliefs within the confines of a “friendly” Liberal leadership race. The Tories seem to be salivating around the idea of Trudeau and Harper going head to head in an election debate, but anyone who has ever seen Mulcair in a debate, knows that he may well be the Liberal dragon-slayer when it comes to a debate with Trudeau. To my mind, the “kitchen table” type television events like the Winnipeg “debate”, did nothing to allow Liberals, or Canadians generally, to differentiate between the various candidates. A one-on-one between the 1st and 2nd place contenders would have had a number of win-win outcomes. This has been a terrible leadership contest in terms of allowing candidates to challenge and differentiate. Anything that tries to penetrate the tight packaging of Mr. Trudeau, is swiftly dealt with in a manner that makes many long-time Liberals shake our heads. First MHF, and now Mr. Garneau are being treated as pseudo-traitors for trying to make this a race. It may not have been meant to be a coronation, but I’m afraid a lot of Canadians are going to see this as another Dion/Ignatieff event all over again.

    • Craig says:

      As I said in my other posts, I completely agree that Trudeau should be vetted and should face competition and criticism in order to prepare him to compete against Harper & Mulcair. The problem is that the field of candidates challenging Trudeau is weak – Findlay lost her own seat in 2011, Garneau nearly lost his, and Cauchon failed to win his back. And other than Joyce Murray, none of the other candidates has ever been an MP. So why do candidates like Findlay & Garneau feel they would be better in a general election than Trudeau considering their own electoral weaknesses in winning their own ridings?

      I agree that Mulcair will probably be a more formidable opponent than Harper. He is a better debater and the real race will be between the Liberals and the NDP, particularly in Quebec where there will be a fight on the home turf that Trudeau & Mulcair both share. Afterall, it was Layton who knocked out Ignatieff, not Harper. But Mulcair has to be careful not to become a rabid pitbill against Trudeau or he will turn off voters. And debates aren’t everything – what made Layton successful was his ability to connect with voters. Trudeau has that ability, Mulcair may not be able to connect with Canadians the way Layton did.

  10. Rusty P Bucket says:

    I’m a racist piece of garbage. Spam me. Rustyp@shaw.com

  11. J.W. says:

    Stating the obvious, Garneau knows Trudeau has no choice but to turn it down before he even makes the offer. Findlay, Murray et al would just pile on if Trudeau had the arrogance to agree to a debate which left them out.. Garneau in a sort of cynical “no lose” situation by making a phoney challenge, but escaping the criticism for it because he’s not the leader.

  12. Gabriel says:

    Warren, respectively, I disagree with you.

    It is a strategy – Garneau is attempting to show that he would be willing to debate one on one with Trudeau. The “so-called” rules that you mentioned have favoured Trudeau from the beginning. In fact, there are rumours going around that some of the candidates are friends of friends of Trudeau who just happened to enter the Leadership race so that there wouldn’t be an extensive debate between the so-called ‘frontrunners’. I cannot verify these rumours and they may not be true – but it makes you think.

    And it is not really desperate considering that these debates have been boring and a one – on – one, in the same format as the last Quebec Election, would tremendously help the leadership process.

    I had wished, based on what some others have written, that there would be a survivor type election, in which people are voted off, and we would have max 4 candidates, maybe 3. This happens in the Primary Process all the time in the United States. Problem is that there is no primary process, and we are stuck with 9 candidates, some of whom have absolutely no chance in winning, and 1 of whom is 99% going to win. It is absurd.

  13. Caucus being as thin as it is, I do not think that Garneau is burning any bridges here. Whether Trudeau feels any animosity or not, he will have no choice but to extend an olive branch when the contest is over. There just aren’t enough names in caucus to go throwing out the top, or even the middle talent. On top of that, of course Garneau is looking for any edge he can secure coming up on the finish line like this. There is always the chance that something drastic can happen, so even if the odds are 200:1 against, you don’t just quit at the finish line. All this move signifies to me is that Garneau recognises there is little more to be done than hope against all hope. Good for him says I. Plucky bugger. ( and yes, I am a Trudeau supporter)

  14. kit says:

    Oh my, can Garneau get more desperate than this? Is this his hail mary? Not very smart, I say. Especially since Garneau cannot connect with the unwashed, who’s votes he really, really needs in the next election if he would become leader. I know, after this drama, if Garnwau pulls off a win, I will be staying home in the next election for the first time in my life.

  15. Reality.Bites says:

    The only way Garneau could win is if Trudeau didn’t win a majority on the first ballot and other candidates dropped out in favour of him.

    With his one on one challenge dismissing their importance and worth, he’s virtually ensured that none of them will ever do that. So in addition to the points Warren made, it’s guaranteed him a loss. If there was actually a majority against Trudeau (I don’t think there is), he’s guaranteed it would coalesce around the third place finisher.

    • Michael says:

      But it’s not a delegated convention where people drop off the ballot and support others.

      • Reality.Bites says:

        To be honest I haven’t checked into the mechanics of the vote at all, Michael, but I still assume that if I support Candidate X, whether I’m officially committed to X or not, when X is removed from contention and states their support for Y, I’m more likely to support Y than Z. Dismissing the other candidates as unimportant destroys your future in the party.

        • Gary says:

          It is a preferential ballot. You only vote once. So, you need to choose X,Y,Z all at once and in the order that you support them. There is no method to change any choices as candidates are dropped off. If your first choice is dropped off then the will recount and use you second choice. And so on until a candidate has enough points to win.

          • Reality.Bites says:

            OK then – how likely is a supporter of X to list Garneau as 2nd or 3rd knowing that Garneau has no respect for their 1st choice?

            (I really don’t think the 2nd and so on choices are going to come into play anyway. I expect Trudeau to win on the first ballot. And Westmount-Ville-Marie to have a new Liberal candidate in the next election

  16. Michael says:


    Trudeau has as much experience as Harper had when he took over the Alliance.

  17. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    It would be presumptous for me to declare that Justin, or anyone else, is our next leader. All I know for sure is that Camp Conservative is manufacturing plenty of shit in a can and I expect to see it rolled out as quickly as humanly possible as soon as we have a new leader. This won’t be Dion, Iganatieff or Rae garden variety drivebys. It will be much lower and a much bigger player across our television screens, radio and on the net. Unfortunately, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

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