08.24.2013 07:14 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: the best and worst of Trudeau

The best and worst of the Liberal Party of Canada were on full display in the past week.

On the one hand, there was the “race” to be the Liberal candidate in Toronto Centre, which became available when Bob Rae decided to retire from politics.

The behind-the-scenes machinations in Toronto Centre suggest, among other things, that the entire affair has been rigged to favour one candidate over the others.

Even before the race has run its course, in fact, Toronto Centre feels like it has been decided already — and it has left many wondering if Justin Trudeau’s much-celebrated “open nominations” pledge was, among other things, a bit of spin, maybe even a fib.

And then, on the other hand, there was something else entirely, something to make us proud.

There was the selfsame Trudeau, being the first political leader to raise his voice against Parti Quebecois’ despicable plan to prevent public employees — bureaucrats, but also doctors, nurses and teachers — from wearing religious garb and insignia in public.

While Stephen Harper remained silent, and the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair refused to criticize the PQ’s bigoted initiative — calling it only “a trial balloon” — Trudeau excoriated the separatists’ planned stunt, raising it with Premier Pauline Marois, and saying it would render Quebec a laughingstock.

“I don’t think it’s who we are,” Trudeau said, correctly. “I don’t think it honours us to have a government that does not represent our generosity and openness of spirit as a people.”

It was hard to square that Trudeau — the one who has opposed a hateful, undemocratic measure in Quebec — with the one who is muddying democratic principles down in Toronto Centre.

They do not seem like the same person, even though they apparently are.

The Toronto Centre contest, which really isn’t one, recalls the bad old days of the once-great Grits, when earnest and hard-working locals were pushed aside — and out-of-touch aristocrats made their entrance, trumpets heralding their arrival, and the leader’s minions throwing rose petals ahead of them.

The aristocrat, in this case, isn’t Michael Ignatieff, although you could be forgiven for remembering him right about now.

It is Chrystia Freeland, who (like Ignatieff) has lived and worked for years in the U.S., who (like Ignatieff) passed some time at Harvard, who has written books (like Ignatieff) about Russia and the plight of people from a lower station in life, and who (like Ignatieff) is being heralded as a political star by the finest minds of deepest Rosedale.

Trudeau claims, with a straight face, that he is not attempting to engineer the nomination for Freeland — who does not even live in Canada, let alone Toronto Centre. But there is not a Liberal alive who believes him.

The fact that Trudeau professed to favour “open nominations” has made the odour emanating from Toronto Centre even more pungent. His caucus, who have had to endure plenty of indignities in recent years, have been told they must all fight to keep their nominations. No favourites, they were told.

All except Freeland, that is, whose book Trudeau rather fancied.

She therefore gets to have one of the most coveted Liberal nominations in the country. Without, you know, even living in the country.

As we say, it is as disappointing as it is puzzling. There were two Trudeaus stalking the land last week, and one of them we do not like, at all.

We need more of the one who protested courageously a scheme he knows will be popular with many in Quebec.

We need more of the young man who pointed out — unlike Harper and Mulcair — that the Parti Quebecois’ legislated bigotry is both unnecessary and unconstitutional.

What we don’t need, at all, is Michael Ignatieff in pearls — and Trudeau looking the other way, while some of his BMW-driving fixers maul democracy to orchestrate her debut in Parliament.

Early impressions are important, in politics as in life.

The impression Justin Trudeau left us with in the appalling Quebec case was inspiring — even prime ministerial. We applaud you, Mr. Trudeau.

Meanwhile, the impression left by the sordid manipulations in Toronto Centre? It all stinks.

And for that, Mr. Trudeau, we say shame on you.


  1. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Open nominations are healthy for democracy — but not necessarily convenient for the powers that be.

    So it was in my riding when the riding president and yours truly tried to give the then local MP the heave-ho.

    Funny, the party platform spoke of nothing else but apparently the PMO had other ideas…

    • Victor says:

      “Meanwhile, the impression left by the sordid manipulations in Toronto Centre? It all stinks.

      And for that, Mr. Trudeau, we say shame on you.”

      That sounds like a somewhat mild condemnation.

  2. robin says:

    There only 35 or so Liberal incumbents in Parliament. We need them to be focused on building the party nationally and their responsibilities in Parliament, therefore, protecting incumbents from contested nominations frees them from having to look over their shoulders as they balance travel across the country on behalf of the Party, their work in Ottawa and their duties to their constituents. However, it an open riding like Toronto Centre, the Leader’s office and the party should ensure an open, fair and competitive contest. To do otherwise diminishes us all. “Star” candidates rarely live up to their billing. We have a hard working and seasoned caucus. We need them to win their ridings and add 135 more, they can’t do this if they are being challenged in their own constituency.

    • Joyce says:

      robin, do you truly believe that the old veterans of the Liberal party have any mojo left in them to help the Liberal party flourish and rise out of it’s ashes? The Liberal party has been steadily declining and what is left is political remnants, to put it bluntly. Yes, they possess great experience, but do they truly fit in Justin’s Liberal party?

      Justin won the leadership on the promise of generational change and that can only happen if past failures are eliminated, and that surely must include many in the current Liberal caucus. Justin’s problem is if he wants generational change he can’t be seen surrounded by images of the past. It’s got to be a clean sweep, and that’s what I believe is intended with his policy of no protected ridings for old MPs, and that’s the clear message he’s sending to the Liberal caucus. Liberal MPs bearing the title “Honourable” must surely hold themselves above Trudeau notwithstanding his immense popularity amongst Canadians.

      Justin may be showing preference for Freeland, but he is technically not protecting Toronto Centre for her lone candidacy. If she is the Liberal candidate and fails to win the seat, and it goes NDP or CPC up the middle, that will have grave repercussions for Justin’s leadership. Liberals must retain Toronto Centre or else the consequences are grim. Trudeau’s charisma will have lost it’s sheen and it’s back to square one.

  3. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    I’m not interested in a culture of entitlement, meritorious or otherwise. There should be no such thing as a safe incumbent. What you need is the strongest, most qualified and talented candidate available in every riding and that decision should have precious little to do with the so-called power of incumbency.

    In every election, MPs survive a rout. In my book that certainly does not earn any of them an automatic pass — let each of them earn their nomination the old fashioned way. If they really are that good, experienced and qualified, logic suggests they will beat all comers in a contested nomination fight. It’s called being hardened for the true battle of the general election.

  4. Joyce says:

    Justin cannot protect any of the ridings if he is to hold true to his generational change promise to rebuild and restore his Liberal party. He may show favouritism, but he can’t protect any of the ridings. It is his Liberal party now and everybody will have to get used to that reality. He is the leader, and everybody in the Liberal party must follow and support the leader; or they can retire gracefully to make way for a younger generation of Liberals. I suspect Trudeau is playing the ‘long game’ and the conversion of the Liberal party cannot be accomplished in one fell swoop for 2015. A lot of new faces will appear and a lot of old faces will vanish. That’s called progress through renewal.

    • Roger Casement says:

      Joyce, adore your copy – I took the liberty of a slight rewrite and augmentation:

      It is his Liberal Party now and everybody will have to get used to that reality.

      He is the leader, and everybody in the Liberal Party must follow and support the dear leader – or they will be retired gracefully.

      New faces will appear and a lot of old faces will vanish.

      Anti-Party elements will be cleansed by the leader’s wise favouritism.

  5. Tim says:

    I’m not seeing the parallels with Michael Ignatieff who (unlike Chrystia Freeland) wanted to be PM without paying his dues. Ms. Freeland would like to stand for election as the MP for Toronto Centre. And if the finest minds in deepest Rosedale say Chrystia Freeland should be the candidate, the thought occurs that Rosedale is a part of Toronto Centre. This is a riding where they are allowed influence in a perfectly fair world. That’s democracy, not parachuting.

    She still has to run and win though. Safe Liberal seat? How about a safe BQ seat? Or a bankable Wildrose win in Alberta? Or a certain NDP victory in BC?

    Justin Trudeau is being second guessed by all sorts of people including you and I’m thinking that’s exactly how he likes it.

    • catherine says:

      Actually, it will be good for the Liberals if there are some parallels. Ignatieff won his seat until he ran to be PM. If Freeland, like Ignatieff, can win a seat in Parliament that will be good for the LPC.

      I suspect Freeland will win the LPC nomination and McQuaig will win the NDP nomination, but nothing is certain until the votes are counted. The other candidates in both parties should try to get as many votes as they possibly can and I’m sure that is what they are all doing.

    • graham watt says:

      Being underestimated is an advantage to a clever leader.

  6. Ty says:

    As a Liberal myself, I believe Justin.

    CBC has said that there’s only been a smattering of new registrations in the riding.

  7. MCBellecourt says:

    To me, this is minor spuds compared to some of the dirty tricks the Cons have pulled. Justin might want to weigh his words a little more carefully in the future, though. If a reporter asks a question about his plans and he’s not sure of the answer, he should simply reply that they are working on it, rather than giving an answer on the fly. It’s not a non-answer, but it is non-committal until the answer is agreed upon at caucus level.

  8. Tom Cardimonte says:

    Re: “Michael Ignatieff in pearls” – outstanding on a number of levels! Yet another reason the serfs are having to look elsewhere for representation. Not sure I completely buy the PQ denunciation; a) there was the now infamous “Canada is in bad shape right now because Albertans are controlling our social democratic agenda”; b) Trudeau realizes he will never be Quebecois enough for the hardline Quebecois isolationists – nothing to lose; so really, this is Quebecois supremacist federalist vs. Quebecois supremacist isolationist. As non-Quebecois, we don’t want “generosity” (a/k/a crumbs from the master’s table) or “openness of spirit” (a/k/a gentle condescension) – want equal civil, legal, and economic rights in the framework of a fair meritocracy – this is what you rightly denounce in both issues.

  9. Sean says:

    When asked what challenges face Trudeau just after winning the liberal leadership ( or was it a bit of a coronation? ) the arrogant Paul Wells say: I think his biggest challenge is that he doesn’t get bored because two years is a long time to wait. Trudeau is clearly not being bored as he creates unnecessary and destructive controversies for himself.

    I fully agree with Kinsella’s honest and brave assessment of parachute candidate Chrystia Freeland. The process insults undermines the incentive process of starting at the bottom, and working one’s way to the top by being a genuine member of a community. It truly is Michael Ignatieff all over again, who affirmed the Tory attack ad that he’s only visiting. And it speaks to something more corrosive-that we’re unable to cultivate our own citizens who are citizens not only in theory but in practice,to represent us and to be responsible for our needs.

    Two years is a long time to wait Mr. Wells. And with controversies such as this, it’s beginning to make some liberals think, if we could only put him on a shelf, out of the limelight and away from the pot holes, two years could pass without serious incident.

  10. Geoff Smith says:

    Warren, come on, two words: North Vancouver.

  11. Gerry Hawes says:

    There is a big difference between encouraging someone to seek a Liberal nomination and appointing them as the candidate. Justin Trudeau is not appointing Chrystia Freeland. Just like others seeking that nomination, she has to sell memberships and get her vote out on nomination day if she is to win. Furthermore, it is not wrong for the Liberal leader to encourage individual Canadians to seek Liberal nominations. In fact, it is an important part of the job of the leader. I am a long-time Liberal who welcomes this policy of requiring incumbents to win their nominations. I have seen the complacency that sets in when incumbents are protected, and believe it was a factor in the demise of the Liberal Party. Encouraging Chrystia Freeland, and others like her, to seek Liberal nominations, is fine by me, as long as the choice of candidate is made through a democratic vote by the grass roots members of the riding association. This is exactly what is happening in Toronto-Centre.

    • Luke says:

      I find myself agreeing with you. Warren and others might feel that this technically being an open nomination is just that — a technicality — but the difference matters to me. I see nothing wrong with the leader recommending someone try for the nomination. In fact, I would probably find it a little strange if he had no views on the matter.

      Although, if Trudeau is using resources to fund her campaign, that is another story. I don’t agree with that so much,

  12. I agree wholeheartedly with you the Trudeau showed courage with a principled and very outspoken stance on the PQ bigotted proposals. I was very proud to be a Liberal when Trudeau spoke up. With regards to open nominations, I kind of agree with you, but with a little less vigour. It is true that Trudeau has promised totally open nominations. It is also true, as you have written several times, that a totally open nomination process carries with it the certainty that well organised groups with antediluvian agendas (yes, I am thinking pro-lifers, gun nuts, and death penalty lovers here), will take over some nominations. With that in mind I expected to see the letter of the open nomination pledge honoured, while influence would be brought to bear where the likely winner was really not the Liberal Party’s cup of tea. However, it is more than a bit of a stretch to believe that Smitherman is somehow anti-thetical to the Liberal Party’s values. In short, it is inevitable, and neccessary that Trudeau should be willing and ready to influence the occasional nomination, but in this particular case he is doing it for the wrong reason. He is breaking the spirit of his pledge not to avoid a disastrous outcome, but more to promote what can only be loosely called a favourable outcome. I guess that Smithermans arm was twisted practically out of its socket to keep him out of the nomination contest, so that having been acheived, the ‘Star ‘ Candidate has a level playing field. If she cannot win without a boatload of Trudeau help, then is she really such a winner? Can she move on to win what will be a far more competetive TC in the next General Election? Or will she become dependant upon fixers parachuting in to do her tough campaigning for her? Whatever happens in TC, I am praying that Trudeau does not make a mockery of his open nominations pledge. It is a good idea, with a few challenges to be managed, but it will die a messy death at this rate.

    • brucethepainter says:

      As card carrying crazy “pro-lifer” I would like to thank you for not calling me an “anti-choicer”. Sorry for not being enlightened.

      • I did not call pro-lifers crazy, they are merely antediluvian. Canadians have spoken, again and again on the issue, and even the Conservative Party has acknowledged that there is no chance whatsoever of restricting abortions beyond what is currently the case. Since the pro-life movement has migrated en masse to the CPC, where they are harmless, and incapable of affecting policy, there is no purpose to be served by the Liberals adopting pro-life policies and candidates. You are entitled to your opinions. Even if they are outdated, and doomed to go nowhere, I have no beef with people argueing passionately for their beliefs. Nonetheless, the Liberal Party would be foolish to adopt your ideals.

        • The Doctor says:

          I think you’re a bit naive to think that pro-lifers are somehow the exlusive preserve of the CPC. For many years, the most vocal pro-lifer in Parliament was one Tom Wappel, a Liberal. There are lots of pro-lifers in the LPC, and lots of pro-lifers who vote Liberal. And BTW, before you call me antediluvian, I’m as pro-choice as it’s possible to be. But at least I realize that the abortion issue does not divide neatly along partisan lines, and never has.

          • Historically you are correct. There are not very many issues that are the exclusive preserve of any party. Nevertheless, the migration en masse happened, and social conservatives clinging to this issue are mostly to be found under the wing of the CPC. It was pretty significant, because that coupled with the long gun registry is what gave the CPC their majority. I think it would be a big mistake for the Liberal Party to field single issue pro-life candidates, or adopting pro-life policies at this late stage.

  13. brucethepainter says:

    Wow… some of your best writing Warren (aside from SFH)

  14. Gerry Eisner says:

    “She didn’t come back for you.” – Toronto Centre NDP ads.

  15. Tiger says:

    Freeland is running for a seat in the House, not the leadership and/or the prime minister’s office.

    Big difference, for those who think this is Ignatieff redux.

  16. Steve T says:

    Completely agree, WK, and I would go one step further: candidates can only run in the riding in which they live. This would stop the practice of dropping “star” candidates in ridings because either (a) they are an important person within the party that needs a seat to hold their position, or (b) because there aren’t any suitable candidates in the riding and the party needs to win. In both cases, my view is: tough shit.

    Or, let’s stop the artificial practice of even having “ridings”, and just allocate seats nationally to each party.

  17. Victor says:

    We, the undersigned, believe Justin Trudeau is wrong:

    Bélanger, Mauril (Hon.)
    Bennett, Carolyn (Hon.)
    Brison, Scott (Hon.)
    Byrne, Gerry (Hon.)
    Coderre, Denis (Hon.)
    Cotler, Irwin (Hon.)
    Dion, Stéphane (Hon.)
    Easter, Wayne (Hon.)
    Eyking, Mark (Hon.)
    Fry, Hedy (Hon.)
    Goodale, Ralph (Hon.)
    Karygiannis, Jim (Hon.)
    MacAulay, Lawrence (Hon.)
    McCallum, John (Hon.)
    McKay, John (Hon.)
    Rae, Bob (Hon.)
    Regan, Geoff (Hon.)
    Sgro, Judy (Hon.)

  18. kitt says:

    I think you and everyone here owes Justin Trudeau an apology for posting and printing such half truths and innuendoes about Toronto Centre and Chrystia Freeland. http://queer-liberal.blogspot.ca/2013/08/interview-with-chrystia-freeland-and_26.html

    Hope you have the decency to post this.

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