05.12.2014 08:58 PM

In Tuesday’s Sun: ch-ch-ch-changes

OTTAWA – At a get-together here over the weekend, Barack Obama’s fabled spokesman guy, Robert Gibbs popped by.

When Gibbs spoke, the room went quiet, like it did in that old commercial where people lean in to hear advice from some financial advisor. You could hear a proverbial pin drop.

Gibbs was Obama’s White House voice from 2009 to 2011 – and, before that, he was one part of the triumvirate that helped the Chicago Senator win the presidency. He’s smart, among other things.

He’s asked about the Democrat’s chances in 2016, after eight years in the White House.

“It’s hard,” he says. “After eight years, after that much time, you’re in a change cycle. And change is a powerful theme.”

Indeed it is: Brian Mulroney rode it to a huge victory in 1984. Jean Chretien did likewise in 1993. Bill Clinton in ’92, George W. Bush in 2000. And Stephen Harper won with change, too, in 2006. But the people gave him a minority first, to ensure that his desired changes weren’t too radical.

Year 2014 is another change year. Harper has been there for almost a decade. In provinces like Ontario, provincial Liberals have been in power for more than a decade, and they look it.

Challengers in change cycles need to embody new, to be sure. But as Gibbs says, the “change” candidate needs to represent a clear alternative.

So, in 2008, Hilary Clinton had supported the Iraq war. Barack Obama didn’t. Apart from that one critical difference, their policy differences were mostly miniscule.

It isn’t enough, however, for the change candidate to merely say that being the first black president – or the first female president, or the first openly-gay Premier – is the change on offer. The change has to represent a risk.

Justin Trudeau takes risks. In the year and a bit since he became Liberal leader, in fact, Trudeau has taken plenty of risks.

Pot and pipelines. Open nominations that aren’t open. Ukraine jokes. Admiring dictatorships. And, last week, saying he won’t let his caucus to vote their consciences anymore.

By the usual standards, Trudeau should be politically dead. And the mistakes enumerated above – which, coincidentally enough, form the basis of a series of Conservative attack ads – should have ended his ambitions, long ago.

But he remains standing and strong. Forty plus polls have been taken since he became federal Liberal leader – and he has led in almost every one.

Why? It’s possible, perhaps, that the Con ads are serving Trudeau’s purposes. That is, by endlessly reminding voters that Trudeau represents radical change, they also remind Canadians that Trudeau – really, truly – is a real change.

They may even agree that he is radical change. But they are prepared to accept the radical stuff – the risks – in exchange for true change.

Trudeau, clearly, doesn’t intend to change his change-y ways. He’s out there on the tightrope, and he kind of likes the view.

Harper and Tom Mulcair, meanwhile, are down below, watching the Liberal leader do things they never would. They’ll never say it out loud, of course, but their entire strategy seems to revolve around waiting for Justin Trudeau to hit terra firma.

As strategies go, it’s not much of one.

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43 Comments

  1. Matt says:

    But then by that logic won’t Hudak benefit from the, as some pundits put it “mistake” of promising to cut 100,000 public sector jobs?

    That could be looked at as “real, radical change” from the last 10 years of Liberal rule that saw 300,000 public sector jobs added.

    • MississaugaPeter says:

      If what you say, that 300,000 public sector jobs have been created in 10 years is true, and somehow Hudak educated the public about that during the debates, the cut would be palatable and a sign of positive change (in many people’s view).

      If all the public hears is the 100,000 job losses at the debates, which appears (although is not necessarily) hypocritical next to the supposed 1,000,000 job gains, the cut would be scary and a sign of we-better-avoid change.

      That said, my union leader friend will not even put an NDP sign on his lawn. It seems unions are so, so pissed with Howarth for voting against the budget. They are not prepared to support Wynne either, yet. They are in a holding pattern waiting to see who to back after the debates. Not to sound like the ridiculously obvious Star headline, “Ontario 2014 election will be won and lost in key battlegrounds”, but Ontario 2014 election will be won and lost in the debates, and everything until then is just residual noise.

      • Matt says:

        It might also be helpful if he could provide:

        A) A timeframe for the cuts.

        B) Some kind of information as to how many of the 100,000 reduction could be accomplished through normal retirements.

        3) Make it clear to the voters that of Ontario’s 1 miilion plus public sector positions, there are 700,000 front line workers, and 350,000 management (according to the Toronto sun). So his reduction could come entirely from management positions.

        4) That since 2000, the public sector in Ontario has grown at twice the rate of the population (according to the Toronto sun)

        • Paul Brennan says:

          well said …there is a way to go about this properly without being a union basher…I get this is politics but attrition should take care of some of this ..problem is you need to replace frontline folks and managment types will wait out govt looking for cash severance..

      • Lance says:

        Yep. And it will also be lost or won not on those that vote, but those that decide to stay home because their usual choice is unpalatable to them.

    • terry says:

      I think the problem is that Hudak’s comment reinforces a lot of negative impressions people already have about him: that he’s a slash and burn cutter like his idiot mentor Harris, looking for simple answers for complicated problems. In contrast, not many (any?) of the items in Warren’s list strike me as very important to the average Canadian (Open nominations? Voting their consciences? Yawn. Spankbank material for political junkies and sleeping material for everybody else).

      • Adam says:

        Indeed. Open nominations are signficant only for active party members. I am a member of the NDP, but I the closest that I have got to participating in a nomination was heading out yesterday to sign nomination papers of an incumbent candidate who was pretty much selected. I suppose screwing up the nomination process will reduce the number of volunteers, but otherwise it hardly seems an issue.

        So, if you are going flip or flop, flipping or flopping on open nomination papers seems pretty minor as a political sin.

    • Just askin' says:

      Earlier today, I sat with a bunch of baffled public servants who wondered why Hudak needlessly threw away the votes of entire families who were planning to vote PC. Unless I’m missing something, it was senseless.

  2. Kelly says:

    “Change” for changes sake is such a lousy reason to replace a government. Especially if its phony change. Sadly Obama changed almost nothing that mattered and even continued sone of the very worst Cheney-era policies. Particularly in the USA by increasing hear as well, ay the federal level, the government serves the interests only of the wealthiest citizens. A big problem is our phony electoral system; it does produce governments even remotely like the will of voters. Some form of PR or at minimum preferential vote would produce real and effective change. But our lousy leaders are more interested in power (although I really don’t think Justin is motivated by that. I think he really is an idealist unlike the the grouchy twins who are ideologues.) Anyway change the voting system, then we could get real change for good reasons (evidence-based policy options.)

    • Kelly says:

      Should read “doesn’t” produce governments…

      Gawd I hate phony smartphone keyboards and auto correct.

  3. Matt says:

    Warren, this isn’t really related to the article, but can anything be read into a) Wynne’s starting the first official day of the campaign in Dalton McGuinty’s old riding, and b) her pretty much sticking to Liberal held ridings so far?

    • Bill says:

      Wynne must secure the GTA Liberal-held riding first and then venture out into Ontario where it’s conservative country. No use wandering outside the GTA unless that Liberal bastion is locked up, again.

      • Matt says:

        After watching her claim today Hudak is going to reopen the coal burning generating stations, the only thing she’s securing is a place in the loony bin.

        Six days into the campaign and she’s already in full desperation mode.

        • Warren says:

          Soldiers. In. Streets.

          • Matt says:

            With. Guns.

            🙂

            It was also interesting, after PC MPP Vic Fedeli (or I guess it’s PC candidate now since we’re in an election) point to documents from Ministry of Finance staff to Wynne’s cabinet saying there is absolutely no way they can eliminate the deficit when they claim they would, Wynne is now “hopeful” the economy will “over achieve expectations” to be able to meet their target.

            Despite just two weeks ago claiming their budget was the fiscal roadmap to eliminate the deficit as scheduled.

        • Bill says:

          Queenie Kathleen will just wave her magic wand and everything will be better in the land of Ozztario… just click your heels together three times …. one.. two.. poof….

  4. james curran says:

    I’m no mathematician but if Ontario only has 500,000 unemployed people (and let’s assume they all want to work), who is filling the other Phantom 500,000 jobs? Child laborers? New immigrants? Just askin’!

  5. Al in Cranbrook says:

    If John Manley were leading the Liberals, I’d be seriously concerned regarding the CPC’s prospects in the next election. He’s someone just about anyone could envision as PM, and could readily support. Experience, maturity, clarity of thought, common sense, a good grasp of economics and business, and quite centrist and moderate. Non-threatening in just about every sense of the word.

    All qualities of which J.T. doesn’t even come close to demonstrating. Qualities that were lacking, to varying and obviously lesser degrees, in both Dion and Ignatief.

    For lack of a better way to express this: In the very minimum, Canadians want, and expect, an adult for PM.

    J.T. is reckless like no other relatively serious political leader running for the title of PM I’ve ever seen in my lifetime. Frankly, he makes Stockwell Day look positively gifted. (As it turned out, Day indeed was a talented and very capable cabinet minister. I can’t imagine J.T. would even know where to start even in that role.)

    Reality is, all the CPC has to do next election is playback the litany of seriously ill conceived, if not stunningly stupid, utterances by him, and it will be game over. I have no doubt the NDP will be similarly eager to remind everyone as well.

    I can get used to the idea of Liberal government in the future, it’s inevitable.

    The very notion that J.T. could end up PM scares the hell out of me for my country.

  6. Kevin L says:

    The 2015 federal election will pit two leaders from Québéc against the incumbent PM and leader from the RoC Alberta.

    I believe the contest will boil down to do you want another PM from Québéc to govern all of Canada, or do you want the proven Canadian leader Stephen Harper?

    That may sound tribal, even divisive but it will become the underlying subconscious theme of the election because it’s a gut issue that can be exploited by a desperate Conservative party.

    After all, Canada is a divided country that only exists at the pleasure and leisure of the Québéc nation. Polarizing the country against Québéc is a risky ploy, but politicians will do anything for power.

    • Kevin L says:

      Here’s another thought: So you don’t like the Harper Conservatives; so which of the two party leaders from QuĂ©bĂ©c do you prefer…. Liberal Trudeau or NDP Mulcair, or neither?

      Do you think a leader from QuĂ©bĂ©c should be leading all of Canada or do you think that’s too risky given QuĂ©bĂ©c’s penchant for rattling the separation sword?

      Also, if you prefer the Liberal or NDP brand of politics and vote generically, you will, by default, get another PM from Québéc. Do you really want that?

      Will this become the underlying theme of the 2015 election, or will Canadians prefer to be colour blind to Liberal and NDP leadership?

      • sezme says:

        Oh brother… sounds like you’re the one rattling the separation sword.

      • Bill says:

        Liberal and Dipper strategists are working hard to blind Canadians to that fact by demonizing the Harper Conservatives and hoping nobody notices their own leaders are from La Belle Provence. If they can convince enough Canadians at large to join in the hatefest and lash out by voting for party brand then the Cons will lose and Canada will have another prime minister from Quebec.

        • smelter rat says:

          As a westerner, I have no problem with that. The current band of fascists have to go.

          • Bill says:

            So your hatred has blinded you to the consequences of a prime minister from Quebec. If you though Harper was bad ……

          • que sera sera says:

            Once again it appears a manufactured hatred of a people (in this case Quebec citizens) can apparently blind others to the historic consequences of fascism and fascists.

          • smelter rat says:

            Um, Bill…how do you type with that hood on your head?

        • Sezme says:

          Better one of these two from Québéc than the one we have now from Ontario. And I say that as an Ontarian.

  7. Philippe says:

    It’s becoming clear to me that Hudak takes this. On one hand I hate regressive people and Conservatives are dinosaurs with their freikan morality lessons and tough on crime imaginary cowboy bullshit. But, I have to admit, he’s the only one addressing the fact our Province is BROKE.

  8. e.a.f. says:

    even if Trudeau the younger falls, but is able to roll into a ball, do a hand spring, and then jump up in the air, people will applaud for the great move. The fact he was able to do the move will enthrall all. Mulcair and Harper couldn’t do it. They are too stiff.

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