10.09.2014 06:21 PM

In Friday’s Sun: certainty is the first casualty of war – not Justin Trudeau

It was “Justin Trudeau’s lousy week,” declared the Globe and Mail editorial headline. “Justin Trudeau is war’s first casualty,” wrote Chantal Hebert in the liberal (and Liberal) Toronto Star. “Liberal strategy on Iraq suffers from incoherence,” wrote Postmedia’s Michael den Tandt.

And so on, and so on. Those were the headlines in media corners that are typically friendly to the Liberal leader. Elsewhere – such as here (unsurprisingly) at the Sun – Trudeau’s critics were even more critical than usual.

Hebert’s column was noteworthy, because of the source and because it was so scathing. “By almost any standard, Justin Trudeau is the immediate political casualty of the war of words that attended the debate over Canada’s role in the international coalition against the Islamic State,” Hebert wrote.

“…the Liberal performance [Canadians] were given to watch this week was more reflective of a third-place opposition party than of an aspiring government.”

When one adds to the chorus of condemnation the public dissent of assorted Liberal notables – former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy, former General Romeo Dallaire, former party leader Bob Rae and revered party statesman and human rights expert Irwin Cotler – it all adds up to, as the Globe’s editorialists opined, a lousy week for Justin Trudeau.

Are they all right? Has Justin Trudeau irreparably harmed his chances in the 2015 election?

No, he hasn’t. There are three reasons why.

Firstly, and just as he warned us shortly after he won his party’s leadership, Justin Trudeau makes mistakes. Some of his mistakes – the Chinese dictatorship remark, the Ukraine joke, the Commons curse, the more-recent CF-18 stumble – caused great consternation in the commentariat.

But among Canadians themselves, the verbal gaffes haven’t had a measureable effect. Trudeau has remained ahead, or far ahead, in successive polls.

Secondly, public opinion is notoriously difficult to measure, these days. And assessing public opinion during times of war, or anticipated war, is even harder.

No poll has emerged to suggest that Trudeau’s internally-contradictory position – against ISIS, but seemingly against doing anything militarily against ISIS – is out of sync with the views of Canadians. It is, in fact, reflective of the paradoxical way in which voters assess war.

For example, in the U.S. in January 2003, approximately two-thirds of Americans wanted George W. Bush to wait for U.N. weapons inspectors report on the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. But at the same time, almost the same number of voters enthusiastically supported using force to remove Hussein from power.

In effect, don’t do anything yet, but do something now. One thinks about it, that more or less approximates the current position of the Trudeau Liberals.

Thirdly, dramatic things happen in times of war. What seemed both logical and moral at war’s outset becomes less so as war grinds on, and as the casualties mount. One need only recall Stephen Harper’s infamous declaration that Canadians who opposed joining Bush’s aforementioned war were “cowards,” quote unquote, to know this is so.

Harper reluctantly came to admit that his earlier enthusiasm for joining Bush was a mistake. This, perhaps more than anything else, explains Harper’s exceedingly modest contribution to the intended campaign against ISIS: the Conservative leader has learned from his mistakes.

Will Justin Trudeau be hurt by his apparent mistake? Will his “incoherent” position, as den Tandt put it, impede Trudeau’s long march towards 24 Sussex? To this Liberal – who is decidedly onside with Messrs. Axworthy, Dallaire, Rae and Cotler – the answer is no. It probably won’t.

Incoherence, in times of war, is everywhere. It is epidemic, in fact.

Justin Trudeau may have had a lousy week, this week. But, in the fullness of time, who is to say that his critics and his opponents won’t, too?


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    Matt says:

    “But among Canadians themselves, the verbal gaffes haven’t had a measureable effect. Trudeau has remained ahead, or far ahead, in successive polls.

    Secondly, public opinion is notoriously difficult to measure, these days. And assessing public opinion during times of war, or anticipated war, is even harder.”

    Don’t these kind of contradict each other? If public opinion is notoriously hard to measure, then there is at least the possibility Trudeau’s lead in the polls is not real.

    And yes I realize you have repeatedly said don’t trust polls. 🙂

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      Robin says:

      I believe Mr. Kinsella’s reference to “successive polls” is, in fact, a reference to long-term polling trends over the past 18 months wherein there may be momentary dips and peaks but the overall trajectory is unmistakably and solidly upwards; this “bad week” represents another dip but not sufficient enough to derail the trajectory. Nevertheless, once again, Trudeau has set himself apart.

      Check http://www.threehundredeight.com and the Nanos number.

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    Jerry says:

    Trudeau will be fine: NATO ally Turkey’s reluctance to help the Kurds fight ISIS is the start of Harper’s Quagmire. Conversely, today on CBC radio, there was an interview with the author of a new book on Jimmy Carter, Menachim Begin and Anwar Sadat and the making of their peace accord, the insight the author had on ISIS was that this is really a Muslim issue, one more Sunni/Shiite conflict, so from my newest perspective, this is we should a create a Canadian solution, insofar as Canada was the first nation to lay to rest several hundreds of years of European Catholic-Protestant hatred and bury it in good government. Trudeau’s future argument is up those linewswhile the Sunni-Shiite shit swallows Harper whole.

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    Robin says:

    This CBC report is instructive. Trudeau’s instincts may be right.


    Also, much is made of Trudeau’s “verbal gaffs” among older commentators, journalists, columnists, editorial boards, pundits, etc., however, for younger generations who are overwhelmingly plugged into the umbilical social media, these “gaffs” draw attention and lead them to the story, issue, controversy and ultimately to Trudeau’s positions on the substance. Once titillated by his bravado they actually take time to examine the context which leads them to the issue.

    These are not “verbal gaffs” they are “viral gaffs” designed deliberately or instinctively to attract the attention of otherwise disinterested voters. Brilliant.

    And, most of them don’t read, watch or listen to the older commentators et al who still populate the dying forms of information dissemination. More Jon Stewart than Walter Cronkite. Or should I say more Rick Mercer than Lloyd Robertson (apologies to Peter Mansbridge).

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    starsailor says:

    What is the problem with the CF-18 comment when it is probably true. McKay and Harper have think it is a good opportunity to get out the flack jackets from the CF-35 proposal to have their photo’s taken. What is required is Canadian army to go over there to take on the ISS and not some unaffective airplanes. Canadians need to wake-up

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    T. Patterson says:

    Yes, unfortunately, the liberal elite and the chattering classes of Upper and Lower Canada – l’ancien regime – have a long history of choosing style over substance. Liberal Prime Minister Mackenzie King was impressed by Hitler: “My sizing up of the man as I sat and talked with him was that he is really one who truly loves his fellow-men, and his country, and would make any sacrifice for their good,” (Diary, June 29, 1937) King saw similarities between himself and Hitler: “As I talked with him, I could not but think of Joan of Arc. He is distinctly a mystic …. He is a teetotaller and also a vegetarian; is unmarried, abstemist in all his habits and ways.” (Diary, June 29, 1937) Obviously, Hitler plunged the world into World War II and launched a genocidal machinery rivaled by only Stalin and Mao.

    King did not distinguish himself during the Gouzenko affair – the defection of an obscure, Soviet cipher clerk that marked the start of the Cold War. Sir William Stephenson said: “King refused to take the necessary action for fear of offending Stalin. The Soviet penetration in the USA was so widespread and their agents were preparing to escape.” Stephenson encouraged agents NOT to carry out King’s orders to hand Gouzenko back to the Soviets – which would have been a death sentence for Gouzenko and would have left the Soviet agents in place.

    One must also always remember that the whole operation owed its survival to a lone Secretary to Crown Attorney. In the words of Svetlana Gouzenko, Fernande Coulson, “was the smartest out of all these politicians. She realised right away that this was something of tremendous importance for Canada…not a crackpot mumbling something in half-baked English. So this is to her credit. I’ll say put more women into the security service because they are smart.” Many Soviet agents were discovered including Fred Rose (Liberal-Progressive) the only MP ever convicted of spying for a foreign country.

    Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau defense of Communists was broad. On the persecution of Ukrainians by the Soviet State: “My position in the Soviet Union or Canada is that anyone who breaks the law in order to assert his nationalism doesn’t get much sympathy from me”; “law” in this case being Soviet which consisted of endless fabricated charges, show trials, disappearances and trip to the Gulag. Trudeau declared in Parliament that he simply “couldn’t believe” the Soviets would knowingly destroy a commercial airliner – this was after the Kremlin finally admitted knowing that Korean Air Flight 007 was a passenger plane, and justified shooting it down along with its 269 passengers because it was “spying.” He visited China four times between 1960 and 1979 and was apologist to Mao Zedong and his heirs; in 1973, he defended Mao’s policies in Canada’s Parliament willfully blind to a system responsible for the deaths of some 80 million people. In 1981, Trudeau expressed sympathy for Poland’s General Wojciech Jaruzelski; he banned Solidarity and jailed or sent into hiding its leaders, including Lech Walesa. Trudeaus’ lifelong admiration and friendship with Cuban Marxist-Leninist dictator Fidel Castro is well known. Brother number one and two continue in their veneration of socialist supermen like Castro and Chavez. November 7, 2013 Justin Trudeau stated: “There is a level of admiration I actually have for China, because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime… there is a flexibility having a dictatorship where you can do whatever you wanted, that I find quite interesting.”

    During the Iran hostage crisis, then Prime Minister Joe Clark and Foreign Minister MacDonald brought Trudeau into their confidence about the six U.S. houseguests being secretly sheltered by Canadians. Nevertheless, Trudeau called on Clark and MacDonald in Parliament to issue a public statement of support for the U.S. “He played politics,” charges Carole Jerome, a former CBC journalist who covered the crisis. In essence, some ideological flight of fancy was more important than jeopardizing innocent lives.

    Muammar Gadhafi was the mastermind behind blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland, killing 277. Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin described Momar Gadhafi as a “philosophical man with a sense of history”; Gaddafi said of Martin, “Pretty soon I expect Canada to be a jamahiriy,” referencing his own revolutionary state. Gaddafi was one of the world’s most virulent anti-Semites, Arab-supremacists, and funded myriad Communist, Arab, and neo-National Socialist terror groups: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, As-Sa’iqa, the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, and the Abu Nidal Organization, Black September, the Black Panther Party, Nation of Islam, Tupamaros, 19th of April Movement and Sandinista National Liberation Front in the Americas, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Gaddafi supplied all the IRAs Symtex – IRA victims plan to sue Tony Blair over Libya ‘conniving’), Action directe, ETA, the Red Brigades, Red Army Faction in Europe, Armenian Secret Army, Japanese Red Army, Free Aceh Movement, and Moro National Liberation Front. Some philosophy.

    The take-home should be obvious. The liberal elite and their debauched entourage can and often do get it wrong – spectacularly wrong – and will not listen to accurate intelligence. Like Coulson and Stephenson, sometimes acting on one’s own initiative is paramount to the security of the Canadian People, the Canadian State and her allies. In coming days, we predict a spontaneous coalescence of actual, accurate intelligence initiatives against delusional pretty boys, poseurs, confidence men, mad ranters, and such like.

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      davie says:

      Yoiks! intell initiatives against mad ranters…betcha I’m not the only one who better keep his head down…

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      Ridiculosity says:

      This whole Liberal “elite” thing is getting old. Seriously.

      I know hundreds of Liberals and none of them could be described as “elite”.

      Yes, there are many Liberals who are elite teachers, carpenters, nurses, palliative care workers, IT professionals, musicians, mechanics, artists, plumbers, lawyers, heavy equipment operators, business managers, factory workers, account executives, truck drivers, accountants, dentists, chefs, receptionists, and daycare workers. They’re good at what they do and they take pride in doing a job well.

      But none of them could be tarnished with the stigma of “elite” that you are hoping to propagate. Nor are they members of the “upper echelon” of society. They’re regular, everyday, hard-working Canadians who want a better government and a better future for their family and their country.

      And, I’ve yet to meet one who has an “entourage”. (That’s the domain of Harper & Company.)

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      Ron says:

      Someday if we beat the shredders to The Harperbunker™, we will know what really went on in The Harper Government™.

      That’s when the people will wish that they had never heard of Stephen J Harper PC MP MSG.

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    Lance says:

    Well, EVERYONE makes mistakes and gaffes; he just makes a lot of them. And it isn’t just that he always merely makes an honest mistake, a slip of the tongue, or a moment of inconsideration. No, he KEEPS making the same KIND of mistakes, the same stupid, insipid gaffes which shows that he is either – a) isn’t learning; b) isn’t that bright to begin with; or c) just doesn’t care what anyone thinks; the type where every time he or his handlers have to explain what he really meant when he backpeddles to cover his ass.

    Conversely, him admitting that he will inevitably make them just says that he is setting the bar low and trying to vaccinate himself against further blunders. With all these media articles we are seeing lately, maybe the mainstream median and the PPG are finally starting to see that he really is just a pretty Christmas package with a lump of coal inside.

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      Barb T. says:

      d) all of the above
      e) run screaming from burning school house before it is too late

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    davie says:

    I’ll suggest that Mulcair, Laverdiere and Dewar held their own, but did not make any gains in their votes (I doubt many people know what NDPers, or anyone else said during debate).

    JT did okay, and, in a way, Cotler ( and the other non MP Libs) helped JT by suggesting that debate within the Libs was a part of their way of doing things. (I kind of wonder how other LIB MP’s feel that the press gave more coverage to Libs outside of parliament than to those in parliament.) This is in contrast to the one-ness of the Conservatives.

    I think SH et al lose, because he had his minions bray loud and long about the monstrous threat of the enemy, insulted the integrity and courage of their critics, yet sent such a small military contingent to do what they are doing in the safest way possible…almost belying what they claimed was the magnitude of the need.

    Elizabeth and Bruce did well, especially Eliz in her speech (although, like other speeches in that debate, not many Canadians know what she said). They might have gained a smidgeon.

    Bloc did not lose either.

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      Matt says:

      What a shock. You think the only ones that lost were the Conservatives.

      By the way, former NDP turned Green MP Bruce Hyer voted WITH the Conservatives.

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        davie says:

        Hyer voted, I thought, for military action to help save lives in Iraq.
        Conservatives voted for something that would help them get re elected.

        There’s a bit of a difference.

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    JH says:

    I’m sadly coming to the conclusion that Lance posited as a possibility regarding JT, ie he’s just not that bright to begin with. And I don’t think I’m alone amongst either Liberal loyalists or undecided voters.

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    Al in Cranbrook says:

    I get it; everyone is running cover for their guy, and this is a pro-Liberal forum. I mean no disrespect to our host, but…

    This week Canadians got an up close look at a guy who wants to be Prime Minister, dealing with one of the very serious issues that now and again challenges leaders in that office.

    Slice it any way you want, he was bloody well awful. And when as many senior members of the Liberals…people whom have been there, done that…come straight out and say as much, you know it was an outright disaster. Thus, you also know that a helluva lot more senior Liberals, including sitting MPs, behind closed doors are gnashing their teeth into little nubs.

    Hell, even Jeffery Simpson is onside with the PM! http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/this-isnt-harpers-war/article20966258/

    It’s not going to get any easier from here on in. The honeymoon is over, and people are going to start looking for some serious substance relative to the guy already holding down the office as Election Day comes into view on the horizon. And betting on mid term polling, historically, is a losing game.

    Dion and Ignatief were not leaders, but at least they had a grasp of some sort of reality entailed in the job. Trudeau is not a leader, and clearly he not the foggiest notion of the qualifications required.

    I’m sure he’s a nice guy, probably popular with youth as a teacher, and a hoot over beers. And I don’t blame him for having been overwhelmed by clamoring from party members desperate for a savior, given the thrashing they’d just been dealt at the polls…again.

    But none of that qualifies him to be Prime Minister of a nation.

    The current situation is one of those which defines leadership, and brings clarity to just exactly what kind of character it takes to hold that office.

    Justin Trudeau didn’t just fail to exemplify such character and leadership. He failed miserably, even driving nails into his own political coffin with crude smart ass behavior more befitting of a SNL episode.

    As the saying goes, throw enough s**t at the wall, some of it is going to stick.

    That he’s inevitably the one throwing it at his own wall is of itself indicative.

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      Lance says:

      And I don’t blame him for having been overwhelmed by clamoring from party members desperate for a savior, given the thrashing they’d just been dealt at the polls…again…………But none of that qualifies him to be Prime Minister of a nation.

      Justin Trudeau – “I haven’t done anything. I haven’t accomplished anything. I’m a moderately engaging, reasonably intelligent 30-year-old, who’s had an interesting life — like someone who was raised by wolves, or the person that cultivated an extremely large pumpkin.”

      Trudeau is a novelty, a bauble trinket that the Liberal Party has been polishing all this time and is now shiny enough to put in the display case. Based on his performance this past week, imagine if he’d have been PM. He is clearly way out of his depth. Marc Garneau must cringe every time he is forced to carry his water, like he did this week.

      But……the fact that he is utterly unsuitable for the job and would be a walking disaster is irrelevant; he’ll likely be PM anyway. When you have the MSM saying stuff like this – “Go, Justin, go! The hopes and dreams of Maclean’s are with you…………”and, the odd swoon and fluttering heart aside, that’s how we and Justin got this far”, you know their fixing for it.


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      Ron says:

      Trudeau still has a major advantage.

      He isn’t SJ Harper PC MP MSG.

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        Lance says:

        So Trudeau isn’t Harper and vice versa, so what? Defining Trudeau’s prospects by what his opponent is not is a “major” advantage? That is all you’ve got? Way to put your leader out there, LOL

        I’ll tell you one thing – Justin Trudeau isn’t Marc Garneau either. And we saw THAT this week.

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          Ron says:

          Trudeau still has several hundred gaffs to go before he catches up with Harper.

          Was this a gaff or borderline sedition ?

          “Whether Canada ends up as one national government or two national governments or several national governments, or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion … And whether Canada ends up with one national government or two governments or ten governments, the Canadian people will require less government no matter what the constitutional status or arrangement of any future country may be.”

          ~ Stephen Harper MP

          (Speech to the Colin Brown Memorial Dinner, National Citizens Coalition, 1994)

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    Joe says:

    War time incoherence I can understand however JT has shown more ignorance than incoherence. “Whats an article 5” Makes me wonder if his “big airplanes” quip is the result of his confusing a C 17 with an F 18.

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    Kre8tv says:

    Warren, what do you make of that amendment the Cons are suddenly
    in a hurry to push through, involving use of media clips in political ads?

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      Warren says:

      See my column on Tuesday. Reader’s Digest version:

      1. All parties make ads using clips
      2. There is no copyright in news
      3. There should be no copyright in what politicians say to the public
      4. What is said on the public record should not be used for private profit

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      Lance says:

      Well, if this is to be the case, then we will miss Justin Trudeau gems like this –



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        Randy V says:

        Justin says one thing in Quebec, and the opposite in the rest of Canada. He’s a typical liberal political chameleon, and those in love with his celebrity will believe him without question. Justin’s thespian performances are quite impressive and Oscar-worth… or Juno-worth in Canada. He must love being on the political stage and acting, which is obviously his first love.

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          Elisabeth Lindsay says:

          That`s what he “do”, man. 🙂

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    Stephen S says:

    These are all popularity polls because those interviewed have not been presented with election campaign information that will help them decide on their vote. Justin is a popularity winner because he’s like a new toy, candy, a media star with a besotted following and their love cannot be shaken by Justin’s gaffes and Justin’s enemies!

    Popularity is NOT electability…. although popularity does help if it is founded on political decisions. So far, Justin’s popularity has not been challenged seriously with reality.

    The NDP and CPC warrooms will slapchop Justin into lil’ bits and then grind him into dust… particularly the NPD in Quebec where there will be a battle royal.

    Justin’s current polling indicates his popularity now, but popularity does not convert to votes. Once Canadians, particularly in the RoC understand that Justin is a Quebec supremacist who believes that Quebecers make the best PMs (suggesting that qualifies him to automatically be PM), and Quebecers are better, I have no doubt that sane Canadians will reject him.

    Justin is a staged performer, an actor, who performs dismally in the HoC but shines on the public stage where his admirers can go gaga over the hunk. Justin, not even a shadow of papa Pierre… he’s just pretty boy with a mullet hairdo.

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      Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Stephen S,

      Wow, I had no idea sane Canadians were of one mind, all knowing and all seeing. Might as well just cancel the election. Such an inconvenience is not needed in our utopian democracy.

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      smelter rat says:

      I look forward to the day when you eat those words, one year from now.

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      Randy V says:

      Will Canadian’s romance with Justin wear off by October 2015? I suspect that both the NDP and CPC will attack Justin with vicious video ads, and, I also suspect that the NDP will be the biggest culprit because Justin is eating the NDP’s lunch….. with soft lefty liberals getting sucked back to the Liberals by Justin’s celebrity as the polls so clearly indicate.

      If the trend holds I can see a minority Harper government with Justin Trudeau replacing Mulcair as the Leader of the OOP and leading of the questioning in the HoCs QP. Now that should be a show of great comedic value!

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    Bill says:

    Trudeau will win because history repeats itself.

    Governments fall on scandal or voter fatigue.

    Harper loses in 2015

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      William W says:

      No, because Canadians in the ROC will likely not vote for another prime minister from Quebec. The ROC elected the Harper majority in the 2011 election and the Conservative backroom strategists will ensure in 2015 that anybody in the ROC voting Liberal or NDP will by default voting for a prime minister from Quebec.

      So what does another PM from Quebec mean to the ROC? Simply this, a Quebec PM will pour Billion$$$ into the nation of Quebec as well as collecting $8 Billion in equalization payments from the ROC. Perhaps the perpetual have-not Quebec should not deserve a PM of all of Canada until they can make a positive contribution to Canada… instead of always threatening to separate and destroy Canada.

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      Lance says:

      History sometimes irrelevant as the Liberals won their 4th mandate in Ontario.

      Scandal and voter fatigue isn’t always enough.

      Harper PM until 2019

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    ottlib says:

    A sizable number of Canadians actually seem to like Mr. Trudeau. A situation that annoys Conservative and NDP supporters to no end I’m sure.

    They like him despite some missteps over the time he has been the leader of the Liberals. Or perhaps they like him because he has made those missteps as it makes him seem genuine.

    Canadians have been watching Stephen Harper and his need to script everything for nine years and now there is a new leader who seems anything but scripted. He seems natural. He seems to speak to people as opposed to speaking at them. He makes mistakes but then he either fixes them and/or apologizes for them and then moves on. Mr. Trudeau’s popularity goes beyond what he says and does.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    To my mind, Justin’s verbal gaffes are not the real story. Stephen Harper ran things as a one-man government because of his caucus’ relative inexperience in 2006. Fast forward to 2014 and Harper is at least as scripted or perhaps even more so than in 2006. That tells us that an experienced PM dares not run his government without the massive safety net known as a scripted political universe. That is far more telling about Harper — than the various gaffes made by the relatively newly minted leader of the second opposition party.

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    William W says:

    Even traditional Liberals are having second thoughts about Justin Trudeau. Even the Liberal media mavens are starting to peck away at the Justinmania.

    They are all justifiably apprehensive about this manufactured “leader” who spews his scripted talking points in his edwardian drama queen tone of voice. Justin Trudeau… the Liberal Fabulist! (Garneau, Rae, Axworthy, Dallaire, Manley, others, must be suffering.)

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:

    William W,

    Quite obviously, the CPC has got nothing if all they can think of is this suprisingly weak narrative. By all means, Liberals are paralyzed with fear and dismay because of Justin’s performance. Imagine that, this guy has got them to the brink of power — something that two previous leaders could not accomplish in a month of Sundays.

    Conservative war room, please keep at it while the clock winds down to the inevitable election. Liberals absolutely look forward to the voters’ judgment — the other parties, not so much or in the case of the incumbent government, not at all. It’s called traction. Watch it grow and then prepare for political defeat.

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      TrueNorthist says:

      In my business I encounter a lot of ordinary youths, over 18s and under 30s — college and uni grads, and others — who agree completely with what Justin Trudeau is saying and doing. Nothing the nay-sayers come up with will change this IMO. These kids are fully keyed into Trudeau on a level that none of the other parties even understand, much as under 30s in the states were with Obama. If Trudeau can get 20% of these voters into the polls on election day it will be a wipeout. I am beginning to think they just might pull it off.

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