Musings —08.18.2015 02:25 AM—
KINGSTON – If there is anything remarkable about campaign 2015, it’s that it isn’t remarkable at all.
Despite all the Sturm und Drang about Nigel Wright’s testimony, or the leaders’ debate, or the attack ads, nothing seems to be registering.
It has been a meandering, vague sort of affair, one without a centre. It’s the Seinfeld campaign, to invoke a Nineties cliche.
1984,1993 and 2006 were about throwing the bums out. 1988 was about an actual issue. 2008 and 2011 were about Tim Hortons vs. Starbucks. 1997, 2000 and 2004 were about sticking with the Known over the Unknown.
2015? It’s about nothing, so far.
The New Democrats, flush from the victory in Alberta and a fistful of promising polls, had been dreaming about redecorating 24 Sussex. They seemed confident, even cocky.
Not so much anymore. The NDP war room has been AWOL from the start – and Tom Mulcair has sounded like Medicated Tom, not Angry Tom. His debate performance was the worst of all the leaders. And his party has badly stumbled over controversies involving candidates, on everything from keeping oil in the ground, to accusing Israel of war crimes.
The Liberals, meanwhile, needed a solid debate performance by Justin Trudeau, and he gave them one. In the days following the debate, however, Trudeau made two critical errors that undercut whatever he achieved in the debate.
One, he fell into the hole the Conservatives and the New Democrats dug for him – with “just not ready” and “not up to the job,” respectively – and he commenced digging deeper.
Instead of changing the channel on the Tory/Dipper narrative, Trudeau embraced it. He attempted to answer the allegation, in TV spots and campaign appearances. “I’m ready,” he said, doing precisely what his opponents had hoped he’d do.
Departed Liberal guru Keith Davey said it best. “If the other guys says you’re fat,” the Rainmaker once famously observed, “Don’t say ‘I’m not.’ Say: ‘You’re ugly.'”
Trudeau’s second mistake was providing evidence in support of the attacks. At a campaign stop out West, Trudeau said: “We’re proposing a strong and real plan, one that invests in the middle class so that we can grow the economy not from the top down the way Mr. Harper wants to, but from the heart outwards.”
The Sun chain and the National Post had a field day with the “from the heart” line. The Sun even put Trudeau’s head on a Care Bear on its front page. Later, no less than the CBC got in on the act, and some Liberals started to privately wonder if they were witnessing a Stockwell Day of the Left. Will we now measure our GDP with hugs?
Define or be defined: nothing matters as much in politics as that. And, as long as Trudeau continues to debate the way in which his opponents have defined him, he will remain where he is – in third place.
The Conservative campaign, meanwhile, has not been without its challenges, the aforementioned Duffy trial among them. There has been the Oshawa Conservative MP inviting children to a fundraiser at a gun range – and there has been the spectacle of the Tory campaign battling with a provincial Premier over a pension plan, when said Premier’s name isn’t even on the ballot.
In the main, though, a campaign about nothing probably favours the Prime Minister. He knows that he is unlikely to ever win any Mr. Congeniality contests. But he is also likely grateful that the campaign has not turned solely into a referendum about him.
Instead, if there is anger, it has yet to crystallize around a single issue or theme. Despite the predictions of the commentariat, nobody seems to be particularly angry about the fact that the campaign happened early, or that it is so long. They don’t seem to be angry about anything.
Here in Kingston, in a riding the Liberals have held for decades, the candidate is a mouthy, unintelligent former mayor. He has signs up around town, but they all seem to be on public land.
On Kingston’s privately-owned front lawns – and on lawns from Kingston to Kelowna – not many signs are up. Nobody seems to be paying much attention to Election 42.
That may be because it is still Summer. That may be because the campaign so long.
My hunch: it’s because it is a campaign about nothing. And nothing is what Canadians are thinking about it.