12.08.2015 01:00 AM

In this week’s Hill Times: sunny ways indeed 

It was odd, the “sunny ways” thing.

Not the phrase in and of itself. It has been around for a while. Sir Wilfrid Laurier apparently used it first, one hundred years or so ago. Said Laurier:

“If it were in my power, I would try the sunny way of patriotism, asking…to be just and to be fair, asking to be generous to the minority, in order that we may have peace among all creeds and races…Do you not believe that there is more to be gained by appealing to the heart and soul of men rather than by trying to compel them to do a thing?”
 
In an never-ending election campaign characterized by bald ugliness – cf., the use of the niqab as a wedge issue, the saturnalian “barbaric practices hotline” stunt, the candidates who didn’t know much about the Holocaust or basic decency – Justin Trudeau’s invocation of Laurier’s aphorism struck a chord. We need to recall the better angels of our nature, implied Trudeau, or we will all be in big trouble. Canadians listened, and they responded. They obviously agreed: sunny ways, whatever those are, are desirable.
 
Surveying the entrails of various polls, it’s apparent that the Liberal leader’s political honeymoon isn’t over. His first few weeks haven’t been without difficulty, but he remains endurably popular. The silly “Nannygate” tempest, the necessary Syrian refugee recalculation, the customary fiscal cupboard-is-bare announcement: none have put a dent in the affection Canadians feel for the youthful new prime Minister.
 
And yet, and yet: 2015 does not feel like it is ending in a particularly sunny fashion, does it? Just this week, there has been terrible unfairness of the hand that was dealt to Liberal MP Mauril Belanger. There has been our surging unemployment rate, at a time when the reverse has been happening in the U.S. There has been the election of Nova Scotia’s Geoff Regan as Speaker, and his call to stop heckling in the Commons – greeted by actual heckling. There has been the new government’s plan to reform Senate appointments, condemned within minutes by British Columbia.
 
And there has been the murder of 14 men and women in San Bernardino, of course, happening in the same week we remember the massacre of 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique 26 years ago.
 
In yesterday walks tomorrow: the challenges we collectively faced in 2015 with the old boss – growing terrorism, shrinking economies – are likely to be the same challenges we will face in 2016 with the new boss. No revelation, there. But what is to be done about it?
 
I passed along my single recommendation a close friend of Justin Trudeau this week. Your greatest asset, I offered, is Justin Trudeau himself – and his ability to connect with Canadians, to communicate with them in a way that they understand. In the election campaign, it worked in a dramatic fashion: Trudeau’s charisma and sunny ways vaulted the Liberal Party from a distant third place to a definitive first. Trudeau – more than any single policy plank, more than any single Grit candidate or ad – was the reason the Liberal Party defied convention, and won.
 
So: use, then, the bully pulpit that is the Prime Minister’s Office. Use Trudeau, himself, to make the case for civility in the Commons, and accepting Syrian refugees, and actual Senate reform, and a better approach to security. Use his voice to rally Canadians in the days ahead.
 
Stephen Harper was a tactician and technician: he completely lacked the oratorical skills, or the inclination, to do what comes naturally to Justin Trudeau. Not since Jean Chretien, in fact, have we had a Prime Minister who knows that the way to reach people is through their hearts, and not just their heads.
 
2016 is giving us every indication it will be as grinding and as bleak as was much of 2015. Canada, however, already possesses the means to reassure itself.
 
Justin Trudeau, your hour has come round at last. Time to use your voice to show us what that “sunny ways” stuff really meant.
 
 
 

24 Comments

  1. Bob in Vancouver says:

    Good luck with that. Watching him in QP today was embarrassing. Let’s call a spade a spade. He isn’t very bright. With his lack of brainpower, he only got to where is because of his name. And now we pay the price. Is it because Canadians are stupid? Or maybe they just got sucked in by the combination of the MSM’s hatred fir the Conservatives, combined with the timing genius of our real PM, Gerald Butts. He should be answering the questions to the PM in question period, because only he is writing the script. We are all going to pay for this.

    • marc says:

      The problem is when you actually believe the years of false advertising put out their by the Conservative Party you have a skewed and false understanding of reality.

      What’s embarrassing is a prime minister who refused to answer questions, refused to take question period seriously, and mocked Canadians who cared about democracy. For most Canadians,Trudeau could answer “I dunno” to questions in the house he’d still be way less embarrassing than Harper (that LPofS) and his brown nosing minions.

      • Tired of it All says:

        That was a well placed epée. The guy has to gain some chops, and will no doubt study his film to improve his performance. But what’s he’s doing is getting up and answering questions. Nothing about Robocalls, Duffy, horrific fiscal management or the damaging industrial policy pursued by the Cons. The Cons have yet to understand they lost; they lost because of their tone as much as their bland management ™. Using the same tone to ask questions is like listening to nails on a chalkboard. It continues to validate that 70% of Canadians kicked their asses to the curb for a bloody good reason.

    • Jack D says:

      Bob, chill the f*ck out.

      Your guys lost, badly. Harper is now unemployed. And the Conservatives went from majority government to under 100 seats in Opposition.

      This is your reality; learn to cope with it.

      Thats calling a spade, a spade.

      • Matt says:

        Harper isn’t unemployed. He’s still an MP.

        • doconnor says:

          Is he doing his job or his he just idle?

        • Jack D says:

          Give it a few months.

          The only reason Stephen Harper stuck around is because of the wave of criticisms Jim Prentice faced after his resignations on election night. What I mean to say was that he’s no longer Prime Minister of Canada. He lost the general election and Canadians voted his government out of power.

          [But, credit should go where credit is due. Stephen Harper has shown up to every vote that has taken place in the House thus far. While it is the responsibility of an MP to do so and should be expected, the present circumstances would leave no one criticizing Harper for not showing up. So I appreciate that Harper has shown respect for the democratic process and his responsibility a parliamentarian.]

    • Tired of it All says:

      *and he’s not reading from a paper, but the Cons are… He’s actually living up to the tradition of Parliament (you are not intended to use prepared notes).

  2. Steve T says:

    Sunny ways sounds good on paper, but it may end up just becoming a whiny “stop criticizing me!” defense. The government in power would always love for the opposition to adopt sunny ways in Question Period; it helps avoid any uncomfortable situations.

    For example, the uncomfortable $1.2B gap that the middle class tax break is going to create, which was conveniently left out during the campaign.

    • Matt says:

      The Liberals can blame the worsening economic forecasts for their funding shortfall all they want, but several economists warned the funding gap was there the day the Liberals announced their middle class tax cut plan a year and a half or 2 years ago. But, you know, they were all just CPC lap dogs.

      Well, turns out they were right. Personally I think CD Howe’s estimation of a shortfall of over $2 billion is more accurate. Given the new finance ministers past employment with CD Howe, it will be interesting to see him dispute their numbers.

  3. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Warren,

    Michael was also for sunny ways. But most voters didn’t like him.

  4. JamesHalifax says:

    After watching Rona Ambrose wipe the floor with Trudeau during QP, it is pretty clear that the young PM is going to need to make the same effort practicing for QP, as he did for the debates during the campaign. She cleaned his clock, and she made it look easy.

    I don’t know how Trudeau would make it on his own if he didn’t have Gerald Butts telling him what to say and think. But hey, at least the hidden earpiece didn’t fall out and no one saw the wires leading to Butts behind the screens. Lol….

    • Nicole says:

      Does the average Canadian even watch what goes on in Question Period? If they did then Thomas Mulcair would be the current Prime Minister.
      The average Canadian will care about taxes going up, or benefits going down, not what is said in Question Period.

      • Matt says:

        More might have watched yesterday given it was Trudeau’s first as PM and to a lesser extent Ambrose’s first as Leader of the opposition and Mulcair’s first sind the NDP fell to third.

        But you’re right.

        I didn’t see it, but from the “reviews” I’ve read, Ambrose impressed, and Trudeau didn’t. Liberal Chrystis Freeland was said to have given a pretty good hit to a CPC MP.

        • Terence Quinn says:

          Tom Mulcair was great in the house as opposition leader. What is he now? Rona is just a Harper clone and will be brushed aside once a new leader is elected.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      JamesHalifax,

      Wipe the floor is perhaps a bit too strong. I disagree with Trudeau’s position on withdrawing fighters but he held his own in QP. However, if he has an alternate military strategy, one would have expected that he would be prepared with specifics as to the exact nature of that alternate strategy.

  5. dean sherratt says:

    Assuredly the honeymoon continues in whatever political polling is taking place. And the Conservatives are still in the doghouse with far more people liking Elizabeth May and Thomas Mulcair over Rosa Ambrose…though this may well simply be they don’t know who she is yet.

    I have a couple of problems with the expression “sunny ways”. It is of course taken from Wilfred Laurier but in a context that was rather cynical at the time. The governing Conservatives brought legislation in to “disallow” a Manitoba act that took away rights of Manitoba francophones. This bill was filibustered by the federal Liberals literally to the very hour and minute in which the five year term of the government came to an end (it makes for interesting reading in the 1896 Hansard). He won the resulting election. Why? English Canadian may well have been favourable to the Liberals fighting for provincial rights and perhaps charmed by his call for sunny ways…that call was distinctly rejected by the Manitoba legislature of course. Quebeckers knew that regardless that he was deeply on the wrong side of history on minority rights, he could be counted on when in power. So he swept Quebec and went seat for seat in the rest of the country.

    One question that puzzles me is if Justin actually knows the whole story or merely liked the taste of the expression.

  6. TimL says:

    Time to use your voice to show us what that “sunny ways” stuff really meant
    I’m not sure I can stand 4 more years of his voice, with all that syrupy drama teacher emoting. Never thought I’d miss Harper’s dull monotone.

  7. Maps Onburt says:

    While I hasn’t happened yet, I sense the beginning of the end of PM Trudeau Jr’s honeymoon. He’s sat for one question period and has already broken three promises. Of course the Ontario Liberals have screwed us over for more than $40B and there is no end of them in sight so I may be wrong. It’s downhill from here…. Mark my words.

  8. Gilbert says:

    Justin Trudeau doesn’t have the intellect of his father or the vision. His performance in question period was truly embarrassing.

    • JamesHalifax says:

      gilbert,

      Trudeau wasn’t elected because of his platform or his promises. He was elected because he WASN’T stephen harper.

      That he isnt’ stephen harper was clear by his QP performance. Hopefully, as the years go by Trudeau will actually learn to say something that pertains to the topic at hand, or at least something that isn’t just a platitude.

  9. JamesHalifax says:

    More on the “sunny ways” mantra.

    What people seem to forget however, is that no matter how beautiful it may seem, how calming, or how comforting; staring into the sun for too long will blind you.

    (seems that has already happened for some)

  10. Vancouverois says:

    Just wait until the Orwellianly named “Minister of Democratic Institutions” comes back to Parliament with a report demanding a ranked ballot in the next election, and the Liberals try to pass such a bill, over a united Opposition’s objections, and without a popular referendum.

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