12.29.2015 01:40 AM

This week’s Troy Media column: 2015’s political winners and losers

Typing up lists of the year’s political winners and losers is usually a pretty straightforward proposition: simply declare the winners of elections are godlike geniuses, and dismiss the losers as complete dummies. Per that hoary old political axiom, victory has a thousand fathers, and defeat is an orphan.

And, true to form, plenty of pundits and prognosticators have indeed bravely determined that (a) Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party are heroes and (b) Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair and their political parties are zeroes.

Trudeau and Team Grit won a stunning victory in October, yes. And Messrs. Harper and Mulcair indubitably lost what they had – a strong majority government and Official Opposition, respectively. But there’s more to political 2015 than that. And regurgitating the Blindingly Obvious is, well, being Blindingly Obvious. (And boring.)

Herewith, then, a list of 2015’s somewhat-less-obvious political winners and losers, with the reasons why.

Gutsiest political move: Tom Mulcair. The NDP leader – who, if the mutterings of anonymous Dipper strategists hold true, is soon to be the former NDP leader – did something during Election 2015 that you rarely, ever see in our politics: he was a frontrunner who took a very risky stand, one that he knew might cost him his frontrunner status. And it did. Mulcair’s refusal to go along with the Conservatives’ niqab-bashing was quite brave – particularly when you consider that most of his party’s seats were in Quebec, where aversion to the niqab (and the hijab) has always been high. Mulcair’s refusal to go along with thinly-veiled Islamaphobia precipitated a dramatic drop in the polls, and Justin Trudeau thereby became the only viable alternative to Harper. It may be small comfort when it comes time to write his memoirs – but history should record Tom Mulcair’s stance as a gutsy one.

Dumbest political move(s): the Conservative campaign. When political strategists know they are losing, they typically do one of two things. One, they dust off their C.V., and start quietly looking for greener pastures. Or, two, they douse themselves with gasoline and light a match, seeking to go out in a blaze of glory. The Conservative Party – led by Jenni Byrne, Guy Giorno and others – opted for the latter. In early October, when they still had a chance at re-election, the Conservative brain trust bizarrely decided to stop talking about the economy, and shriek endlessly about Muslims instead. So, they announced the creation of something called the “barbaric practices hotline,” which everyone knew was aimed at Muslims. It was “standing up for our values,” said Immigration minister Chris Alexander. It was “disgusting,” said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, and most of the country agreed with him. A few days later, Byrne et al. made a bad situation worse. They put their leader together with former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, and invited an astounded media to take photographs. Is it ever a good idea to espouse law-and-order themes whilst simultaneously campaigning with a crack-using, drunk-driving xenophobe? Um, no.

Craftiest political move: the Liberal pledge to never “go neg.” Long before he won the Liberal leadership in April 2013, Justin Trudeau solemnly pledged to never “go neg” – in the parlance of political consultants, to unleash a barrage of attack ads and nasty invective against one’s opponents. After he won the Liberal leadership, Trudeau mainly kept his vow – until Summer 2015, that is, when his party had slipped from first place to third. At that point, Trudeau continued to pledge “sunny ways” on the campaign trail – while also pummeling his opponents in advertising and (particularly) leader’s debates. In the latter case, Trudeau gave far better than he got, and left Messrs. Harper and Mulcair gasping for air, and wondering what had gone wrong. Now, Trudeau wasn’t the first politician to promise to never go neg while going neg – in recent Canadian history, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty did so in every one of his winning campaigns – and he won’t be the last. Because it pays dividends. (Oh, and Gerald Butts: the former Cape Bretoner was one of the guys who advised McGuinty to pursue the no neg/go neg strategy in 2003, 2007 and 2011 – and he did so again with Trudeau in 2015. And it worked, didn’t it?)

Most disappointing political move: the crummy candidates, in every party. It wasn’t the fault of social media, either. Social media simply provides a platform for crazy people to say crazy things – and for campaign war rooms, or the media, to thereafter publicize the craziness. (It’s been plenty nutty in past campaigns, believe me.) But the sheer volume of insanity and inanity in Campaign 2015 simply dwarfs everything that has gone before it: Truthers. Hitler comparisons. Racists. Anti-Semites. Threats. Stalkers. And even a guy who peed in a cup when he thought no one was looking. It was appalling, it was disgusting, and it reflected badly on the leaders of every party – because every leader signed the nomination papers of each and every one of those kooky candidates. And we wonder why people don’t vote as much as they used to. Wonder no more, etc.
All that notwithstanding, 2016 begins with the country in a better mood. You don’t have to be a card-carrying Liberal to agree that people generally seem to like Justin Trudeau – or, at the very least, they are prepared to give him some time to make a few moves of his own.

Will they eventually turn against him? Of course! They always do, with every leader.

And then, before you know it, we’ll be back in another election campaign – and we’ll have plenty of new examples of political moves that were gutsy, or dumb, or crafty or disappointing.


  1. Keith Meisenheimer says:

    Bull shit journalism’s use of false numbers creates political winners and losers ?

    In 2006 – 35 % did not vote … Harper won 25 % of the vote .
    For 2008 – 42 % did not vote … Harper settled for 21 % .
    Election 2011- 39 % did not vote …Harper strong stable majority was 24 % Strong change in 2015 – Did not vote nearly lost with only 31 % … Trudeau swept to power with 27 % support .

    Canada needs a none of the above option on the ballot backed by mandatory voting .

    Actual 2015 results DNV – 31 % … Trudeau – 27 % … Harper – 22 % … NDP – 13 %

    • billg says:

      We live in one of the best country’s in the world, always in the top 3 when it comes to freedoms and how we are governed.
      Its amazing to me the amount of people who want so bad to fix what is not broken just to suit what ever misbegotten ideology they have in their heads.
      We have a FPP system in a multi party democracy, and, it works, and, look around long enough and you’d see it works very well.

      • cgh says:

        Agreed. Much of the call for supposed electoral reform comes from those who propose changes that will benefit them. Small minority parties ALWAYS want proportional representation as a means of introducing minority veto over majority rule. To some extent, it’s just another form of gerrymandering.

        Politics as usual doesn’t really matter. As actual history has shown however, the existing system works quite well in a crisis.

      • Cath says:

        Agree bill – well said.

      • SG says:

        Surely amending our FPTP the system to have run-off elections if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote wouldn’t be too difficult to implement? It might bring about massive change to the make-up of Parliament, but on the other hand it might not. Either way it is far more democratic than what we have now but at the same time keeps the fringes on the fringe.

    • LarryG says:

      IOW…. the Justin Liberals won 39% of 69% of the eligible voters … or only 27% of all eligible voters.
      Surely this is not an overwhelming mandate to change the electoral system, and a referendum would be the only clear, open and transparent approach for electoral change.
      Of course might is always right and the Liberals rule Canada with their (39)27% of the vote.

  2. Shaun says:

    One piece of solid advice I can offer: never call a Cape Bretoner a “former” Cape Bretoner just because they moved away.

  3. You have anything to add to the ongoing stories piling up in the wake of Lemmy’s death?

  4. dean sherratt says:

    Now I have to disagree with you with your own words…You thought the Niqab debate was only a winner for the CPC. The Quebec results show that.

    However, I entirely agree that the barbaric practices hotline was stupid and corralled ABC voters into the Liberal camp.

    Finally, it didn’t matter what the Conservatives did…in the last days the NDP vote collapses and went almost entirely to them. So you had three campaigns but only one counted…the first won by the NDP, the second (narrowly won by the CPC but it would have meant little when Parliament reconvened) and third the Liberals…and they got a majority.

    I’m only dissecting your argument.

    As an afterthought, darned…every party has ridings they cannot win…They are like families that “sent the idiot into the Church”. They may be fools but unless they say something egregious that can hurt nationally, they are going to lose anyway…The press took too much pleasure searching their bios.

  5. Jack D says:

    Most disappointing political move: the snitch line for uptight white folk to report their brown neighbours to the authorities.

    I know you sort of mentioned it as the dumbest move, but I’d also include it as being hugely disappointing. Harper spent years trying to woo the ethnic communities of Canada to Conservative party which actually happened to be a positive contribution to the political engagement of non-white voters. The problem is that in the dying days of a shitty campaign and a long ass election, the Conservatives sold all the goodwill they had –including support within immigrant communities.

    Its disappointing because its going to take a long, long time before these communities vote for the CPC again. Trudeau and Liberals have successfully positioned themselves as the “Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” party and that means the Conservatives, more than ever before, look like the Republicans of the North. Whether or not xenophobia is an intended direction for Conservatives, they’ve attracted a fraction of Canadians that seek it. Shaking that reputation off is going to be a bitch.

    Ultimately, it was a bad political move for the Conservatives but also for the political landscape of Canada.

  6. cgh says:

    Agree with you strongly about the snitch line. Encouraging informers is the first nasty step down the road to Sulla’s Proscriptions and Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety. It was indeed a huge mistake.

    That said, the Liberals and NDP have their own substitute: a public government-funded media diligent in reporting right-wing nuttiness and relentless in ignoring the same from the left.

    • Jack D says:

      Are you equating a blatantly racist policy proposal with perceived/alleged political biases in the CBC?

      The notion that a government would allow its citizens the opportunity to carry out vicarious vigilantism towards a specific portion of the Canadian population is alarmingly similar to WW2-era Germany and its attitudes towards a segment of its population. What could possibly have been the objective of such a practice? To weed out cultural diversity deemed “too different” for Canadian standards? My god what a stupidly blind proposition that was.

      So, no. It wasn’t a “substitute”. Don’t conflate your paranoia about the CBC and its attitude towards the CPC with the Conservative’s giant campaign “fuck you” to brown people in Canada. The two aren’t even remotely comparable.

  7. LarryG says:

    Gutsiest political move: Tom Mulcair. — So is seppuku ….!

    Dumbest political move(s): the Conservative campaign. — Yup… because offering the greedy electorate what they already have — economy and security — is boring and doesn’t motivate people to GOTV. They want more, and stodgy Harper only offered fear and timidity. Harper was a ‘no hope’ leader who didn’t offer any extra political candy to Canadians.

    Craftiest political move: the Liberal pledge to never “go neg.” — That they did, plus a dollop of contempt for the Harper Conservatives which the new Liberal constituency — the Millennials — 18-32 y.o. losers soaked up with vigour and glee. Nothing like dissing your elders!

    Most disappointing political move: the crummy candidates, in every party. — But politics is the only career where qualifications are not required — e.g. Justin Trudeau …… just charisma and hope. Speaking of ‘hope’, this is what Justin peddled constantly and won over Canadians with his celebrity pedigree. I call it the “Bieber halo” effect…. and everybody loves a good actor.

    Regardless, I’m impressed with the cadre of Liberal ministers who are looking after the store while Justin just keeps on campaigning for the next election…. October, 2019 …… a perfect reelection strategy!!!

    • SG says:

      Millennials “dissing their elders”?….Would these be the same Boomer elders who have had everything handed to them on a silver platter their entire lives, and still do? I’m in my 30s and I did not vote Liberal. However if Trudeau actually does focus more on younger people and dials back the entitlements to already-rich Boomers (or at the very least, slows or halts the expansion of those entitlements), it would be about fucking time and I may well vote Liberal next time as a result.

      • LarryG says:

        Sorry if your Boomer parents have S.K.I.ed (Spent Kids Inheritance) and you have nothing being handed to you from them. Perhaps you are an orphan and feel dispossessed and seek government aid to rescue you from a dismal future. Justin may be your white knight because he must raise taxes to fulfill his ambitious agenda… like a Carbon Tax that will recover the lost $14Billion when Harper dropped the GST from 7 to 5%.
        Somehow I think you are placing your trust in a delusion, a chimera ….

  8. bluegreenblogger says:

    I agree with two of your list items. The no negative was pretty smart. I thought it was brilliant, I seem to recall you scoffed pretty hard at the time. And Tom Mulcair. He joins the Political hall of fame for this as far as I am concerned.

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