, 01.13.2024 02:13 PM

My latest: the Grit forecast is not all that sunny

OTTAWA – Liberal forecast here in the Nation’s Capital: rain, hail and locusts. With a possibility of sunshine, chirping birds, and limitless blue skies.

That, at least, was the Grit forecast at the 90th birthday party of the Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien in Ottawa Thursday night. Lovely and clear, but incoming clouds spelling total disaster. Uncertain, you might say.

This writer was there solely to toast Chretien, so the phone was off. Not notes were taken. But many, many conversations were had, with veteran Liberals from Vancouver Island to Prince Edward Island. It was revealing. But it wasn’t unanimous.

In attendance was the sitting Liberal Prime Minister, who was quite genteel, and kept his focus on the birthday boy. Also there: many of his cabinet ministers, particularly the ones with leadership ambitions. (You could tell they were ambitious, because they were offering to take selfies of people.)

And, of course, there were scores of Chretien-era former ministers, MPs, Senators and staffers. Tons of them.  All there to celebrate Chretien, and recall some of his many achievements – among them, winning three back-to-back Parliamentary majorities. A feat that has only been achieved by Sir Wilfred Laurier, more than a Century ago.

The attendees were from all over, but quite a few had stuck around the Nation’s Capital after Chretien resigned in 2003. Some did lobby work, some gave advice here and there, and some abandoned political life and got a job in the public service.

But all seemed to have kept their eyes fastened on Ottawa, and the political comings and goings during the ten-year reign of Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau.

What they had to say is significant, because the 350 people in attendance know how to win. They won more majorities than anyone since, and most anyone before. They know their stuff.

There were three camps. The pessimistic, the optimistic, and the undecided. Here’s the political weather forecast from each camp.

The pessimistic: This group -chiefly represented by those whose livelihood no longer depends on Liberal beneficence – foresee unmitigated disaster for the Liberal brand. This group speculated that a decade in the political wilderness was not just possible, it was inevitable.

The main reason, for the pessimists, wasn’t entirely Justin Trudeau’s fault. The country is in a foul mood, they intoned, and he isn’t the kind of guy you keep around when everyone is miserable.

Besides: Justin had overstayed his welcome, said the pessimists. Nearly a decade in power is plenty – as good as it gets. Time to change the channel.

If there was one criticism the pessimists had, however, it was this: Trudeau-era Liberals weren’t real Liberals. They had moved the party too far to the Left, and had become indistinguishable from the socialists. The woke stuff, in particular, had left the pessimists out in the cold.

The optimists: this group believes – and some cases, are convinced – that they can win again, with Justin. No, they did not attend the party wearing straight jackets.

On the morning of the big party, Abacus released a stunner of a poll, showing the Trudeau Grits a whopping 17 points back of Pierre Poilievre’s Tories. Seventeen points!

Pressed for the reasons for their sunny ways outlook, then, the optimists took out their crystal balls. As it were.

The Spring will see interest rate drops, they insisted – something with which most economists agree. The economic fundamentals – debt-to-GDP and the like – are better than any other G7 country. Also true.

Trudeau may not be a Chretien-style PM, they acknowledged. But he is a Chretien-style campaigner, they noted, and he too has won three back-to-back elections. (Although only one of them resulted in a majority.) Also true.

And, the optimists concluded, Poilievre is rage farmer. He doesn’t have any hope stuff on offer – it’s all anger and fear, 24/7. He thinks the country is broken, and the only people who believe that are the ones who wouldn’t vote Liberal if you put an unregistered long gun to their head.

You can’t sustain anger forever, the optimists said. Sooner or later, voters get exhausted by it. And that’s when Poilievre will run out of gas, say the optimists.

I repeat: they were not wearing straight jackets.

The undecided: This group tended to be mostly found in the private sector. They’d done their political bit, and they had moved on to pastures untainted by governmental overreach and bureaucratic machinations. They looked blessedly serene.

And, mostly, they didn’t know what was going to happen. They agreed that it was foolish to underestimate Trudeau, as three successive Conservative leaders had done (one of those leaders, by the by, sang a birthday ditty to Chretien in a video greeting, and he – Stephen Harper – brought the house down).

By the same token, said the undecided, it was foolish to dismiss a 17-point gap, too. With mere months to go before an election happens, they opined, double-digit deficits should not be sniffed at. They’ve been going on for months, and they’re real.

So, there you have it. The winningest faction within the winningest political party in Western democracy – and they’re all split on what the future holds, too. They, like everyone else, are peering at the skies and wondering. Do we go golfing, or do we head to the root cellar and batten any relevant hatches?

Chretien, meanwhile, saying nothin’. He wasn’t revealing which camp he belonged to. He told jokes, he brought us to tears, he was terrific.

If he ran again, he’d win another majority.

On that forecast, all present would agree.

13 Comments

  1. Curious V says:

    I think there’s still hope, and that’s because of his opponents flaws, but the winds aren’t blowing his way yet, so I guess I’m undecided. Until interest rates start to drop I think he’ll be in trouble, and we’ll have to wait and see if the national mood changes when they do.

  2. Peter Williams says:

    I’ll take an ‘angry’ Poilievre, over an arrogant Trudeau any day of the week.

    Guess that makes me one of those “tiny black hearted” conservatives! Full disclosure; a bunch of times I’ve not voted conservative. For example I’ve voted for an NDP candidate federally, and even voted Liberal in Alberta (Sheldon Chumir was someone I admired. He died too young).

    Liberals would be wise to stop spouting “we’ve never had it so good”. It might be true for Liberal MPs, family members, friends, and Liberal consultants. But a great many Canadians are struggling, while they watch free $84,000 vacations, and big raises. Liberal Arrogance!

    I’d also advise Liberals to avoid saying “most economists say our fundamentals are better than any G7 country”. Many Canadians would either disagree or couldn’t care less. They’re faced with how to pay bills, pay the rent, pay the mortgage, can I afford food, can I find a doctor, etc.

    Interest rates go down? The interesting thing about economists’ predictions is that predictions are a dime a dozen; and no one ever goes back to look at how many predictions were right or wrong.

    The public doesn’t care about economic predictions. Neither does “I don’t think about monetary policy” Trudeau.

    Me thinks Trudeau is already planning his next vacations. Anybody got a free beach side villa, or free ski chalet? Complete with butler of course. All while lecturing Canadians to use less carbon. Do Liberals really think Canadians don’t notice this “Riches for me, crumbs for you” policy?

    I didn’t much care for Chrétien. But I did like some of his team. They seemed to listen.

    Arrogant Trudeau. He doesn’t listen.

    • Douglas W says:

      Chretien chaired a talented cabinet: Manley, Martin, McLellan, Graham, Pettigrew and Dion.

      These individuals knew their files. Always well briefed.

      Never looked like they were over their head, unlike Hajdu, Mendicino, O’Connell, Alghabra, Bennett, O’Reagan, van Koeverden, Lamoureux, Boissonnault and Damoff.

      I’m certain I overlooked a few.

  3. Martin Dixon says:

    “and some abandoned political life and got a job in the public service.”

    That is a distinction without a difference these days as far as am concerned.

    On the GDP, per capita, we suck, badly. So the people in the food lines won’t care. And, yes rates will drop but not quickly and there will be lots of people renewing that were paying very low rates who could be paying double what they were before even if rates drop three per cent which could be TWELVE cuts. Interest rate drops won’t bail them out. That is just math.

    • Curious V says:

      If you’re renewing, wouldn’t a variable rate make sense to take advantage of dropping rates – they’re probably going to be lower for the next number of years

      • Martin Dixon says:

        Does not change my point and I just heard on the CBC that it is very possible the rates may not drop at all in 2024. Today’s inflation numbers not helpful.

  4. Copy Editor says:

    A few corrections: “straitjacket” not “straight jacket,” “century” not “Century,” “Wilfrid” not “Wilfred” (even a former Liberal should know). First three are free; pay me for further copy edits.

  5. Warren,

    Most people, including economists, have it backwards. Raising rates is the only way to reduce and eventually restore the optimum two-percent inflation metric. Cutting interest rates, by its very nature, leads to massively inflationary money creation. In short, the Bank of Canada will quite literally decide which party wins. If they cut rates, Trudeau loses. If they stand pat or return to hiking rates, Poilièvre wins because the Bank is too chicken to hike until the back of inflation is finally broken.

    Trudeau’s only shot is in the campaign but it’s a tough row to hoe.

    As for the Conservative campaign, I opt for one Angry About Inflation/Income/Housing Ad for every three Morning In Canada Ads with Pierre and Ana on our plan for how things CAN, WILL and MUST get better. My strategic two cents.

  6. Douglas W says:

    No election in 2024.
    Hearing Liberal Party cash flow hasn’t been great. They’re not in a position to march to the polls.

  7. Warren,

    DeSantis, Gotcha! This Is Pure Gold On How NOT To React To An Intruder.

    https://www.huffpost.com/entry/ron-desantis-participation-trophy-iowa-davram-stiefler-good-liars_n_65a301fee4b0351062f20f69

    This is a perfect example of why DeSantis is sinking fast, likely never to be heard from again after Iowa. His constipated, humourless reaction, along with that of his wife, finished him off but good.

    Trump got in the first blow by labelling him as DeSanctimoniousTM and it fucking stuck. Think back to how Reagan — or Chrétien — would have reacted: you smile and laugh it off. You shake the guy’s hand and ask who he is and then you take the “award”. But most importantly, you look that guy straight in the eye and tell him that you’re going to win Iowa, even if you don’t really believe it.

    Look back to the CNN debate: to his credit, DeSantis gave as good as he got from Haley but he came off as uncomfortable, scared and at some points deer-in-the headlights. Haley, came off strong, poised and relaxed. DeSantis: the visuals champion on how not to run a campaign. He’s toast either right after Iowa, or when the race reaches New Hampshire.

    N’est-ce pas?

  8. Sean says:

    I love the distinction between the groups… My take:

    Pessimists are still plugged in / have jobs adjacent to the game but aren’t really in the game at the moment… They seem to be rooting for a loss because they think it would be best for the country I suppose.

    Undecided – completely outside the game… they know, as I have learned, that elections are extremely unpredictable these days and there is no sense in seriously anticipating any outcome.

    Optimists. I can’t imagine how or why any of them are employed and I hope they get some help.

  9. Sean says:

    The Liberal Party of Canada survived John A MacDonald, Robert Borden, RB Bennet, John Diefenbaker, Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper.

    The Liberal Party will surely survive Justin Trudeau.

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