Bring a gun

In political war rooms, it’s called “quotes and votes.

Digging up embarrassing old statements by an opponent and publicizing them, that is. Also, dusting off long-ago missed legislative votes, orquestionable expenditures or travel.

When you get a quote that hurts your adversary, you leak it to a media org anization. Once the media report on the statement, the political party then can bray and screech about how offended and outrag ed it is.

The outrag eous Justin Trudeau quote about Alberta, by now, is well-known to all.

In a 2010 interview on a French-language program, Trudeau said Canada wasn’t doing well because “it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic ag enda.

I think it was a dumb thing to say, and not just because I’m a member of the Alberta diaspora. If an Alberta MP had said it about Q uebec, Trudeau et al would be rig htly upset.

Now, as I said in Sunday’s column, politicians regularly say dumb things, and no one is ever truly shocked or appalled when they do.

Politicians and media pretend to be shocked and appalled, but voters aren’t. They’ve seen it all before. What was interesting, therefore, was something else entirely — the way in which the three main political parties handled the controversy. The Conservat ives made a mist ake by publicizing Trudeau’s statement at all.

By dropping it during the Calg ary Centre byelection, they confirmed that they were, in fact, close to losing it. It made them look panicky. It was also a mistake because it was a quote that would have been hig hly damag ing to the Trudeau-led Liberal Party at the time of the next election. Why fire off such a big rocket now, during a byelection, instead of saving it for the big show? New Democrats made a mistake, too. They were as quiet as proverbial church mice. Given that most of their caucus is made up of Q uebecois– and given that the Trudeau Liberals will wipe out many NDP MPs — the Dippers could have kicked Trudeau when he was down. They didn’t.

The Liberal Party made a few silly mistakes, too. Leadership aspirants Marc Garneau and Martha Hall Finlay attacked Trud eau for his remarks, thereby kicking the story for a few more days, and helping themselves not at all.

But the most eg reg ious Liberal misstep was this: Instead of just taking the punch, they should have hit back, twice as hard.

Stephen Harp er once said Canada was “a second-tier country” with “second-rate status.

He also suggested Atlantic Canadians were shiftless and lazy, with a “culture of defeat.” And that there was a “national culture,” and that “ethnic groups” need to “integrate.

If the Cons want to play the “quotes and votes” game, the Grits should do likewise. Take that beaut about Canada being “second-rate,” and jam it down Harper’s throat until he can’t breathe. Make him gag on it. Hit him with “second-rate,” over and over, until every Canadian remembers it.

As an Albertan, I don’t like what Trudeau said. But as a Canadian, I like what Harper said even less. So, next time the Cons invite you to a “quotes and votes” knife fight, Grits, do this:

Bring a gun.

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