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Could Justin Trudeau lose next year? Maybe. Possibly.

Could Justin Trudeau lose?

Because, increasingly, some smart politicos – including ones of the Liberal persuasion – are saying it’s possible.  Likely, even.

Now, “loss,” here, includes loss of the Liberal leader’s Parliamentary majority.  Not just losing power – which, most agree, is still unlikely.  But losing the majority?  That is decidedly within the realm of possibility.

This writer ran into a very senior and very experienced Liberal strategist on the street a few days ago.  This strategist knew Justin Trudeau’s father well, and had campaigned for him.  And he remembered, too, Pierre Trudeau losing his majority in 1972 – to a Conservative opponent who, like Andrew Scheer, had been routinely dismissed as dull and unremarkable.

Could Trudeau lose the majority, I asked this Liberal guru.

“Absolutely,” said the guru, without hesitating.  “I’d say that’s what is going to happen, at this point.”

Huddled on a cold sidewalk, we riffed through the regions.  Lower Mainland?  Trudeau may lose seats to both the Tories and the Dippers, if the latter have the sense to acquire new and improved leadership.  In Alberta, it’s worse than it was back in the NEP days: a total wipeout is inevitable.  In Saskatchewan, the Goodale seat is safe, if turning-seventy Goodale sticks around.  In Manitoba, some seats will be lost.  Same goes for Southwestern Ontario, Eastern Ontario and the ‘burbs around Toronto.

In Quebec, Trudeau has been bested by the Conservatives in byelections – and he now faces Maxime Bernier around Quebec City, too.  In Atlantic Canada, it will be impossible to hold onto as much as Trudeau won in 2015 – particularly with his provincial cousins diminishing the Liberal brand there.

“That all adds up to a minority, or worse,” said the Grit guru, preparing to head off for lunch.  “It may not be pretty.”

Some pollsters are making similar noises.  Some aren’t.

A few days ago, Forum came up with a whopper of a survey, one that claimed Scheer’s Conservatives were in majority territory, a full nine points ahead of the governing Liberals.  That poll was dismissed by many (this writer included) – until Nanos revealed that it, too, found the Tories ahead of the Grits, but by just a point.

The arbiter, in these matters, has become the CBC’s guy with a calculator, Eric Grenier.  Says Grenier: “[There was]a big jump for Nanos, and much of it has occurred in Ontario where the Liberals have dropped 12 points and the Conservatives have gained 12 points [in the] last week. This is unusual…and worth watching to see if trend continues.”

Even though Forum has consistently been out of step with other polls, Grenier says, the reality has been that “the Liberals slide, and the Conservatives make gains.”

What’s noteworthy is that the Conservatives have gained on the Liberals – or have eclipsed them, if you believe Forum – when the conventional wisdom has been that Andrew Scheer is being held back by factors beyond his control.  Selfsame factors include: controversial decisions made by Ford Nation, Trudeau’s successful completion of a new NAFTA, and the aforementioned Mad Max refusing to disappear.

All of that said, Mainstreet’s Quito Maggi – one of the country’s best pollsters – insists it is still dangerous to bet against Trudeau.  A minority, to Maggi, remains very unlikely.

“[A minority is] possible, yes.  But, just because it’s possible, doesn’t mean it’s likely,” says Maggi.

Mainstreet’s founder says that the relative performance of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and People’s Party Maxime Bernier will signal what could happen next October. “If Singh wins in Burnaby and makes gains, in Ontario and Quebec especially, that starts eating into a majority,” says Maggi.  “And if Bernier fades in the New Year – say, he can’t get any candidates to run in the coming by-elections for example, and his fundraising is reduced – that could mean that Scheer can consolidate the Right vote and cause a minority.”

Maggi adds: “Those are two big ifs.  And that would be a complete reversal for both.”

The present reality is that Bernier’s ceiling is no more than around is seven per cent nationally.  Singh, meanwhile, is moving in the opposite direction, Maggi says.  “He might not even win Burnaby. His MPs are bailing for other levels of government – or announcing they won’t run.  Fundraising is down. If he loses Burnaby, it could lead to a leadership race with months to the election.”

And that, says Maggi, ironically represents a real threat to Trudeau’s Liberals – and a possible minority. “[That] could actually be the likeliest path to a Liberal minority,” he says. “If a new NDP leader can capitalize on the attention of a [leadership] race and make gains in Quebec.”

Big ifs.  Lots of variables.  One thing is for certain: Justin Trudeau remains the guy to beat.  And doing so, the pollsters agree, will be no simple task.



CJN on Judge Dan Moore’s willingness to let the death-threat neo-Nazis go free

Facts unreported to date:

  • this judge let the taxpayer-funded neo-Nazis’ lawyers cross-examine Lisa about her views on abortion
  • this judge let the neo-Nazis’ lawyers question me about the name of my band
  • this judge set free the publisher of the hate rag because there was “no evidence” he’d approved the death threat made against us – even though the cops/Crown/courts possessed a videotape of the publisher saying nothing got into his hate sheet without his knowledge and approval
  • this judge sniffed that Lisa and I were “biased” against Your Ward News – the same publication, you know, that had urged that we be “bludgeoned to death”
  • the neo-Nazis’ lawyer, Chris Murphy, encountered me in the washroom during the trial, and said he couldn’t wait to be rid of “this shit” – but Murphy is still defending the Holocaust-denying editor in other cases

The CJN story is here.

Key parts below:

An Ontario court has found James Sears, the editor-in-chief of Your Ward News, not guilty of uttering death threats against anti-racism activists Warren and Lisa Kinsella.

“Having considered all of the evidence, I am unable to find that the threat to kill interpretation … is even the most likely interpretation, let alone the only reasonable interpretation,” Ontario Superior Court Judge Dan Moore wrote.

The finding comes about six weeks after Judge Moore heard allegations that Sears had written an article that was a call to violence against the Kinsellas. Charges against LeRoy St. Germaine, the publisher of Your Ward News, were dropped in October.

Standing Together Against Mailing Prejudice (STAMP), an organization founded by the Kinsellas to fight Your Ward News, slammed the court ruling.

“STAMP is appalled that Sears has been allowed to get away with uttering death threats,” said Lisa Kinsella.

“This same judge previously dismissed an uttering death threats charge against the publisher of Your Ward News, Leroy St. Germaine – even though the courts had videotape evidence of St. Germaine confirming that nothing got into that hate rag without his approval,” said Warren Kinsella, the author of several books on organized racism.

“When that decision was made, we were expecting today’s unfortunate decision to set free a neo-Nazi with a history of advocating violence. Despite our disappointment, however, we will not relent in fighting this vile hate group. The fight goes on,” Warren Kinsella added.

…Testifying at the trial, Kinsella said that, “We regarded the article as a call to action, that we should be bludgeoned to death.”

Lisa Kinsella told the court that she felt that statement was a threat against “me, my husband, our six children and my grandchild.”

However, Sears’s lawyer, Chris Murphy, suggested to Warren Kinsella that the case was a “battle for publicity” and that the alleged death threat was not serious.

The case was only heard after the Kinsellas launched a private prosecution when police refused to lay charges. The Crown later agreed to take over the prosecution of it.

By-elections, by the numbers

The morning after the by-election in Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, I know what Gordie and I would have been doing.

We would have been going through the numbers.

Look at that NDP result, he might have said. Three per cent! They only got three per cent! Same as the Green Party!

Over the phone, for years, we’d do that: go through the numbers in a by-election or a general. He encouraged me when I lost in North Vancouver in 1997, and I encouraged him when he lost the first time he ran in 2000, against our mutual friend Joe Jordan. He only lost by 55 votes, that time.

Next time he ran, in 2004, Gordie won – this time by a margin of 9,035 votes. He’d win every time after that, too, by bigger and bigger margins.

The morning after the December 3, 2018 by-election in Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, Gordie and I would have been on the phone again, laughing. The Conservative vote – Gordie’s vote, really – went up by nearly 11 percentage points. The Liberal vote went down, by five per cent.

Gordie – who was a great admirer of my former boss, Jean Chretien, but unlikely ever to advertise the fact publicly – knew what that result may mean. Not good for Justin Trudeau, he would have said. Not good.

The winningest Prime Minister, when it came to by-elections, was the Rt. Hon. Jean Chretien, Gordie and I knew. In his decade in power, Chretien led his party in the 29 by-elections. Over that decade, Chretien’s share of the vote increased. (Robert Borden, Lester Pearson and Wilfrid Laurier came next, in that order.)

Justin Trudeau? Justin Trudeau was in the middle of the prime Ministerial pack, Gordie and I might have noted. Brian Mulroney – the former Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the most – was at the very bottom, number seventeen. His vote share actually dropped in those contests, by more than 25 per cent.

“Your guy Chretien knows how to win,” Gordie used to say, and I sure wouldn’t disagree. “Harper really admired him, you know?”

I knew. (Harper ranks number ten on the by-election winner list, by the by.)

Now, Gordie and I would always preface these discussions about numbers with a rote acknowledgement of immutable electoral realties. Like, a by-election is not a general election. Like, governments (with the exception of Chretien’s governments) often lose them. Like, they are interesting – but not always a reliable portent of future events.

But. But, but, but, Gordie would have said. But, sometimes, by-elections do matter a lot. Did you see what that Eric Grenier guy wrote on the CBC web site?

I did, Gordie. Here’s what Grenier, another numbers guy, wrote the same week as the by-election in Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes.

“In fact, there does seem to be a relationship between by-election performance and how a government does in a subsequent general election,” Grenier wrote. “This is where things get complicated for Trudeau. Of 15 prime ministers who saw an average increase in their share of the vote in by-elections during a single term, only one of them went on to defeat. That was King in 1930, when the country was in the grips of the Great Depression.”

So what, I might’ve said to Gordie. Keep reading, Gordie would’ve said. So I did.

Grenier’s conclusion: “[Justin Trudeau] sits in the murky middle when it comes to how his party has fared in the popular vote. Those above him in the rankings were nearly all re-elected. Those at the bottom of the rankings were nearly all defeated. Trudeau’s spot puts him in mixed company.”

Mixed company. Not necessarily all bad. But not all good, either.

My guy, Jean Chretien, remains a giant in this country. He’s in his eighties, now, but he’d win big if he was still leading the Liberal of Party of Canada. That’s what Gordie used to say.

“We Conservatives were never happier than we were when Jean Chretien retired, Warren,” he’d say, and we’d laugh.

Gordie Brown, of course, didn’t get a chance to retire. He was felled by a heart attack in his office on Parliament Hill back in May. That by-election in Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes was held to replace him – although he can never be replaced, to me. He’s still a giant, to me. In Leeds-Grenville, Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, too.

I had no one to talk about the numbers with, the morning after the by-election in Gordie’s beloved home riding. No one to talk about Chretien’s by-election record, or to compare it to Trudeau’s.

So, this column will have to do.

Christ, I miss you, brother.

38 years ago tonight

My girlfriend Paula Christison had been over, and we’d been studying, then watching something on the little black and white TV we had. My Carleton roommate, Lee G. Hill, was there too. Lee and I had been great friends in Calgary. In junior high, we’d started a couple fanzines with Beatles-centric themes. In our shared room on Second Russell, we had a couple John Lennon posters up amongst the punk rock stuff.

Paula left for her place downtown, so Lee and I were studying when the phone rang. It was Paula. “John Lennon’s been shot, babe,” she said. “It’s on the radio.”

His assassination, on December 8, 1980, was of course a terrible tragedy – and so, to me, was the fact that his last album (before the inevitable avalanche of ham-fisted compilations and retrospectives) was a piece of self-indulgent, saccharine shite like Double Fantasy.

Generally, he always needed Paul as an editor, and vice-versa. But his best album – and one of the best albums of all time, in my view – was Plastic Ono Band. It was like him: it was stark, and raw, and different, and deeply, deeply personal. Some say the LP was the product of his dalliance with primal scream therapy, or his response to the (necessary, and overdue) collapse of the Beatles. To me, it was instead an actual piece of art and great rock’n’roll, improbably found under the same piece of shrink wrap. Like listening to someone’s soul, without having received an invite to do so.  You should listen to it today.

The next morning, exams weren’t cancelled, though it felt to me like they should have been. When I walked into Carleton’s gym, there was a guy sitting there, already wearing a John Lennon T-shirt. I wanted to punch him. Instead, I just took my seat and wrote the stupid exam.

Thirty eight years. I can’t believe he’s been gone that long; I can’t believe I’m way older than he ever got a chance to be. It sucks.

Here’s my favourite picture of him, the one I used to use on posters I’d make up for Hot Nasties shows.  I liked it because he looked like a punk. That’s Stu in the background, I think.  Also long gone.

We miss you, John.  Hardly knew you.

Fourteen reasons

…why we still need effective gun safety laws, and why we need to stop violence against women.

29 years ago.

  1. Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  2. Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  3. Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  4. Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  5. Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  6. Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  7. Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
  8. Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  9. Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  10. Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  11. Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  12. Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  13. Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  14. Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

How Jagmeet Singh can be saved from himself


Dear Jagmeet:

By now, you would have seen the latest Nanos poll thing, showing your New Democrats at a titch under fifteen per cent. ‎By now, too, you have perhaps abandoned the fetal position you have adopted under your desk, which is nowhere near Parliament Hill because, well, you haven’t been elected to a seat in Parliament.

That’s one of your problems. You have many.

The regular Nanos poll, which is an opioid to many Hill folk, suggests the Conservatives are at or around 32 per cent nationally. And the Liberals – who daily give thanks to the gods for making you leader of the federal NDP – ‎are at forty (40) per cent, Jagmeister.

Forty per cent: almost three times as much support ‎as you.

Even worse – and don’t start hiding under that desk again, Jagmeet – Nanos says Justin Trudeau is the favoured choice of Prime Minister ‎by 38 per cent of Canadians.

You? Six (6) per cent. SIX PER CENT.

That means you are tied in the crucial leadership ‎horserace with Green Party leader Elizabeth May (who just got engaged, and best wishes from all of us here at the Hill Times, Liz).

It also means you are presently leading the once-proud New Democratic Party to its worst electoral showing in decades. The last time the NDP dipped below 15 per cent in popular vote was under the leadership, such as it was, of Audrey McLaughlin and Alexa McDonough.

What political challenge did Audrey and Alexa face in 1993, 1997 and 2000, you ask? Well, thank you for asking. They faced my guy, Jean Chretien. Le petit gars wiped the floor with Dippers, when he was leader. Your party only rebounded, and got past 15 per cent again, when Chretien resigned and Paul Martin commenced piloting the Liberal Party into the ditch.

The bad news: you can’t bring back Mr. Martin, ‎Jagmeet. The good news: Justin Trudeau ain’t no Jean Chretien. Take it from me, Jagmeister: Justin Trudeau will never be Jean Chretien.

So, how do you beat Justin?

Glad you asked. ‎You have it in your power to reverse your party’s present downward descent into obscurity and, possibly, invisibility.

Three points. Pay attention.

Number one: bring back the pros. Fire the amateurs in your office.

Brad Lavigne, Kathleen Monk, Karl Belanger, Brian Topp, Anne McGrath: those were among the strategists who lifted your party, and Jack Layton, to previously-unheard-of heights. That was the team who beat the Liberal Party of Canada in 2011 – the party that had previously been the most successful political machine in Western democracy – and consigned it to the ignominy of third place.

There are newer New Democrats, too, who you need to hire, and fast. Like, say, Michal Hay, the genius who leads Progress Toronto, and who was Chief of Staff to the aforementioned Jack Layton when he was a city councillor – and who was the woman who helped you win the NDP leadership. And who, upon winning it, you cruelly and stupidly abandoned. You need Michal back.

‎Number two: you are going to lose the Burnaby by-election. Let me say it all-caps so it penetrates your impressively-thick cranium: YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE THE BURNABY BY-ELECTION.

Don’t just take my word for it. A recent sounding by Mainstreet Research shows you running third, Jagmeet. That reflects the internal (and usually more accurate) numbers of both the Liberals and the NDP.

The insanity of running somewhere when you know you are going to be eviscerated: that’s bad enough. But it’s rendered even more crazy when there is a perfectly acceptable alternative available, in Brampton.

You know, the neighbourhood which you represented for years in the Ontario Legislature. And which you would easily win.

Look, maybe you’re tired of all this politics stuff, and you are looking for a dramatic and humiliating ‎way to exit public life. That’s possible.

Or, more likely is the possibility that your are stubborn as a mule, and you think losing is principled or something.

It isn’t. It’s losing. And it means the end of your political career, buddy. Lights out.

‎Number three: do what Layton did. Copy him. It made him the much-loved Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, among other things.

As my wife – a former Michael Ignatieff senior aide – recently reminded me‎: Jack Layton didn’t have a seat in the House for a long time, either. But no one off the Hill knew it. Jack scrummed as often as possible, en les deux langues, and was ubiquitous. You should do likewise, Jagmeister.

Policy-wise, too, you’ve been letting Justin Trudeau steal your leftie lunch money. Take it back.

The Leap Manifesto faction want to see Canadians living in huts, heated by windmill power, and eating stuff squirrels do. They are nut cases. Have nothing to do with them.

Do what Layton did. Do what Rachel Notley has done, too: ‎embrace the progressive centre.

Pledge to push for more doctors and nurses. Push for better pensions. Demand caps on credit card fees. Offer to spend more on post-secondary education, and affordable housing. Say you’ll craft a better tax credit for those who create jobs‎ and who care for their elderly family members.

Insist on lower home-heating costs. Recognize that pipelines are safer, and more environmental, than transporting trainloads of oil through places like Lac Megantic. Do better at helping small business than the Trudeau Party has done (and, as a small business owner, I assure you that won’t be difficult).

All of these things were advocated by the Layton/Notley tribe, over the objections of the Lewis/Laxer gang. And guess who clobbered Liberals in subsequent elections, Jagmeet?

The Layton/Notley NDP did.

You have it in you, young man, to do better. Way, way better. But only if you (a) bring back strategists who know strategy (b) run in that Brampton by-election and (c) ‎start crafting policies that are, you know, both progressive and popular.

Can you do it? Sure you can.

Will you do it?

I have my doubts.