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Doug Ford and Justin Trudeau hate each other’s guts. And that makes sense.

Photo credit: Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford, seen together in happier times.

That’s what newspaper editors always write when publishing a photo of a couple who have (a) just announced their divorce, (b) expressed their profound sadness, and (c) requested privacy for their family. “In happier times.”

Justin and Doug briefly had a happier time together, too, although it seems to have happened long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. But it happened, just the same.

June 2018: Donald Trump, the sexual predator and crook now holding the White House hostage, unleashed a tirade against Canada’s Prime Minister on Twitter (where else?). Trump called Justin Trudeau “dishonest and weak” and one of his advisors – who of the few who hasn’t been indicted yet – opined that there was “a special place in Hell” reserved for Trudeau.

It was an astonishing attack on an ally, one that Canadians have never witnessed before. Trudeau, for his part, bit his tongue and said nothing. But Doug Ford? The Doug Ford who had won a massive majority government, just a few days earlier? That Doug Ford?

Here’s what he said: “I can tell you on the trade deal south of the border, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the prime minister and our federal counterparts. My number one priority is to protect jobs in Ontario, especially protect the steel workers, aluminum workers. That’s going to be a priority.”

“Shoulder to shoulder.”

This writer is not friendly with Trudeau, but is with Ford. So I sent Ontario’s newly-minted Premier a note, telling him I was proud that he had placed the national interest above the partisan one. Lots of other folks, as Ford loves to call citizens, felt likewise. Even if you didn’t like Justin Trudeau all that much, he – and, by extension, we – were under attack, and we needed to come together.

And then, well, politics.

In the intervening months, Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford haven’t stood “shoulder to shoulder” so much. Instead, it’s been more a case of a relationship that’s getting “colder and colder.” Here’s a short list of the sort of thing that has taken place since the happier, sunnier ways of Spring:

  • Ford and other conservative Premiers appeared in a much-satirized Maclean’s cover photo and declared themselves “The Resistance” to Trudeau
  • Trudeau showed up for his requisite first photo-op/meeting with Ford at Queen’s Park, and literally – literally – made a face for the assembled media throng, and said he was obliged to “explain” immigration policy to Ford
  • Ford and his ministers have blamed Trudeau’s government for a rash in gun crime and illegal migrants – and called the Liberal leader’s carbon tax plan a “vote-buying scheme”
  • Trudeau’s intergovernmental affairs minister told Ford to keep his nose out of federal affairs, and stop dreaming about a political career on the national stage – and accused him of “fabricating,” quote unquote, issues
  • Just last week, the federal Minister Responsible for Social Media Selfies, Catherine McKenna, shot a video of herself denouncing the Ford government’s cuts to francophone education as “an outrage” and effectively declared war on Ontario’s Conservatives

And war it is. Just a few months in, and the Ford and Trudeau governments – from top to bottom – deeply despise each other. Their enmity and animosity seems to only grow worse by the day.

Neither government will admit to a secret, however: they may hate each other, but they need each other.

Since the departure of Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall from the national stage, Justin Trudeau has lacked a serious, capable conservative opposite. Walls’ successor couldn’t be picked out of a one-man police lineup by most Canadians, and Brian Pallister is too busy running a villa in Costa Rica. Quebec’s Francois Legault is too new to the job, and knows that Trudeau remains somewhat popular in Quebec. Out in Alberta, meanwhile, Jason Kenney isn’t Premier yet.

So the job of Conservative antagonist has fallen to Doug Ford.

And his partisans love his sallies and broadsides against Justin Trudeau. They love it. While Ford’s most-recent party convention was scuttled, somewhat, by SoCon knuckle-draggers passing a non-binding resolution attacking trans people, most PC attendees delighted in Ford’s ceaseless critiques of Justin Trudeau’s government. They ate it up. Andrew Scheer even showed up to join in on the fun.

Similarly, the Trudeau Party is covertly grateful for Doug Ford: he is (and will be) useful in Liberal fundraising, recruitment and electioneering. And Trudeau’s disdain for Ford is deep, and of longstanding. The Ontario Premier has never forgotten this attack by Trudeau on Ford and his deceased brother, made as the 2015 federal election was winding down:

“There’s a lot of people talking in the news these days about the hypocrisy of the Fords and their drug problems. But that’s not really the issue, as serious as it is, that strikes me most. What bothers me the most is the misogyny. The Ford brothers should have no place on a national campaign stage, much less hosting [Stephen Harper] at an event…That’s just completely irresponsible.”

As low blows go, that was low.

Shoulder to shoulder? No longer, with Messrs. Ford and Trudeau.

These guys hate each other – and, weirdly, need each other.

How Andrew Scheer can win the next election. You’re welcome.


Dear Andrew:

First off, well done.

You handled the Tony Clement scandal way better than Justin Trudeau handled the Kent Hehr scandal: (a) you moved quickly, (b) you were umambiguous, and (c) you kicked the wrongdoer right out of your caucus.  In Hehr’s case, Trudeau didn’t do any of those things.  So, kudos.

Opposition can be Hell, but you are mostly doing well.  Mad Max Bernier sounds madder by the day, and gives every indication that he is running for office in Austro-Hungary in the 1920s, not multicultural Canada in the 2010s.  You continue to out-fundraise the Liberal Party – a sitting majority government, for those who haven’t noticed – and have been doing so for many months.  You are running ads during hockey games to get better-known, and (as such ads go) you are getting a bit better-known.

But you still aren’t popular.  You still aren’t winning.

Nanos’ latest weekly poll indicates that you are a whopping 11 points behind the Trudeau Party – and that the New Democrats, who you desperately need to do better, continue to languish under the byzantine leadership of Jagmeet Singh.  If an election were held today, the Grits would win a bigger majority than they did in 2015.

Equally, Nanos found that more than twice as many Canadians (42 per cent) prefer Justin Trudeau to you (20 per cent) on this question: “Of the current federal political party leaders, could you please rank your top two current local preferences for Prime Minister?”

It’s not just Nanos.  Mainstreet’s Quito Maggi said this week that “a massive Liberal Party majority is in the making.”  His firm found that Trudeau dominates in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada – with a double-digit lead in the last three places.  Which means lots and lots of seats.

So what do you do?

Well, for starters, consider Kinsella’s Rule of Political Opposites.  Your salvation lies therein.

Politics, like physics, is all about action and reaction.  It’s the third Newtonian law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

You shouldn’t ever replicate what your opponent does; you should be reacting to it. Near the end of his tenure, then, Stephen Harper came to be seen as a sullen, angry guy who didn’t like people much. So the NDP picked a sullen, angry guy who didn’t like people so much. The Liberals picked a happy, upbeat guy who hugged everyone. Guess who picked right?

Exactly. React, don’t replicate.

Cast an eye over recent political history, if you don’t believe me.  Ronald Reagan’s sunny Morning In America stuff was the precise-right reaction to the dour, defeatist Jimmy Carter administration, mired as it was in energy and hostage crises.  Bill Clinton’s campaign trifecta – keep it simple, it’s all about the economy and a town called Hope – were the polar opposite of George H. W. Bush’s impenetrable blathering about distant points of light. Brian Mulroney’s Irish blarney and small-town charm was the right response to the effete intellectualism and elitism of Pierre Trudeau.  Jean Chretien (with his experience, his plan, and his team) was the perfect response to Kim Campbell (who lacked experience, a plan, and a team).

Thus, cast an eye over your opponents, Mr. Scheer.  All three of them – Messrs. Trudeau, Bernier and Singh – share certain characteristics.

They are all stylish and debonair.  You, to put a fine point on it, are not.

They are all charismatic and magnetic.  You aren’t.

They are all Starbucks and Holt Renfrew.  You are Tim Horton’s and Giant Tiger.

What does that all mean? It means, Mr. Scheer, that you need to do what I have long suspected you are going to do anyway –embrace your inner nerd.  Celebrate your lack of charisma.  Wear jackets from Moore’s, and jeans from Old Navy.  Do what Stephen Harper did so successfully before you: become the Tim’s-loving, hockey Dad Everyman.  It worked.

There’s another Canada, as you well know, one that is South of the Queensway and North of Steeles. This is the Canada – a significantly larger and more powerful Canada – in which Stephen Harper (like Jean Chretien before him) was for a decade the favourite.

Chretien and Harper understood the other Canada, because they came from it, and because they never forgot it, and because they embraced it. In 2005, accordingly, I wrote that the ballot question would be Starbucks versus Tim Horton’s. Amazingly, a decade-and-a-half later, it still is. Chretien and Harper represent the latter constituency – and Messrs. Trudeau, Singh and Bernier all represent the first one.

You will never be them, sir.  I don’t believe you even want to be them.

So, do the one thing that always works in politics: be you.

If voters go looking for Justin Trudeau’s opposite, they won’t be putting an X beside the parties led by Jagmeet Singh or Maxime Bernier.

They’ll be looking to for the Everyman.  Which, in 2019, is only you.

There you go.  That’s how you win. You’re welcome.  Invoice is in the mail.



Victory! Neo-Nazi rag barred from postal system

After many years – and after lots of hard work by a lot of people in the Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ communities, as well as women and people of colour – victory at last!

The Minister responsible for Canada Post has barred Your Ward News from using the postal system. This is a huge victory for tolerance, diversity and community action.

Congrats to all.

I never said that Patrick Brown was a deceitful, deceptive, duplicitous equivocating, fallacious, false, fibbing, fraudulent, lying sack of shit

I didn’t say that, but:

Scenes from the Daisy mid-terms party

And the candidate we worked for in Maine, Janet Mills, won Governor! First woman elected to that post! Daisy extends its wins to the U.S.! Woot!

Logan Ross and the Gipper; Tom Henheffer and Zack Babins with JFK; Daisy alum Laksh Vig and Dion Angelini do yet more office fix-ups; Myriam Denis protects the real winner of 2016 presidential race; CBC TV broadcasts live from Daisy; and Toronto Mayor John Tory offers a toonie for my new book, New Dark Ages, while Lisa Kinsella and Katie Watson are amused.

Revealed: what the LPC and CPC war rooms will be using in 2019

Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer are agreed on one thing, at least: the next election is going to be plenty nasty.

The 2019 election will be decided less than a year from now. So, the two main party leaders say it’s going to be down and dirty. Should we believe them?

Not really. If you think criticizing the public record of someone seeking high public office is “dirty“ – well, yes, it’s going to be dirty. But criticizing the public record of your opponent during an election – their quotes, their votes, their use of our tax dollars – is in no way dirty. It’s democracy, in fact.

But Blandy Scheer and Petit Justin still insist elbows will go up as the play moves into the corners. So, what can either leader expect? What are the vulnerabilities that the Liberal and Conservative war rooms can be expected to exploit?

Herewith, a helpful list from an old war roomer for staffers to clip and pin to the war room fridge door.

Trudeau’s Inner Drama Teacher: For three months in the Spring, the Prime Minister and his party dropped precipitously in the polls. If an election had been called at the time, they would have lost it. What happened? In a word, India. The Liberal leader’s trip to India was an unmitigated disaster. When he played dress-up – when he danced like an extra in a bad Bollywood flick – Justin Trudeau enraged and embarrassed Canadians. It suggested to them that he was not ready for prime time, still. Expect the Conservatives to make full and frequent use of the Indian imbroglio.

Scheer’s Disunited Right: Andrew Scheer’s biggest problem isn’t just Justin. Since the Summer, it’s been Mad Max Bernier. Without a party name, without a party logo, without any party fundraising, Bernier became a major factor when he broke away from Scheer’s Conservative Party. In the intervening months, the problem has grown only worse. Bernie is polling in the double digits, and he hasn’t even really done anything yet. Expect Trudeau to fight to have Bernier included in the leader’s debates, and to draw attention to him at every stop on the campaign trail.

Trudeau’s Scandal Rap Sheet: Trudeau hasn’t racked up nearly as many scandals as Brian Mulroney – who he speaks to more than any other former Prime Minister, coincidentally enough – but he is no longer as lily-white as he once was. He’s lost ministers to scandal and #MeToo allegations – and Trudeau himself is the first sitting Prime Minister to have ever been found to have violated a federal statute. Expect to hear plenty about the Agha Khan and Bill Morneau’s French villa in the coming months.

Scheer’s Almost Alt-Right: With Mad Max in his rearview mirror, and anti-immigrant sentiment surging across Western democracy, Andrew Scheer has decided to go Trump-lite. As a result, he has come perilously close to embracing the very anti-migrant bigots he professes to oppose. It is not a good look. Of late, Scheer has been running a pre-campaign that would be a winner in rural Mississippi – but not so much in modern Canada. Watch for Justin Trudeau to shine a spotlight on Scheer’s Almost-Alt-Right tendencies.

Trudeau’s Less-Than-Stellar Legislative record: Despite a string of achievements in his first majority term – with progressive and historic changes to the Criminal Code, social policy and governance generally – Justin Trudeau’s father was reduced to a Parliamentary minority in 1972. Will Justin Trudeau – whose only significant legislative achievement has been the legalization of cannabis – do likewise in 2019? Scheer’s Conservative war room will almost certainly remind voters that Trudeau’s legislative record has been exceedingly thin gruel.

Blandy Scheer is just that: Bland. And the Conservative brain trust knows it, too. Canadians don’t know who Andrew Scheer is – and those who do, find him remarkably unremarkable. The Tories have therefore been running ads in prime time – and even during the cherished ad breaks during Hockey Night in Canada – to raise Andrew Scheer’s profile. It hasn’t worked. Scheer continues to resemble a man who is highly uncomfortable in the role in occupies. The Grits will waste no opportunity reminding Canadians that the Conservative leader is a charisma-free zone.

Which leader is most vulnerable? Which war room has the most with which to work?

It’s a mixed bag, as noted. But, on balance, the election remains Justin Trudeau’s to lose.