“Warren Kinsella's book, ‘Fight the Right: A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse,’ is of vital importance for American conservatives and other right-leaning individuals to read, learn and understand.”
- The Washington Times
“One of the best books of the year.”
- The Hill Times
“Justin Trudeau’s speech followed Mr. Kinsella’s playbook on beating conservatives chapter and verse...[He followed] the central theme of the Kinsella narrative: “Take back values. That’s what progressives need to do.”
- National Post
“[Kinsella] is a master when it comes to spinning and political planning...”
- George Stroumboulopoulos, CBC TV
“Kinsella pulls no punches in Fight The Right...Fight the Right accomplishes what it sets out to do – provide readers with a glimpse into the kinds of strategies that have made Conservatives successful and lay out a credible roadmap for progressive forces to regain power.”
- Elizabeth Thompson, iPolitics
“[Kinsella] deserves credit for writing this book, period... he is absolutely on the money...[Fight The Right] is well worth picking up.”
- Huffington Post
“Run, don't walk, to get this amazing book.”
- Mike Duncan, Classical 96 radio
“Fight the Right is very interesting and - for conservatives - very provocative.”
- Former Ontario Conservative leader John Tory
“His new book is great! All of his books are great!”
- Tommy Schnurmacher, CJAD
“I absolutely recommend this book.”
- Paul Wells, Maclean’s
“Kinsella puts the Left on the right track with new book!”
- Calgary Herald
Canada is more than “a confederation of shopping centres,” Pierre Trudeau once said, decrying the narrow agendas of provincial Premiers.
It is more than that. It has to be more than that. In Trudeau’s view – and I believe he expressed it this way, once, but the quote remains elusive – Canada is also more than a grouping of feudal fiefdoms, held together by bribes doled out by the central government.
In constitutional negotiations, in negotiations of transfer payments and the like, Pierre Trudeau was (in)famously dismissive of the petty ambitions of the Premiers. No one could ever accuse the long-serving Prime Minister of being water boy to regional interests. While he wrote books about the perfection of federalism, his was always a federalism with a strong central government beating at the centre.
And whether you approve of Trudeau’s vision of Canada or not, one fact cannot be denied: Pierre Trudeau would meet with the Premiers. He did so a lot.
He may have disagreed with them. He may have castigated them. But he always remembered they were the duly-elected representatives of the people of their home province, and he treated them as such.
Trudeau did not deny the Premiers the respect their office was due. Do you remember, as I do, weekday evenings spent with Knowlton Nash, taking in reports by David Halton and Peter Mansbridge about endless First Ministers’ gatherings in Ottawa’s Conference centre? Footage of Trudeau’s baleful gaze, arms crossed, as he listened to Peter Lougheed or Rene Levesque demand more, ever more?
If pressed, Stephen Harper would likely agree with Pierre Trudeau on one point: provincial Premiers do not ever travel to Ottawa to state that they are doing fine, thank you very much, and that they require no further federal help. They do not seek meetings with Prime Ministers – be they named Trudeau or Harper or Mulroney – to express satisfaction with the status quo.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, in my view, is already establishing herself as one of the finest provincial leaders to emerge in a generation. She is no separatist like Levesque was, or a perennial antagonist like Lougheed. She is a believer in Canada, and the Canadian concept. She does not take cheap shots at Harper simply because he is a Conservative, and she a Liberal.
But Harper is treating the leader of Canada’s largest province with contempt. This was seen vividly – appallingly – this week, when Wynne released a series of letters seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister about issues ranging from pensions to infrastructure.
Harper’s response? Go “work with the responsible federal ministers,” he wrote, quote unquote. You, a Premier, go meet with my underlings.
This is beyond shameful – it is literally contrary to the way Canada works, and Canada’s traditions. When I had the privilege to work for Jean Chretien, I witnessed first-hand Chretien’s approach.
When he was in Ottawa, he would always be in Question Period. When an Opposition leader asked a question, it would be Chretien who would endeavour to answer it. And when he travelled on the wildly-successfully Team Canada missions, Chretien would spend days in close quarters with the Premiers – no bureaucrats, no aides. Just the First Ministers.
“A French Canadian respecting British Parliamentary traditions,” Chretien once said. “Think of it!”
Harper should think about it, too. His refusal to meet with Kathleen Wynne does not merely disrespect the Ontario Premier – it disrespects the 13.6 million people she was chosen to represent. It disrespects our traditions.
Stephen Harper must meet with Kathleen Wynne, full stop. She may not be coming to see him to flatter him, or engage in small talk. But she is a Premier, and she deserves one thing above all else:
As my Calgary high co-conspirators Lee G. Hill and Dan Nearing would tell you, The Graduate was always my favourite. RIP, a great visionary.
Mr. Kinsella said in an email Wednesday that a number of senior Liberal party members have urged him to seek a nomination and to run in the 2015 election. Among them, he said, is Dennis Mills ,who held Toronto-Danforth for the Liberals for 16 years before being defeated by Mr. Layton, the former NDP leader, in 2004.
“I’m giving it serious thought,” said Mr. Kinsella. “It’s a big decision. I’m very concerned about the direction the country is going in, and I believe (Liberal Leader Justin) Trudeau is on track to win back the confidence of Canadians.”
Mr. Mills said he believed Mr. Kinsella would make an excellent MP because of his experience, his knowledge of public policy, and his passion for Canada. “I think that he would be a great parliamentarian,” said Mr. Mills. “He has had a long, long apprenticeship in serving every region of our country.”
1. Have some folks suggested I offer myself up as a Liberal candidate in the next federal dust-up? Yep.
2. Am I a candidate for anything yet? Nope.
3. Should I become a candidate? Well, there’s a few strongly-held opinions on that. Me, I’m opening up comments for you commenters to comment.
Let ‘er rip.
I haven’t seen the film, but Ashley Csanady (I love her name, it’s like a Pynchon character’s name) and she has a hilarious review of it, here.
Personally, I think the Trudeau-Brazeau match was really, really important. Inspired by Csanady, here are my numbered reasons why:
- Boxing is what all sports are, stripped down to base elements. It is perfect because it doesn’t hide what it is.
- Boxing is used by writers all the time as a metaphor for other things, because it lends itself to that. Here, Trudeau turned it into a metaphor for politics, and I don’t know if anyone has ever done that before.
- Politics, when stripped down to its base elements, is really a struggle of symbols. Conservatives have always understood this, as I wrote in one of my books. Trudeau, I think, is one of the first progressives to understand it.
- Everything about that fight was replete with symbolism: red versus blue, conservative versus progressive, new versus old, insider versus outsider, elected versus unelected, change versus more of the same, and so on.
- At great risk to himself, Trudeau used that charity boxing match to re-order the political zeitgeist. Everything changed after that.
Me? I couldn’t even watch the fight, when it happened. I was at Sun News that day, where various on-air people were eagerly anticipating Trudeau’s demise. It was an utterly bizarre environment to be in, at that moment.
So, because I knew him and liked him, I wouldn’t watch it. If he failed, it would be like Stanfield’s fumbled football, or Dukakis’ tank, or whatever. It would be all over – and the last, great hope of the Liberal Party of Canada would be forever remembered for that loss.
But he won. He took the risk, and he won, and he changed the alchemy of Canadian politics forever.
I rather suspect he is getting ready to it again.
Conservative folks are sounding pretty cocky, this morning, but they shouldn’t be. They are, after all, the folks who:
- Saw a two-term Whitby mayor in a tough fight with a total newcomer to politics
- Were in a pitched battle in a Con stronghold (in which they took 60 per cent of the vote last time, to the Liberals’ 14 per cent)
- Sent virtually every member of cabinet through to promise everything but the kitchen sink
- Were whining about “dirty tricks” on the eve of the vote
- Sent in their national campaign boss, Ms. Byrne, because they were in deep shit and they knew it
Still don’t believe it, Team Blue? Then take a gander at this Pundits Guide chart. My super-duper expert analysis tells me that only one coloured line (the red one) went up last night, and every other coloured line (the blue, orange and green ones) went down.
Spin it any way you want, kids. The factoids and chart don’t lie, this cold November morn.
From Gatsby, natch.
Less figuratively, I have been told it will be “very, very vigorous” in my case.
Literally, I am told that’s where my story will end. We shall see.
Everyone knows that (a) election outcomes are notoriously difficult to predict, these days, and that (b) by-election outcomes don’t mean much, if anything.
However, those caveats aside, let’s have some fun and (a) recklessly predict some election outcomes and (b) rashly suggest that yesterday’s Whitby-Oshawa by-election – and the one in Yellowhead – portend big, big changes.
The one in Whitby-Oshawa by-election, for starters. Whoever actually won the thing – and, at press time, that crucial bit of information remained stubbornly elusive – one thing is for certain: the Conservatives and the New Democrats lost it.
Whitby-Oshawa, you see, was the riding held for many years by former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Provincially, the riding is held by Flaherty’s widow, Christine Elliott.
Flaherty died suddenly in April. At the time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it was a “terrible shock,” and it was. At the time, nobody could conceive, seven months hence, that the Conservatives would be contemplating actually losing the Flaherty stronghold.
But, at press time Monday night, they were. For Conservatives, Whitby-Oshawa had become a nightmare.
Consider the numbers. In 2006, Flaherty beat the much-liked Liberal incumbent handily, 44 to 39 per cent. In 2008, Flaherty improved his standing, pulling in double the vote of the Liberal challenger – 50 to 25 per cent. And, in 2011, he did even better – stealing 58 per cent of the popular vote in the riding, while his nearest challenger cobbled together only 22 per cent.
Oh, and his nearest challenger wasn’t a Liberal. It was a New Democrat. The Liberals finished third that year, capturing only 14 per cent of the votes. Ouch.
What a difference three years and a new leader make! On the eve of the by-election, public opinion surveys were showing a double-digit plummet in the Harper Conservatives’ popularity in Ontario. One poll, conducted six days before the by-election, actually placed the Liberal and Conservative candidates in Whitby-Oshawa in a dead heat – and the New Democrat, who came second in 2011, in a distant third place.
The fact that this could be happening in Jim Flaherty’s redoubt was extraordinary. The fact that the Conservative candidate had been Whitby’s two-term mayor – and the fact that Liberal challenger was a newcomer to politics – made it more so.
Whatever happened last night, then, the Liberals won Whitby-Oshawa. Despite the Flaherty family’s hold on the riding – despite the relative experience of the candidates – the Conservatives and the New Democrats have some soul-searching to do.
Out in Yellowhead, Alberta, the results aren’t likely to be as dramatic. But for the Conservatives and the New Democrats, there is more evidence that the Trudeau phenomenon has national implications.
Yellowhead, a vast riding located West of Edmonton, has been conservative – or Conservative – since it was created in 1979. Joe Clark, the Progressive Conservative leader, held it without interruption from 1979 to 1993. Cliff Breitkreuz then represented the area for three successive elections, as a Reform or Alliance candidate. Since 2000, Rob Merrifield has made Yellowhead his kingdom – pulling in an astonishing 77 per cent of the vote in 2011. The Liberals were reduced to two per cent, and a distant fourth place, behind the New Democrats and Greens.
This time around, as in Ontario, Team Harper have experienced a double-digit plummet in popularity in their Alberta heartland. In Yellowhead, some small-sample polling has seen Merrifield’s Tory successor slide significantly – and the Grit challenger add more than 23 points to the party’s 2011 showing. The NDP, meanwhile, was far back in the pack, in third place.
Make no mistake: for the Liberals to do so well in Yellowhead – and for the Conservatives and the New Democrats to do so poorly in Jim Flaherty’s Whitby-Oshawa – is simply amazing.
The seat standings may not have changed, last night.
But Canadian politics did.
We had a great chat, too. Interesting fellow.