Tag Archive: Andrew Scheer

My latest: police, politicians and protestors

Can the politicians tell the police to take down the barricades?

If not, why not?

Those are the two questions that have been mooted for more than two weeks now. Around the nation’s water coolers, in just about every Tim Horton’s, frustrated and angry Canadians – Indigenous and otherwise – have been wondering what, if anything, can be done. What can be done to make the trains run on time again? What can end this?

There haven’t been as many questions about the legitimacy of the protests, or the efficacy of our political leaders. A majority of Canadians apparently regard the barricades as worse than illegitimate – they see them as illegal.

And our political leaders? On that, there is consensus, too. Not one of our leaders has looked like they know what to do. Not one.

Justin Trudeau spent a few days pleading for “patience,” and – when it became evident that he did not possess a clue about how to actually solve the crisis, and finally reconcile with Indigenous Canadians – he did a volte-face and said he wasn’t going to be patient anymore. No, sir. The Prime Minister wanted the barricades down “now.”

That, ironically, was Andrew Scheer’s position. The soon-to-be-former Conservative leader wanted the barricades carted away “now,” too. But he stopped short of saying the police should be, you know, ordered to do so.

And, when he said what he said, the aforementioned Trudeau petulantly refused to invite Scheer to a meeting in his office with all of the other leaders of political parties. (Seriously.)

From the Liberals, then, inertia and platitudes. From the Conservatives, lots of tough-guy talk (as leadership contender Peter MacKay was, in a tweet applauding vigilante action) – but, um, not too much of it (MacKay later deleted the tweet).

From the other political leaders, much of the same. Words and contradictions. Piffle and bafflegab. But not a single, sensible suggestion about what to actually do.

An Ipsos poll suggested Canadians themselves were similarly conflicted. Said Ipsos: “As the indigenous blockade of key transportation corridors in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Nation continues for another week, a majority of Canadians [61 per cent] say they disagree that the protestors are conducting justified and legitimate protests.”

But, but.

But the other hand, said Ipsos: “Most Canadians recognize room for improvement: three quarters agree that the federal government must act now to help raise the quality of life of Canada’s aboriginal peoples, which is up 12 percentage points since 2013.”

Get that? Around six in ten Canadians say the protests are illegitimate. But around seven in ten also say Indigenous people have legitimate grievances, and deserve better.

Out of all this confusion, out of all the maddening political double-talk, one question persisted: can the police be ordered in?

Well, no. Not by the politicians, anyway.

For much of the country, the RCMP is the police force that would be called upon to shut down the barricades and arrest the protestors. And the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, section five, acknowledges that the commissioner of the force is indeed appointed by the relevant cabinet minister.

But then section five goes on: only the RCMP commissioner “has the control and management of the Force and all matters connected with the Force.” Not, it should be emphasized, the politicians.

Last year, during LavScam, the Conservatives seemed to understand this distinction. They seemed to accept that no politician should ever, ever order police or prosecutors to do (or not do) something. This year, they have forgotten all that, because it is politically expedient to do so.

The Liberals, meanwhile, spent much of 2018 and 2019 attempting to bend the law to suit their political purposes. In 2020, not so much. With a straight face, they now insist they cannot tell the police what to do. Which is why nothing was done for weeks.

They’re right about that much, at least. If the standoff between police and Indigenous people during the 1995 Ipperwash crisis taught us anything, it is this: permitting politicians to order around the cops can have fatal consequences. In that conflict, former Ontario Premier Mike Harris was alleged to have said to the OPP: “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.”

So, an Ontario Provincial Police sniper team was dispatched to Ipperwash. Ojibwa protestor Dudley George was then summarily shot. The OPP thereafter stopped George’s family from taking him to the hospital, and he died.

If you think Canadian police officers didn’t learn a valuable lesson from the killing of Dudley George, you’d be wrong. They carefully studied the voluminous Ipperwash Inquiry report, and have heeded what it had to say.

Twenty-five years later, as more Indigenous protests (literally) grip the nation, Canada’s police forces are the only ones in authority who have conducted themselves with anything approaching caution and consistency. They, more than anyone else, know that someone could be killed. And that, frankly, should matter more than anything else.

As the 2020 barricade crisis drags on, the cops look like adults. The politicians look like idiots.

Trust the cops.


My latest: ten reasons why Peter MacKay has a shot

Peter MacKay has hit a rough patch.

Weird social media. Policy incoherence. Crummy French. Interviews going awry.

Sure, he’s coughed up the big entrance fee, and proffered the requisite number of signatures. Came up with a nice logo. Attracted the support of smart backroomers, and figured out how to avoid angering both of the Conservative Party’s warring tribes on the Left and Right – no small thing (ask Jean Charest and Pierre Poilievre).

But…it’s looked amateurish. It’s looked chaotic. It’s looked positively Stockwell Dayian, even.

Could a wounded, desperate political party rally around MacKay? Or is all hope lost?

Well, no. Ten reasons.

1. MacKay is likeable. Half the job in politics is being a HOAG – a Hell Of A Guy (or Gal). MacKay has that Earthy, aw-shucks, regular schmo thing down pat. He’s a HOAG.

2. MacKay looks the part. The other half of the job, when one is a political leader, is to appear Prime Ministerial. Not too regal (like Michael Ignatieff did), and not too stern (like Joe Clark or Tom Mulcair did). A Prime Minister needs to be capable of being suitably serious (say, when sending troops into battle) – but a PM also needs to know how to do cheery retail (say, when pressing the flesh on the hustings). It isn’t hard to imagine Peter MacKay doing either.

3. MacKay’s timing is good. Politics is like comedy – success depends more on timing than content. MacKay has come along at precisely the moment that his party is desperately in search of middle ground – and a leader who knows how to bank Left or Right, as circumstances warrant. One, too, who has been away from politics long enough to seem new – but who was also there long enough, in senior roles, to look experienced.

4. MacKay isn’t Justin Trudeau. Governments defeat themselves, and the Trudeau Liberal government has shown itself quite capable of doing so – taking a for-sure majority second term and reducing it to a timid, tentative minority. For voters scanning the horizon for an alternative to Justin Trudeau – and in October 2019, most Canadian votes were – Peter MacKay seems a sensible alternative.

5. MacKay isn’t a crypto-Nazi. Let’s face it: the Trudeau folks sought to portray Andrew Scheer as a knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, red-necked troglodyte, one who hated gays, women and refugees. And they were wildly successful – but only because Scheer became the embodiment of Hidden Agenda (dual citizenship, tongue-tied on social issues, not-an-insurance-broker). Scheer allowed the Grits to define him before he could define himself…

6. …but MacKay is defined. He’s a known quantity. He’s been a cabinet minister and an MP. He did stuff, and nobody ran him out town on a rail. He may be remarkably unremarkable – like that old pair of slippers you resist throwing out – but you generally know what you are getting with the tall, grinning, Nova Scotia guy.

7. MacKay is a conservative, but not too conservative. As shocking as it may sound to the prototypical angry Conservative – Langstaff 7832269, with a Twitter profile of a Viking holding an assault rifle – most Canadians are not as conservative as they are. Calling them “Libtards” and “Lieberals” does not tend to encourage middle Canada to vote Team Blue. Also helpful: MacKay thinks women should be able to decide what happens to their own bodies – and, also, that LGBTQ people should be allowed to be just as miserable as straight married people are.

8. MacKay is from the Atlantic region. Conservatives do not have a voting base that is as “efficient” as the urban and urbane Liberals do. To win majorities, Tories need to capture support in every region, not just the prairies. MacKay is a native son of the Atlantic, and he accordingly has the best shot at stealing needed Atlantic seats away from the Grits.

9. MacKay isn’t angry. Stephen Harper was Mr. Angry, sure, but he only won a majority in 2011 because Jack Layton surged in the final stretch, and snatched multiple seats away from the aforementioned Ignatieff. Before that, Canadians kept Harper on a minority leash because he too often appeared to be a misanthrope with control issues. MacKay doesn’t look angry. In fact, MacKay looks like he’s never been angry. About anything.

10. MacKay is a compromise candidate. For a country weary of Justin Trudeau (who too often seems all sizzle, and no steak) – and wary of Stephen Harper (who, as noted, too often seemed like a rageaholic encased in cardigan) – Peter MacKay is a reasonable compromise. He’s likeable, he’s a known quantity. He’s not a maniac. He’s not despised, from sea to sea to sea. He’s not unpopular.

Not yet, anyway.


Of doughnuts and beards and the like

The Conservative Party – back when it knew how to win, and when it was preoccupied with winning more than whining – was pretty good at symbols.

Symbol-wise, ten years ago, the Conservatives’ communications strategy always came back a single theme: that Michael Ignatieff out-of-touch and from Mars – while their guy, Stephen Harper, was intimately familiar with the day-to-day reality of an average Canadian’s life, and was in fact just like the guy next door.  “Everything they do, every speech, every photo-op, every avail, everything they do every single day – it’s all aimed at making people feel Harper understands their life, and Iggy has never lived their life,” I said to some Iggy folks.

For example, I said, look at the Conservative regime’s laser-like focus on (the cherished Canadian sport) hockey – and (the cherished Canadian coffee and doughnut franchise) Tim Horton’s.  Harper seems to be obsessively preoccupied with both, even though he had been photographed furtively drinking Starbucks on the campaign trail, and no can recall ever seeing a photo of him in a pair of skates, ever.

“They’re political Everyman symbols,” I said, “and he’s brilliantly swiped both of them.  He’s an economist, for Chrissakes – he’s just as much of an intellectual as Ignatieff, but he’s terrified of people finding that out.  He wants our guy to be the brainy geek; he wants our guy to be the snob.  So he goes after Joe and Jane Frontporch with hockey and Tim’s, and it works.  Tim Horton’s hockey Dads, voters get.  Harvard human rights professors, who don’t do sports and who hangs out with other pinheads, they don’t get.”

None of this was new, or exceptionally insightful.  As early as 2007, smart folks were noticing how Harper was fixated on political symbols like hockey.  The progressive folks at Straight Goods, for instance, wrote back in 2007 that “hockey is an important part of the frame of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives.  Since [2004], Harper has strived to court for the vote of the urban working middle class – people earning under $50,000 in trades, service industries, small business or sales.  Establishing himself as a hockey-loving tough guy is intended to play to this demographic.”

To that end, Harper was frequently photographed cradling a cup of Tim Horton’s at hockey rinks, or chumming with National Hockey League all-stars.  He even let it be known that he was writing a book about hockey, even though I can’t remember if it ever came out.

None of this happens by accident.  Symbols aren’t part of politics – symbols are politics. Pierre Trudeau’s rose and pirouette; Jean Chretien’s Shawinigan handshake; Justin Trudeau’s baby-balancing and whatnot.

So, accordingly, I understand why many Conservatives dislike Justin Trudeau so much.  First, Trudeau is way better at symbols than them.  Way.  And, second, Trudeau swiped symbols from them.  It drives them crazy.

In their effort to get back at him, Cons overreact.  They see a beard, they start posting memes that his father was Fidel Castro.  They see him carrying doughnuts for his cabinet, and they actually go on websites to calculate (falsely) how much the doughnuts cost and (without proof) claim he expensed them.  They see him periodically without a wedding ring, and spin tales about the state of his marriage.  And so on.

I’m not saying political symbols don’t matter – they do, a lot.  It’s just that you shouldn’t be swinging at every damn symbol that comes along, like some latter-day Don Quixote.  You shouldn’t treat every photo op as a war crime.

Pick your targets.  Keep your powder dry.  Don’t overreact.

Symbols matter, a lot.  But not everything is a symbol.

Now go eat a doughnut.

 


Peter MacKay: he’s in

Does this mean Jean Charest is in or out?  Does this mean Team Mulroney is going elsewhere?  Does this mean Stephen Harper will not support anyone in the race, because none of them are him?

Who knows.  But he’s in, he says. Here’s a quickie take on MacKay, pro and con.

PRO

  • Was a senior Minister, seen as competent 
  • Helped unify the warring factions of the Right
  • Nice-looking family, nice guy
  • Crown prosecutor, smart lawyer
  • Knows how to raise dough
  • Knows the Atlantic region probably the best

CON

  • Seen as too Red Tory by New Conservatives
  • Seen possibly as yesterday’s man
  • Seen as sometimes enjoying the high life a bit too much
  • Not seen as having a stand-out big achievement as Minister
  • Can be remarkably unremarkable sometimes
  • Why is he running?


Ten reasons why Jean Charest should run

Will he? Won’t he? Postmedia muse John Ivison says he will. I think he will, too.

Here’s ten reasons why I think he should seek the Tory leadership, and why he could win – both the leadership and the country.

  1. The Big One.  The Rest of Canada mostly doesn’t know what’s in the Quebec Referendum Act.  The Act stipulates that referenda are strictly governed by the provincial actors alone – and the leaders of the “No” side have always been provincial federalists.  In the mid-1990s, one was a guy named Jean Charest.  In that too-close contest, my guy Chrétien played a huge role. (Bill Clinton helped, too.)  But the guy who saved the country? It was Jean Charest. Period.
  2. His policy record.  When you’ve literally kept a country together, that should be enough: you don’t need to have much else on your C.V.  But Charest has had other achievements: the first significant Minister of the Environment, winning for Canada at the Rio Summit; before that, he was (appropriately) the youngest cabinet minister in Canadian history, when he was named Minister of State for Youth.  As Premier of Quebec, he opposed withdrawing from the Kyoto Accord, and had myriad other environmental achievements – for which he won an international award.  He facilitated municipal demergers, he won in 2007 on a platform of tax cuts, and he held the separatists at bay for years.
  3. His political record.  When my boss Chrétien wiped out the Conservatives in 1993, only two were left – Elsie Wayne and Jean Charest.  All the others – big names – were defeated.  Not Charest: he was re-elected handily in Sherbrooke. He became party leader and brought the party back from exile, winning 20 per cent of the popular vote in 1997.  That, plus his referendum performance, resulted in folks pressuring him to run as Quebec Liberal leader – effectively, back then, the “conservative” option in Quebec politics. In 2003, he led his federalist party to a massive majority, ending a decade of separatist rule.  He’d be Premier for  decade.
  4. He is nice guy.  He is.  Through family, friends and direct exposure, I can attest: Charest is just an exceptionally decent guy.  Family man, thoughtful, not a bully (but tough when he needs to be – ask the separatists).  You don’t win as many times as Charest has – in the difficult circumstances he’s been in (cf., 1984, 1995, etc.) – by being a dick.  Jean Charest: not a dick.
  5. He’s lacks weaknesses.  All of the previous Conservative leaders had glaring faults.  Kim Campbell was regarded as erratic and ineffective; Stockwell Day was seen as a SoCon loon; Preston Manning was dismissed as remarkably unremarkable; Andrew Scheer was running to be Prime Minister in 1919, not 2019; Stephen Harper was widely believed to dislike people – in a business where you need to like people, and be liked to succeed.  Charest doesn’t have any of that baggage. He’s a normal guy – who knows how to win.
  6. He creates a problem for the Liberal Party.  The Liberal Party of Canada has become the most successful political machine in Western democracy because of three constituencies – women, new Canadians and young people.  Regionally, the Grits have become more attractive to the urban and urbane voters in Quebec and Ontario, too.  Charest, however, has won in both of those provinces – and he has captured support with all of those named demographics. He poses an existential threat to federal Liberals where it counts.
  7. He creates a problem for Justin Trudeau.  Trudeau – despite blackface, despite LavScam, despite Aga Khan, despite Griswolds in India, despite the selfie solipsism – won in 2019.  He won, despite his documented weaknesses, because his main opponent was weaker.  Scheer had never run nationally before – but Charest has.  Scheer didn’t know how to appeal to female voters – but Charest does.  Scheer had no policy achievements to point to – but Charest has plenty.  Having seen Charest debate many times, I think he would present a big, big problem for an increasingly-tired-and-sad-looking Justin Trudeau on the hustings.
  8. He has Mulroney.  As I said to young and smart Conservative friend this week, too many Conservatives (a) think the battle is won and lost on Twitter and (b) don’t understand you win majorities by capturing the swing voters you don’t have – not the committed voters you already do.  Charest wouldn’t be running without Muldoon’s support – which means they already own Montreal and environs, swaths of Quebec, Bay Street money, key parts of the Atlantic, and tons of ex officio types who owe Mulroney (and Charest) plenty.
  9. He has the best advisors.  Nick Kouvalis is one of my best friends, and Michael Diamond is a longtime friend, too.  I am biased about them.  But guys like Nick and Michael know how to win.  They helped get John Tory and Doug Ford elected when plenty of people thought no one could.  Other highly-effective strategic types have already come on board, I am told.  They are people who know how to win leaderships – and, beyond that, elections.
  10. His timing is right.  Senior Conservatives tell me they are simply sick and tired of losing when they should win.  They are fed up with those who choose ideological purity over compromise.  They want a smart, decent, modern leader who knows how to win.

They think that guy may be Jean Charest.  I do, too.


Tory war: keeping score

So, back in the good old days, when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth and Jesus was a little fella, you were given a couple chances to become Prime Minister or Premier. That’s how it was done.

Nowadays, with a news cycle of 10 seconds, and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and all that crap helping us to become crazier than usual, people have become more impatient. Political people especially. These days, you don’t get two shots at the big chair anymore. These days, you get one. That’s it.

Sometimes, partisan political people will want to get rid of you even when you’ve won! Seriously. For example, not long after Jean Chretien won a bigger majority in 2000 than he did in 1997 – his third majority in a row! – Paul Martin’s gang decided that they knew better than several million Canadians.

So, they got together at an airport hotel and resolved to remove Jean Chretien from power.

Chretien got back at them, though. He resigned, alright. But he resigned way after he’d been planning to. Take that, Team Juggernaut.

Anyway. Andrew Scheer is no Jean Chretien, but he is facing a similar problem. Even though he got more of the popular vote, even though he has representation in every part of Canada – unlike all the other party leaders – and even though he got the best result an opposition party has gotten, ever…well, lots of Harper and Bernier people are in the media saying they want him out. You can’t pick up a paper without one of them complaining about Andrew Scheer, who apparently is the anti-Christ now.

One of them, this week, even cited Scheer’s weight as a reason why he lost. I’m not making this up. This Ottawa area candidate – who lost, surprise surprise, and was last seen making videos with the She-wolf of the Clueless, Faith Goldy – said that Scheer needs to lose some weight if he wants to win.

Anyway. That’s how bad it is in the Conservative Party, now. They’ve lost their minds, basically. And they’ve returned to their proud tradition of resembling a circular firing squad.

Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, is maintaining what Brian Mulroney used to call “a courageous silence.” That is, he remembers what Napoleon (or one of those guys) said: when your opponent is destroying himself, don’t interrupt him.

There’s some things that Andrew Scheer and his at loyalists can do, but aren’t doing. They worked for us during Martin‘s attempted coup against a popular sitting Prime Minister, the aforementioned Chretien. I offer them as talking points, free of charge.

One: the judgement of several million Canadians should matter a lot more than that of a few backroom folks and bitter defeated candidates. That’s what I used to say back in the early 2000‘s – that more than 5 million people had voted for Jean Chretien, and they get the final word, in our system of government.

Number two: civil wars only benefit your opponent. In this case, Justin Trudeau.

Get out the smelling salts: I like the minority Justin Trudeau way more than the majority Justin Trudeau. He’s been showing a lot of maturity and restraint post-election. His Conservative opponents, meanwhile, are showing neither restraint nor maturity.

Minority Trudeau is a very very different guy than he used to be – or at least he’s portraying a different guy very well. Right now, the conservatives – whether they are for Scheer or against Scheer – are persuading lots and lots of people Trudeau and his Liberals are the better option. To wit: the Tories have magically transformed the Grit leader into a Prime Minister presiding over what is effectively a majority government. That’s hard to do, but they’ve done it.

Three: there are rules. For example, every party has a constitution. Every party provides for leadership reviews. In this case, Scheer is facing one in Toronto in just over four months. The chances of him resigning before that review takes place seem to be somewhere between slim and none.

So why don’t his critics work on recruiting an alternative, and work on winning that review in April? They’re not doing that. They’re just giving lots of interviews, to the media, who are lapping it up.  The media always prefer conservative car crashes to conservative happy endings.

Four, back when Martin‘s minions were attempting to drive Jean Chretien out, there was a certain brutal logic to it all. I hate to admit it, but there was.

That is, they were doing it for a reason we all understood: to install Paul Martin in power.

The Martinis at least had an alternative. In the conservative’s case, in the year 2019, it’s not clear who is the alternative to Andrew Scheer. Is it Erin O’Toole? Is it Peter MacKay? Is Rona Ambrose? Who is it?

Scheer’s loyalists are entitled to ask that question: namely, if our guy isn’t good enough, who do you have who would do better? No one‘s had the guts to step forward yet. Perhaps there that’s because they know you don’t ever want to be the one who kills the leader. You want to be the one who replaces the guy who killed the leader.

Five, follow the money. That’ll tell you who is behind this, and that will explain a lot of their motivation. The very people attacking Scheer in the media are the same people who would be kissing his ass if 15 Liberal seats are gone the other way.

That’s it. Fifteen seats. If the Tories had stolen away 15 seats from the Liberals, they would’ve won both the popular vote and the seat count. And Andrew Scheer would be perhaps having tea with the Governor General, talking about the government he intended to form. Fifteen seats.

Politics is crazy.

Anyway, what do I know. I merely worked for Jean Chretien, who won three majorities in a row, and Dalton McGuinty, who won three big election victories in a row. And I last year got to volunteer for that John Tory guy, who won with 70 per cent of the vote in Canada’s largest city. Oh, and I oversaw a mean, nasty campaign against  Maxime Bernier (who lost his seat), and his racist People’s Party (which didn’t win a single seat). What do I know.

So, keep doing what you’re doing, Tories.

Justin Trudeau thanks you.