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Trudeau 184, Hubris 144

October 20, 2015

When, in early August, Stephen Harper began the longest Canadian election campaign in over a century, I assumed this piece of cynicism was aimed at stymieing the plans of trade unions and many progressive organisations to run anti-government advertisements over the summer.

I don’t know if Harper also figured eleven weeks would give the electorate enough time to forget how much they admired Tom Mulcair’s performance as Leader of the Official Opposition and how easily they could imagine him as Prime Minister. Perhaps it was part of the calculation, perhaps it was an added bonus. (Certainly it gave the electorate time to forget how ineffective and largely absent Justin Trudeau had been as an Opposition leader.)

In the first English language debate, three of the four party leaders were delusional – and they remained so throughout the campaign.

Harper seemed to think voters would fall for a budget balanced on the backs of veterans and the disadvantaged, that the voters would somehow overlook the devastating impact his inflated, polluting petrodollar-based economy had had on the manufacturing sector, that Canadians could be persuaded that he and he alone could protect them from some nebulous terrorist threat (later identified as wearing a niqab). Or how much they just hated his guts.

Tom Mulcair took the notoriously fickle voters of Quebec for granted. (Every time in the past four years that an NDP supporter has waxed lyrical to me about the orange wave in Quebec, I’ve shaken my head sadly at their naiveté and tried to get them to accept that the majority of Quebecois did not vote for the NDP. They voted against the Bloc and for Jack Layton.)

As for Elizabeth May, well, there’s nothing wrong with trying to punch above your weight, but personally I was nauseated by her portrayal of herself as some sort of king maker who would be on the phone to the governor general sorting things out the moment the last vote was counted. Nor was I impressed with her party throwing everything they had against NDP candidates like Sheila Malcolmson (my new MP) and Murray Rankin who couldn’t be more green if they painted themselves emerald. (Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see more Green MPs.)

And then there was Justin Trudeau, widely derided for the personal nature of his closing statement in that first debate: “What I learned from my father is that in order to lead this country, you need to love this country. Love it more than you crave power. It needs to run through your veins. You need to feel it in your bones.” Yeah, it was hokey, but it made you look at Harper and ask yourself: “Does this guy even like what I think Canada means?” And the answer was probably no.

I knew which way the election wind was blowing on August 27.

The day before Tom Mulcair had promised the NDP would balance the budget in year one. If even an NDP supporter like me didn’t believe him, why would anyone else? Truth be told, I had a hard time believing a lot of things Mulcair said, as well as being incredibly frustrated by the things he refused to say. (How many votes that he was never going to get did he think he was going to lose by saying “fuck the tar sands”?)

And then the next day there was Justin Trudeau saying a Liberal government would run deficits for three years to invest in infrastructure and stimulate job creation. Shouldn’t the NDP have been saying that? Well, yes, but they didn’t, leading many voters to wonder what the point of the NDP actually was.

Yes, I could see in August which way the wind was blowing. I just didn’t, at that distance, recognise it for the typhoon it was.

As I said to friends last night, after Harper won a majority in 2011, I decided I really should read Lawrence Martin’s Harperland for a clearer sense of what was in store. (I was living in the UK for the first few years after the CRAP hit the fan in Ottawa.) One of the earliest chapters was devoted to Harper’s visceral hatred of the Liberal Party and his absolute determination to wipe the Liberals off the map. I remember it as a hatred of Liberals in general, rather than Pierre Trudeau in particular. (Although the latter seems likely.). Even if the results of last night’s election are not what I might have wished, they are clearly Stephen Harper’s worst nightmare come true and that does make me smile. When someone pointed out to me that Harper also woke up this morning to find that the Premier of his province is Rachel Notley and the mayor of his city is the wonderful Naheed Nenshi, I laughed out loud.

Justin Trudeau’s huge majority makes it exceedingly unlikely that he will keep his campaign promise to abolish first-past-the-post elections in Canada. (Some hubris in the making there.) That’s a shame, but if he actually keeps half the promises he made, Canada will be more civil and better off. If he can manage to undo half the damage Stephen Harper has done to Canada and its international reputation, he will have my thanks.

Meanwhile – and for the foreseeable – it’s back to politics as usual in Canada.

Canadian politics

From → Columns

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