Friday, January 31, 2014

Justin Trudeau: Fresh, Bold Ideas Vs. Harper's Tired Old Ones

Justin Trudeau speaks to large crowd in Vancouver
While pundits and polticos continue to digest the implications of Justin Trudeau's recent tactical masterwork - the 'firing' of all (former) Liberal Senators, the politics of the move is even more interesting.

The Harper Conservatives had intended on beginning the new year attempting to build some economic credibility for the Prime Minister - who had spent much of 2013 under seige regarding the PMO-Senate Scandal.  It was their hope that attack ads coupled with a massive "Action Plan" ad campaign, and a PR offensive aimed at situating Harper as the "master of the economy" (regardless of the doldrums the economy happens to actually be in) would help bring the PM back in the polls.

The NDP was also looking to make up ground, building on the accolades Mulcair earned during the last Commons session.

Political circles were wondering what the Liberal Team would bring in the New Year.  Few thought anything as bold or impactful as the removal of half the Liberal Caucus was in the works.  The announcement dominated the airwaves and internet - not only in the political news, but in the general news cycle as well.

Mr. Trudeau - the new leader of a renewed Liberal Party - appeared strong, credible, bold, and Prime Ministerial in his approach, contrasted with PM Harper - who had talked about Senate reform for over 20 years (dating back to his Reform Party strategist days), including 8 years where he had the reigns of power and the ability to act.

That really IS the clear contrast:  Fresh, new, bold ideas from Trudeau, vs. the tired old ideas of Harper.  The willingness - a very liberal trait - to try something new, and the boldness to see it through.  Whether it be a discussion of official legalization of cannabis, or a balanced view on Canadian resources, or the Senate matter, Mr. Trudeau has shown the ability to look at issues with fresh eyes, and a very forward-thinking perspective.

In the case of the Senate, many pundits believe that Mr. Harper never really intended on reforming anything, but the Senate did serve his party as an effective 'demon' or 'whipping boy'.  The "Reform the Senate" rallying cry was a great way to rally Conservative supporters to the party's cause(s).  Legal experts have long been clear  that the 'elected Senate' strategy the Conservatives espouse was doomed to rejection by Provinces, and even the Courts, and Conservative strategists would clearly have known this.  The thing is, political reality, and the rules of Parliament have never really dissuaded this brand of Conservatives from their ideological infatuations.  So, one can safely muse that the Harper Conservatives full well know their Senate position is destined for 10-15 years of Constitutional wrangling, which would stir up all sorts of demons - including that of Quebec Separation.  Of course, with their penchant for thinking only of themselves, and their current political gains (Canada's National Debt is another good example of this), they really couldn't care less.

Caught off guard, without the usual talking points, the morning of the Liberal announcement, many Conservatives grasped at straws - accusing the Liberal Leader of 'insulating' himself against findings by the Senate spending watchdog (coming in the next few months).  Of course these very same Conservatives failed to contemplate the reality that the Conservative Majority in the Senate is far more likely to have a much larger number of 'issues' with spending habits.  They also overlook the fact that the most brazen examples of spending improprieties have been the ones which raised the budget office and RCMP investigations and Senate audits.

One other 'little' tidbit Conservatives overlook:  Stephen Harper personally is responsible for the 59 Senators he has appointed.  Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, has never appointed any, and it's been almost a decade since any Liberal Prime Minister has appointed anyone to the Red Chamber.

When the facts play out, and all the dust clears, the reality is that Stephen Harper talked about Senate Reform for over 20 years, and had 8 years to act on it (choosing to dump the question on the Supreme Court in the last year), while Justin Trudeau brought forward an elegant, effective, and simple plan less than a year after assuming the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.

That bold new vision is something Mr. Harper is going to have a very tough time fighting in the next election.

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