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Canada John Ivison: Trudeau drops the sunny ways and treads into dangerous territory

14:52  07 september  2021
14:52  07 september  2021 Source:   nationalpost.com

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What does Justin Trudeau do for an encore?

Justin Trudeau posing for the camera: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at a campaign stop at Valbruna ASW Inc. in Welland, Ontario, September 6, 2021. © Provided by National Post Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at a campaign stop at Valbruna ASW Inc. in Welland, Ontario, September 6, 2021.

Much of his media availability in Welland, Ont., on Monday was devoted to belittling Erin O’Toole.

It is a sign of how rattled the Liberals are that Trudeau invoked the trifecta of progressive hobgoblins — anti-vaxxers, anti-choicers and climate deniers, all of whom, Trudeau claims, are pulling O’Toole’s strings.

“He can’t even convince his party that climate change is real,” Trudeau said, conjuring up the vote at the Conservative policy convention in March, where delegates rejected the statement that “climate change is real” and the party is “willing to act.”

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“Canadians are beginning to see that the future being offered by Erin O’Toole is a future of wishy-washy weak leadership — he doesn’t stand up for what he actually believes in,” Trudeau said, in reference to the Conservative leader’s flip-flop on the platform commitment to overturn the Liberal ban on semi-automatic weapons, pending a classification review.

“He’s trying to say whatever he can to Canadians to get elected,” the Liberal leader said.

The problem with political attacks is that they are ineffective when they come from someone who is less esteemed than the target.

a person standing next to a fence:  Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole leaves an election campaign event at Canada Place in Vancouver, September 5, 2021. © REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole leaves an election campaign event at Canada Place in Vancouver, September 5, 2021.

Canadians are just getting to know O’Toole. He has proven himself pragmatic or unprincipled (take your pick) on gun control. But he has been clear that he is in favour of vaccinations, a woman’s right to choose and action on climate change. It is becoming apparent that pre-campaign polls suggesting the Conservative leader is unpopular were misleading — he had (and has) a recognition problem, not a popularity problem.

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Given the limited number of people likely to switch between the Liberals and the Conservatives, the real battle is over progressive voters who could be persuaded to vote Liberal or NDP.

Despite Trudeau’s best efforts to draw pictures of dragons and sea monsters on the uncharted map of an O’Toole government, there is little in the Conservative plan that will scare New Democrats into the Liberal camp.

The promise to rescind the semi-automatic weapons ban was a foolish holdover from O’Toole’s “true blue” leadership campaign. It was clear that it would alienate urban voters, particularly in Quebec, and it should never have seen the light of day. It stalled O’Toole’s progress for three days but at his press conference on Monday, he was again being asked about things he wants to talk about — such as the commitment to double the Canada Workers Benefit.

John Ivison: Erin O'Toole's promises may be a matter of expediency in this election

  John Ivison: Erin O'Toole's promises may be a matter of expediency in this election MONTREAL — Erin O’Toole emerged from the first French language debate with his lunch money and dignity intact, which has not always been the case for anglophone Conservative leaders. Andrew Scheer never recovered from being bullied in the 2019 TVA debate and Conservative fortunes in the province nose-dived as a result. On Thursday night, O’Toole’s French was fluent and he was unruffled by the frequent attacks from Justin Trudeau, who looked as if he was over-caffeinated. Trudeau’s failure to knock O’Toole off-stride had the predictable effect of prompting ever more delirious assaults on the Conservative leader on social media.

O’Toole said the promise is worth up to $2,800 a year to low-paid workers, or a $1 an hour raise. “It’s a win for workers, families and the Canadian economy,” O’Toole said.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is probably wishing he’d thought of the idea first.

O’Toole has been steadfast in rebuilding his party in his own image — that is, a traditional Red Tory.

In doing so, he is taking a gamble that he doesn’t lose voters he needs in tight races to Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party. The gun control about-face has probably done wonders for PPC recruitment.

 A man holds an upside-down Canadian flag in a protest against vaccination, during Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election campaign tour stop in Brantford, Ontario, Canada September 6, 2021. © REUTERS/Carlos Osorio A man holds an upside-down Canadian flag in a protest against vaccination, during Canada’s Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s election campaign tour stop in Brantford, Ontario, Canada September 6, 2021.

But the calculation appears to be that the bleeding is worth it, if new blood can be recruited from other parties or from among non-partisans.

In response, Trudeau has looked frantic and sounded shrill. The leader who propounded “sunny ways” and the hopeful narrative has been reduced to accusing his rival of saying anything to get elected. Lest we forget, this is the Justin Trudeau who promised electoral reform, the return of peacekeeping, pharmacare, clean drinking water on reserves, Access to Information in ministerial offices, two years of deficits before a return to balanced budgets etc, etc.

John Ivison: Liberals put O'Toole on the defensive on gun control

  John Ivison: Liberals put O'Toole on the defensive on gun control COQUITLAM, B.C. — The Liberal Party is trying to put doubts in the minds of the jury, as voters ponder the prospect of Prime Minister Erin O’Toole. Those efforts were helped in no small part by the Conservative leader himself on Saturday. O’Toole was in Coquitlam to announce his plan to get vaccination levels up to 90 per cent. Quite why we were there remains a mystery. It is home to the closest race in the country — Conservative Nelly Shin won Port Moody-Coquitlam in 2019 by 153 votes, and was in attendance, but no reference was made to the location.

This is dangerous territory for the Liberal leader — as is the politicization of vaccination. His position on those who have not been vaccinated is hardening, as he tries to link “anti-vaxxer mobs” stalking his campaign events to O’Toole.

“The vague position taken by Mr. O’Toole is an issue. He will not demand that people taking a plane or a train are vaccinated. He will not demand that the federal public service be vaccinated and he doesn’t even expect that his candidates be fully vaccinated — and that shows that, yes, he’s trying to get votes from anti-vaxxers,” he said.

Can anyone remember a time when the prime minister of a country demonized and delegitimized so many of his fellow citizens?

O’Toole said on Saturday that his goal is to get 90 per cent of Canadians double-vaccinated — but by persuading the hold-outs, not compelling them.

“The big difference between Justin Trudeau and myself is that I respect people, even if we have differences, to make personal decisions,” he said. “It’s not time to create an ‘us versus them’ approach.”

Trudeau’s success is built on authenticity — in successive elections, a plurality of voters has been convinced by his empathy and positivity.

This time, Trudeau is relying on Project Fear to scare progressives into rallying around the Liberal flag. But this sour campaign isn’t really him, and it’s not clear what he has in reserve if it doesn’t work.

jivison@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/IvisonJ

a group of people looking at a cell phone:  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a photo taken with a supporter during a campaign stop in London, Ont. on Monday September 6, 2021. © Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a photo taken with a supporter during a campaign stop in London, Ont. on Monday September 6, 2021.

Put on defensive in leaders' debate, Trudeau tries to caution against cynicism .
Six years after Trudeau said that “better is always possible,” he is still trying to carry a message of ambition and progress. But now he’s also carrying the inevitable baggage of these years in office. And in the waning days of an election campaign that seems to be balanced precariously on a razor's edge, Trudeau was everyone else's preferred point of attack.

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