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Canada John Ivison: Trudeau shall reap the whirlwind

05:50  22 september  2021
05:50  22 september  2021 Source:   nationalpost.com

John Ivison: Trudeau weathers storm as campaign enters final week

  John Ivison: Trudeau weathers storm as campaign enters final week CANDIAC, QUE. — “This is John Ivison, reporting from the Liberal campaign bus, in the Quebec riding of La Prairie. I can exclusively reveal that the media left the hotel in Montreal at 8.15am and are scheduled to make it to bed at around 3am in Vancouver.” I know what’s happening in the little bubble of the campaign tour, gender balanced and rapid-tested. As for the campaign itself….er, not so much. It is a fascinating perch from which to observe snapshots of history in the making. But it is less useful for making pronouncements on its grand sweep. All of that is to suggest caveat emptor for what follows, which may be completely specious.

Trudeau pulled the plug on his minority Liberal government on Aug. 15, a little less than two years after Canadians first reduced the Liberals to a minority. He argued that Canada was at a pivotal moment in history and Canadians deserved a chance to decide how they wanted to finish the fight against COVID-19 and build back the shattered economy. Trending. John Ivison : Trudeau shall reap the whirlwind .

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

If the 43rd and 44th Canadian parliaments promise to be as similar as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, it does not mean the election campaign was without consequence.

a man standing in front of a crowd: Justin Trudeau is seen during a meet and greet with constituents at the Jarry Metro station in Montreal, early on the morning of Sept. 21, 2021. © Provided by National Post Justin Trudeau is seen during a meet and greet with constituents at the Jarry Metro station in Montreal, early on the morning of Sept. 21, 2021.

Justin Trudeau, in his acceptance speech, said some have talked about divisions in the country “but that’s not what I see.”

That is wilful blindness. Trudeau’s Liberal Party has retained power — just — but has lost nearly two million votes since its resounding win in 2015; the prime minister has won two elections with a smaller share of the popular vote than his Conservative rivals; he has helped bolster the far right People’s Party, which attracted more than 800,000 votes, and by calling an election in a pandemic, has helped to contribute to a turnout of 58.4 per cent, the lowest in Canadian history if confirmed.

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Trudeau said he had disagreements with New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs over the funding of abortion services at a clinic in Fredericton but that he agreed with Higgs over his introduction of mandatory vaccinations for New Brunswick public servants. But it would be no surprise if Trudeau was back in New Brunswick and Halifax again before the end. A campaign to pick up 15 new seats has quickly become one where the focus is as much on not losing what is already held. Miramichi-Grand Lake was won by 370 votes last time out by retiring Liberal Pat Finnigan — and that was only because

There is a sense in caucus that the prime minister is reaping the whirlwind after appointing as justice minister someone who was not a partisan Liberal. But far from sending out her colleagues to besmirch Wilson-Raybould’s reputation, the Prime Minister’s Office is trying to rein in caucus anger and stop a Unfortunately for the voters who would like to give Trudeau a one-way ticket to the moon, those people probably don’t exist in sufficient numbers to bring down a government. • Email: jivison@postmedia.com | Twitter: IvisonJ. Share this article in your social network. Share this Story: John Ivison : Trudeau

All the leading parties will be forced to take stock. Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell once told President George W. Bush about the retail rule: “If you break it, you own it.” Trudeau fomented division for political advantage and now he owns it. He heads a minority government that will rely on the Bloc Québécois and/or NDP to pass its agenda and will likely face another election within two years. Will his party want to risk heading into another election with such a polarizing figure at the helm? Will he want to risk the ignominy of rejection? A re-elected Liberal candidate in Nova Scotia told one voter on the doorstep that another Liberal minority would likely see Trudeau forced out, so this is a live issue.

In his concession speech, Erin O’Toole wanted to let party members know what is going on — he is going on, and they will have to drag him from his post if they want another leader. He was hobbled from the start, not by low polling numbers, but by a leadership campaign in which he ran as a rock-ribbed conservative, before switching in the general election to present a more centrist face to voters. That expediency was repeated during the campaign, as the Conservatives shifted position on issues from guns to pipelines, opening O’Toole up to Trudeau’s charge that he would say anything to get elected.

John Ivison: Singh side-steps questions about post-election scenarios

  John Ivison: Singh side-steps questions about post-election scenarios SASKATOON — In the final days of a gruelling campaign, it is clear why no political leader wants to be knocked off message by musing about what might happen post-election. The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh was no exception. Four times he was asked if, on principle, he agreed that the largest party should have first crack at forming a government in a minority situation. Four times he answered with a variation of the following: “I want people to know where I stand. People are going to have to make a choice. While (Justin) Trudeau and (Erin) O’Toole want to defend the super-wealthy, we are going to make them pay their fair share.

Justin Trudeau propelled the country to the polls in mid-August with the rationale that a “pivotal” shift was required to finish the fight against the pandemic — the most important election since the Second World War, in his words. In the event, it appears Canadians didn’t want to pivot in any direction, returning a Trudeau ’s hope was the word that must not be named — majority. But Canadians appear set on justifying Abraham Lincoln’s aphorism about the “patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people.” They may not be ready for a Conservative party that is still in the throes of adapting itself to

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces the government's decision to approve the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. “I know some people are disappointed by this decision. I understand your disappointment,” he said. Trudeau said in an interview with Postmedia earlier this year that the decision to couple the pipeline and the carbon tax was the toughest he has made as Liberal leader. The accusation that climate leaders don’t build pipelines stings and he is a reluctant proponent of Canadian crude.

The failure to capitalize on Trudeau’s unpopularity, and the rise of the People’s Party, will lead many Conservatives to draw the misguided conclusion that the party has to return to its true blue roots. I counted at least 17 ridings in which the PPC vote was higher than the Liberal margin of victory. But if O’Toole had come out against vaccinations, how many seats would he have lost?

The Conservative leader was right to say that the party has to change because Canada has changed. “We set out on a path to engage more Canadians … We must continue this journey to welcome Canadians to take another look at this party,” he said.

Of course it must. The Conservatives were locked out of the 25 seats in Toronto, won none of the 18 seats on the island of Montreal and lost the two seats it held in Vancouver’s 15 ridings.

O’Toole’s challenge now is to build a coalition that can resist the PPC on the right and does not rely on the NDP vote holding up on the left.

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Share this Story: John Ivison : Whether Trudeau 's testimony worked or not, the winds of change are blowing for Liberals. Copy Link. Insiders talk about feuds and vaulting ambition. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is widely believed to be positioning herself as the next finance minister, should Bill Morneau be forced to spend more time on trips to the developing world with his family. This would, in her eyes at least, be merely a stepping stone, given just 65 per cent of Liberal voters believe Trudeau should lead the party into the next election, according to a new Abacus Data poll.

Share this Story: John Ivison : Trudeau 's bumpy road keeps getting sidetracked by unforced errors. Copy Link. Email. Trudeau said that decision was made because the provinces know the vaccination status of their citizens and the feds do not. Quebec and British Columbia have already said they will require vaccine certification for restaurants and sports events. Ontario has said such a system is not being worked on but there is pressure on Premier Doug Ford from business groups and there are whispers that Ford may announce some form of passport next week.

Jagmeet Singh remains the kingmaker in Parliament but it was a hugely disappointing night for a party that had hoped at one point to double its seat count from 24. Singh generates huge interest on social media platforms like TikTok and Twitch. But the youth vote did not turn up. He is an immensely likable person with a talent for retail politics. But his Robin Hood routine gets old quickly and he appears to have little interest in policy.

The NDP has the man; it needs a better plan.

How did we come to a result that pleases nobody?

I travelled with all three major leaders’ tours — I believe the only journalist who did so — and here’s what I saw.

The campaign kicked off with Trudeau’s short walk to Rideau Hall to seek the Governor-General’s consent to dissolve Parliament. Despite retaining the confidence of the House of Commons, he explained that “consequential” moves needed to be taken by his government, requiring “the most important (election) since 1945.” Nobody was fooled — the economy was bouncing back and employment was almost back to pre-pandemic levels. It was an opportunistic wager that he could torpedo O’Toole while he languished in the polls virtually unknown to most Canadians.

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But the Liberal plan had not taken account of events in Afghanistan, where the Taliban marched into Kabul on the very same day. The juxtaposition of horrendous scenes in the Afghan capital with Trudeau’s self-interest boded ill for the campaign.

a person talking on a cell phone:  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watches as a nurse gives a COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in Ottawa, March 30, 2021. © Provided by National Post Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watches as a nurse gives a COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in Ottawa, March 30, 2021.

The tone was set on Day 1 — a departure from the sunny, hopeful narrative of the 2015 election. Instead, the Liberal leader tried to make mandatory vaccination the ballot question. “Not every political party agrees,” he said, despite all the parties in Parliament being in agreement that vaccinations are desirable, safe and effective. O’Toole insisted that vaccinations are important, but that people should make their own decisions, a logical position, since even the Bloc and Green leaders had expressed their concerns about the implications for freedom of choice. But it was too late, the wedge was in.

If the Liberals had expected a fairly routine mopping-up operation on their way to majority, they were swiftly disabused of the notion. The NDP attacked from the left, pointing out that Trudeau had failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (in fact, they rose three per cent between 2016 and 2019) and had presided over a housing market in which prices had soared by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

John Ivison: Singh pitch to hold the balance of power

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Trudeau seemed caught off-guard when the Conservatives launched their entire platform on Day 1 of the campaign. It was uncosted but it bulged with ideas that ranged from the intriguing to the impractical — a month-long GST holiday, a “jobs surge” wage subsidy for new hires, investment tax credits, a “dine and discover” rebate on food and drink in restaurants, and a $60 billion increase in health transfers to provinces over 10 years. Crucially, the party promised to rip up the Liberals’ $30 billion daycare plan, even though agreements had already been signed with eight provinces. That commitment proved manna for Trudeau who argued his plan would take a “she-cession and turn it into a she-covery,” to a collective wince from lovers of the language of Shakespeare. I suggested at the time that O’Toole might rue the decision not to quietly concede the battle of choice in daycare as a lost cause.

a man wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a building:  Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin casts his ballot in the provincial election in Halifax in July. He lost to Conservative Tim Houston. © Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin casts his ballot in the provincial election in Halifax in July. He lost to Conservative Tim Houston.

However, in the early going, nothing was going right for the Liberals and the Conservatives moved to parity in the first week in some polls. They were emboldened by the Nova Scotia provincial election, which saw a Progressive Conservative party come from behind to gain a majority. O’Toole won over the nation’s dog lovers by promising to ban puppy mills.

I joined the Liberal tour in the second week. Instead of being in Conservative ridings, it spent much of the time shoring up support in Liberal ridings such as Miramichi-Grand Lake in New Brunswick (later lost to the Conservatives). The Liberals attacked O’Toole over his support for private healthcare but an edited video tweeted out by Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland omitted O’Toole’s caveat about experimentation — “universal access remains paramount.” Twitter labelled the Liberal attack “manipulated media” and it seemed that the prime minister’s prospects were heading the same way as his polling numbers.

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In Hamilton, Ont., Trudeau encountered his first protesters, in this instance complaining about uncertainty in the housing market, the subject of that day’s announcement. But the next day in White Rock, B.C., a more concerted anti-vaccination protest made its presence felt. The backyard announcement about a wealth tax on excess bank profits was all but drowned out by the sound of democracy in action. “Trudeau, you piece of s**t. You’ll never take away my freedom,” shouted one heckler.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd:  Protestors heckle Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a Liberal campaign event in Cambridge, Ontario, on August 29, 2021. Photo by GEOFF ROBINS/AFP Protestors heckle Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a Liberal campaign event in Cambridge, Ontario, on August 29, 2021. Photo by GEOFF ROBINS/AFP

The Liberal leader could easily have avoided the protest by being spirited away by the RCMP. But the war-room had spotted a way to turn their leader from selfish opportunist into the victim of an anti-vaccination mob.

The Liberal campaign was uninspiring, its policies were drab and the leader’s rhetoric disingenuous. But being chased down the street by the crackpot fringe instantly turned him into a more sympathetic figure. As the protests became more intense, so Liberal candidates noted that their support began to harden on the doorsteps.

In Bolton, Ont., on the evening of Aug. 27, the frenzied contempt for Trudeau reached its apogee and the evening rally had to be cancelled because safety could not be guaranteed for the candidate, his supporters, or — more important from where I was standing — the media.

Trudeau spoke to the anger afterwards at an impromptu press conference, suggesting the protesters felt powerless as the world unfolded in ways they couldn’t control. “We all need to reflect on whether we want to go down that path of anger, division and intolerance,” he said in a moment of unguarded sincerity. But it turned out to be in his political interests to go down that path. Within days, Trudeau was accusing O’Toole of siding with the vaccine protesters.

Trudeau makes campaign stop at University of Windsor

  Trudeau makes campaign stop at University of Windsor The CBC's Ashley Burke asks Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau what message he's taking from polls showing there's little chance of any party winning a majority.

a person wearing a suit and tie walking down the street:  Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole walks back to his bus after a campaign event. © Provided by National Post Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole walks back to his bus after a campaign event.

At the start of September, I hopped on to the O’Toole campaign.

The day the costed Liberal platform landed, O’Toole was criticized for appearing to repeat Trudeau’s 2014 gaffe about budgets balancing themselves — he said the deficit would be eliminated by revenue growth from productive investments. But in successful campaigns, mistakes are glossed over and, in any case, the media was more focused on the latest travails to hit the Liberals — sexual impropriety allegations against one of the party’s MPs.

Nothing was sticking to O’Toole until Liberals started picking up on something he said in the TVA French language debate — that an O’Toole government would keep the ban on assault weapons in place. The Liberals pointed out that the Conservative platform was clear that the party would repeal the Liberal prohibition on “assault-style” guns. It turned out to be an exercise in semantics — O’Toole did not consider models banned by the Liberals such as the AR-15 semi-automatic to be fully-fledged assault weapons. The issue dogged O’Toole for three days until he relented and said the Liberal prohibition would remain in place, pending a classification review.

It was a sensible compromise that allowed O’Toole to move off the topic. But it upset the gun-loving base, some of whom likely defected to Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party and allowed Trudeau to portray the Conservative leader as a “wishy-washy, weak leader.”

From that point on, Conservative fortunes nosedived. The Liberals pounded O’Toole as an anti-vax, anti-choice, climate denier, gun lobby stooge.

O’Toole maintained in the English language debate that he was “driving the bus.” But Trudeau repeatedly made the point that he was “not leading, but misleading.”

The Conservative leader didn’t seem to have a second act and fell back on ads that reminded voters Trudeau had promised there would be no pandemic election — a pledge that raised questions of trust. They clearly failed to find their mark.

Even the appearance of a book by former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, which portrayed Trudeau as a petulant leader who turns on women who don’t let him have his way, failed to shift the momentum.

All that was left for the Liberals was to roll out Project Fear — the perennial election ploy of peeling off the one in five progressive voters that might vote NDP or Liberal.

And in the final week, I rode on the NDP bus. The party had seen its support dip in the final days of the 2019 campaign and was determined to foil the Faustian bargain of strategic voting this time around. Jagmeet Singh targeted Trudeau as being “all show” and said there was a cost to voting Liberal, in the form of inaction on climate change and continued income inequality.

Trudeau pivoted his message, which had not leaned heavily on the Liberal track record, to claim that “setting a price on pollution against the objections of Conservative premiers all the way to the Supreme Court, is not nothing.”

Other campaigns noted a softening (but not a collapse) in NDP support — not helped by an unrealistic platform that suggested $214 billion in new spending would be paid for, in part, by $166 billion in new revenues from taxes on corporations and individuals, including a $60 billion wealth tax. The party insisted its numbers had been validated by the Parliamentary Budget Officer but the PBO was extremely cautious about the uncertainty of the “behavioural response.”

Doubts about the efficacy of the NDP plan allowed Trudeau to patronize Singh as quixotic. “We are a party with real ambition, not a dream and a wish list,” he said.

In Quebec, the Liberals were seeing an uptick in support and headed into ridings held by the Bloc Québécois. At an orchard on the south shore riding of La Prairie, Trudeau was embraced by a friendly crowd of non-partisans, as sunny ways returned to the campaign trail — a stark contrast to the protests in Ontario.

The Liberals would likely have done even better in Quebec, had not the moderator of the English language debate, Shachi Kurl, posed a question to Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet that was widely interpreted in the province as Quebec-bashing. The backlash boosted the Bloc in the polls.

Yves-François Blanchet wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone:  Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet during the election English-language Leaders debate. © Provided by National Post Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet during the election English-language Leaders debate.

The last week of the campaign saw all parties becalmed, with nothing new to say.

Yet the electoral gods shifted allegiance in the dying days. Trudeau claimed that, if voters wanted the pandemic to end, they should vote Liberal. That seemingly outlandish statement was swiftly vindicated by Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s mea culpa that he got it wrong when he lifted COVID restrictions in July. The province had an infection level three times that of Ontario, with only one third the population. “(Do) people think it would be a good idea for Erin O’Toole to be sitting across from Jason Kenney when it comes to finishing the pandemic?” Trudeau asked.

At the end of such a dispiriting campaign, none of the leaders emerged having achieved what they set out to do — not even Bernier, who saw the PPC vote increase by 177 per cent but did not win his seat.

Many voters trudged to the polls feeling like the Toronto Star editorial board, which endorsed Trudeau “very reluctantly.”

Earlier in the campaign, he was almost giddy when he told reporters that he wanted a mandate to do “more really, really, big things.”

But this humbling result tells him that there is no groundswell of enthusiasm for his leadership.

A healing must begin but it is far from clear that he is capable of reaching out to those with whom he disagrees.

jivison@postmedia.com | Twitter.com/IvisonJ

Trudeau makes campaign stop at University of Windsor .
The CBC's Ashley Burke asks Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau what message he's taking from polls showing there's little chance of any party winning a majority.

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This is interesting!