For Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada, it was supposed to be easy. Set yourself up as the only alternative to the hated Stephen Harper. Line up the gunwales and fire your cannons at the skull and crossbones. Find that breezy middle, and promise things like “fairness” and “transparency”. Tack to the polls on security. The evil pirate ship will assuredly fire back, but their grapeshot will not even tatter the yardarm of your noble vessel. Gallant ensign Trudeau will pull a head and sail across the finish line, firing his guns in triumph.
|The damage done?|
The strategy was, it seems, set in stone. But, given changing currents and winds, that’s no certain way to win a naval battle. In fact, it might just sink you. As the NDP moved up in the polls and jockeyed with the other two parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals were still pouring their money into advertisements, attacking each other. They jumped each other’s decks, swords drawn, and the NDP, more or less ignored, sailed right past the fracas.
What to do now that the NDP have pulled into the lead, with the Conservatives in irons, the Liberals flapping in the wind, and both parties taking on water from the damage they’ve done each other?
For the Conservatives, who have little room on the upside, the job is nonetheless straightforward. All they have to do is what they have excelled at all along: fear mongering. They’ll have no trouble going negative on the NDP, painting them as soft on terror, soft on crime, soft on the economy. The red menace is at the gates, and will pander to all their lazy-assed union friends, as well as the bleeding hearts who want to expose us to the crazies over the moat. The NDP will let the draw gate down, and Rome will be sacked. Hide your kids, stuff your cash under the mattress, lock your doors, get angry and stay angry. Pretty easy stuff.
But for the Liberals, the task is more daunting. They are convinced that they represent the reasonable aspirations of the majority of Canadians. They have a tax policy based on “fairness”. They want a more transparent government. They want, ultimately, for us to trust them to do the right thing, because they are inherently good and trustworthy.
|Whither the NDP?|
But this approach has two major problems. First, it doesn’t significantly differentiate itself from the NDP, who make similar claims. And second, in Justin Trudeau’s hands it is arrogant, incompetent, and impractical, as can be seen in the leader’s bizarre approach to C-51, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, economic policy, foreign policy, and the environment.
So, how do the Liberals now winch their cannons over to the NDP? They’ll do what the Conservatives do, and call the NDP economic incompetents, claiming that the $15 federal minimum wage and national childcare program are not properly costed. But the Liberals can’t sail too far to the right on national security, because that is now their Achilles heel, and they don’t want to look like patsies for the Conservatives.
(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel. )