To understand how frustrating Liberal calculus can be for their political opponents, consider the following equation: gaping deficits + blown promises + Omar Khadr = double-digit Liberal poll lead.
Forget astronaut-cum Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, it’s Justin Trudeau who defies gravity.
The enduring Liberal advantage shows that if you can’t do government well, at least do it with a smile (and lots of your own cameras on hand).
Instead of griping about Trudeau’s magic touch, or whining that the media are in his tank, Conservatives should be taking lessons from the prime minister on the power of positivity.
Just as the people who support Donald Trump will never turn on him for being too nasty, the people who love the prime minister won’t turn on him for being too earnest. Trump is gonna Trump, and Trudeau is gonna Trudeau, and as long as the two are juxtaposed, Trudeau will play the role of western messiah to an adoring populace at home and abroad.
Now, it is beyond the ability of Canada’s Conservatives to get the president to dial down the crazy and bear down on his job, but it is within Tory power not to ape any of the president’s tone.
Don’t get me wrong. Andrew Scheer is a supremely nice fellow, and isn’t about to grab anyone by their unmentionables, but when his surrogates go on Fox News and spit fire about Omar Khadr, they open the door to a bar full of crazy (whether real or perceived) and invite the Liberals to shove them in from behind with both hands.
Liberals live to exploit this ideological double standard. Donald Trump can call Justin Trudeau’s job performance “spectacular” and it’s a coup for Canada; if the president does the same for Andrew Scheer we’ll need a coup in Canada to get rid of Justin Trudeau. Guilt, meet association.
As with so much of politics these days, the facts don’t matter. So what if Trudeau is spending (way) more than he promised, or that he failed (rather comprehensively) to reform our electoral process, or even that he isn’t nearly as open and transparent as promised. As long as the prime minister disappoints with a smile and an “aw shucks, at least I tried” he’ll stay in the game, such is the power of his charisma and likability.
Frustrating though this might be, going full Harper on Justin Trudeau and smashing him in the face at every misstep will only reinforce the Tory negatives with the people who decided they’d had enough with negativity in 2015.
Scheer should instead try killing Trudeau with kindness.
It might not please the base, but being kinder is the only way to soften up the voters who could be convinced to one day vote Tory. If they don’t like your tone, chances are they won’t listen to your ideas, no matter how brilliant they might be.
Here, the poll numbers don’t lie either. The Tories will need big ideas to start a post-Trudeau conversation. Fortunately there are several gaping openings.
Despite a booming economy, the Liberals remain nervous about the fragility of the recovery. Senior Liberals whined to a Bloomberg journalist about the latest Bank of Canada rate hike for a reason; there’s a lot of debt on Canadians’ balance sheets and making it more costly is the fastest route to souring the national mood.
Conservatives are still broadly trusted on the economy and Scheer must continue with his line of attack that he’s properly middle class and understands the pressures facing the average Canadian family (the very pressures that will get worse with higher interest rates). This will be hard to do when every ounce of the Tory war machine would rather jam Trudeau’s silver spoon down his velvet throat.
It’s also hard to see how Canada’s economy can continue in rude health without a strengthened energy sector. A quick peek in the crystal ball shows that global conditions are conspiring against the country’s need to get its resources to market. Petronas recently cancelled a massive planned investment in LNG and several countries are proposing bans on combustion engines in cars. It won’t be enough to slam Trudeau for inaction, the Conservatives are going to have to work with others to come up with a workable plan.
Those others include Canada’s Indigenous populations, who are slowly waking to the realization that Trudeau ain’t all that and a bag of chips.
The Liberals promised Indigenous peoples the second coming but have since stuck them in the waiting room with Vladimir and Estragon. The chiefs won’t want to work with Scheer but he’ll need to find a constituency that will.
Here, the new Tory leader will find an open hand and soft words work better than a closed fist and harsh rhetoric.