Happy Days Are Gone: Trudeau Returns To The Liberal Brand Of His Papa & Chretien
“I got a story, ain't got no moral.
Let the bad guy win every once in a while.
Will it go round in circles?”—Billy Preston
Justin Trudeau’s ascension to the prime ministership of Canada was one of the greatest political feats in the nation’s history. Trudeau took the husk of the corrupt, played-out Liberal Party brand and gave it a whitewash.
Where once there existed Jean Chretien’s Quebec Sponsorship scandal Trudeau erected a Happy Ways platform of progressive bromides and loud socks.
And where his father Pierre The Magnificent had become synonymous with grovelling to the whims of Quebec’s 75 seats in Parliament, Justin The Jolly was going to build a pan-Canadian party full of people bored with politics-as-usual.
It worked magnificently, and if he did nothing else as PM, the Trudeau transformation ensured him a place in the Canadian history books.
Funny that we should mention doing nothing else as PM. Trudeau is now in the run-up to his first re-election campaign, and the tote board of his accomplishments as prime minister is being tallied. To his critics, Trudeau’s term as PM has indeed been about doing nothing.
Trudeau, naturally, demurs. He points to a score card full of tick marks on social justice, intersectionality, climate initiatives and lotsa’ warm hugs as he apologizes for sins stretching back to the start f the nation.
However you judge the score card, it is hard to ignore one remarkable coincidence in his record. Having run as the new kid in town, Trudeau is now, remarkably, the perfect simulacrum of all the Liberal stereotypes he ran against in 2015. Anyone reading the acid words on the SNC/ Lavalin scandal from former Liberal cabinet star Jane Philpott in Macleans this week has to notice that, for all the miles he’s travelled, Trudeau seems to have ended up at the same place as his father and Chretien.
Namely, the head of the same-old, same-old Liberal Party of his Papa’s construction. As we pointed out in our March 6 Usual Suspects column Trudeau has been sucked into the vortex of his lofty pretension as social-justice star. “The problem with Trudeau’s writing a cheque with his mouth was the requirement that he back up his pretensions with his butt. This has proven elusive.”
In fact this do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do has landed him in the quagmire of self-inflicted scandals that show his party hasn’t advanced on the moral continuum since Chretien’s party was taking money meant for Quebec unity and washing it through to its chums in the Quebec wing of the party.
Nervous Liberals are starting to worry that if the RCMP gets too curious carrying Trudeau and his attendant weaknesses into the October election might be a calamity for the party. Were it not for the public’s total lack of engagement with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, the Libs might already be facing a wipeout this fall.
Speaking of the election… as those same Liberals start assessing the prospects of being returned to power and private jets again come October, they’re now looking at the math used by Justin’s Papa to win elections from 1968-1984. For all his attempts to take the new Liberal brand from coast-to-coast-to-coast, Justin finds himself a captive of Pierre’s Fortress Quebec strategy of the past.
How else to explain the slavish devotion to the interests of Quebec as revealed in the SNC/ Lavalin affair? Whatever the specifics of how he and his party hounded former Justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould from her portfolio, what can’t be denied is that it was the potential loss of jobs in Quebec that spurred the fevered intimidation campaign by Trudeau, his ministers and his supplicants in the civil service.
His energy/ climate policy had allowed tens of thousands of jobs to disappear in the West, and his industrial strategy witnessed thousands more jobs go poof in GM’s closing of its Oshawa plant. While there were some boilerplate noises from Team Trudeau about supporting those workers, there was nothing like the five-alarm fire that erupted in the PMO when Quebec jobs were suddenly imperilled.
The attitudes in the two solitudes reflected this contradiction. Where the Rest of Canada saw JWR’s garroting as an affront to justice and worthy of criminal investigation, Quebec’s attitude was a calm, it’s-about-jobs-stupid response. Both sides noticed the behaviour of the other. It worked in Quebec. The rest of the country? Not so much.
As a result, Trudeau— like Papa— must now count on Fortress Quebec as the rock on which to build a new mandate. The old Pierre Trudeau equation that won four times— Quebec, splitting the Maritimes, running up a score in urban centres of Toronto and Vancouver, telling the West to go fish— is back in play.
Hey, don’t mess with a winning hand, right? If just enough NDP votes migrate to either the Libs or the Greens, another majority is still in play. Or, if Max Bernier’s rebel party bleeds enough votes from Scheer’s Conservatives, it’s happy days again.
Which might be described by historians as the second Trudeau electoral miracle. Just that it won’t be Happy Ways taking the bows on election night. This time he’ll be sharing the credit with the unloved predecessors he used as straw men in 2015.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the publisher of his website Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). He’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also a best-selling author whose new book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports And Why The Free Market Could Save Them is now available.