It’s about the foibles and failures a leader has put on the plate for opponents. Trudeau has been a real philanthropist in this department
June 14, 2019
The campaign fabricators of all parties are in near full swing now, busy in the back rooms trying out attack lines, how best to present every other leader but their own as a moral defective or an incompetent slug. Campaigns are mainly about leaders, not platforms. Personally I wonder why journalists make such a big deal about the latter and accommodate the idea they’re little more than window dressing around the leaders’ campaigns.
I offer the hint that outside the dreary purgatory of media-sponsored town halls (tedium institutionalized) and the partisan puppet shows of strategist panels, no one gives a flying fig about what the parties say their platforms are. For the simple reason most of their promises don’t live past the day of the vote. Balanced budgets in four years? Absolutely last election with First Past The Post?
The cardinal purpose of all election advertising is to do in the other bunch’s leader. And the greatest leverage in taking down a leader is the faults, foibles and failures that he or she has, during the previous term, put on the plate for his or her opponents.
Justin Trudeau has been a real philanthropist in this department. The mad musical he put on in India (a bit of Kipling, some Gilbert and Sullivan, and a whole lot of Say Yes to My Delhi Dresses) might yet be the only leader’s visit to earn a Gemini nomination — and if it’s for costumes, it’ll be a winner. And if the Tories don’t make something out of his most recent tongue-tied, brain-abandoned, superb mangle of his “drink-box water bottles sort of thing” then we shall have to wonder why God invented videotape and the rewind button.
Currently the take on Andrew Scheer doesn’t have such exemplary moments of high comedy or confusion. The Liberals’ approach on Scheer seems to go in two directions. A. He’s Stephen Harper with a smile. (It is only the Liberals’ and Mr. Trudeau’s wearisome fixation with the conceit that Mr. Harper is seen by Canadians as an ogre, an Attila the Hun sweeping in from the West to burn down every social-justice-policy village, and take the Charter of Rights hostage, that gives this adolescent pitch any currency. Mr. Trudeau, indeed, as was quoted frequently this week, once opined that if Canada went Mr. Harper’s way, then he — Mr. Trudeau — would seriously consider Quebec separation. Dare we call it fear-mongering?)
B. The second tack is to pretend Scheer is either Doug Ford, or under Doug Ford’s control, or alternatively he is Jason Kenney. Most people won’t buy either. For starters, Mr. Scheer has barely enough personality to be himself, let alone any surplus to stand in for a couple of others. Don’t drain the battery is going to be the Scheer campaign’s slogan.
Where they might go after him, and after one recent decision perhaps should, is his “low-energy” approach to big issues. He is nowhere near making enough noise, issuing straight declaratives, on the battering Alberta has taken for the past four years. Kenney is the national leader on energy policy.
And then there is Scheer’s almost reflexive deference toward his critics, his outright timidity when routinely assailed by the virtuecrats of the Liberal party. This was nowhere more gutlessly displayed than in barring Prof. Salim Mansur from pursuing the Conservative nomination in Ontario’s London North Centre riding. Prof. Mansur, a Muslim, has been a long-time, informed, and straight-on critic of radical Islam. He is also one of the rarer academics who continue to see the virtues of free speech. I’ve met him, been impressed by his manner and mind, and offered a recommendation for one of his books.
He hasn’t, to my knowledge, robbed any food banks, cheered for the Golden State Warriors, or recently been seen drinking out of a plastic bottle instead of the mandatory cardboard box. So there are no dark corners in his resumé.
Much more seriously, why has he, after a 10-month waiting period for “vetting,” been told by Andrew Scheer that he can’t run. He is intelligent, well-spoken, an immigrant who earned a doctorate at the University of Toronto. The answer, in so far as it can be inferred — as the Tories have not been fulsome in explanation — is that they fear he will be targeted by the Liberals as an Islamophobe — a Muslim Islamophobe. So rather than stand up for an intellectual and courageous candidate against the campaign slurs that might be tossed against him, the Conservative apparat haul out the blackball, strike him from the list, and probably think they have done a smart thing.
No party should have its strategy determined by what it thinks another party might get away with saying about it. If a candidate has genuine merit, stand up for him. Don’t let implicit or imagined threats from the other side determine what your party stands for, or whom it supports.
Mr. Scheer may be building an image for himself worse than any the Liberals are eager to build for him. If he’s scared of their attacks before the campaign even starts, how will he be when the heat is on? And finally, perhaps even more to the point, is it right that a qualified and honourable gentleman should be prohibited from even seeking election because a party’s Ottawa brain trust feels it would take too much trouble to give him a little backing?
Mr. Mansur deserves a chance to run as a Conservative nominee in London North Centre.