Tag Archives: Elizabeth May

The almost-ready-for-prime-time leaders

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We knew them not so much by the ideas they conveyed or the words they uttered, but by the roles they assiduously embraced.

There was Prime Minister Stephen Harper assuring his audience, like a narrator in a Thorton Wilder play, that his avuncular governments have, over the past 10 years, had only the interests of the common, ordinary folk in mind.

There was fighting-fit Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau throwing left jabs and right crosses (sometimes even landing a few) in a mighty attempt to show fans of political pugilism that he was, indeed, a heavyweight ready for the main event.

There was a professorial-looking Thomas Mulcair, studiously reminding Canadians that good governance is serious business and only the highest-minded among us are properly equipped to meet the challenges of providing universal day care and a $15-an-hour minimum wage.

In fact, the only leader in the first debate of the federal election who didn’t appear to assume a role for the benefit of the voting public was Green Party chief Elizabeth May. Bully for her and for a brand of plain-speaking one can almost endorse.

“We have a weak and shrinking economy and it’s the wrong time for austerity measures,” she said at one point. Turning to the prime minister, she added acidly, “We’re in a recession under your watch for the second time.”

As for the condition of Canadian democracy, she declared, “Instead of fixating on this splitting-the-vote non-problem, vote splitting, we need to focus on the real problem, which is that 40 per cent of Canadians in the last number of elections haven’t voted, and vote abandoning in my view is a much bigger problem than vote splitting.”

Under the circumstances, it’s a shame that Ms. May’s appearance last week is likely to be her single debate opportunity in this election cycle. On the other hand, one wonders what these dog and pony shows actually accomplish, either for the candidates or for the electors.

Are they any more articulate about their plans and priorities for having spent a chunk of time in front of a camera taking pot shots at one another’s records, statements, misstatements?

Are we any better informed about the issues that concern us most?

When, in the debate, Mr. Harper said, “the other parties are proposing literally tens of billions of dollars of additional spending, permanent spending, to be financed by permanently higher tax rates and permanent deficits,” are we sure he was telling us the whole, unvarnished truth?

Likewise, when Mr. Trudeau complained that Mr. Mulcair’s “minimum-wage plan actually will only help less than one per cent of every Canadian who earns minimum wage,” and that this, in effect, amounts to “false advertising”, do we believe him?

In the end, though, as political debates go, this wasn’t an especially dreadful affair. If we didn’t learn much more than we already know, we did recognize the players for their various scripts generally courteous comportment.

As it happened, on the very night last week that Canada’s leaders’ debates proceeded, the Republicans in the United States hosted their own verbal cage match.

According to a BBC report, “(Donald) Trump. . .most uncomfortable moment came when moderator Megyn Kelly challenged him on his views about women. ‘You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals,’ she said. He answered by joking that he only said that about actress Rosie O’Donnell and stating that political correctness was one of the country’s biggest problems.”

We should, perhaps, be grateful for the political actors we have here in the Great White North

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The federal race to the mushy middle

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In a circumspect piece for the Globe and Mail about a month ago, Michael Adams, president of the Environics Institute, argued that, despite the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing of those to the left of the political centre, the current government in Ottawa has not, in fact, made Canada measurably more Conservative over the past eight years.

Indeed, he wrote, Prime Minister Stephen Harper “sometimes plays to public opinion, sometimes carefully runs against it, and sometimes flouts it in areas where he won’t face consequences. He navigates public attitudes astutely, but I see little evidence that he has changed them.”

Specifically, “On crime, he has not moved public opinion. Quite the opposite: He has heeded it in a way his predecessors did not. In the past, elites pursued evidence-based policy while the public still favoured old-fashioned punishment. . .When Parliament abolished the death penalty in 1976, more than three-quarters of Canadians still backed it. Mr. Harper. . .didn’t have to persuade Canadians that a ‘tougher’ approach was preferable – just that he was the man to deliver it.”

What’s more, “on domestic security, (Harper) has not shifted attitudes so he can pursue a more aggressive agenda of surveillance and preventive detention. Canadians are alarmed by the threat of terrorism and willing to give the government a lot of latitude in keeping them safe. This reaction troubles civil libertarians, but it is not new.”

In fact, if recent polls mean anything, Mr. Harper joins his nemesis, federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in the mushy middle of affection among prospective voters – not an eventuality that seemed likely even last fall, when the latter appeared to be riding high on a wave of “change-for-the-sake-of-change” support. 

According to the Weekly Nanos Party Power Index Tracking (period ending January 16th, 2015), “Harper and Trudeau continue to be tightly locked in the weekly preferred Prime Minister (metric). Thirty-one per cent of Canadians prefer Harper as PM, 31 per cent also prefer Trudeau as PM, while 18 per cent prefer (Thomas) Mulcair, five per cent prefer (Elizabeth) May and 14 per cent were unsure.”

And just last week, Ipsos offered this: “The four-point lead that the Conservatives enjoyed just last month has evaporated, with a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted exclusively for Global News revealing the federal Liberals and Conservatives are once again tied. This tight race appears to be the natural resting point for public opinion in Canada. When one party jumps out ahead, the advantage doesn’t last long and the two leading parties return to a tie.”

Said the pollster: “If the election were held tomorrow, the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau would receive 34 per cent of the decided vote (up three points since January), while Harper’s governing Conservatives would receive 33 per cent (down 2 points) of the vote. In the last year, as Canadians continue to acquaint themselves with Justin Trudeau, most of vote-support fluctuation has been with the Liberal Party, ranging between 31 per cent and 38 per cent of the popular vote. The Conservatives, on the other hand, are the known quantity and have experienced relative stability between 31 per cent and 35 per cent.”

In other words, it’s a dead heat everywhere except in Atlantic Canada where, Ipsos reports, the Grits are running in majority territory (47 per cent, versus 26 per cent for the NDP and 24 per cent for the Tories).

All of which suggests that if the prime minister hasn’t made Canada any bluer, Justin Trudeau hasn’t made it any redder.

Let the games continue.

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