Mixed Nuts: Election Day in Canada 2015


I started this post the day before the election and since I don’t have the luxury of writing as the results come in (because: bedtime) I decided to start writing Sunday night. The unfortunate colateral result is that I will be writing in light of the most recent polls as opposed to the results of the elections. If the last campaign is any indication, those will be wildly inacurate. Why?

Uno. The “Shy Tory Factor” is something that is consistently throwing pollsters out of whack. I think that this opinion piece from The Guardian is accurate and the source of much handwringing and hangover the day after conservative electoral victories. On Tuesday, before you clutter my Facebook feed with your outrage, remember that I told you so.

Dos. Three years ago, when the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) started cranking out attack ads aimed at Justin Trudeau (the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada — LPC), I was working on Parliament Hill as a writer for a local Member of Parliament. Attacks ads went after Justin Trudeau’s vacuity, lack of substance and absence of platform. As a writer, I had to write a lot of things that annoyed me, such as explaining politely to a variety of Mrs. Lalonde’s that her federal MP could not help her with her hydro bill, school bus issue or culvert. I regurgitated my Grade 5 Civics more times than I care to remember. Yet, nothing was quite as repulsive as having to reply to letters criticizing attack ads. I had to craft a reply that communicated our concerns about Justin Trudeau without wholeheatedly endorsing the more puerile aspects of the ads. Thankfully my boss was ok with it, I’m not sure how I would have dealt with having to write a cheerleading endorsement of the ads. All this to say, part of me is secretely jubilant that Justin Trudeau and his team were able to play these ads to their advantage. If it wasn’t for the part where they were so successful they might win the election, I’d be cheering for them. But my husband is packing us up and moving to Texas as I write so…

Tres. How did Justin Trudeau turn the attack ads around? It’s simple. All you have to do with attack ads is to not prove them right. The challenge is that attack ads are not made out of thin air, they are rooted in reality. The image of Stéphane Dion as a weak, dithering, out-of-touch professor came from somewhere. As did the image of Michael Ignatieff as an oppotunistic, temporary leader. Both former Liberal leaders walked right into the sterotypes the Conservative ad machine had made them out to be. Justin Trudeau defied them because he kept his cards very close to his chest. His absenteism record in the House of Common was notable but allowed him to duck more than a few potholes on the road to the campaign. His refusal to lay down a party platform ahead of the election campaign was also criticized by friends, foes and journalists alike. Yet, it gave no new ammunition to the attack ads machine, leaving it to work with Justin’s hair and Justin’s car and Justin’s former job as a drama teacher. Not only did the attack ads run out of steam and credibility, but Trudeau was able to prove them wrong. Which wasn’t hard at all.

Cuatro. Why wasn’t it hard? Because 3 years of attacking his credibility with almost nothing to go on has lowered the expectation of the public toward Trudeau to such an extent that he exceeded them just by showing-up with his pants on. (If the image of Justin Trudeau strolling on debate stage without his pants on just made your day my work here is done.)

Cinco. Faced with a negative campaign about Justin Trudeau based on image, Trudeau’s managers were able to duck most of the negative characterization of their leader by running a very tight and disciplined image campaign. It was so good, it was bad. Kelly McParland explains why in this piece. As a student of political campaigns, I can’t help but take notes. That said, if you expect elected Trudeau’s handlers to feed him freely to the Parliamentary Press Gallery,  you will be sorely disillusioned when you realize that Stephen Harper’s tight media access rules were just the warm-up. The Conservative learned partisan politics from the Chrétien Liberals.

Seis. Does this mean that Trudeau-for-Prime-Minister is a done deal? Well, by the time you read this piece, it might be. But for now, my call of a Conservative minority with a NDP opposition still stands. If you looked under the hood of elections statistics, you might be surprised to learn that many close campaigns are decided by the advance polls. It is enterily possible for a candidate to lose election night and be bolstered over the wall by advance polls results. The NDP and the Conservatives can boast of the best and brightest committed voters. The Liberal appeal is to the mushy middle, the same people who don’t vote on election day. We have seen unprecedented levels of voter participation at the advance polls and while it might point to a higher voting rate overall, my guess is that this was the result of Conservative and NDP campaigns ferrying their committed  voters to the advance polls. You know what they say about a bird in hand.

Siete. All this said, this has been an exciting election campaign and last minute swing voters might brave the cold and the waiting lines to cast their votes. I’m not sure the charm of Justin Trudeau’s inexperience will last long under the harsh light of reality. Minority governments, which is the best the Liberals can aspire to, are long, frustrating, and unproductive campaigns. Minority is not a healthy state in Canadian Parliamentary democracy.

Posting this before heading to the polls. It will be an exciting, nail-biting, evening and while worried about the spectre of a Liberal government I am also very curious to see if some dead wood will be replaced and how.

(If you wonder why I wrote my numbers in Spanish, it’s because WordPress kept indenting my numbers. Drove me nuts. I’m one of those old people who believe that machines should do strictly what they are told.)

 

 

 

Mixed Nuts: the Canadian election edition – In which I get to annoy all my friends in one fell swoop


You didn’t think I’d let you get away with a whole election campaign without sharing my pearls of insight, did you? After all, if the educated opinion of a mother of 9 is not worth having, what’s worth having I ask you? Hey, did you know that I am a former political aide and campaign manager? So there, educated opinion, but opinion nonetheless.

1) What can I say about the niqab? Thomas Mulcair, the leader of the historically left-wing, now more center-left, party took a principled and intelligent position, that is supported by Canadian law as confirmed by two instances of Canadian tribunals, and it looks like his party will pay dearly for it. That’s one thing about us Canadians, we like to make noise about hating negative campaigning, despising divisive politics and how nice it would be to have leaders who are more than talking points grinders. And I’m still looking for an example in recent Canadian history of a political leader who hasn’t paid dearly for doing just that. And don’t give me that whiny bullsh about people being victims of Conservatives attack ads. You can be a victim of many things — rape, pillage, treason, murder — but advertising? Get your big girl pants on and own the fact that people eat that stuff up. I don’t know a single Conservative MP who doesn’t despise their party’s attack ads. The only reason they keep turning them out is because folks, these hateful things work. And they’re about as subtle as my 4 year-olds: the victim card might be an overreach here. We love hating on our politicians  and we get what we deserve.

2) Speaking of the niqab, have you ever been close to someone becoming a Canadian citizen? Because if you have, you know that the process is neither simple, quick nor straightforward. By the time you are standing in a swearing-in ceremony with your niqab, you’ve been vetted through every orifice for about 5 years. You’ve filled-in your weight’s worth of paperwork and submitted it upward and backward. If you’re lucky, you didn’t suffer more than 2-3 setbacks due to misinformation given to you by the people who are paid to process your application. I know because I used to work for a Member of Parliament, where we helped near-citizens caught in the collimator of Immigration Canada. Hey, citizenship is a privilege, I get that. But if you are going to invest into getting the right people 99.9% of the way there, you’d think they’d be the kind of people we want as Canadian Citizens, regardless of what sits on their heads. “But Véro, you tell me, what if Ahmed get sworn-in instead of head-covered Fatima?” Ahmed would have had to show his face to an immigration official at the ceremony, just privately instead of publicly. Bait and switch is not the issue here, the issue is the coping with religious practices we find distasteful. So could we call it that please?

3) Speaking of religious freedoms, why is it that the people who campaign the most vehemently in favour of a prohibition of the niqab at citizenship ceremonies — or in general — are coincidentally the same ones who are concerned about the erosion of religious freedom and freedom of expression in Canada? Seriously, outside of the province of Quebec where everyone is a heathen, people who have every reason to be concerned about the erosion of freedom of conscience and religion are stubbornly not seeing the bigger picture. “But Véro, you say, the niqab is a barbaric anti-woman practice that goes against Canadian values of equality and relative liberty.” To this I will tell you that I’m a  Catholic woman who doesn’t use artificial birth control, which to many is a barbaric anti-woman practice. I disagree, just like I’m sure many Muslim women disagree with your appreciation of the Niqab as a barbaric cultural practice. Do you know how hard it is for women like me to find a doctor who will investigate the root causes of hormonal dysfunction rather than prescribe hormonal birth control as a matter of fact? I found one and he’s having his medical license threatened because of it. Both the Liberal and NDP parties don’t allow people with openly pro-life views to run for their parties or vote accordingly, even if said pro-life views are a reflection of the views of the majority of their constituents — which still happens in many older rural ridings. The erosion of religious freedoms: we’re in this together fellow believers. The secular world believes that religion is in the imagination of the beholders and it won’t stop washing away outward demonstrations of religious belief until our beliefs are indeed limited to the confines of our brains. As a believer, I feel a lot more in common with Zunera Ishaq’s fight than I do with those who’d prefer if she didn’t look so Muslim. To hear Zunera Ishaq in her own words — “Geez, we never thought of that!” — listen to this interview on CBC The Current.

4) Speaking of secular society, many of my Anglo-Canadian friends have expressed wide-eyed astonishment at the fact that the niqab issue originated from the small-l liberal Province of Quebec. Aren’t they progressives over there, they ask? After all, aren’t they the people with $7 daycare who made the federal NDP the official opposition? The answer is yes but no, where were you during the reasonable accommodations debates of 2007, 2011, 2013, not to mention the Quebec’s Charter of Value that became the defining election issue of the last provincial campaign? Quebeckers as a group — generally speaking — are not exactly progressive. They do not show consistency in their expressions of “progressiveness”. They look progressive on the surface but it’s a thinly applied veneer: you need only scratch a little to let the ugly come out. Quebeckers are not so much progressives as hedonists. Pleasure and self-indulgence are the highest good and proper aim of human life. I remember clearly hearing my French mother saying of the referendum campaign of 1980 that Quebeckers only wanted independence as long as they didn’t have to give-up their pools. When you cast Quebec Nation under the light of hedonism rather than progressiveness, their strident anti-clericalism and pursuit of their own individual rights — not those of others — come in clearer focus, I find.

5) In the end, it’s been 10 years of Conservative Government in Canada — where Conservative with a capital c does not always mean conservative with a lower-case c. The governing Conservatives are in some regards center-right and in way more others centre-left, depending of where the wind blows. My point is that the realities of governance are such as to erode most of the texture of political parties. Governing a country as wide — literally — as Canada forces everything to the centre, it’s just statistics. You can hang me for being an old disillusioned goat but man, sometimes when I hover over social media for too long I start hoping that October 20th will actually bring a change in leadership just to see the look on people’s face when they wake-up a year later and realize that very little has changed. They have the same Public Service, regulatory framework, law enforcement agencies and tax revenues to deal with. Because Canadians love the ideals but loathe the practice. We’re like that: we wax left-wing poetic about all the wonderful things we want to buy and shut our wallets tight like Scrooge on December 23rd when comes the time to pay for it. Change is not cheap, but we are.

Now:

Go forth and set the world on fire