Tuesday, October 22, 2019

For all his flaws, Canadians reluctantly accept Trudeau over the far worse Scheer

There is a lot to digest about yesterday's Canadian election results.

Due to temporary work duties, I decided not to write publicly on the election while it was still in progress.

But I can say today, like most progressive Canadians, I'm relieved we don't have to endure Andrew Scheer's Conservatives and their regressive, retrograde policies just to punish the Liberals for their misdeeds.

Justin Trudeau didn't so much win this election;  Andrew Scheer lost it.

My main issue with the Trudeau Liberals these last four years has been their basic incompetence in terms of communications and issues management.

Their policy record in government was actually very solid.  Successes included more support for families with children which raised hundreds of thousands out of poverty, re-negotiated trade agreements that protected Canadian interests as much as possible in the face of an aggressive White House, better environmental protections across the board including more thorough and fair approvals processes for major projects, the legalization of cannabis, the reform to how the government appoints senators, better foreign policy with regards to women's rights, and great support for the LGBTQ community.

Despite all these policy successes, the government was largely incompetent in terms of how it communicated those successes or the reasons they had made certain decisions.  I would judge Trudeau's government on issues management as sloppy.

Into that vacuum jumped the country's Conservatives with their constant negativity and hate against all things Trudeau.  Much of it was unfair.  The Trudeau government literally bought a pipeline to keep western energy and economic prospects alive.  For this, they got trounced on the prairies.  Furthermore, the Liberals lost ground in Quebec to the Bloc for their pro-pipeline stance. 

In parts of the country where there is almost no Liberal base, support for the Grits collapsed last night.  Looking over the rural results in Saskatchewan and Alberta proves the Liberal brand is almost fringe out there.  Longtime stalwarts like Ralph Goodale were easily pushed aside by the Conservative juggernaut.

Those lopsided victories for the Conservatives in Alberta and Saskatchewan are largely responsible for the overall Conservative plurality in voter support across the country, which was 34.4%.  The Liberals won 33.2% across the country, but won in Ontario and Quebec, thus giving them the seat advantage overall - 157 to 121.

The NDP did better last night than it appeared they would at the start of the campaign.  24 seats is a big drop from 44, but the party did manage still a respectable showing.   Jagmeet Singh emerges from this campaign strengthened after two years of bad press.  Plus he now controls the balance of power and will be in a position to get major policy gains from the re-elected Liberals.

Trudeau will truly need to work hard to make this Parliament work and enact any kind of agenda.  He'll likely rely on both the NDP and the Conservatives at times to pass certain things.  These will be interesting times.

But Trudeau has been brought down several pegs.  He deserved it.  His racist blackface controversy in September hurt many in this country and dissolved a huge amount of existing good will for him.   His apologies seemed sincere, and his record in government was clearly pro-diversity.  Yet, it remained unclear how a 29-year-old son of a Prime Minister could possibly think it was appropriate in 2001 to dress up like that.  The vacuity of Trudeau's mind was fully exposed.

Despite this, the strong minority win will give Trudeau a chance to fight another day.  As there are not many viable successors in the wings and things are precarious with a minority, Trudeau will try to make this work and perhaps rise to the occasion.  I bet you he leads the Liberals into the next campaign regardless of what the Conservatives do.

As for Scheer, I truly hope he steps down.  While Trudeau's flaws were enormous, they weren't bad enough to justify looking past Scheer's failings.

Scheer was petulant and uninspiring in this campaign.  There was no real vision that inspired much of anyone east of Manitoba.  Quite the contrary.  His inability to apologize for his homophobic past was particularly irritating.  For him to emerge defeated despite Trudeau's mistakes says it all.  He needs to go.

One more note about Maxime Bernier, whose vanity project ironically called the People's Party now seems finished after winning zero seats last night.  That is wonderful.  He chose to stoke bigotries to try to build his party up.  It failed miserably.

There will be some people who will point to Bernier's failure as a reason to keep our current First Past The Post voting system.   Bullocks, I say.  His party only garnered 1.6% yesterday, which would not be enough for any representation under Proportional Representation (which, if enacted as I would like, would only grant seats to parties with over 5.0% of the vote.)  Even in a mixed PR system with local ridings, Bernier would've still lost his local seat as he did last night. 

But First Past the Post actually is exacerbating regional differences in Canada.  The Liberals won 14% of the vote in Alberta yesterday, but have zero seats.  They won 11% in Saskatchewan and also have zero there.  The NDP (16% voter support) and the Greens (6.5%) should've received more representation based on their support from Canadians, but will have to settle with the 7% and 1% of seats they respectively won.  The only solace for the NDP is the fact they now hold the balance of power.

Canadians aren't as divided as our electoral system would have you believe.  We'll see if the NDP demands that electoral reform be back on the agenda as part of this minority government.  I hope so. 

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