A Conservative Dream
Why Justin Trudeau Is Good For Conservativism
November 1st, 2012 - J. Hodgson
“I had nothing to do with the National Energy Program. I was twelve.” - Justin Trudeau
Justin Trudeau arrived in Calgary the day after he announced he would be seeking the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. Enthusiasm was high at the rally in north east Calgary as Justin took to the podium and began a stump speech that will be repeated, coast to coast, for the next few months. In conservative circles, Justin Trudeau is viewed as a major threat. His charisma, good looks and enthusiasm play well to the surface level voter and his left-of-centre inclinations make him a magnet for uniting progressives.
Justin Trudeau, called "JT" from here on out, will be the best thing to happen to conservatives since Harper and MacKay united the right in 2003. Here’s ten reasons why...
#1. The name “Trudeau”
Pierre Trudeau is generally recognized as one of the greatest Prime Ministers in Canadian history. His fans, however, pay little attention to the fact that he was an extremely polarizing figure. He alienated Quebec by pushing through the Constitution in 1982 without getting Quebec’s approval. He also alienated the West by introducing the National Energy Program. It could be argued that the decline of the Liberal party really started with the election of 1980.
What does this mean for JT? It means the Conservative Party of Canada will remind people that he is his Father’s son, whenever they can score political points for doing so. The name will be a liability as much as an asset. Score a point for the Tories.
#2. The Liberals will finally move to the right
Ever since Paul Martin desperately pleaded with NDP supporters to “lend us your vote” in order to stop Stephen Harper in 2004, the Liberal Party of Canada has been spiralling leftward down the drain. JT mentioned a couple of interesting things in his stump speech. One interesting comment was in regards to Alberta’s oil deposits. He said, “There’s not a country in the world that would find 170 billion barrels of oil under the ground and leave them there. There is not a province in this country that would find 170 billion barrels of oil and leave it in the ground.”
He also said, "We need to focus on maintaining and enhancing a strong middle class. The key to Canadian unity has never been the political class, it has always been the middle class."
Stephane Dion’s zany green policy and Michael Ignatieff’s pandering to marginalized special interest groups is about to take a back seat. The Liberal Party is being forced back to the right of the political spectrum due to the endless success of Harper’s Tories. As much as it disgusts JT, he needs to parrot some non-progressive policy in order to comfort and welcome the more conservative minded Liberals that used to vote for Jean Chretien. This version of the Liberal Party will be much more appealing to mainstream voters than the last few versions. In the end? Right-wing policy gains ground.
#3. Canada is old
In 1971, the median age of a Canadian was 27.8 years. Today the median age is 41 years. Older people tend to be more cautious. They have more to lose and more to be cynical about. Life has beaten them into wisdom. The Trudeaumania of the 1960’s will not be repeated by the plus 40 crowd. They might be willing to listen and consider, but Harper has the trademark on balanced, reserved, boring governance; just the way we like it! The kids will love JT’s sassy sizzle, but the adults in the room will shrug and vote Tory.
#4. The NDP will be destroyed...brutally
Jack Layton’s “Orange Crush” was a product of Jack’s personal favorability. As St-Denis said as she crossed the floor to the Liberals in January, "They voted for Jack Layton, but Jack Layton is dead." Thomas Mulcair is no Jack Layton. He’s an angry guy with a beard and a notebook full of weird, far left ideas. He’s surrounded by kids and hippies. Even before JT decided to run for the Liberals, many people were saying that the NDP wave was a fluke and normalcy will return next time around.
Well, normalcy is returning sooner than we thought and avoiding an NDP victory is worth having a stronger Liberal party in place.
#5. Left-wing vote splits
Even if the Liberals move right with JT, they will still be the ‘soft left’ choice of voters. People that want to veer left, without going to crazy town, will probably vote for JT. Some of these people lent their vote to the NDP when they began to trust Jack Layton more than they did Stephane Dion or Michael Ignatieff. The good news for Conservatives is that JT’s Liberal resurgence will ensure that ridings in which the combined Liberal/NDP votes outweigh the Conservative votes will continue to cause a split and allow extra wins for the Tories.
We’ve heard much griping about how Harper won a majority mandate with only 39% of the vote. The NDP got 30% and the Liberals got 19%. As of this writing, the Conservatives are at 33%, the NDP at 30% and the Liberals at 26%. If the Conservatives stay marginally ahead, they could win a bigger majority with even less of the votes thanks to JT’s popularity. Score another point for the Tories!
#6. Immigrants have no idea who JT is
Pierre Trudeau stepped down as Prime Minister on June 30th, 1984. Since that time, Canada has received roughly 6 million immigrants. All of these people arrived after Pierre Trudeau was history. The verve that the Trudeau name brings to Liberal fans of yester-year means nothing to 6 million voters.
Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney, has been working tirelessly to build relationships between Canada’s immigrants and the Conservative Party of Canada. Immigrants are arriving in Canada at a rate of 250,000 a year. Over the past four elections the Conservative Party has continued to increase the share of the popular vote. Do the math.
#7. The Harper hate machine will fire up again with ease
Ever since Jean Chretien delivered the Liberals their poison pill with his campaign finance reform, the Conservative Party of Canada has been able to dominate political fundraising in Canada.
What do you do when you’ve got tens of millions of dollars and an election to win?
You buy advertising, and tell people what to think. This worked to brilliant effect with Stephane Dion (Not a leader) and Michael Ignatieff (Just visiting/Only in it for himself). Some have predicted that the hate machine won’t work on JT because he’s just too darn likeable and people already know of him. He’s defined himself positively. Except when he hasn’t.
Remember when Justin Trudeau called Peter Kent a “piece of shit” in the House of Commons? Remember how he grew some nasty Guy Fawks style facial hair in order to “get down” with the Occupy Kids? Remember his ridiculous third person apology when stating he would side with separatists if Canada kept being run by Harper?
If you don’t remember...you will. The Tories are going to remind you and remind you and remind you. The demoralizing grind will start to take some shine off the JT Cadillac and many voters are bound to think he’s not actually all that after all.
#8. JT’s presentation is too dandy and theatrical
JT seems like a nice enough guy in unscripted moments, but watching his stump speech in the basement of that community centre in Calgary was like watching an excited child doing an impersonation of Abraham Lincoln. He’s very flamboyant and dramatic, which would be great if he was auditioning for The Price is Right, but when placed next to Harper and Mulcair he’s going to look amateur and out of his depth.
#9. JT will destroy Quebec separatists once and for all
The Bloc is going to look like a run down fringe party next to an official opposition NDP and an on-the-rise Liberal Party...both with leaders from Quebec. With grievance politics falling out of favour and nobody seriously thinking Quebec will separate anymore, JT is enough to put the final nail in the coffin of a long dead movement and bring Quebec more firmly into Canadian participation.
#10. When Harper steps down, JT will be old news
Most likely, the 2015 election will result in another Harper victory. See this article for more. Harper is going to govern with his eye on 2015. He will build his policy with a crescendo of deficit slaying, F-35 debuting and 150th national birthday celebrating on the horizon. With a basement of about 32% support, the Tories are probably good for one more win. After that, I predict Harper steps down and passes the torch to MacKay or Kenney. At that point, Canada will have a new Prime Minister and Trudeau will have been sitting in opposition for years. He’ll begin to look like yesterday's bright idea. Meanwhile, the Tories will keep governing and their finger will stay on the pulse of the nation. In other words, if Trudeau doesn’t capitalize fast, his mystique will fade. I doubt he can do it by 2015, so the Tories are apt to carry on well past JT’s best before date.
This is a lot of speculation and anything can happen, but in the end, conservative minded people in Canada should be breathing a sigh of relief. JT entering the leadership race makes for many conservative advantages. The time is right for Harper’s Tories to show a little more conservative stridency and a little more policy moxie. As the great Ronald Reagan once put it, “If not us, who? If not now, when?"