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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Thoughts on the day after Canada's election

Yesterday started out sunny, with a crisp chill in the air. By nightfall, a drizzly mist descended that didn't fulfill the debacle implied by the distant thunder, that didn't soak anyone, but left people coated with an uncomfortable film of damp.

That was Monday's actual weather in Toronto, but it might as well have been designed by The Almighty as pathetic fallacy to reflect the change in leadership that Canada's electorate chose.

Justin Trudeau will soon be sworn in as Canada's new Prime Minister at the head of a majority government. Whether he rises to the task or becomes the least competent head of state in the G7 remains to be seen. There are reasons for both optimism and pessimism with Trudeau.

On the upside, historically, the Liberals have done a good job overall in government. Though they had been out of power for the last 9 years, since Confederation, the Liberal Party of Canada has been the New York Yankees of politics; they are the most successful political franchise in any western democracy. A few glitches notwithstanding, you don't reach that level of accomplishment without being good at what you do.

Reservations about Justin Trudeau's competence aside, the Liberals had an excellent slate of riding candidates across the country. Whether or not voters chose to vote for Trudeau or against Stephen Harper, on a local level, the Liberals generally selected candidates who provided an easy segue to the decision of giving de facto support to the national party.

Another reason for optimism is that, in a way, yesterday's election restored Canada to its natural political order, with the Conservatives and Liberals alternating in power and the NDP pushed back to third party status. That shift backwards for the NDP is most definitely in Canada's best interest. While NDP leader Mulcair is a moderate, his caucus was filled with radicals, fanatics, and hopeless incompetents. Had the NDP fulfilled the potential of its first place polling position at the start of the election campaign, some of those dreadful legislators would be heading up Ministries and imposing devastatingly bad policies on the country.  The Liberals at least have slain that dragon. Trudeau has a caucus, with people like Marc Garneau and Scott Brison, who are intelligent, principled, and very capable of running major Ministries.

If the Conservatives are looking to point fingers about last night's loss, they really need to look no further than whomever it was that headed the party's election marketing. The Liberals ran a decent campaign, but it was made all the stronger by the fact that the Conservatives ran a terrible one.  The "Just not ready" ads about Trudeau was lame criticism against a candidate who was both highly vulnerable and underestimated. Fear of being perceived as mean-spirited prevented the Tories from the type of knockout blow campaigns they very effectively ran against Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. That they thought Trudeau was such a lightweight that such a heavy-handed approach wasn't necessary was obviously a very bad assessment of the situation, which became more apparent in the last two weeks of the campaign.

Yet the Conservatives' response was to put out ads that were defeatist in tone. It's hardly inspiring to watch a governing party put out political ads where they say their leader, the Prime Minister, is flawed, but at least he's better than the other guys.

The Conservatives could have won with a campaign going after Trudeau hard and heavy, while highlighting how successful Canada's economy has been compared to the rest of the world under Harper. But for whatever reasons they have, which do not reflect well on the Conservatives' campaign management, they chose not to do that.

The Canadian dollar is up slightly this morning, in the aftermath of the election, and the earth has not opened up and swallowed anyone north of the 49th parallel. Things in Canada under Trudeau may turn out to be okay after all.

There are some potentially bad developments that can happen under Trudeau, such as if he keeps his promise of imposing the idiotic proportional representation system which would condemn Canada to successions of coalition governments and a fractured legislature replete with fringe parties. But considering his majority is based on the old first-past-the-post rules, he may get some wise counsel to reconsider that promise. And it's not like breaking election promises isn't a time-honored feature of the history of the Liberal Party of Canada either.

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