Wednesday, April 05, 2017

You would think that winning the last election would instill some confidence into Liberals

I had a discussion with a Liberal partisan last weekend and he was very concerned that Kevin O'Leary would be able to defeat the Trudeau Liberals.

The argument went pretty much like this.  Donald Trump demonstrated that pursuing a campaign of overt bigotedness while claiming to be someone that can "clean up Ottawa" can lead to success and Mr. O'Leary only needs to follow the same approach to win in Canada.

Where to begin?

First, this is not the United States.  Although racial and religious tensions are not unheard of here they are not nearly as intense as they are in the US.  Pursuing an overtly racist election campaign will not go nearly as well for anybody that would like to pursue such a strategy as it did for Mr. Trump.  The Conservatives already tried a more circumspect racist election campaign in 2015 and they lost the election and all of the work and effort put in by Jason Kenney to reach out to immigrant groups was turned to ash.  

Second, the political situation is different.  Donald Trump was running against a woman who was looking to replace a two term black president.  Anybody that does not believe those two facts were great contributors to Mr. Trump's victory are not paying attention.  The desire for change in the US was quite high and Ms. Clinton was not the change many key American demographics were looking for.  Further, the US has a two party political system.  Contrast that to Canada where the next election will be fought by a one term government lead by someone who most people actually like.  As well, the multiple parties and the riding system used for our elections would make any overtly racist election strategy counterproductive. Many people who would be turned off by such a strategy live exactly where the Conservatives will need to pick up support if they are to win, namely the major cities and their suburbs.

Third, language trumps all other issues in Quebec.  The argument from my friend was Mr. O'Leary could use the racist strategy to convince Quebecers to vote for him.  Leaving aside the assumption that Quebecers would be convinced by that strategy after they turfed out a PQ government that pursued the Quebec Values Charter, Mr. O'Leary is a unilingual anglophone and that will be the only thing Quebecers would care about in any election.  I cannot think of a bigger gift in Quebec, for the Liberals, than Mr. O'Leary campaigning in Quebec in English only.  The Conservative vote would collapse and with the most likely leader of the NDP probably being from somewhere else but Quebec there is not many places where Quebecers will be able to put their votes.  This kind of scenario presents the opportunity for the Liberals to win as many seats in Quebec as PM Trudeau's father did.

Fourth, equalization payments are sacrosanct in many provinces.  Mr. O'Leary has argued for the reduction of these payments to the provinces and he has actually stated that he would attempt to do just that.  What he is proposing is unconstitutional but from a political standpoint promising to carry through on such a proposal would be political suicide in the four Eastern Provinces, along with Manitoba and BC.  And let's not forget that these payments are rather popular in Quebec as well.

Fifth, with the exception of the Senate there is not a grand desire to "clean up Ottawa" extant amongst the electorate.  Canadians are generally happy with their government and a Trumpian promise the "drain the swamp" would not resonate nearly as much here as it did in the US.

Finally, when the next election rolls around Canadians will have been witness to a years long shit show that the Trump presidency has become.  Canadians being generally sensible and wise people will want to avoid such a situation up here.

I do not believe that Mr. O'Leary will even carry the Conservative Party.  However, if he were to pull off such a feat I believe that he would be a great gift to the Liberal Party and he would increase their already great chances of winning the next election.  

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