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Looking Towards 2019

Let’s start with a Happy New Year to one and all as we move into 2018.

Unfortunately with a fixed election date in 2019; we know that Canadians will begin to be bombarded with the election messaging that all of the parties will be testing as we lead up to that election. The never-ending election is now a part of political life.

While the shine is starting to come off of Trudeau, the wheels have certainly not yet come off of his bus. Assuming he (or should I say PM Butts) follows the strategy of the Ontario Liberals, we can pretty much bet that we will be seeing a lot of new programs, the re-announcing of funds, and an array of costly items targeting special interest groups whose support the Liberals will need in 2019. There will be plenty of opportunity for both the Conservatives and the NDP (if they ever get their act together) to go after Trudeau and the Liberal government.

The Conservatives will also have a front row seat to the upcoming battle between the NDP and the Liberals for the left wing vote. We should be hoping that it escalates into a major fight as any pro NDP vote that draws votes away from the Liberals is good news for the Conservatives, especially in ridings with tight three way races.

For the Conservatives their biggest issue will be to start moving forward and looking to the future without always referencing the past. While history will be a lot kinder to Stephen Harper than the voters were in the last election, constantly bringing him up when attacking Trudeau only boxes Andrew Scheer in.

Instead of constantly referencing what Harper did on any particular issue IE Harper was right, Trudeau is wrong etc., move on from 2015 and reference Scheer’s and the Party’s current position. Scheer has the difficult task of coming up with policies that are forward looking and which will attract voters, including millennial voters in 2019. We are no longer living in 2015, although you wouldn’t know it listening to some Conservative MPs.

The Trudeau cabinet has a lot of weak ministers- spend more time going after them, their lack of action on key files and their screw-ups. Every time they fail it reflects badly on Trudeau as he has to defend them. It is unlikely that you will ever get one issue that will deliver a knockout blow to Trudeau or shows a fatal flaw in the Prime Minister. Instead, focus on the accumulation of negative issues that over time damage him; and that includes the ministers that he appointed.

And please, not everything this government does or everything that Trudeau says, does or wears; needs a full blown all-out attack. It gets tiresome after a while listening to this stuff, reminds voters that the Conservatives are all about being nasty and negative. More importantly, it dilutes future attacks on key issues when they do screw up. Save the heavy artillery for when it is really needed.

Welcome to 2018.



The Political Year Winds Down

We wrap up another year in Canadian politics noting that nothing has really changed in the past year. The parties remain pretty much where they were in the polls, although Trudeau has taken a bit of a hit.

But the Liberals are about to try and change that as I see that Trudeau will embark on yet another warm and fuzzy town hall tour. This is obviously an attempt to get him out of Ottawa and away from the scrutiny of the national media. This is not to say that it is a bad idea. For the Liberals, Trudeau symbolizes their brand and courtesy of Morneau and mistakes by Trudeau himself, that brand is a bit tarnished right now. As we have seen on many occasions Trudeau is good at the wave, smile and pose for a selfie routine.  This is a smart move on the Liberal’s part and also keeps him away from those exotic islands owned by billionaires.

As for Morneau, don’t expect him to be shuffled off anytime soon, although it is needed. One only has to remember Jim Flaherty or Paul Martin in that position to know that Finance ministers need to be politically astute and fast on their feet, Morneau is neither. As for the rest of Trudeau’s cabinet it is time for a reboot and in the case of Hehr that should be “boot” from cabinet.  That is an easy decision for Trudeau (or the people who really call the shots in PMO) to make.

For the Conservatives with two by-election losses behind them it’s time for a bit of a reboot too. They still look and sound like the Harper Tories. They seem to have forgotten that that image and that leader were defeated. We always know what they don’t like, don’t support, don’t agree with and what they oppose.

But, how many Canadians who are not already Conservative supporters can tell you anything about a positive, forward thinking Conservative message? This is not to say their policies are wrong (I happen to agree with many of them) but how they communicate them has to change. How about some forward- thinking policies that target urban centres, millennials, the environment? You can’t always be negative; you have to show positive vision, hope for the future and communicate it to voters.

The NDP have different issues. First of all where is their leader? Other than the ridiculous hype about whether or not he got engaged, Jagmeet Singh has pretty much disappeared from the national scene. Unfortunately Canadian politics is largely leader driven and when your leader prefers to keep a low profile and stay out of the House, the population tends to tune that leader out rather quickly. Add to the disappearing leader, the Liberal move to be more NDP than the NDP itself; and their vote is disappearing.  This shift left by the Liberals is nothing new. Back when Keith Davies was their master strategist, it was common for the Liberals to shift left or right to adopt policies from their rivals and try to cut off any voter shift away from the Liberals. We will see much more of this happening as we get closer to the 2019 election.

For the next few weeks voters can thankfully take a break from Canadian politics, as we focus on what really matters- friends and family.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all, may you have a great holiday season.



Dead Man Walking

Finance Minister Morneau has a habit of walking from one political disaster to another- essentially stepping in one cow patty after another- and for no reason other than his own foolishness.

But behind his missteps lies a bigger issue and that is what did he tell the Prime Minister and what did he tell the Prime Minister’s closest and most senior advisors.

Every minister and Prime Minister, regardless of party affiliation will make some gaffe every now and then- certainly we have seen Trudeau and some key cabinet ministers make some good ones. Usually though it is a slip of the lip when being interviewed or flubbing the answer to a question in the House.

Morneau has taken making mistakes to a whole new level. Either he has poor quality ministerial advisors or he figures he is the smartest one in the room and he knows best. Having been a senior level political staffer for something like 13 years, I know that people who move up to that level are usually pretty good at what they do. That does suggest the minister look in the mirror at the author of his misfortune.

Having been the political staffer in charge of QP for 15 years in both government and opposition roles, I can say that I see Moreau as badly wounded, essentially a dead man walking. Senior PMO staff simply cannot allow this to go on much longer. No matter what channel changing issue they come up with, the finance minister has a habit of knocking those issues off of the front pages every single time.

Morneau is not just in trouble, he is ruining the image of the government while serving as a huge distraction and he keeps knocking the government off its daily message. Speaking from years of experience doing issues management in PMO, that can’t be allowed to go on much longer.

There are other key questions once you move beyond Morneau’s actions and they should focus on Justin himself. It is a simple question- When did he know and what did he do about it? What day did he first learn that Morneau had not set up a blind trust? Depending on that date, what did Trudeau do, suggest, or agree to let Morneau do? Did he know all along or was he sandbagged by his minister? The same questions apply to Trudeau’s most senior staff.

When did Trudeau first learn that Morneau had sold shares, not once but twice?  Did he approve of this not insignificant sale of shares? Did no one anticipate the current line of attack on Morneau? 

In every government, regardless of political affiliation, your finance minister has to be squeaky clean. In politics perception is reality to thousands of voters. Morneau’s self-inflicted wounds have hurt the government and certainly his own credibility.

While it is time to move him, don’t expect this government to act quickly in shuffling him aside. The general rule is to wait until the attacks are done; a holiday break from the House arrives and then do it. For appearances sake they will leave Morneau in place to swing from the noose that he put around his own neck. Such is life in politics. But in the end we all know where the buck stops and it is not on the desk of the minister, it is not on the desks of his ministerial staff nor the desks of Trudeau's senior advisors- the buck lands squarely on Trudeau’s desk. Will he move Morneau or not- that decision will tell us exactly what type of stuff this prime minister is made of; it will be fun to watch


Keeping Canadians Safe

When one takes the oath of office as Prime Minister or of Minister of Public Safety, it is implied that you will do your very best to keep Canada and Canadian men, women and children safe. This includes from both external threats and internal ones.

But if you are Justin Trudeau, you welcome back at last count some 64 battle hardened terrorists with gobbledygook about rehabilitating them. Trudeau’s own Public Safety minister admits that it is highly unlikely if these terrorists will ever be rehabilitated. Interviews that I have seen with experts in that rehabilitation process admit that at the maximum maybe 20% have a chance to be rehabilitated.

If we accept that figure then 80% or 52 terrorists cannot be helped and remain a threat. What happened to keeping Canadians safe?

What happened is some bleeding-heart Liberals decided to gamble with the lives of our citizens and allow these fighters to come back home, to wander our streets, to visit crowded shopping malls at Christmas etc. It is a crazy policy.

The way you stop this nonsense is to employ the same people who stopped the tax on small business.

Where are the enterprising reporters who will call every single Liberal backbencher to ask them if they agree with the Prime Minister and this policy?  And once you have those answers call every single Liberal riding President and ask them the same question. Let these Liberal MPs stand up and be counted. Let each Liberal MP, go on the record and state if they agree with allowing these terrorists to come home to enjoy the very freedoms that these fighters helped to savagely crush.

Then call every cabinet minister and ask them the same question and their riding presidents as well. I would bet most cabinet ministers will duck the question or grovel to keep their job and spout the same talking points as Trudeau. But, backbenchers have to get re-elected and the vast majority of them will be well tuned to how their voters feel on this issue. They need to get re-elected and that crunch is coming up in 2019.

I would suggest that how the Liberal MPs answer the question will make for some interesting copy and something that the media could have some fun with. A backbench revolt is the only way to deal with this issue as Trudeau is living in La-La land somewhere posing for selfies.


Shooting Yourself In The Foot

“Let’s keep shooting ourselves in the foot” should be the slogan for the Liberal Party over the last few days.

First bring in tax reforms that hurt small business owners and farmers; then scramble to find an out that tries to make you look good, while still protecting the family trusts of the rich like Trudeau and Moreau.

Second have the same minister who screwed up the tax reforms get caught owning a villa in France that he somehow had a lapse of memory about and oops he forget to declare it to the Ethics Commissioner.

Third, stories are out that the same minister did not put all of his shares and assets into a blind trust to avoid any potential conflicts of interest. I find that very interesting as one of my PMO staff owned one share in a company (it was a birthday gift) and he was ordered to either sell it or put the one share in a blind trust.

Fourth, just weeks before Remembrance Day ceremonies announce that ridings only deserve two wreaths, in spite of the fact that some ridings have several ceremonies. I can think of at least four in my riding. Then of course back track when everything hits the fan.

I guess Liberal ministers and their staff haven’t yet learnt that one of the unwritten rules for new ministers is to double check the policy proposals a department brings to you, especially if it represents a policy change. Ask to see the entire file, including ones that go back to previous governments. I can remember doing that and finding out that the policy presented to my minister as brand new; had in fact been rejected by the previous Conservative minister as well as several Liberal ministers.

Not a good couple of weeks for the Liberals as they have certainly handed the Conservatives and NDP plenty of ammunition to chip away at Liberal credibility.