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Just A Thought

For all of those folks whining and complaining about Trudeau's family vacation disguised as a formal visit to India- would you rather him be out of touch, wandering around tourist sites or back home running the country. Stop and think before you answer that one.


Scheer Vs Beyak: Shooting Yourself In The Foot


The Monday news coverage should have been another bad day for Prime Minister Trudeau. Joshua Boyle was going to be in court and the expected news coverage would have dragged the PM’s name and his foolish decision to meet with Boyle into the spotlight yet again. This was something the Liberals certainly didn’t want to happen, especially with the PM about to start off on yet another feel good-selfie tour.

Fortunately for the Liberals, the Conservatives proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot and they managed to attract all that negative news coverage onto themselves.

Senator Beyak getting herself kicked out of caucus is certainly not a loss for the Conservative side, but you have to question why now?

I have been around as a senior staffer on a few occasions when decisions were made to give someone the boot. It is never easy and it never happens overnight. There is a buildup that eventually leads to this decision. Thus the leader’s office can pick when it happens and they get to consider the timing. Did no one in the Opposition Leaders Office (OLO) anticipate that Beyak would go out with a bang and attack the Leader? Pretty much everyone in her position will do exactly that, if only out of spite or wounded pride. People bounced from caucus react exactly as she did. Did no one anticipate the negative media coverage at a time when everything negative should have been focused on Trudeau?

These letters weren’t new ones, they had been up for quite a while on the senator’s web site and the Opposition Leaders Office had failed for months to act. If the sudden interest in these old letters was the work of the Liberal Research staff digging stuff up- then they should get some credit for coming up with a good channel-changer for their side.

If it wasn’t their work, then the Conservatives showed poor judgement in handing the Liberals a channel-changer that they so desperately needed.

The incident played out as Boyle went to court and the Scheer-Beyak issue dominated the news and buried the Boyle story to much applause I am sure from the PMO. This also allowed reporters an opportunity to question Scheer’s leadership abilities.

While Scheer has not set the Canadian political scene on fire, he is much better than some of the other choices who were in the running. Being bland in politics isn’t always a bad thing; neither is being under estimated by the media or your opponents. Scheer is a decent guy, hardworking and knows his files. If he as any weakness at all it is that he is a decent guy. He made his mark in politics as the Speaker of the House of Commons. This is a role in which you have to practice nonpartisanship and playing fair to everyone. This is not the rough type of training you need for political leadership positions.

Leaders have to have a tough ruthless streak in them. Politics is a tough business and it is fair to say only the strong survive. If Andrew doesn’t have that ruthless edge, then he should bring some people (who are respected by both the Senate caucus and House caucus) into his office and let them do the dirty work.

It is not necessary for the Leader to be front and centre personally doing the tough stuff, such as kicking someone out of caucus. The Beyak story is a good example of why you keep the Leader one step away- it avoids a “he said, she said” story. If the Conservatives have known about these letters for months, the Beyak issue should have been handled long before now. There have been plenty of parliamentary breaks when it could have been done with minimal damage. If they didn’t know about these letters, then that speaks to staff issues within the OLO itself.

Yesterday was also compounded with Bill Morneau getting a pass on one of the two investigations that are under way. Again it reminded folks of Scheer’s demands that Morneau be fired, long before the results were in. While it is always fun to call for a minister to resign or be fired- timing is everything and this time it has backfired on Scheer. That early resignation call for Morneau speaks to inexperience or a lack of judgement in the OLO.

None of this stuff is a mortal wound for Scheer. The fact that he is so hard working and dedicated means he can turn these negative moments into a positive learning experience. Scheer, his advisers and his communications team, still have plenty of time to get their game up to the top level before 2019. Plus there is still plenty of time for more screw ups on the Liberal side. Don’t count Scheer out and never think the Trudeau team will get an automatic win. Remember all those comments about Harper being too dull and how he could never beat Paul Martin. Remember all those reports about how the Liberals would wipe the Conservatives out (and win 265 seats) when Martin and Harper went head to head in an election? Never give the other side an automatic win; it is the voters who have the final say.


CTV True North Political Panel

Enjoyed participating in the show today. 

A link can be found HERE


The Only Question Is Why?

There have been a lot of media reports on Prime Minister Trudeau’s strange meeting with the Boyle family. So far the story simply doesn’t add up.

Prime Minister’s just don’t meet with anyone who requests a meeting and it doesn’t matter who that person is or their background.  In most cases, a Prime Minister’s schedule is so tight that setting aside time for a meeting like this would have been very difficult.

It is true that every Prime Minister and party leader for that matter; will make time for meetings/photo ops.  This is a political decision when someone in PMO (usually senior staff) thinks that the session will advance their political agenda. In this case though, there was clearly no upside to the meeting.

Back when the appointment was set up, the entire Boyle story was still pretty sketchy (even if we exclude the recent criminal investigation) and it would be a bit of a stretch to think that voters believed any or all of it. What then did Trudeau or more likely his senior PMO staff hope to accomplish?

When a request for a meeting is made, the most basic first step that his staff should have followed would have been a media/google search, so that they could prepare a briefing note for the Prime Minister. This note would include the person’s background, any media stories and potential questions that might come up and the note would have provided suggested answers. The note could also include items of shared interest or concerns- in other words information that the PM could use to make the meeting a successful one.

If there were red flags or controversies around the person, these should have been highlighted for senior staff and the Prime Minister. It is at this point where the issue moves out of the hands of the junior PMO staff and it has now landed on the desks of senior staff.

Due to the various stories and issues around the Boyle family, it is highly unlikely this basic research wasn’t done prior to the meeting.

In addition, because it was pretty clear that the Boyle story might be of interest to a number of government departments or agencies, including Global Affairs, Immigration and CSIS etc. someone at the senior staff level should have requested additional follow-up and input from those departments. While a request could go from PMO to minister’s offices, one should also have been made through the Privy Council Office (PCO) as PCO is the Prime Minister’s department, and they could have gone directly to officials including the RCMP, in those departments.

Both PMO and PCO would have issues management staff that should be on top of such issues. It is unlikely that PCO would have failed to provide briefing notes on the Boyle saga from the time the issue became public- that is one of the things that they routinely do.

There were more than enough red flags around this potential meeting to raise the question as to whether or not the meeting should have gone forward. Only the most senior staff and the Prime Minister himself would have been involved in making the final decision to go ahead with this meeting.  A decision would also be made at this time as to which person in PMO would staff the meeting, make notes etc.

Unanswered questions include who made the go-ahead decision?

What was the recommendation of Trudeau’s senior staff- were they in favour or opposed to the meeting?

Did PMO consult with other government departments and agencies including security officials?

Did PMO ask PCO for a briefing or recommendation and what did PCO suggest?

No Prime Minister will always agree with meeting every person that is suggested to them. They have a pretty big say in this.

Did Trudeau over rule his senior staff or did he follow their advice?

In the end there are far too many unanswered questions including the simplest one- why?


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.


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