Press Feed
Pages Menu

Bruce A. Stewart

Macdonald. Laurier. Harper? Can he win a fourth consecutive time?

Eight years ago, Stephen Harper became Prime Minister. Next year, he has the opportunity to join Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier as only the third PM in Canadian history to win four consecutive elections. Last year, I figured that sometime over the winter of 2013-14 we’d see Stephen Harper tender his resignation. After all, he’s led his party for over a decade, and a decade at the top in political life is wearying. He’s also at the right age (54) to have one more substantial career leg if he left now. Not to mention that he’d take a lot of the steam out of the Senate scandal by stepping down: Duffy, Wallin, and Brazeau are his appointments, Wright was his Chief of Staff. His successor could simply say “that was then” and put an end to the misery. Going this winter would have meant a nice year long leadership race, an October-or-so convention, and time enough for his successor to take charge and be seen as “different enough”, with enough months to reattract the voters who were with the Conservatives in 2008 and 2011 but aren’t at the moment. Figuring Harper cared more about the long-term success of the Conservative Party he’s built, and not wanting to risk breaking his perfect record of growth election after election, I assumed he’d call it a day. Now, I’m not so sure. After all, even a minority would be another win, right? — and a notch for the history books. To be fair, a minority wouldn’t be good news for Harper, especially if the NDP and Liberals together had enough seats to put together a working majority. If the Liberals were ahead, the Conservatives and NDP would find it hard to come together to keep Justin Trudeau from winning a… Read More

Tom Mulcair must audition for the PM’s job, not that of Official Opposition leader

On the one hand, the federal NDP is back in third; on the other hand, their core vote has expanded to their former high water mark and leader Tom Mulcair is Québec’s darling, bar none. So is it good news, or bad, for the New Democrats? Actually, the news for Canada’s NDP is better than good — as long as Mulcair follows the prescription to get him across the aisle leading Canada’s next government. Mulcair runs far ahead of his party now, across Canada (except for Alberta, where anything other than “Conservative” gets short shrift no matter how much you praise the oil sands). This has been amplified by a year of demonstrating excellence in holding the government of Stephen Harper to account. It’s not just the Senatorial excesses, either. Putting the brakes on a mad rush to a poorly handled F-35 file is just one example of how Mulcair’s team did the job of constructively and comprehensively opposing the steamroller a majority government enjoys. But there’s an old saying in politics: the person who campaigns to be an effective Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition usually gets the job. Opposing, alone, isn’t enough. That’s why, in 2014, Tom Mulcair has three things to do, if he wants to enjoy the leaking roof, drafty windows, and squealing pipes of 24 Sussex Drive. (Yes, the Harper government has been engaging in false economy in not repairing the place: either go back to the St-Laurent-era “find your own place to live” and dump the residence, or fix it while it’s still habitable.) First and foremost, this year Mulcair has to move beyond opposition to putting forward a reason why he should be chosen to govern. Governments defeat themselves (and often over the silliest of things, from Duffy-Wright to, yes, the shambles of… Read More

Trudeau needs more than generalities and a smile to be PM

2013 turned out to be Justin Trudeau’s year. If he wants to be holding onto his lead when 2014 ends, he’ll have to do far more than that if he wants to see a twenty-first century version of 1968’s Trudeaumania sweep him into 24 Sussex. This year — and starting in the front half of the year, at that — Trudeau’s got to start talking policy. Not the Red Book type, either, with page after page of bullet points designed to offer a pledge, a commitment, or a promise here and there to narrowly-defined voter segments. No, something that makes it clear, in this time of troubles, exactly what Canadian liberalism is, and what it stands for. Principled, integrated, coherent policy, not the usual grab-bag of carefully focus-group-tested goodies. It would be policy that defined the middle-class and what middle-class life ought to be (given Trudeau’s use of the phrase in just about every public appearance in the past ninety days), for instance, rather than just throwing the phrase out there and letting people read into it whatever they like. Now you may be asking yourself why Trudeau needs to do any such thing. He’s ahead: if you blend the rolling poll data across all companies reporting together, he and his Liberals are at 34.3 per cent (with Stephen Harper and his Conservatives at 27.1 per cent and Tom Mulcair and the NDP at 23.3, with the Greens at 7.0 and the Bloc Québécois at 6.4, which is what their 23.3 per cent in Québec translates to nationally). Aside from Alberta, where the Conservatives remain well ahead, and Manitoba/Saskatchewan, where there’s an effective tie between the Liberals and the Conservatives, everywhere else the Liberals lead the pack. From aging baby boomers reminiscing about the “glory days” of Trudeau père to… Read More

Throne Speech signals just how “Liberal” these Conservatives have become

How the mighty have fallen. Stephen Harper (at least according to Tom Flanagan) has spent the last eleven years since returning to politics trying to squeeze the Liberal Party of Canada out of existence. Trying to get to a Western-style “left:right” dichotomy — Conservatives vs NDP — would lead to years of Conservatives in power, and slowly but surely change the country. Instead, as Wednesday’s Throne Speech showed, the Conservatives have completed their march to become the Liberal Party in Blue. Right down to the extensive stealing of NDP ideas to do so. Please do — if you support the Conservatives, and can do so — tell me what, precisely, is “conservative” about promising to regulate private corporations’ business policies to ensure that “consumers” get a better deal? That’s the sort of whinge about the sad lot of “ordinary Canadians” the sainted Jack Layton used to dump on us regularly. (It’s also the sort of whinge the smiling, waving, current holder of “irrelevant third party leader” Justin Trudeau got published in the op-ed pages of the Globe and Mail Wednesday morning, to make sure someone — anyone — paid attention to him on a day totally in Stephen Harper’s control. Frankly, in thinking about where the Conservatives are now, I can come to only one conclusion. This is a party led by a leader who knows his time is running out fast. Let’s think about what the Conservatives would want to see the calendar look like if Harper was to stun Canadians by stepping down. Election Day is set by law on 2 May 2015. They won’t want a Kim Campbell or John Turner moment, where the new leader takes command of the party only to immediately go into a general election. So the new leader needs at least six… Read More

Has politics become the refuge of the second-rater?

Think about the great leaders politics has thrown up. Macdonald and Laurier in Canada. Churchill and Pitt in the UK. Then think about the leaders of today. Go ahead, try and convince me that Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau fall into the same camp. Or any of the provincial premiers. Good luck with that. When politicians never had to worry about growth, life was easy, and people of real ability chose to enter politics — it was just another alternative to building an industrial empire. Leaders, in turn, hung around with other leaders. A strong, vibrant Prime Minister like Macdonald could surround himself with strong ministers — potential challengers — in large part because being a real leader, he saw other people of strength as worth that risk. Second-rate people in leadership roles, on the other hand, merely see the threat, and make sure anyone really good is kept at bay. In business, this has been known for a long, long time. It even has a cliché: “Type A leaders hire type A followers; type B leaders hire type C followers”. Now all this isn’t to say that people of ability never go into politics. Indeed, they do, and often into parties that aren’t in power. An opposition leader has more tolerance for other strong figures — the challenge of not holding power is simply to get attention, in an era when journalists mostly regurgitate press releases rather than dig for the truth — than a governing leader would. But more and more over the years politicians have downgraded, as type B leaders have signed the nomination papers for type C followers. You know, the kind that are totally and completely whipped, saying whatever the line of the day is, without an original thought in their heads. Perhaps that’s unfair, but… Read More
Page 1 of 1912345...10...Last »