Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Old And Ugly


Justin Trudeau is beginning to sound like his father. Michael Den Tant writes:

Monday evening in Toronto, Justin Trudeau delivered a 40-minute speech in which he attempted to provide a coherent, internally consistent philosophical frame for all his future policies and decisions. It was, essentially, a manifesto. It’s fair to say that no Canadian politician has delivered a speech quite like this, in recent memory.

De facto, Trudeau is attempting relieve the Conservative party of what remains of its intellectual high ground. In the process of calling out the Harper government for what he flatly termed anti-Muslim fear-mongering, the Liberal leader provided the most complete account yet of his political aspirations and motivation. Conservative partisans should not be surprised to discover that, once again, he has an eye to grabbing their lunch money; this time, the ideal of individual liberty itself.

In his speech, Trudeau reminded his listeners of  a long and ugly history in this country:

First, Trudeau’s observation that state-sanctioned fear of “the other” is nothing new in Canada: “the Chinese head tax, the internment of Japanese and Italian Canadians during the Second World War, our turning away boats of Jewish or Punjabi refugees, our own history of slavery. No Irish need apply. We don’t speak French here, so speak white. The discrimination faced by Greek and Portuguese Canadians in this very city.”

And then he drew a line connecting that history to the Harper government:

Next, the link he draws between these historical abuses and the Harper government’s recent monomaniacal focus on combating Islamism, even as it pointedly battles a court order striking down a ban on wearing the niqab at citizenship ceremonies, even where identity is not at issue. “Across Canada, and especially in my home province, Canadians are being encouraged by their government to be fearful of one another,” Trudeau asserted in the speech. “For me, this is both unconscionable and a real threat to Canadian liberty.”

The Harper majority rests on its appeal to immigrants who now live in Canada's suburbs. The Liberals used to own those votes. Trudeau wants them back. And the plan to get them did not materialize on the spur of the moment:

Monday’s speech and the strategy underlying it have been in the works for months, according to Liberal party sources. But the hook was a series of recent Conservative missteps — ­from a Facebook post caterwauling about a non-existent imminent attack on the West Edmonton Mall, to Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s conflation of the hijab (headscarf) and the niqab, to Conservative MP John Williamson’s facepalm-inducing recent musings about “whities” and “brown people” –­ that together convey the impression that, contrary to all its careful messaging of the past two decades, this Conservative party may not be friendly to minorities, after all.

Clearly, Trudeau is linking Harper to what is old and ugly in this country. Time will tell if that strategy works.


Kirby Evans said...

Good one Owen. I think the Trudeau speech was interesting. It was the first time he kind of came out of his shell a bit and tired to make a breakout speech that would attempt to place him in the realm of big ideas. And given how simplistic and small Harper's ideas have become, it will be interesting to see if this has an impact on discourse. There is a certain percentage of the population (that which embraces 'know-nothingism') that doesn't want any part of real ideas and real discourse. But the appetite feeds on what it is feed and I think if people actually talking ideas, then people will begin to think discourse is important again.

Owen Gray said...

Trudeau's speech makes it possible to have a debate about the responsibilities of government, Kirby.

Harper has been all about entrenching irresponsible government. It will be interesting to see who is listening to Trudeau.

Lorne said...

I would feel better about his speech,Owen, had Trudeau not thrown his support behind Bill C-51, something Thomas Walkom writes about in today's Star.

ron wilton said...

The disconnect in my brain between the harper conservatives having some level of 'intellectual high ground' almost made me burst a blood vessel I was laughing so hard.

Could someone, please, give me an example of 'conservative intellectual high ground'.

Owen Gray said...

Conservative high ground used to hold that individual liberty trumped government intervention, Ron. Trudeau The Elder held that government had no place in the bedrooms of the nation.

If Bill C-51 proves anything, it proves that the Harperites hold that government should be everywhere, watching you at all times.

Owen Gray said...

I agree with both you and Walkom, Lorne. It will be interesting to see how Trudeau campaigns.

Traditonally, the Liberals have campaigned from the left and governed from the right. The Libs and the Dippers used to fight among themselves for votes.

Trudeau is going after Harper voters. As Paul Adams pointed out, they're "twofors" -- a vote for Trudeau is one less vote for Harper.

But, if Trudeau campaigns from the right and governs from the same place, we're in trouble.

Anonymous said...

You know what Owen? Anything to get rid of that slob Harper. I applaud your 40 minute speech Justin and other journalists have written that you did the right thing in supporting Harper's off the wall "terrorist bill c-51." Why? Because the majority government would have passed it c-51 anyways. And you Justin used an extremely perfect moment in history to draw the so-called "conservative base" away from the dictator Harper congratulations.

E. May T. Mulcair and J. Trudeau are the best hope for the future of the SS [Sail Ship] Canada turn her around please.


Blue Grit said...

Great Post Owen! I believe the "Bigitry & Divisiveness" call-out is just one of the tines of the Liberal's multi-pronged strategy. I must say that I applauded Trudeau's speach for its guantlet-dropping aspect, even more than its content. Progressives are in a fight for their lives. Maximum engagement from the populus is critical and this speech promotes the type of discussion that impacts engagement.

As for the ludicrous Bill C-51...Trudeau played the hand that was dealt. He stated the presence of significant flaws, but politically supported its passing, to be ammended at a later date. I believe this threw the Conservatives off their game, and limited the optics of pushing the bill through in a rush. Withe the help of the NDP it actually turned out pretty well; as far as shining a light on the 'flaws', promoting public engagement, and putting the Conservatives on the defensive. Certainly better that I expected, considering what could have happened with this majority government.

I would not underestimate the number of right-of-center citizens displeased with the Harper Cons. The Liberals have always been centrists. A move to campaign right-of-center, now that the Conservatives are so far right, makes prudent sense.

Owen Gray said...

Trudeau's strategy is new for the Liberals, Blue. I just hope that -- should he win -- he moves Canada much more to the left.

These days, that would mean moving the country to the centre.

Owen Gray said...

Trudeau's strategy is becoming clearer, Mogs. But, as I have written, I hope he moves to the left.

Norm said...

Perhaps if more people saw and heard Trudeau they may get a small feeling of inspiration. Yes the Libs will vote for C 51 but what else could they do in the current climate within the country.

Pamela Mac Neil said...

I listened to Trudeau's speech Owen. I found it well written and I think he did a good job at delivering it. What stood out for me though is that it is rare these days and maybe even non existent for a politician to articulate a philosophical framework making explicit his/her fundamental ideas of which their policies will be based on. Harpers talking about his framework is completely non-existent. There's a reason for that. His framework is two fold, his evangelical fundamental christian beliefs and his neo-liberalism. With the former he not only doesnt speak about it he literally keeps it under wraps. With the latter he also doesn't speak about it and instead applies it to his policies behind closed doors and in secrecy, like putting pins in some voodoo doll. If Trudeau governs from the left he will be true to what he says are his fundamental ideas. If he governs to the right, then he will have given us a philosophical snow job. As to Harper and his minions criticism of Trudeau's speech, Trudeau hit a nerve, a big one, the truth.

Owen Gray said...

It's been interesting to note the Conservatives' reaction to Trudeau's speech, Pam.

Jason Kenny called it "obscene" and Senator Meredeth ensured us that Conservatives want to include Muslims.

This one hit close to home.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Norm. One thing is for sure: the Harperites won't be able to do to Trudeau what they did to Dion and Ignatieff.

ffd said...

The Tories do come across as remarkably old even when they are technically young. Rob Ford is only two years old than Justin Trudeau but with his appearance and his pining for the good old fifties, which he never experienced, he gives the impression of being well over sixty.

Owen Gray said...

Strange isn't it, ffd? Harper is only 56, but he sounds as if he's much older.

Scotian said...

I made a point of listening to the whole speech before writing this comment, and all I can say is this: That is the Canada and Canadian values I recognize!

I haven't heard anything like this in our political discourse in far too long, even when there were political jabs thrown they were done so in the respectful manner of disagreement, even profound disagreement, as opposed to the bilious acid which has become the norm more broadly (and while I certainly see the Harper CPC as the main guilty offenders of this sadly I have found the NDP all too willing students, especially when it comes to attacking the Libs even more than the Harper CPC) over the past decade or so.

This was one of the best speeches I've ever heard from Trudeau, and more importantly it was one of the most definitive defining speeches of his vision and his leadership goals we have heard to date, and it was a message long overdue and needed. I'd heard some criticism that he didn't deliver it well enough, that he didn't do justice to the words, well I have to disagree, in point of fact I found his understated yet clear emotional inflections actually underscores the very Canadianess of the content. If this had been done in barnburner style as some would apparently prefer I think it would have been too over the top and made it too easy to dismiss by the CPC for such, and not sincere of Trudeau as well. This though felt very much what he believes and what he wants to stand for, and it has that ring of sincerity whomever was the actual speech writer.

This is a message that is a direct threat to Harper and his CPC, and the more Trudeau is able to present this sort of message, and be heard speaking this way, the more I suspect it will appeal to all outside the Harper base, which is what is needed to get Harper out of office. For those that have said Trudeau needs to show some substance, well that speech certainly showed substance and core values in a way we have been lacking from our politicians for some time.

Good on Trudeau!

Owen Gray said...

If the Conservative reaction to the speech is any indication, Scotian, I suspect that they're genuinely scared.

Scotian said...

I just heard Tim Powers on Power and Politics say this was going back to the Martin "Harper hate" strategy, it is clear that the Cons are afraid of this message, but if that is the best defence they got they have a problem. That defence fails on a fundamental difference between the Martin years and now, we have had 9 years of Harper government to illustrate the problem, it is not theoretical but shown by the actual record of this government, the words of this government, indeed the very nature of this government and the Canada that we see today.

Paul Colandra (of the crying apology) just called that speech incredibly divisive, and is citing how B'nai Brith is condemning it for one reference in a speech of over 40 minutes length. It is clear by the amount of emotion and over the top reaction we are seeing from him and other Harper spokespeople that this speech really touched a nerve for them, and that they are afraid of it. So, for that matter, are the NDP given that instead of supporting what Trudeau was saying about how the Harper government acts in this manner they are claiming the Libs are playing the same game here and that only they are pure having not made holocaust references. Really?!? That is your take-away? Trudeau made what was a powerful statement of core Canadian values, values Harper has spent his adult life fighting, and especially since becoming PM, and THAT is all you've got to say???

I have to admit I am despite my own well known here issues with the NDP leadership these days still a bit shocked and surprised and saddened that this is they way they are reacting to this speech. This was an important moment to push back against the rampaging xenophobia baiting of the Harper CPC, and it wouldn't have cost the NDP to simply agree with Trudeau in condemning the Harper CPC without feeling the need to undercut Trudeau's message by claiming somehow that Trudeau was being no better in calling out the xenophobia pandering than the Harperites are in using it.

This is a value that used to go well beyond centrist Canadian values, and I thought it was something that was particularly strong among progressives, so I find this response infuriating, and further evidence that the NDP as a party have gone from placing principles first to partisan expediency before all else. If ever there was a time for them to have shown otherwise, this was that time IMHO. That speech of Trudeau's was important beyond the partisan, beyond the electoral, and went to the core of what being Canadian really is and has been traditionally. That they could clearly not look beyond their own narrow partisan fears of Trudeau sounding good on such an important issue illustrates that, just as Trudeau said the CPC is not your father conservatives, these NDP are not your mothers Dippers/progressives either.

Yes, I am pissed about this. I expected better from the holier than thous on this one, and it is when they fail here that they make listening to their piousness so much like fingernails down the blackboard combined with metal cutting metal painful.

Anonymous said...

Ya Owen I hope we return to a centrist government. Some ideas from the left but not far left are great others are not. Some from the right are great too but not the far right which is the territory Harper has manipulated us into.

Let us unseat these closet bullies and get Canada back. Justen Trudeau you pulled off a good one.

And Owen thank you well for keeping track.

Thanks all and cheers,
Mogs Moglio

Owen Gray said...

Mr. Trudeau bears watching, Mogs.

Owen Gray said...

Trudeau's speech could be a game changer, Scotian. The vociferous reaction from the two other major parties is an indication that they understand what is at stake.