What Really Happened in Canada (From a Canadian)

 

I’m a Canadian, a longtime small-government libertarian, and sympathetic to US conservative causes. I was for many years a Canadian Liberal partisan (long story, see my bio). This is my first post, though I’ve been a Ricochetti from the very beginning. I just had to weigh in on the confusion I’ve been hearing on the podcasts about the Canadian election.

I know you all like Stephen Harper, and I agree he looks pretty good from a foreign conservative’s perspective. But Canadians didn’t reject that Harper, or even (intentionally) his policies. They just got caught up in a shiny, pretty new thing. It happens to the best of electorates. (US in 2008, anyone?)

Here are some things you don’t know:

  1. Harper is our Nixon. He is an introvert: moral, bookish, unsmiling, tactical, uncharismatic except in occasional flashes. He is cold to all but his closest advisors, and dislikes having to explain his policies. His strategy was to make incremental changes, hide from interviews, and hope people would understand their brilliance at election time. Telling moment: When sending his six-year-old kid to school for the cameras, [ed. I incorrectly wrote age 9 at first] he shook the kid’s hand rather than giving him a hug. A cold fish indeed. Women and urban voters can’t stand him, personally, even if they like his policies.
  2. The Canadian electorate doesn’t reject Harper’s responsible, business-friendly policies. This election was not about policy. They voted for a glamorous, young “change” candidate,  generally ignoring his party’s unpleasantly left-wing platform. Trudeau’s surge came so late in the day that the media didn’t have a chance to vet him properly; they spent much more time on the heir-apparent in our system, the (now-decimated) NDP. Tellingly, Trudeau’s platform largely leaves in place some of Harper’s signature policies, such as tax-free savings accounts and tax cuts.
  3. Trudeau is not his father. I have met him and have no love for him, but I will admit he is his own man. His father was a famous French-Canadian political scientist who nationalized industries and spent much of his time battling separatists (and giving them oxygen — separatism came of age during Pierre’s 17-year time tenure). Justin grew up on the other side of the country; he speaks French with an Anglo accent, and lived a quiet life as a drama teacher, uncurious about policy (and generally uninformed). Most Canadians know this. A majority of voters had no opportunity to vote in Pierre Trudeau’s last election in 1980.
  4. Trudeau may be our Obama. A few years ago, I told a US Republican friend that “We had our Obama in the 1970s,” meaning Pierre Trudeau. Well, Justin may be a better analogue. Rising quickly from obscurity, with little depth of policy experience but surprising political talent, he runs in a “change” year on a left-wing platform that nobody reads, defeating a competent but uninspiring conservative party. Hmm. Let’s hope it doesn’t go that way.
  5. Canadian Liberals are not analogous to US liberal Democrats. I always get pushback on this point, but it’s true. In Canada, our far-Left self-segregates itself into the New Democratic Party (NDP). The NPD has never held power at the national level. Our Liberals are more akin to your Clinton Democrats, with a smattering of business Republicans. The Liberals are an urban party with a tradition, as they say here, of “campaigning on the Left and governing from the Right.” It is business-friendly, has a good economic record, and in the 1990s, brought our federal debt-to-GDP ratio from 63 percent to 34 percent through massive spending cuts. (Much of our debt is provincial, so that higher number constituted a debt crisis here in 1994). Both Trudeaus campaigned to the left of this tradition. We’ll see if Justin respects it.
  6. Foreign affairs weren’t on the ballot. The only issue was whether we would take more Syrian refugees (Canadians had ignored the ISIS/Syrian issue until September). Trudeau will take a few more: 25,000 versus Harper’s 10,000. Sadly, he will also pull out of the international ISIS mission, but Harper’s contribution was pretty small, anyway. Relations with the US, often a flashpoint in our elections, were undiscussed.

The biggest issue in our election was Harper’s personality. After nine years of his quietly refusing to make any case for policy — conservative or otherwise — the Canadian opposition parties managed to paint Harper as an out-of-touch, petty extremist. It isn’t fair, but it isn’t surprising.

Canadian conservatives have to learn to become happy warriors. Now, America, please show us how it’s done.

There are 52 comments.

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  1. Danny Alexander Member
    Danny Alexander
    @DannyAlexander

    Excellent post — ought to be put on the Main Feed.

    I’m an American who was married to a Canadian for a short stretch and lived in her hometown, Toronto, during 1997 through 2000.

    All of the points in this post ring true albeit my experience was brief and Justin Trudeau wasn’t on the proverbial radar-screen at that point.

    Re the “how to be a happy warrior” question, to be honest I’m stumped.

    What with the stupendous comedic achievements of the legends of SCTV, as well as the respectable latter-day comedic successes (south of the border) of more than a few others, one would think that Canadians could figure the “happy warrior” thing out in the political realm.

    Alas, I think what cuts that down is the dour petulance of Quebec:  there’s so little common ground (whether existing or proactively sought), so Canadian national-stage politicians end up treading fairly pragmatically in rhetorical terms — at least that’s the sense that I got from my time served up north.

    With that being the case, only another Trudeau could have run a campaign with such brazen bombast (by Canadian standards), and that’s what happened.

    • #1
  2. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Yes, very interesting.  Thank you.

    • #2
  3. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    I wonder if these election results portend anything for freedom of speech in Canada. There have been some ups and downs with Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn having to confront the Human Rights Commissions.

    • #3
  4. Vorpal_Pedant (the Canadian) Inactive
    Vorpal_Pedant (the Canadian)
    @VorpalPedanttheCanadian

    Danny, re your last line, you’ll be happy to know that Quebec no longer votes parochially – more than 80% of them voted for the three Federal parties, and the Conservatives actually increased their count there.

    Axe, you’re right about this – the Conservatives quietly removed the legislation that troubled Steyn and Levant, and the Liberals will probably put something like that back in.  It wasn’t an election issue and as far as I know, none of the parties had a platform plank on it.  The HR commissions are a travesty.

    • #4
  5. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Interesting and informative.

    Ouch, that handshake thing sounds painful to watch. I can’t picture any prominent American politician doing that one. They do other bad things.

    As for examples of the kind of policy defense Harper evidently didn’t do, don’t look at the national primary… at least not right now. But maybe there are a few relevant state examples.

    (On Ricochet, I’m the one who, every time someone says the Republicans are worthless, says “but Wisconsin!”)

    • #5
  6. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    I don’t know.  If I were a nine-year-old boy, I think I’d prefer a handshake to a hug, especially if it was in front of the cameras.

    • #6
  7. Man With the Axe Inactive
    Man With the Axe
    @ManWiththeAxe

    Basil Fawlty:I don’t know. If I were a nine-year-old boy, I think I’d prefer a handshake to a hug, especially if it was in front of the cameras.

    And if you were a nine-year-old girl you would prefer a handshake to a hug from Joe Biden.

    • #7
  8. Leigh Inactive
    Leigh
    @Leigh

    Basil Fawlty:I don’t know. If I were a nine-year-old boy, I think I’d prefer a handshake to a hug, especially if it was in front of the cameras.

    If I were a nine-year-old boy, I’d probably prefer not getting dropped off in front of the cameras at all.

    • #8
  9. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Man With the Axe:

    Basil Fawlty:I don’t know. If I were a nine-year-old boy, I think I’d prefer a handshake to a hug, especially if it was in front of the cameras.

    And if you were a nine-year-old girl you would prefer a handshake to a hug from Joe Biden.

    I claim no insight into the desires of nine-year-old girls, especially where Joe Biden is concerned.

    • #9
  10. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Vorpal_Pedant (the Canadian): This is my first post, though I’ve been a Ricochetti from the very beginning.

    Then it was well worth the wait. :)

    • #10
  11. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    In Canada we have no restrictions on abortion whatsoever. Both the NDP and Liberals mandate that you cannot be a pro life candidate and run for their parties and that during a free vote you must surrender your right to vote your conscience on a free vote under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Fiefdoms. Because, shut up!

    Former PM Harper learned that the only way to get elected was to say he would never introduce legislation regarding abortion though he would allow MPs to vote their conscience during a free vote on the imaginary legislation that would never be introduced by any party. Private Members bills on the abortion issue usually result in a mysterious coughing sound.

    So, all you “new” Canadians who have that cute cultural habit of sex selective abortion can not only get down to business but can be secure that no one tracks the sex of your aborted daughter. Because, shut up!

    • #11
  12. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Vorpal_Pedant (the Canadian): This is my first post, though I’ve been a Ricochetti from the very beginning.

    Then it was well worth the wait. :)

    Funny, that’s what I thought too.

    • #12
  13. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Although we would wish otherwise, there is no practical reason why our cousins in the north would avoid the kind of shallow, celebrity induced voting behavior that has infected Americans.

    After all, does anyone think that Canadian schools have done a better job of educating their students over he past 40 years than their American counterparts?

    • #13
  14. Vorpal_Pedant (the Canadian) Inactive
    Vorpal_Pedant (the Canadian)
    @VorpalPedanttheCanadian

    Our schools are a pretty mixed bag too…though we do much better than the US on international rankings.

    Sadly, I don’t think celebrity appeal amongst politicians is a matter of schooling – more human nature.

    • #14
  15. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Sorry, but the idea that Canadian voters would object to the father of a nine-year-old boy giving him a public handshake rather than a public hug has me humming the Lumberjack Song.

    • #15
  16. Brian McMenomy Inactive
    Brian McMenomy
    @BrianMcMenomy

    We Americans didn’t exactly do Harper any favors by hanging him out to dry on Keystone. As an interested outsider, it looked like a combination of the usual ennui following 9 years in power, Harper fatigue (I remember that prior to being Conservative leader, he could actually be pretty good on TV) and Trudeau provided the handsome, charismatic opponent with autocratic tendencies (pro-life Liberals being drummed out of Parliament,etc.).

    One thing we should learn from Canada’s Tories is how to reach out to visible minorities (if I’m remembering the Canadian term properly).  They did aggressive outreach to ethnic communities, especially in Greater Toronto & Greater Vancouver.  Sikh temples in Surrey, community centers throughout the 905, with a message of entrepreneurship and a genuine desire to win their vote.  Don’t just look to narrow the margin (though that may be the effect in the short term).  There is really no reason why conservatives in the US should be losing ethnic Indians, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese,etc.  We just have to genuinely want to be their party too.

    • #16
  17. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    Great post, a few questions.

    Do you think when the Republicans finally approve Keystone do you think Canada will reject or modify it?

    Will Fidel be invited to the inauguration?

    Will burkas be allowed in the civil service and at citizenship ceremonies?

    • #17
  18. Leslie Watkins Inactive
    Leslie Watkins
    @LeslieWatkins

    Thanks so much for this post. Very informative. I do hope Trudeau doesn’t turn into an Obama, that is, a petty partisan rather than a man for all Canadians. That’s what I want for the U.S.: someone in the middle who wants to be president of all Americans, not just a handful of them.

    • #18
  19. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Petty Boozswha:Great post, a few questions.

    Do you think when the Republicans finally approve Keystone do you think Canada will reject or modify it?

    Will Fidel be invited to the inauguration?

    Will burkas be allowed in the civil service and at citizenship ceremonies?

    We did it for the children!

    • #19
  20. Pseudodionysius Inactive
    Pseudodionysius
    @Pseudodionysius

    Ezra Levant explains in shocking detail the kinds of crimes Ben Levin was convicted of on March 3, 2015.

    The court heard about the former Deputy Minister of Education in Ontario — a “teacher of teachers” — incest fantasies involving his granddaughters, and his disturbing collection of writings and photos.

    Calling it a “grooming manifesto,” Levant warns that Levin’s fingerprints are all over the province’s new sex-ed curriculum, one which sexualizes children at far too early an age.

    • #20
  21. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    The only thing I have to offer is a style point: Referring to a politician as “Our Nixon” implies something vastly different from what you were going for. “Nixon” is pretty much synonymous with “corruption” down here.

    Also:

    Vorpal_Pedant (the Canadian): Trudeau may be our Obama. A few years ago, I told a US Republican friend that “We had our Obama in the 1970s,” meaning Pierre Trudeau. Well, Justin may be a better analogue. Rising quickly from obscurity, with little depth of policy experience but surprising political talent, he runs in a “change” year on a left-wing platform that nobody reads, defeating a competent but uninspiring conservative party. Hmm. Let’s hope it doesn’t go that way.

    God help you, if this is true.

    • #21
  22. La Tapada Member
    La Tapada
    @LaTapada

    I thank you too. Very interesting to read.

    • #22
  23. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler
    @LarryKoler

    Leigh:

    Basil Fawlty:I don’t know. If I were a nine-year-old boy, I think I’d prefer a handshake to a hug, especially if it was in front of the cameras.

    If I were a nine-year-old boy, I’d probably prefer not getting dropped off in front of the cameras at all.

    This makes me think of a psychologist who Dennis Prager has had on his show a few times. Dennis and he both think that the high-five between fathers and sons is indicative of trying to be a friend and not a father or adult to the child. He says that a boy needs an adult man in his life. Here’s an interesting article that deals with this and this might have been something that Harper was working from (not from Dennis but this approach to the modern man):

    http://www.dennisprager.com/is-america-still-making-men/ 

    Here’s a sample:

    1. The distinction between men and boys has been largely obliterated. The older males that many American boys encounter are essentially older boys, not men. They speak, dress, and act similarly (think of men who “high-five” young boys instead of shaking their hands). And they are almost all called by their first names. Even when a boy (or girl) addresses an adult male as “Mr.,” many men will correct the young boy or girl — “Call me” and then give the young person his first name. This is often true even with regard to teachers, physicians and members of the clergy. When a young person calls an adult by his first name, the status of the two individuals has been essentially equated. Boys need men to respect. It’s not impossible to do so when they call men by their first names, but it makes it much harder.

    2. Boys today have fewer adult men in their lives than ever before. Many boys are not raised by any father. More are not raised by a father who lives in the home full time. Nearly every teacher and principal American boys have in elementary and high school is a female. The boy’s clergy person and physician may well be women. And few male figures in contemporary film radiate manhood as defined above.

    • #23
  24. SPare Member
    SPare
    @SPare

    Umbra Fractus:The only thing I have to offer is a style point: Referring to a politician as “Our Nixon” implies something vastly different from what you were going for. “Nixon” is pretty much synonymous with “corruption” down here.

    There was an issue raised over the course of the last year and a bit in which our Senators were making more than fair use of their expense accounts, and when one of them was called on it, the PM’s chief of staff paid off the senator from his own money to go away.  The PMO obfuscated when presented with the evidence, which of course set off the attack sharks.

    Relatively minor all things considered, but as you can imagine, our politics is normally a bit more genteel.

    (for reference, our Senators don’t actually have any power.  think of them like domestic ambassadors- a post to fill with party bag-men).

    • #24
  25. Vorpal_Pedant (the Canadian) Inactive
    Vorpal_Pedant (the Canadian)
    @VorpalPedanttheCanadian

    Interesting point – Prager is right, maybe it shouldn’t have been such a big deal up here…but a handshake? For your kid? Really?

    Note that I made a mistake originally – the kid was six, not 9, and gojng off to grade 1.

    • #25
  26. SPare Member
    SPare
    @SPare

    I also note that Misthiocracy hasn’t posted on the topic yet.  I assume that’s because he hasn’t sobered up quite yet.  Plus, I would imagine that he’s looking for a new job…

    • #26
  27. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Vorpal_Pedant (the Canadian):Our schools are a pretty mixed bag too…though we do much better than the US on international rankings.

    That’ll start changing when Trudeau gives Canada the blessings of a third world army ( excuse me, I meant “refugees”). Right now your largest non-European minority are, according to Wikipedia, Chinese, an ambitious, high-intelligence, high-achieving group. And they make up less than 5 percent. Things are gonna be different when every Ahmed and Mohammad from Gaza to Kurdistan shows up with 20 of his relatives who read nothing but the Koran and Arabic “newspapers” (LOL), the kind that have things like cartoons of Jews blowing up. But hey, you’re about to be culturally enriched. Bone up on your Eid al-Adha recipes.

    • #27
  28. Umbra Fractus Inactive
    Umbra Fractus
    @UmbraFractus

    Douglas: Things are gonna be different when every Ahmed and Mohammad from Gaza to Kurdistan shows up with 20 of his relatives who read nothing but the Koran and Arabic “newspapers” (LOL), the kind that have things like cartoons of Jews blowing up.

    Cartoons which will curiously evade the hate speech monitors’ collective radars with surprising consistency.

    • #28
  29. derek Member
    derek
    @user_82953

    A few other factors contributed to the Conservative loss. Harper was not one to elicit warm feelings even from his supporters, and much of the core Reform base has been alienated. He was Prime Minister for almost a decade, which is long enough for anyone. We will see if there is anyone of equal stature to take his place.

    Also the energy economy that has been pretty well the only bright spot in the country is not doing well. The provincial Conservatives in Alberta were kicked out for rampant corruption a while ago.

    The Liberals did well, but we shall see. Harper gradually dismantled quite a bit of the Liberal governing infrastructure in the civil service. Trudeau is counting on borrowing a pile of money to make his mark; we will see how that goes. Trudeau is unbelievably ill qualified for the job and will make a hash of things, and the vaunted depth of the Liberal experience in governing pretty well comes down to spending money they don’t have to buy elections.

    I liked Harper; he and his government pretty well was unobtrusive and invisible. The Liberals won’t be that way.

    • #29
  30. Brandon Phelps Member
    Brandon Phelps
    @

    Basil Fawlty: Basil Fawlty I don’t know.  If I were a nine-year-old boy, I think I’d prefer a handshake to a hug, especially if it was in front of the cameras.

    Absolutely. I’m very affection with my sons, but when it comes to something that is a serious event like starting school, shaking hands is a great way to encourage your kids to aspire to being grownups. Even if 30 year old manboys prefer to fist bump.

    • #30

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