Hey! It’s Samantha and Jack, the editors of Well-Versed. It’s a week and a half after the election and there’s already so much to talk about. In this edition, we’ll run through a final segment of wrapping up what Globe voices have been saying and how readers have been responding.
Regrettably, Sunday’s Well-Versed will be our last. It was always intended to be a pop-up newsletter to focus on the election. But the final edition will be a special one: We’ve asked some of our political reporters and columnists, who trailed the major parties, covered the campaigns and fuelled discussion on the election’s key issues, to break down their postelection thoughts.
GLOBE VOICES, COMMUNITY RESPONSES
John Ibbitson: How Trudeau can win back Canada’s West
In light of Jim Carr’s announcement that he’s been diagnosed with blood cancer, it’s looking less and less likely that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be able to appoint a cabinet minister from the Prairies, John Ibbitson wrote. The Liberals won only 13 per cent of the available constituencies in the four Western Canadian provinces, making the party weaker than in any election in which they formed government since 1980. So how can Trudeau win back the West?
“The best way for this government to calm Western anger would be to move aggressively on a Western agenda. That would include the rapid completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, despite the protests of environmentalists and some Indigenous communities. It would also include moving ahead with Teck Resources Ltd.'s Frontier oil-sands project, which needs cabinet approval. But that approval is bound to anger the New Democrats and Greens in Parliament, and environmentalists in general, because it will make it even harder for Canada to meet its target for reducing carbon emissions.”
The most lauded comment from Globe readers was by user Peter Woodman, who shifted the conversation to the Conservatives and their failure in the election. “I am from Alberta. I am conservative. I am pro-oil and pro-pipelines. But the Conservatives running in 2019 on a platform that did not even acknowledge the environment was tone deaf and dumb. And by the way, carbon taxes do work – I don’t understand how a party that believes in market economics would fail to understand that.”
User Mellowcanadian expressed displeasure with how “The Laurentians are totally out of touch with what’s going on in the West; their solution is to try to find someone in the West that thinks like them, to make it appear they care.”
Some readers doubted that the West would be a priority for Trudeau, despite the rhetoric. “Liberals and the Bloc are natural partners given that between them they have most of Quebec seats and have almost identical motivations,” wrote user Hans55. “The next four years even more than ever will be about Quebec. The Prairies’ needs don’t fit their agenda.”
Other readers were even more pessimistic. “Trudeau can’t win the West back,” wrote user Puma2. “Too much damage has been done.”
Globe Editorial: It’s deeper than Andrew Scheer: The root of the Conservative Party’s failure to launch
It was a real setback for the Conservatives to lose Lisa Raitt, one of the party’s star MPs from Ontario, the Globe’s editorial board wrote. And it underscores a problem with the party that’s deeper than Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s apparent inability to connect with voters.
“The Conservative Party has a demographic problem, and it has to think hard about how to address it. It cannot hope to win government solely by motivating a rural and Western base, and then counting on vote-splitting among Liberals, New Democrats and Greens. Nor can Conservatives hope to form government without capturing a big chunk of the vote in the fast-growing parts of urban and suburban Canada, particularly in Ontario. That means Conservatives can’t win unless they can offer something more than denial on climate change. They can’t win unless they can offer something better than evasion and obfuscation when they produce a platform that promises spending cuts. And they can’t win unless they rethink their faith-based deficit orthodoxy, and accept a more realistic definition of fiscal responsibility.”
Globe readers largely agreed with the editorial’s position that the party must shift to find new success.
“… Demographics notwithstanding, the Conservative Party has an internal dynamic that prevents the shift in views recommended here,” user Nick Wright wrote. “... While more progressive Conservatives may pine for moderate leaders like Raitt or Rona Ambrose, a big chunk of the party membership wants the party to represent a more red-meat, old-time moralistic kind of conservatism that doesn’t take prisoners and isn’t interested in compromising its hard-edged views.”
Other users agreed that the Conservative base that elected its leadership shaped a party that may not have been fit for wide appeal in the federal election. “The Conservatives had four years to decide what kind of Canada they wanted us to have – they should have seen the writing on the wall,” wrote user jangm.
The debate among Globe readers also looked forward, including a discussion of the future of a conservative movement. “I am of the view that, if one of the existing parties cannot be dragged to the centre, a new party should be formed that fills the gap,” wrote user res ipsa loquitor. “I am so tired of holding my nose to vote based on the least worst option. I’m betting that I am not alone.”
Dan McCarthy: How do we bridge Canada’s divides? MPs should take trips across the country
McCarthy, the former chief of staff to three federal ministers and former director of the National Liberal Caucus Research Bureau, wrote that Canadians must look to MPs (and not the divided federal leadership) to unite Canada. To do so, he argued, those MPs need to be more familiar with the country and its people.
“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed regret that Canada is more ‘polarized, more divided in this election than in 2015. I wonder how or if I could have made sure we were pulling Canadians together?’ To be fair to the Prime Minister, none of the party leaders had a unifying theme at the core of their platforms. Perhaps we should look instead to our individual MPs to truly become national legislators, not simply federal representatives for their ridings. How well-equipped are MPs to assume this mantle? … I suspect we would be disappointed in the answer. Thus, my modest proposal is that all newly elected MPs take part in a venture organized by an independent organization that would more fully introduce them to Canada.”
Broadly, Globe readers agreed with McCarthy’s sentiments.
“We, as Canadians, are blessed to live in such a wonderful and diverse country. We should all travel more in our own country. We are not that different and we should learn to engage with those who think otherwise. Our politicians should lead the way,” wrote user Genie Chan.
Part of this is the geography of the country itself, wrote user fisheater. “Air travel is fine but your sense of the country is a long metal tube connecting cities with nothing in between. I’ve made the drive twice and been as far north as you can drive. … Everyone should try to do it at least once.”
Others were more cynical. User the.maven wrote that “It’s a nice idea, but the reality is that we’d have too many politicians travelling in first class, staying in great hotels and doing anything but meeting with the people. (Most likely meeting with lobbyists.)”
User Free_1 called the idea a “nice sentiment,” but wrote that “this country is divided for a reason, it’s too big. ... The beliefs and way of life are vastly different in the West than Eastern Canada, particularly Quebec.”
Andrew Cohen: Like father, like son: Can Justin Trudeau remake himself, as his father did?
Cohen, a journalist and professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism, drew parallels between the tenures of Pierre and Justin Trudeau – re-election with a minority after a previously secured majority government, growing Western alienation, Quebec nationalism and a president of the United States under threat of impeachment.
“Here’s the thing: Whether it was through guile or luck, voting strategically or voting not at all, progressives found a way to keep the Liberals in, the New Democrats down and the Conservatives out,” Cohen wrote. “The election of the Greens, New Democrats and Bloquistes implicitly gives the Liberals licence to take risks. Long known as ‘Canada’s Natural Governing Party,’ the Liberals were famously said to campaign from the left and govern from the right. Now, they can govern from the left.”
Readers mostly agreed with Cohen’s assertion of the hurdles that dogged Pierre and now bedevil his son, but many pointed out what they see as sharp divisions between the character and reputation of the two.
“Where his father inhabited the role of PM, [Justin Trudeau] appears to be playing it. The mask has slipped so many times now it will be hard for Canadians to take him at face value. With his credibility severely dented, one wonders if voters will regard any changes in approach he may make as more than superficial,” user 1066 and all that wrote. “Without the political conviction of his father, how will he carry off the deft manoeuvring necessary in a minority that he so conspicuously failed to demonstrate with an unassailable majority?”
User Gizella agreed. “It seems kind of pointless to compare Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau – the former was a sharply intelligent, cosmopolitan man driven by ideology and belief (whatever I may think of those), while his son is mostly an empty vessel.”
Lisa Weber questioned how much of a party’s success falls solely on the shoulders of its leader. “Justin Trudeau’s inner circle needs to be able to remake him don’t you mean?” she asked of Cohen. “The SNC affair made it really clear that Trudeau is not in charge. Really, we elected the PMO and the PCO. It would be great if the media did more to keep the public up to date about who the people are in those offices because they are the ones who will tell Trudeau what to say and do to bring the government together.”
Gary Mason: Can a socially conservative party govern a liberal Canada?
Starting with an examination of Scheer’s views on same-sex marriage, Mason looks at the current standing of the Conservative Party – and its leader – through the lens of a country that still sees two-thirds of its votes go toward progressive values. He recommends that Conservatives ask themselves whether they can blend their founding principles with shifts in public attitudes.
“Mr. Scheer’s problem is that many believe he’s a community-standards type of conservative, one guided by the principles and teachings set out in the Bible. His decision not to march in Pride parades would certainly bolster this viewpoint. He doubled down on this decision, reiterating in a postelection interview that he would never march in a parade,” Mason writes.
“This is a difficult position to support in a diverse, inclusive country such as Canada.”
Readers were split on whether the Conservative Party should reorient itself toward socially liberal Canadians or remain the same. As Mason cited Scheer’s decision not to march in Pride parades as a point of contention, readers used that to defend their points on both sides of the aisle.
“The LGBTQ community rights need to be staunchly defended, not just be given lip service. It doesn’t matter to me if federal leaders walk in their parades, but they must defend human rights every time,” user jangm wrote.
User Puma2 felt that the airtime Mason gave progressive issues was too much, writing, “We seem to have conveniently forgotten about important economic matters, national unity, equality of opportunity and thoughtful stewardship of government finances. A leader not marching in a Pride parade gets far more attention than the lack of foreign investment in our country.”
“I couldn’t disagree more with your comment,” user jaybe responded. “Marching in a Pride parade and climate-change policy are an indicator of values and are exactly the issues that the electorate should use to evaluate parties.”
BONUS: Want to hear more reader opinions? Our regular Letters to the Editor feature pulls together your thoughts on the latest news.
- Alberta has set a $30-per-tonne carbon tax on large industrial emitters that brings them partially in line with federal climate law. While this particular tax is key to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s climate strategy, his government will maintain the fight against a federal carbon tax on consumers – to be imposed in January – that the United Conservative Party calls unconstitutional.
- Trudeau has brought in Anne McLellan, a former federal cabinet minister and Edmonton-based lawyer, as an unpaid adviser to help his government respond to growing Western alienation. McLellan’s role is key as the prime minister tries to deal with the Liberal Party’s failure to win any seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
- As the Conservatives regroup after their loss, multiple current and former party MPs have joined the call for Andrew Scheer to resign. Some hope former Tory cabinet minister Peter MacKay will enter a possible leadership race. Senior Conservative MP Mark Strahl says everything is “on the table” as the party prepares for a “thorough” review of staff, policies and leadership. (If you’ve posted something on social media and immediately regretted it recently, you’re not alone: Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s office momentarily retweeted a fledgling organization called “Scheer Must Go,” then quickly deleted it.)
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