I recognize I am entering the lions’ den, so to speak, in writing a Post Millennial column outlining why you should vote Liberal in this election. But I cannot resist a challenge.
Let’s start with two political axioms I have in mind to frame up this Liberal reelection.
First, during Pierre Trudeau’s reelection, future prime minister John Turner quipped, “Do not compare him to the Almighty. Compare him to the alternative.”
Second, there’s the line, “Governments defeat themselves.”
Let’s deal with both in turn.
After four years, no one will argue that Justin Trudeau is the second coming (despite being born on Christmas Day).
So who’s the alternative?
The NDP are clearly running to save the furniture, not to form government; Jagmeet Singh implicitly concedes that.
Naturally, that leaves the Conservatives as “the alternative”.
Their leader, Andrew Scheer, is a modest man who has much to be modest about, to paraphrase Sir Winston Churchill.
I have no quarrel with him as a person, but let’s check his résumé, as that Tory commercial suggested we do with Trudeau four years ago. Scheer, whose only private-sector experience was a few months not actually being an insurance broker, was also a backbencher of no notable accomplishments and a Speaker of the House who then oddly went back to partisan politics (seemingly the first such career move since the Napoleonic Wars). So he’s nothing to write home about in terms of credentials.
What about what he is offering? Here, there’s not much either; a few boutique tax credits, as much as I might like to write off my transit passes, are hardly a compelling vision.
What he really seems to be doing is opposing the Liberals’ price on pollution.
From that frame, he’s let himself be boxed in and presented as someone who is opposed to action to fight the climate crisis more generally. Trudeau has been all too happy to hold announcements across this gorgeous country that frame him as a champion of Canada’s natural beauty, and Scheer as a climate Luddite.
Scheer could have found a way to show he was serious about confronting climate change, even if he opposed the bare minimum, market approach to addressing the problem. He even somewhat attempted to do this in the spring. Instead, on the critical question at the heart of this generation, he is nowhere, and wrong. This is a strategic failure on Scheer’s part, and a moral one.
If you care about fighting climate change and protecting the planet, Scheer has taken himself out of consideration. He has boxed himself into the base he already has, rather than attempting to grow his coalition.
Scheer also seems content to be running to oppose Trudeau, which is the job he already has.
In 2015, Trudeau ran on inspiration. In 2019, running for reelection, he has to grind it out. Still, because of Scheer’s failure to confront the climate crisis, Liberals have been able to rekindle some enthusiasm amongst those who care about this existential threat, perhaps more than we deserve to be able to, and we have Scheer’s absence on the issue to thank.
Which brings us to the notion that governments in this country defeat themselves more than their opposition winning.
On that front, the Liberal government has barnacles, like any party seeking reelection. Trudeau himself may be battered by ethics scandals, but he is still standing.
But on the pro column, the economy is doing well, with over a million new jobs. Taxes are lower for middle-class Canadians and the child-benefit cheques have lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty. The environmental record is good but imperfect, which Trudeau concedes.
Regarding Conservatives overwrought dread over debt and deficits, the fact that the debt-to-GDP ratio ballooned under Harper but declined under Trudeau and is the lowest in the G7 should matter and alleviate any fears.
For a progressive, the Liberal programme leaves some room for improvement, particularly on pharmacare, but on the broad strokes of climate policy, the economy and the cost of living, this is a government that has done a lot with promises to do even more. An academic study found the Trudeau government kept or worked towards 92% of their promises, in one way or another. That is a high recommendation in and of itself.
The worst thing I’ve heard canvassing for Liberal candidates in the GTA is “you weren’t perfect”.
In other words, and in sum, this is a government that has not been the Almighty, but the alternative is far worse. Liberals will have to work hard for every vote; as I tweeted at the start of this race, I think the election will come down to “Liberals in six”.
READ MORE ABOUT EACH PARTY
Series: As a part of our 2019 election coverage we have reached out to supporters of every party and asked why they plan to vote the way they do.
Throughout the election, we will be releasing these views.