Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Potential And Reality

I remember when I first started teaching, everything seemed so clear, so obvious: students, for example, were no longer writing very well because they weren't taught grammar; a rigourous and systematic approach would fix that. I soon learned, however, that such a prescription was unspeakably naive. Like everything else, it did not exist in a vacuum, but rather was tied to so many other factors over which I had little or no control, such as family environment, motivation to read voluminously, etc., etc.

In some ways, and I really hope I am wrong, I wonder if Justin Trudeau's winning approach to electoral victory may partly mirror the naiveté I had so many years ago. After years of exposure to Stephen Harper's toxicity, expectations are very high among Canadians for a new political culture, and Trudeau's potential to disappoint is great. If he succeeds, his impact on the health of our democracy could be quite substantial.

Lawrence Martin writes that there is much to change:
If Canadians thought the operation run by Stephen Harper was ugly before, look at what we’re hearing now. Not from Mr. Harper’s opponents, but Conservatives themselves.

“They had almost a Stalinistic way of looking at things,” Philippe Gervais, a former Tory campaign co-director, told iPolitics . “You were either on-side, or you were dead.”

Here’s Geoff Norquay, the long-time Harper defender on TV panels. In the next edition of Policy magazine, he writes what the political operation was really like under Harper favourite Jenni Byrne: “They ran a closed circle, they humiliated staff, they berated candidates, they pushed every reasonable argument far beyond its logical limit, they shut out others with a different view.”
One of Trudeau's strongest suits is his style:
Style doesn’t make the man, but as Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy illustrated, it can change the morale, bring a new spirit to a country. Mr. Trudeau is no Reagan and he is no Kennedy but he has some of their charismatic attributes. If he doesn’t settle for half-measures, he could bring a new spirit.
That infusion of our waning spirits was clearly evident in the increasingly large crowds Trudeau attracted as the campaign wore on, and in the enthusiasm with which many greeted his majority government.

In more substantive matters, a test for the incoming prime minister will be how he handles dissent:
The wise leader doesn’t demand agreement from everyone in his party. If the news media gets all excited about an MP going offside on some issue, he should take it in stride, as in, “So what? That’s what a democracy is all about. The freedom to speak your mind.”
Lawrence Martin has several suggestions for Trudeau as his time in office draws near, but I'll end with one that I think all of us would agree upon:
To restore civility to our politics, Mr. Trudeau should ban personal attack ads. To restore sanity to Question Period, the Speaker needs to be empowered so that questions are answered.
Now wouldn't that be something to truly behold?


  1. high expectations
    and yet a very low threshold
    to be twice as good as harper
    he impressed me in one exchange where his supporters chastized a question
    his response?
    "hold on ....thats why the press is here ....to ask the hard questions ...proceed"

    1. May Trudeau keep being open to answering hard questions, lungta.

  2. We know Lorne, that Ms Mays refusal to speak over heckling in the House has shown how things can be changed by example, perhaps Justin and his fresh new MPs can also lead by example aided by a speaker who tolerates no nonsense. It would be a small but very meaningful step forward.

    1. If he can set the correct tone from the very beginning, Rural, perhaps he can change the tone in the House. Your point about the need for a strong speaker is well-taken. The last one, Andrew Scheer, was a disaster, in my view.

  3. I think what Lawrence Martin is asking is very doable Lorne. Trudeau by nature is very civilzed and for those in the house who are not, I think will find out soon enough their vindictiveness is not welcome. Having a speaker who does not put up with nonsense though is key I think.It should be interesting how the CONs behave in the house as the opposition. They keep talking about changing their tone. We'll see.

    1. Perhaps Trudeau's government will be able to exert peer pressure on the House and thereby bring the loutish to bay, Pamela. I sincerely hope that he succeeds; the House's current state of debasement is beyond denunciation.

      Since the Conservatives are now seeking a new tone, they would be wise indeed to follow Justin's lead.