Justin Trudeau's Diplomacy vs the Conservatives Attack on Positive Politics
Diplomacy and Political Manner
When I was growing up there was a dignified diplomacy in Canada's parliament. It was evident in the perfectly matched suit and tie a politician wore and in their polite respect for one another within the house. There was a deep reverent awe for parliament that was not to be tainted by loud noises, disrespectful words, or discourteous actions. Alike a court of law, the making of our laws should also demand a respectful appreciation.
Parliamentarians were expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner while within the confines of the House of Commons as well as in their day to day affairs after hours.
I visited Ottawa in 1974 and recall how the rooms of the Parliament building so impressive and imposing quietly demanded the respect of those who entered there. Perhaps it was the voices of all who had spoken there in the past or the history within the aged wood of the walls and furniture, the lofty ceilings, perhaps the quiet echoing of our footsteps as we moved throughout the building but my classmates and I quietly honoured the request for respect.
Oh how the mood within our Canadian Parliament building has changed. Perhaps it drifted over from the U.S. where politics can be influenced by the money flowing into each campaign, perhaps it was Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his dropping of an F-bomb in parliament (February 1971), or perhaps it began with the rise of an angry western Reform Party and the principles they brought with them to the hill. Another theory is that the speaker is simply not doing a strict enough job. Whatever the reason it is obvious that the actions of those within the house have obviously undergone a deep erosion of courtesy for the chamber and those who work there.
Global Politics has Experienced A Dramatic Change
Have you noticed a difference?
A New Generation and a New Party
Stephen Harper had sat as a Reform Party MP for Calgary West from 1993 to 1997 and when in 2002 the Reform Party morphed into the Canadian Alliance Party it was Stephen Harper who (then representing Calgary Southwest) won the leadership of this new party.
Meanwhile on Parliament Hill the Progressive Conservative Party was having a difficult time unseating the ruling Liberal government who under Jean Chretien had won the last 3 elections. In 2003 the Conservatives agreed to unite with the Canadian Alliance Party (formerly the Reform Party) to better their chances of winning the 2006 election. Their official title now being The Conservative Party of Canada.
The Reform Party of Canada aka Canadian Alliance now had the dignity of the Conservative Party name and along with it the opportunity of increased national interest. This joining would help to move them from a western political fringe group to the appearance of a more federally friendly one. While the Progressive Conservative Party stood to gain in this union from an increased voting base with which they hoped to capture future election victories.
In 2006 the new Conservative party won a small minority government making Stephen Harper the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada. Carrying with him the elements of the original Reform Party it was quickly obvious to see religious principles and western policy playing out in his leadership. Harper would also bring into Canada a US style campaigning that would make the use of attack ads a political norm. He was ruthless in his attempts to demean his opponents.
It is important to note here that Harper had a very strong dislike for the Liberal Party as well as for Pierre Elliott Trudeau. It was an anger and vendetta he would carry with him from Alberta to Ottawa to direct onto the current Liberal party and to Pierre's son Justin. It is fair to say that Harper had a vendetta when it came to those who opposed his policy. He ruled his party and political agenda with a steely grip. As a member sitting at the opposite end of the political spectrum Harper would be a major player in the political life of Justin Trudeau.
In 2007 Justin Trudeau was chosen as the Liberal nomination for the Papineau Quebec riding. In the 2008 election he won this riding and also his seat in Canada's House of Commons as a member of the official opposition party. It was the Stephen Harper Conservatives who won a minority government that year. Justin would later go on to hold the Papineau seat again in both the 2011 and 2015 elections.
Pierre Elliott: The Senior Trudeau Legacy
Early Canadian politics were actually a pretty tame place until Trudeaumania enveloped the country. The 15th Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Elliott Trudeau brought with him a youthful exuberance in colourful contrast to an otherwise rather mundane political scene. Pierre's eligible bachelor lifestyle and high profile dates captured a great deal of attention and when he began dating Barbara Streisand in January 1970, the Canadian public were hooked.
The senior Trudeau years were distractingly personal. In September 1971 the famously whispered "fuddle duddle" by Pierre Trudeau scandalized parliament. His marriage to a much younger woman, his subsequent divorce, and his life as a single parent brought a rare peek into the private life of our political elite.
The 1980's brought with it a global recession and along with it the controversial National Energy Program in an attempt to combat the country's economic woes. On February 29, 1984 citing an improving economy Pierre Elliot Trudeau announced his retirement. His term as Liberal leader ran from April 6, 1968 to June 30th 1984. He was Canada's third longest Prime Minister of Canada having served 5 years and 164 days in the office.
It Was a Scandal When Pierre Elliott Trudeau Mouthed an Obscenity in Parliament
Justin Trudeau and the Event that Changed the Public's Perception of Him
When Justin Trudeau entered the Parliament buildings in Ottawa as an official member of the opposition he was met with an immediate adversary. Stephen Harper's disdain for the younger Trudeau was obvious and it wouldn't be long before his attacks on Justin's character would begin.
On March 31st 2012 Justin Trudeau and Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau arranged to face off in a charity boxing match. The loser would have to wear the others political colour for a week and would receive a hair cut by the winner. Trudeau was the underdog with odds placed at 3 to 1 for Brazeau. The Conservative media Sun News covered the match with Ezra Levant (Rebel media) as the commentator. The room was filled with Conservative supporters waiting to see Trudeau lose this match. They were in for a surprise when Trudeau won.
This was an event that changed Justin Trudeau's political fortune. It wasn't just that he won the match but also his strategy to a win and the diplomacy he showed both before and after. Justin Trudeau was no longer someone who's abilities were to be under estimated, he had proven himself to be a worthy opponent.
Harper's future attack ads would attempt to portray Trudeau as a trust fund kid too inexperienced and entitled to lead the country. Harper would spend his remaining years in office attempting to manipulate this image of Justin to the fore.
Justin Trudeau: The 23rd Prime Minister of Canada
Justin Trudeau became the leader of the federal Liberal party in April 2013 and in November 2015 at age 43 he won a majority government defeating the then Harper led Conservatives. Justin is officially the second youngest person to be elected to the position of Prime Minister of Canada. (Conservative Joe Clark in 1979 at age 39 years of age holds the record of youngest).
Shortly after the 2015 election result Stephen Harper resigned as leader of the opposition Conservative party. His anger in the defeat of his party and seat was evident. He continued to maintain his seat in the house for another 10 months before also resigning from that position. Rona Ambrose was appointed as the Conservative's interim party leader. It is interesting to note that Harper's style of leadership would very soon begin to play out once again in the strategic propaganda campaign of the remaining Conservative members.
So it is that our new young Prime Minister came into office promising "sunny ways". With a new positive agenda that promised to unmuzzle scientists and media, this in stark contrast to Stephen Harper's negativity riddled campaign policies. Although Harper was now out of the Canadian Parliament buildings he actively continues to support his party's agenda.
Trudeau chose to move away from Harper's heavy handed attack ads, muzzling of scientists and media to bring in a more open form of government. This though would also open the door to an increase in manipulative attacks by the Conservatives. A barrage of negative postings and memes began to flood news and social media to cover over any positive messaging emerging from the Prime Ministers office. Many of these posts were directed at ridiculing Justin Trudeau while others were a tactic to distract Canadians away from any accomplishments the Liberal government wanted to get out to the public.
Justin Trudeau vs Patrick Brazeau Charity Boxing Match
The Politics of Distraction and Diversion
The US election campaign brought with it a rise in social media propaganda never seen before. The Trump vs Hilary turned out to be one of the dirtiest elections to date unfortunately its success couldn't help but be noted by parties within Canada as well. The use of propaganda memes, trolls, and targeted harassment was soon to be massively directed onto Justin Trudeau. In 2017 Andrew Scheer took over the leadership of the Conservative Party and things really began to heat up.
Now on the social media attacks I'll remain neutral and say that these could have been conducted by mere social media members, or perhaps by white extremists groups in anger of Trudeau's intake of Syrian refugees, but the campaign could also have been the work of paid trolls and supporters of a certain political party known for their underhanded techniques. I'll let you take the position you most believe. Suffice to say that it is something akin to targeted harassment. Trudeau threads, videos, newscasts, and ads are greeted by a barrage of troll commenters. One day I discovered a person from anther country posing as a disabled Canadian posting negative Trudeau comments. When confronted he just repeated his same comment twice more so I left him to his game (I did however take the time to file a report on his behaviour).
Another tactic the Conservatives undertook was the disruption of parliament and in particular of Question Period which was their major opportunity to be heard. The conservatives logic and plan was a simple one, they wanted to make the Liberal speakers appear inept and incompetent. They wanted the House of Commons to be cloaked in negativity in direct opposition of what Justin Trudeau had promised in his commitment to sunny ways.
How were they to enact this? A simple game of distraction of course. Each time a Liberal member would rise to speak he would be drowned out by heckling, laughter, and boos. Each time a Conservative member would speak they would be given a respectful silence to voice their comments and at the end of their speech receive the acknowledgement of an ovation by their party members. An obvious ploy but one just devious enough to work in their favour. Large numbers of the public have successfully been manipulated by the confusion.
You can see this Trudeau is unprofessional vs Look how professional Scheer is played out in many scenarios from social media campaigns to Trudeau's town hall meetings being met with a steady stream of propagandist trolls. I guess my personal favourite of these games is Scheer following Trudeau around the globe in a Conservative attempt to make Andy appear dignified. Trudeau went to the UK and the next thing we know a photo of Andy in a UK phone booth shows up for a brief few moments on social media but never getting the TV time the Conservatives were hoping for. He is supposedly there to lay the framework for a free trade deal (which btw he does not have the authorization to do so naturally does not manage to get anywhere close to doing anything).
Trudeau then goes off on his now famous trip to India amid a swarm of negative Canadian press and wouldn't you know it, off goes Andy to India shortly after only to be disappointed once again that his visit doesn't get the desired press he was hoping for. The Conservatives do though manage to get the Trudeau - India story back into the news for a few days. It is all part of the propaganda game to make Andy look professional only this one fails miserably.
Interesting to note that throughout all of these antics that the ethics commissioner is also suddenly dealing with a number of complaints and possible controversies re: Justin Trudeau, Bill Morneau, and other members of the Liberal party. The feed is amazingly plucked up by the media as each complaint is filed. The complaints and media attention on these continue until out of the blue a few of these began to backfire and came back on none other than Andrew Sheer. The ethics department has been amazingly quiet since Scheer was questioned as to why he was encouraging MP Stephanie Kusie to file a complaint. Busted!
Which brings us to the media game the Conservatives play and oh what a game they do play. When a positive news story for the Liberals come out it is sure to be followed by a sensationalized negative news story that will capture the medias interest for days (much of this going back to the ethic's office complaints initiated by none other than the Conservative party members).
Watching the media stories flow one after the other it has became almost predictable and a constant source of amazement to me. I just cannot understand how the media allows themselves to be swallowed up in the propaganda game. Although not happening as frequently as it has in the past, when you are watching the nightly news keep an eye out for this ploy.
The diversion technique reminds me of Harper's "nice hair" attack ads, but I won't go there. We'll leave that one to lie beside Harper's hair spray.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Lorelei Cohen