Friday, June 15, 2012

Jeffrey Simpson's mistaken premises about Quebec and Justin Trudeau

Interesting article today by Simpson in the Globe & Mail. He virtually writes off the Liberal Party of Canada, seeing little hope for it in its former stronghold of Quebec, and also sees Justin Trudeau as unfit for leadership of the party.

I disagree with two basic premises in his argument, one about Quebec and the other about Trudeau. I believe Simpson is mistaken about both issues.

Simpson on Quebec

This is his take on the Quebec situation:

Since the demise of the Meech Lake accord, the largest number of francophone Quebeckers have withdrawn from governing Canada and preferred to be in opposition, first with the Bloc Québécois, now with the NDP. As they withdrew from governing Canada, by definition, they withdrew from the Liberals who were, after all, once the natural governing party of the country.

Simpson on Justin Trudeau

And this is his take on Justin Trudeau's suitability for leadership of the LPC:

There is, in the aftermath of Mr. Rae's decision, much buzz about Justin Trudeau. Buzz, however, obscures some stubborn facts.

That Mr. Trudeau has a famous name, is handsome and bilingual, and has worked hard to secure his constituency are all assets in his favour. He has also answered many constituencies' calls for a speaker, which will be remembered where he went.

But, please, Mr. Trudeau is inexperienced, associated with no policy ideas and an unproven debater. Were his name Smith or Pelletier, very few Liberals would have heard of him.

Now for my assessment of his mistaken premises.

Turning of the tide in Quebec

I see the recent vote for the NDP in Quebec as a turning of the tide, a return to participation in the governmance of Canada, rather than as a further retreat from involvement in the larger political entity.

What Stephen Harper and his new Tories have achieved with their relentless revolution to turn the clock back on Canada's acceptance of diversity, requirement of the state being used actively to assist those less well off and remove impediments to aspirations, and social democratic shift over the past 4 decades, is to trigger a Canadian version of the Arab Spring in Quebec.

Quebec has always lead the country in its willingness to use governmental power to redress unevenness in political opportunities. It is one of our most liberal political spaces, and proud of its willingness to experiment.

Harper has vowed to shut that down.

And the Bloc, by simply occupying seats in Parliament while waiting for the next wave of separatism to rise, did nothing constructive to stop Harper's counter-reformation steps.

So the voters in Quebec decided it was time to change things, by throwing out the inactive, passive and ideal-less Bloc and experimenting with the something new that Jack Layton and his NDP offered.

That's a far cry from the continuation of non-involvement. It was and still is a move to assert the liberal social values of the Quebec society, primarily in that province, but also throughout the country.

And there is hope for all non-Tories in this sea change.

It's about The Brand
The Trudeau Brand in action

Simpson also underrates the enormous power of The Brand in politics, with his skimpy assessment of the political allure of Justin Trudeau.

Think about the younger Bush. A man of limited intelligence, a mind that never displayed any willingness to inquire into things, a conceited self-entitlement; and yet a shoo-in as president because of his father's establishment of The Bush Brand.

Now compare Justin to George W. Trudeau has many more talents than that hapless Bush Junior ever had, even after his time as president of the most powerful nation in the world.

However, Trudeau shares with Bush Junior the power of The Brand.

And that Trudeau Brand as the potential to spark the most dramatic resurgence of a political party we have yet seen in the history of Canada.Just wait and see.


  1. I think you're wrong on Bush. He had nothing to do with his father's 'brand.' While his connection to his father provided him some inside opportunities that he would not otherwise had, he and his advisers created a whole new 'brand' that connected with people in a way that his father never could.

    Bush the Elder was an old patrician Yankee who projected competence without vision, a distant man of moderate politics who fit in uncomfortably in the Reaganite Republican Party.

    His son was the devout Texan every-man, who despite his origin was branded successfully as 'one of us' who 'shared our values' and 'understood how we thought'. He was in no way the patrician, Episcopalian Yankee that his father was. While his father and grandfather might have opened doors for him on the inside of the political system, it was Bush the Younger's own brand that won him votes.

  2. Calivancouver, the major point is that there was a Bush Brand. This gave instant recognition to the son, both within the Republican Party (important for running for candidate for POTUS)and for American voters. Voters would recognize the name Bush, and then listen to the Junior Bush's pitch. All the while, they would have within their minds the Bush Brand, derived from the father (a President, no less). This made the chances of Bush Junior getting his message through much greater.

    That's the advantage of a Brand: it gains notice, and gives the Brand owner a chance to make a pitch.

    And that's the advantage of the Trudeau Brand for Justin Trudeau: Canadians will listen to him if he runs for the leadership, and if he becomes leader, long enough for him to make his pitch.

    The difference is that the Trudeau Brand is a much stronger one in Canada than the Bush Senior Brand was in the USA, because of the nature of the man who gave rise to the Brand.

  3. Meh, GW Bush without the last name never becomes President... without the name he's just a failed oilman from a wealthy family. The name got him instant connections into the Republican establishment, which get's him both his springboard to the presidency (Gov. of Texas), and more then a initial passing glance from the electorate. Bush the younger never get's where he is without the Bush brand initially helping him.

    So yes, while GW Bush didn't run as an extension of his father he did parley his Brand Name Recognician into the presidency. The brand isn't the be all end all but it get's your foot in the door, where you go once that foot is in there is all on you.

  4. George Bush Jr. was also a successful Governor of Texas. What has Justin Trudeau accomplished?
    I like to have an alternative to vote for and am really hoping the Liberals will be that alternative to the Conservatives in the future. But I don't see it with JT.

  5. Dan. What did Harper accomplish...before he became what he is now. Just asking. Mail room boy. What were his accomplishments please tell.


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