Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is Justin Trudeau caught in the Power Trap, like Thomas Mulcair?

Hat tip to Kinsella for alerting us to the latest book (Power Trap etc.) by Professor Paul Adams of Carleton U.

Adams worked on CBC’s The National as well as CBC Radio and for the Globe & Mail. Before that he worked for EKOS Research, managing political polling conducted for the Toronto Star and CBC.

The Power Trap:

Barbara Yaffee describes Adams’ latest book this way:
Paul Adams, author of The Power Trap

A new book that advocates a Liberal-NDP merger blames partisan pettiness and personal rivalries for the two parties’ refusal to play footsie.

“New Democrats and Liberals are caught in a power trap in which they seek to reach government, not by defeating the Conservatives, but by destroying their progressive rival,” writes Paul Adams, an associate professor of journalism at Ottawa’s Carleton University.

In Power Trap: How Fear and Loathing Between the Liberals and NDP Keep Harper in Power, he predicts the two parties will keep duelling for at least another three elections before one or the other establishes supremacy.

In other words, opposition stubbornness will enable Stephen Harper to join the five-member club of Canadian prime ministers who’ve each ruled for a decade or more.
Justin Trudeau and the Power Trap:

Justin Trudeau has mused that as the next election approaches, if it becomes apparent (presumably through polling) that neither the NDP nor the Liberal Party will gain a majority of seats in Parliament, resulting in the re-election of the Harper new Tories, there will be moves by both parties to seriously consider some kind of cooperation to remove the Harper Conservatives from power.

He has not commented in detail on what this means for candidates for leadership of the LPC.

Nor has he gone into detail as to the types of cooperation which might be on the table as the election approaches.

A valid question that the media could put to Trudeau is whether he, too, is caught in the Power Trap that Adams writes about. Nathan Cullen, during his run for leadership of the NDP, realized the dreadful consequences of Power Trap thinking by the NDP and LPC, and advocated The Cullen Plan of pre-election cooperation to increase the number of non-Tory MPs.

Lessons from Obama?

As Yaffee mentions, Adams believes the NDP and LPC could learn from the Obama Democrats:

If the three parties were to undertake a campaign of outreach, using social media as Barack Obama did in his 2008 “Yes We Can” presidential campaign, young people who previously haven’t voted could help put a merged Opposition force over the top in a vote expected in 2015.

While it’s true some right-leaning Liberals likely go over to the Conservatives in such a scenario, “blue Liberals” probably already have left the party, Adams writes.

At the moment, however, so-called progressives have “no agreed-upon platform or unifying vision, no leader who can claim undisputed primacy in the fight to dislodge the Conservatives.”
Size of the Progressive Camp in Canada:

Adams mentioned in an earlier article that there are relatively more progressives in Canada than in the USA:

I do think that, as the polls strongly suggest, a clear majority of Canadians believe that the Harper government’s path of lower corporate taxes, less generous support for the unemployed and for health care, a more unequal society, and indifference to the dangers of climate change is the wrong one.

This progressive majority is much clearer and stronger in Canada than it is in the United States, which is much more evenly divided on these central issues.

Unfortunately for them, at the next election they will have three parties (or four if you count the Bloc Québécois) competing for their votes. And the conservative minority of Canadians who do support the policies of the current government may well be handed victory once again.
The Boomer Trap:

Adams also rues the decision of the NDP and LPC to chase Boomers and neglect the significant number of non-voting younger voters:

The problem is that large numbers of Canadians have become disengaged. The political media are as much the victims of that phenomenon as they are a contributing cause.

Political disengagement is essentially a generational phenomenon, with young people having lost interest in both politics and the news. But this is not principally a media story.

When Pierre Trudeau was elected prime minister, the median age in Canada was mid-twenties; today it is early forties and rising. The median voter, of course, is considerably older than that. Just as Willie Sutton robbed banks because that’s where the money was, politicians have chased the Baby Boom generation because that’s where the votes are.

As a consequence, we have a politics that has failed over two decades to do much meaningful about the climate change that will fundamentally compromise the lives of today’s young. When politicians talk about post-secondary education, it is all about helping Baby Boomers save to support their kids, and very little about helping those kids avoid student debt, or helping them to pay it off in an increasingly uncertain job market.
Back to Justin Trudeau:

And that brings us back to Justin Trudeau, the ‘next-generation’ contender for Liberal Party leadership.

Is he, too, trapped in the Power Trap?

And will he too, simply focus on the older voters ‘because they are the ones who turn out to vote’, instead of doing what Paul Adams advocates, and also targeting the non-voting younger generations by reaching out to them and giving them reasons for voting?


  1. Seems to me that Warren (Kinsella) himself should read the book and take it to heart. LOL

    Was it but a few weeks ago that he was castigating Mulcair for daring to bring up the Dutch disease and its effect on provinces like Ontario. This was all the more significant when one realised that McG himself, whose campaign Warren had worked on, had expressed views that were similar to Mulcair's. I do not think that he had to agree with all of McG's views, but the Ontario economy would seem to be too important an issue to be not on the same page as McG.

    Unless, of course, he (Warren) supports the Libs provincially but the Harper party federally, as a Blue Liberal might be expected to do (I confess I do not have any idea if he is one though).

    You, Cat, I think had been advocating for the opposition parties, and especially the Libs and Dippers, to work together so no inconsistency there. LOL

    Hopefully, whoever is the new leader of the Libs, and Mulcair, will be smart enought not to fall into the power trap, eh?

  2. Anon, Kinsella is not helping things with his visceral reaction to the issue of pre-election and post-election with Mulcair's NDP. Nor is Mulcair doing Canada any favours by refusing to talk about what steps should be taken to replace the neocon Harper Conservative government, even though 60% of Canadians voted against the right wingers, and roughly the same percentage of Dippers want some form of cooperation to replace Harper.

    What we need now is a serious attempt to open the dialogue about cooperation, and anything that harms this is bad, and anything that aids it is good.

    Of course, the media should ensure that every candidate for leader of the LPC answer, in writing, very precise questions about the role - before and after an election - of the various alternatives open to the opposition: merger; coalition; cooperation; electoral ceasefire.


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