Friday, September 25, 2015

The Biggest Wedge Issue in the 2015 Canadian election campaign

When Canadians reflect on the success of the Liberal Party in gaining power in the October 19 election, many will not know how important one issue was in gaining that victory.

Nor will many Canadians know who was the mastermind behind that winning issue.

Thanks to one of the masterful journalists who write in Macleans, Martin Patriquin, they will not have to go far to find the answers. In the September 25 issue of Macleans, Patriquin outlines the background of the man behind Trudeau’s campaign for election. Gerald Butts is not only a policy wonk, but a seasoned political advisor, and also a close and longstanding friend of Justin Trudeau.

Butts gained his first big start in managing political campaigns in Ontario, writes Patriquin:

Shortly after the election, Butts sent a three-page letter to McGuinty. In it he outlined what he felt the leader had to do to win the next election. McGuinty, Butts posited, lost because he wasn’t known for anything other than being the anti-Harris guy. He suggested the would-be premier should think of three things he wanted to do as premier, then take former prime minister Lester Pearson’s lead and devote two years to planning a platform. He suggested McGuinty surround himself with the best people in the world—Butts included. McGuinty obliged, hiring the 29-year-old as his principal secretary.

The Big Wedge that Butts recommended worked for McGuinty:
Martin Patriquin

McGuinty’s big, expensive 2007 promise of a poverty-reduction strategy—which included the implementation of full-day kindergarten and an increase in Ontario’s minimum wage—served as both a rallying point for progressives and a wedge issue to differentiate the Liberal party from the provincial NDP, which, under leader Howard Hampton, had grown into a credible threat. “We put Hampton in a hell of a box in 2007. We outflanked him on the left,” Brodhead says.

Sound familiar? Ask Tom (Thomas) Mulcair.

Butts plays an important role in Trudeau’s small Kindergarten group of advisors:

Behind the scenes, Butts oversees just about everything else, including the Liberals’ campaign war room. Under his direction, the focus has sharpened on Mulcair with the latter’s rise in the polls. The party recently produced a 12-page background report on Mulcair outlining possible lines of attack on him. They included everything from Mulcair’s penchant for saying in French what he won’t say in English and vice versa, to his past refusals to give up his French passport and the 11 mortgages he has had on his home.
Butts, Chretien & Trudeau

As with the McGuinty campaign eight years ago, Butts and his team spent several months planning the all-important wedge issue to isolate the NDP. On Aug. 27, Trudeau pounced, announcing $125 billion in infrastructure spending—“the largest infrastructure investment in Canadian history,” as the Liberal campaign put it. Of course, spending oodles of money on bridges, roads and the like is nothing new, particularly during a campaign. The main difference is that the party plans on going into deficit to fund it, a marked difference from the NDP and the Conservatives.

Butts the policy wonk, along with MP Chrystia Freeland, economists Mike Moffatt and Kevin Milligan, Liberal adviser Michael McNair and former cabinet ministers John McCallum and Ralph Goodale, crafted the infrastructure strategy… Butts the political salesman co-wrote the hard sell with Trudeau and, according to Liberal sources, timed the pitch to coincide with the beginning of the school year, when more commuters would likely take note of the terrible roads under their wheels.

The rest of the article is worth reading, and really worth sharing with every political junkie you come across. It is a fine example of the highly professional quality of Macleans reporting on this election.


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