The month of June is one that is going to be full of all kinds of political announcements. Being that last month that the House of Commons is scheduled to sit and with all of the parties starting to role out policy that will be a part of the Fall campaign, this month is the last, best chance to make an impact with voters before the Summer comes and people focus on other things. So it wasn’t surprising to hear yesterday that the Liberals were making such an announcement, one with a very specific audience in mind and in keeping with a long-held Liberal tradition:
I was waiting for this train to come rolling into the station and here it is, pretty much right on time. This policy is one that the European Union has already done, and also follows a move by the United Kingdom in the same direction, so while somewhat controversial for certain industries, this isn’t a totally new and out of the blue idea. But why do this now? What about proposing this idea now makes it so urgent to get out the door this week? Well, this is the train I was talking about. For decades now we’ve seen this manoeuvre from the Liberals under various different leaders; at election time, they flash left only to mostly swing back to the right once they’ve been elected. Usually that happens to try to eat the New Democrats lunch and keep them from doing better. And with this policy, which party in the House of Commons has been pushing this the hardest for over a year? Yep, the NDP:
So the NDP has been on this case for over a year, back when the EU and the UK acted, and it’s taken the Liberals this long to finally come on board, just in time to flog it on the campaign trail. It’s a tale as old as time I tell you. This is a clear signal of the left turn underway from the Liberal Party and this time around, it’s one with a greater imperative. The polls have consistently shown the Liberals slipping in them, and the Greens rising while the NDP has been stagnant. The Environment promises to be one of the biggest issues of this campaign and given their support for and purchase of the TransMountain Pipeline, those voters who are more concerned about climate change already have a big strike or two against the Liberals. So how to try to mitigate that fact? Policies like these, with an aggressive timeline to boot, one that I personally have a hard time picturing them hitting. Think about its folks, banning all single use plastics in what amounts to two years? While this is an aggressive approach, given then Liberals and their track record with aggressive platform promises, it feels like one that is bound to fail and not be met.
But that’s another problem for another day and that likelihood of its success is not the point here; this is about winning over the electorate and worrying about the rest after winning. Remember, you only have to actually keep your promises if you actually win government. This is the approach the Trudeau Liberals took in the Summer of 2015 when they were in third and heading for oblivion, and you could say that it worked for them given that they won. But at the same time, you could also easily say that one of the biggest reasons they have broken so many major campaign pledges in this term because they made promises they never thought they could keep, or at least they were never worried about how they would keep them. So if that’s going to be their approach this time, well people might put a more critical eye on those promises. You know the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you…. Fool me twice, shame on me”.
Regardless of the merits of this promise or the timing, if anything this is a sign that the Liberals see their path to re-election on a well worn and well used strategy. With this policy, we’re starting to see the flash to the left and there will be more to come to try to attract back NDP and Green voters into their fold. Will it work this time? I guess we’ll see as this all roles along but if 2019 has taught us anything so far, strategies and approaches that have worked for decades haven’t faired as well this year than they have in the past. Will these Liberals buck that trend? They’re betting their plastic forks that they will.