When it comes to campaigns and activities a candidate might do, there are certain general expectations in this day and age. And when a campaign or candidate decides to buck those expectations, it’s generally frowned upon by voters and the public in general.
Two of those expectations are speaking with the media and taking part in all-candidates debates. While there are arguments one could make for not speaking to media or ducking debates in your riding, it’s a practice that speaks poorly to the candidate and their campaign. Frankly, it looks like their ducking, trying to avoid tough questions or are afraid to defend their record of service. So it was with that in mind that these two stories coming out of Quebec yesterday really jumped out at me, not just because of the stories themselves but the parties involved:
Okay, these stories are striking in their own rights. For starters, how does one reasonably explain the idea that the outgoing Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada is ducking an interview with Radio-Canada, the french network of the CBC? It honestly makes so little sense because it can easily be argued that Radio-Canada isn’t out to get the Liberals. When you add to the fact that this request went into the Liberals three months ago, only to be told “no” now, it continues to make little sense.
Why would Mr. Trudeau go this far to avoid being interviewed by them, especially when he’s already twisted himself into a logical pretzel to justify taking part in the TVA Debate while turning down others? Quebec is a huge part of the Liberals re-election chances, which is why TVA was a must do debate that they couldn’t duck. Yet by that same logic, how isn’t Radio-Canada in the same category? By saying “no” to this interview, Trudeau is making a bigger story of not doing it than he likely would have made by showing up. That also opens the question to if Mr. Trudeau will also be ducking other Radio-Canada shows during this campaign? Will he duck “Tout le Monde en Parle” as well? Heck even Conservative Andrew Scheer is going on that this time, as it was recorded last night and airs on Sunday. But these are all questions you can now reasonably ask about Mr. Trudeau because of this odd decision.
And then add to this story the second one, from the Gaspé involving Mr. Trudeau’s outgoing National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, refusing to do five out of six all-candidates meetings in her riding. Folks, that looks bad, especially for a senior minister in the province. Add that to the fact that her riding of Gaspésie—Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine is one that’s long had a strong sovereigntist bent to it, which means a rising Bloc Quebecois could be a big challenge to her re-election. Being a federal Liberal in the Gaspé isn’t the easiest thing, so you’d think that you would be taking every chance you could to sell your record and the advantages of having a cabinet minister as your MP in a riding like this. But nope, she’s going to sit them out.
Both of these stories not only look bad on the individuals involved and strategically don’t make a tone of sense, they are really off-brand for the Liberals. Remember, Justin Trudeau and his team never missed a chance to correctly chastise the Harper Conservatives of yester year for ducking leaders’ debates, refusing to talk to the media and not showing up to all-candidates meetings. They never missed a chance to point out how that behaviour from the Conservatives was disrespectful of voters and the very basics of our democracy and how it showed their contempt for the same. They also pointed out how this showed that the Conservatives couldn’t defend their record, their actions and had to hide from the public instead. All of those things were true and correct to say, but now you can also say the exact same things about the Trudeau Liberals and be just as correct. Sunny Ways indeed.
One of the interesting undercurrents of this campaign for me has become how the Liberals are campaigning more and more like the Harper Conservatives used to, trying to run a kind of front runner campaign where they act as if they are above it all and don’t need to answer for much. That was an arrogance that hurt the Conservatives in the long run and it threatens to do the same to the Liberals. For a leader and party that promised to do politics better and to be better, this is just another example of how that was empty rhetoric that will only serve to increase people’s cynicism. Or as the old story goes, “Liberal, Tory, same old…..” yeah, you know the rest.