Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Canada's New Camelot

Justin Trudeau is the new Prime Minister of Canada - "designate" until official on November 4, 2015. He came to power on an upset, come from way behind wind for one reason - he promised to run deficits to make Canada more the Canada it once was. NDP leader Mulcair refused to permit a deficit in his campaign. By mid-September the NDP base, and soft support became quite agitated by his stand, and by September 29th the NDP's nose dive began. Mulcair was in essence out NDP'd by Trudeau, and people decided to vote for the "new NDP".

Trudeau's acceptance speech used colourful phrases like "hope", "positive change", and "sunny ways" which eerily echoed the dying days of much loved NDP leader Jack Layton. Strange days indeed. Be that as it may, Trudeau is being framed in a John F Kennedy - like light. Young, brash good looking, beautiful wife, beautiful children, even Catholic, and most of all "all things can be better in Canada". The question remains: "Can Trudeau be the JFK of Canada that the press is already framing him as?", although he is certainly laying that ground work himself. The young man who defeated the Nixon-like Prime Minister Harper.

He certainly has the personal capacity to be so. Wealthy, good looking, charming, and surrounded by a young and beautiful family. No question all those parts are there. He even has the spirit of his father over his shoulder. Pierre Trudeau remains a legendary personality in politics here - even in death (perhaps more so in death). The young man who grew up at 24 Sussex while his father Pierre made headlines at home and abroad as Canada's "happening PM", now returns to those hallowed halls where his own children will spend at least 4 if not 8-10 years growing up as he reigns over the country. The ghostly hand of Shakespeare could hardly pen a more expectant scene.

But, there remain major pitfalls for the young leader that he will have to wisely avoid in order to not meet that all to common tragic Shakespearean fate. The first is himself. It seems clear that statesmanship, or leader-like maturity, may be lacking. Flippant remarks that he will "tell Putin face-to-face " that he ought to but out of Ukraine. It's just an example of massively over playing your hand, and making yourself look foolish in the process. That type of bravado must be absolutely avoided at all costs in the future. Being a Prime Minister is serious business, not boxing in a ring.

Secondly, the people around him. Trudeau has made very public signs that he will delegate "deciding" to his ministers. Coincidentally, no doubt, the same leadership style his father championed - which is by the way our system of ministerial responsibility is meant to be conducted. He has for instance a number of military veterans in his caucus that can be Minister of Veterans Affairs. The retired General is the most high profile, and assigning him to the post would show his seriousness of addressing the veterans issues he promised to during the campaign. A serious stumble with veterans can be deathly - ask Mr. Harper.

Another potential problem for Mr. Trudeau is avoiding the hard line, ideologists in his party. One such person, who has had a high profile ride is Chrystia Freeland. A right wing, or "blue Liberal", Freeland goes way over board in her criticism of Russia - particularly in regard to Ukraine. Her vitriol borders on extremism. It is the kind of behavior that appeals to the Conservative base, but alienates and annoys average Canadians. Mr. Harper had a number of those in his caucus, and he paid for it dearly.

Finally, Trudeau has to get the cash from somewhere to pay for the promises he made during the campaign. No doubt he may look to the past and appoint Saskatchewan's Ralph Goodale to Finance Minister. That would make sense. A "Flaherty-like" character, Goodale would provide stability and comfort for the average Canadian. BUT, if the thought of increasing the GST back to 7% crosses the minds of Trudeau's brain trust - beware. At a time of recession, diminishing markets, etc, Canadians will be reluctant to take such a hike - especially in the "alienated" West. That could give rise to "another Trudeau is screwing us" and all that entails.

While Justin Trudeau aims to be the next JFK, knowingly or not, Camelot is a very hard thing to achieve and keep. JFK never had social media and 24/7 news to deal with. It was a different era in human history. Attempting to paint a modern Western country with that brush is possible, but fraught with complications. In any case, all the best to Mr. Trudeau and the Liberal Party as they attempt to return Canada back to the future, where most Canadians would like to be.  

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