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A Canadian Electoral Primer

Justin Trudeau, who is almost certain to be chosen as the next leader of the truncated Liberal Party (which regards itself as Canada’s “natural governing party” but is currently idling at 35 seats), enjoys: a resonant family name (his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was Canada’s most flamboyant and intellectually credentialed prime minister, though his tenure was among the most troubled); good looks, curly locks (recently trimmed to make him appear “serious”) and a svelte demeanor (SUN TV host Ezra Levant refers to him as “shiny pony”); what columnist John Ivison, who followed Trudeau on a speaking tour of New Brunswick, calls, in an article titled Passion over reason, “crowd-pulling power like no one else in Canadian politics”; and a regrettably low-wattage Canadian electorate that has endorsed him with hefty margins in several national popularity polls -- a result of the so-called “Trudeau effect.” We might also call it the “Obama effect”: Trudeau is for a majority of Canadians the local version of the American president, youngish, glamorous and demonstrably of the left. (According to surveys, 68% of my countrymen would vote for Obama if he were contesting a Canadian election.)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper enjoys: a substantial Western-Canada constituency, primarily in oil-rich Alberta that subsidizes have-not provinces, including Quebec, via federal equalization or transfer payments; a measured and sober public persona (despite leftist attempts to demonize him as a power-hungry, Machiavellian despot); and a steady and pragmatic hand at the economic tiller, steering the country safely through the turbulent fiscal waters of the last years. (Only two other Western democracies have succeeded in effectively weathering the downturn, Norway, which has the asset of vast North Sea oil reserves, and Israel, a miracle country graced by entrepreneurial, technological and banking savvy.) It is as if Harper had studied the calamitous policies of Barack Obama and quietly determined in many instances to do the opposite, which has stabilized the country and strengthened its currency.

Each leader, however, has his share of weaknesses, failings and blind spots, some conspicuous, others not always recognized by the public.

Mulcair’s NDP would be if elected a national disaster of Ameripean proportions. Its governing program would see to increased spending, bloated welfare entitlements, higher deficits, higher taxes, reduced economic growth and therefore fewer jobs. As under its former leader, Mulcair’s party caters to a rabid pro-abortion feminist movement and welcomes votes from dodgy Muslim groups that detect a nurturing environment within its ranks. Mulcair also gravely miscalculated in appealing to Quebec’s nationalist base, which has predictably alienated many loyal Canadians in other parts of Canada as well as in minority-Anglo Quebec. In order to keep his Quebec caucus intact, Mulcair declared that a 50% plus one referendum margin of victory would be enough to allow Quebec to secede, in defiance of the Clarity Act which is far more stringent, stipulating an unambiguous question and a clear majority. At the same time he has trashed the oil-sands in Alberta and the oil pipeline project, affirming his preference for costly and grossly inefficient green energy installations, a policy that would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, both directly in the industry and indirectly in its various spin-offs and secondary economic benefits. Thomas Mulcair has several ideas -- all of them bad. He is a political opportunist and social meliorist entirely devoid of practical judgment.

As for Liberal heir presumptive Justin Trudeau, he possesses absolutely no experience in governing. Intellectually vacuous, his only accomplishments to date include a spell as a public school drama teacher, a victory in a charity boxing match and grandstanding as a traveling MP, earning mega-bucks in speaker’s fees. Like Mulcair, he has massaged Quebec’s separatist movement, opining that he could under certain circumstances sympathize with its aims (a sentiment later retracted under pressure), and trawls for Muslim votes, having eagerly addressed a decidedly dubious Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference, one of its original sponsors a multi-million dollar donor to Hamas. Trudeau also has a distressing habit of alluding to himself by his proper name, a royal attribution unbefitting a democratic politician. Justin Trudeau has no ideas -- he is the perfect cipher who blows with the winds of political fashion. He will do his party’s bidding and put a lacquered gloss on a haggard platform.