The governing Conservative Party of Canada has launched its latest attack ads against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and there has been a slight shift in strategy. They have decided to employ a two-tier advertising strategy.
The first tier is to have taxpayers pay to advertise the Conservative election platform and the second is to attack Justin Trudeau as usual, although in a kinder, gentler way. The new Conservative attack ad is – embarrassingly – a retread of an NDP ad from 2011. The staging is identical, the script almost the same only the NDP weren’t talking about Justin Trudeau.
Like one trick ponies, the Conservatives have used the same basic approach against the Liberals in election after election and the polls are indicating that it has begun to wear a little thin. They’re like the guy who has worked for twenty years doing the same thing he did the first year he worked. He thinks he twenty years experience but in fact, he has only one year’s experience repeated nineteen times.
But I digress.
The gist of the Conservative message, as it always is when it’s Conservatives and not taxpayers who are paying for the ad; Justin Trudeau doesn’t have the experience to be Prime Minister.
That may well be true but when it comes to politics, it seems to me that experience may not be all that cracked up to be. There have been more than a few experienced political leaders who did a complete cock up once they were elected.
Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne (along with her predecessor Dalton McGuinty) had considerable experience before being elected premier. She was a long-serving MPP who had been a Cabinet Minister under Dalton McGuinty. That experience doesn’t seem to be working out too well for the folks that elected her. Hydro rates continue to climb faster than a squirrel chased up a tree, there is considerable labour unrest in the elementary and secondary school system both, record debt levels, the economy is being threatened as company after company pulls up stakes and leaves and both she and her government are the subject of no less than two police investigations.
One shudders to think how much worse it could be if Premier Wynne had even more experience before coming to office.
Then there’s former Conservative Premier Jim Prentice. The golden boy of conservative politics parachuted in from his high-flying job as a senior VP with a chartered bank which he took after resigning his seat and cabinet position with the federal Harper government. Mr. Prentice brought just ever-so-much experience to his office but it was too no avail. He was in and out of office almost faster than former Conservative Prime Minister Kim Campbell who I believe still holds the record for the shortest serving Prime Minister.
Ms. Campbell, it should be pointed out, had significant levels of experience prior to being elected to lead the Conservatives. It didn’t serve her – or us – very well. A former federal Cabinet Minister, she was Prime Minister for less time than it takes me to find my glasses in the morning.
Former Quebec Premier, Pauline Marois, had led the Parti Quebecois for years and had ample experience in politics. She is also quite affluent which indicates some level of personal experience. She lasted about a year before the unforced errors and stupidity caught up to her and – boom boom – out the door she went.
The list of failures who brought a considerable amount of experience to the job is quite long when you take the time to look at it.
So, think about it for a moment. What did Wynne, Prentice, Marois or Campbell actually accomplish with all of their pre-election experience? If you answered not much, give yourself a star.
Contrast that with the current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, whose only experience before going into politics was working in the mail room and briefly in the accounting department of an oil company. He became a political strategist, ran for office provincially and lost, ran federally and won and then united the conservative factions into one party and eventually, led that party to a majority government.
Love him or hate him, there is no denying that he was able to overcome his lack of real-life experience in fairly spectacular fashion.
BC Premier Kristie Clark is another one who had little political experience before coming to office. She used to be a radio talk show host but since becoming premier, despite a couple of slip ups here and there, has done a reasonably good job of governing British Columbia.
Nelson Mandela spent most of his adult life in prison and yet when he was released and became President of South Africa, he piloted that troubled nation through the difficult transition from Apartheid. Now South Africa is being governed by far more experienced politicians and that country is undergoing serious social and economic distress.
Ronald Regan had no political experience when he was first elected Governor of California and nothing in his acting career prepared him for the responsibilities of high office. And yet, he was a successful governor that went on to become the President of the United States.
Barack Obama, by contrast, is a lawyer by profession and had been a United States Senator before being elected to the presidency. That experience did not guarantee a solid performance by any system of measurement. For their parts, Congress and the United States Senate are almost dysfunctional despite being full of folks with years of experience.
And that’s the point.
Political experience isn’t the be all and end all. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but the real issues are – and should be – character and ability. I’ll take an inexperienced leader with principles, integrity and no small amount of natural ability over one that has a great resume but who lacks the values and capability a nation needs from its leaders.
The late Jim Flaherty, the Harper government’s former Finance Minister, brought experience, ability and character to his job but political leaders like him are few and far between unfortunately. Unlike many these days, he knew the difference between lusting for power and public service. He chose the latter.
There have been others like him but mostly we tend to get people who are experienced at playing the game, people who know how to manipulate, obfuscate, deceive and double talk their way to electoral victory but who have no real ability or principle beyond the ability to get elected.
They remind me of dogs chasing a car. Once they’ve caught it – they’ haven’t got a clue what to do next.
That brings us back to the point of the latest Conservative attack ad. Is Justin Trudeau ready to be Prime Minister? Who knows? Some people grow into the job – some don’t. I do know this, however, like many Canadians I’m tired of the constant Conservative harangue about Trudeau’s lack of experience. If the truth be known, Trudeau actually has more experience than Stephen Harper had when he was first elected.
That doesn’t mean anything, of course, because ability and character will trump experience every day of the week and my issues with Justin Trudeau have more to do with his ability than his level of experience.
Besides, how do you define what is or is not the necessary experience for politics? Defense Minister Jason Kenney has no military experience, for example, but he is masterminding Canada’s war effort in the Middle East.
To be perfectly frank, I’m weary of the strategic attempts of political parties to try to paint their opponents for being pretty much what they themselves are. Everybody starts out with an equal lack of experience – it’s ability and character that are distributed less equally. What we need in this country are leaders who don’t treat taxpayers with contempt by undermining our democratic systems and values with their cheap and tawdry games. We need leaders with ability beyond that of fund raising for their parties and scoring cheap political points in debates and sleazy advertising.
A little vision and competency would go a long way in compensating for a lack of experience.
I’m also tired of hearing what the Conservatives think about Justin Trudeau. Enough already. We heard you the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth time and most of us have drawn our own conclusions. Some of us even agree with you. Christ in Heaven, are you really that afraid of him that you have to go on and on and on about him? Give it a rest and tell us something important.
How about you stop wasting our time with annoying ads that, based on the polls, don’t appear to have accomplished much to improve your popularity and start advertising what you intend to do for the next four years if you’re re-elected. I’m not talking about the current fluff ads telling us how great you are for which taxpayers are paying. I’m talking about coughing up your own dough to tell us what mandate you’re seeking.
(You are applying for a job after all. Good Lord, imagine going for a job interview and spending your entire time bad mouthing the other applicants.)
Beyond the illusion of tax reduction, what are you planning to do? How are you going to meet your new greenhouse gas emission targets after having failed to meet the ones you previously set? How do you intend to protect the civil liberties of Canadians once Bill C-51 becomes law? How are you going to fix Canada’s crumbling infrastructure, get pipelines built, take better care of our vets, properly equip our military, reform the Senate and work with the provinces to improve our failing health care system?
How are you going to address all those things you promised last time but have failed to deliver?
I think most of us would rather see advertising that addresses those issues rather than the adolescent nonsense about Justin bloody Trudeau. It seems to me that expecting to get elected because you want everyone to believe that Justin Trudeau has no experience, isn’t much upon which to hang your hat – or your electoral expectations.
Give us a reason to vote for you rather than continuously hammering us with a reason why you don’t think we should vote for someone else. We’re not bloody idiots – we can figure this stuff out for ourselves once we have all the information.
If you want the job – quit talking about Justin Trudeau’s experience and tell us why your experience will benefit Canadians. We’re quite capable of figuring Mr. Trudeau out for ourselves thank you very much.
(And while you’re at it, hire an ad agency and a Communications Director with some imagination. Plagiarizing the NDP seems a bit desperate,)
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