When it came to elections, Harper was, I am sorry to say, a one trick pony: attack ads. His one and only strategy, such as it was, was to denigrate his opponents. That strategy had failed spectacularly under Kim Campbell, and I had hoped we had seen the last of it with her defeat, but Harper brought it back, and worse, he won three times with it. Degrading one's opponent does not raise one up, nor is it helpful, and it dragged Canadian political discourse into the mud. At least, deeper into the mud. It may not come out.
It was ultimately a defeatable strategy. All strategies may be defeated eventually. Bill Clinton, possibly the master politician of our age, (note: that wasn't a compliment) knew this well. He often said an attack on him was merely an opportunity to turn your opponent's words around and make them eat them. Jean Chretien, our own master politician (again, not a compliment) also knew this. The liberal leaders in three previous elections somehow did not. Even back then I was writing of how easy it would be to make Harper eat his attacks, but they made no such move. But a strategy may not be used indefinitely. Sooner or later, someone will use a counter strategy. That someone turned out to be Justin Trudeau.
I have not kept it secret that Trudeau was, in my opinion, the worst of the leaders. His resume and accomplishment are sparse and mediocre. It was a common claim that if he had any other last name, he would never had been considered a potential Prime Minister. It was commonly claimed because it was true. But for his name, he is a nonentity.
His rallying cry was 'change!' and Canadians responded, without really asking the vital question of 'what change?' Change for the sake of change alone is foolish. When he runs again in five years he had best come up with another slogan: 'change' then will mean his removal. I, for one, would find it hilarious if the conservatives run under the slogan "Keep the change!"
My main complaint about Trudeau is that he has shown himself to be increasingly autocratic throughout the campaign. I am deeply concerned about how he will behave now that he has some real power. But, even in this, he is not the initiator, but merely the follower of a trend. As I have written before, we are increasingly seeing a concentration of power on the Prime Minister that is, at best, extra constitutional. Virtually all attention in this election was upon the leaders, and none on the men and women in the ridings. We are no longer being asked to vote for our representatives who will then go to Ottawa and represent us. Rather, the leaders are using the candidates to represent the parties and their leaders to us. We are voting for the leader's proxies rather than our own. This election was the worst, until the next one.
Trudeau's autocratic behaviour was on display repeatedly when he declared that all party representatives had to believe this or that, often without in any way consulting the party at all. You may say many things about that. You may agree with his position, and say his decree was right. You may disagree and say his decree was wrong. But you may not say his decree was in the spirit of democracy.
That spirit, I am afraid, is increasingly departing from Canada. Trudeau is a symptom, not a cause. A weathercock pointing the direction of the wind, and not the wind itself. One of the things I watch in parliament are the rare free votes. In years past, only the NDP voted as a block in the free votes, the leaders and their whips unwilling to give their members any free will. I used to joke that if this was the New Democracy, then no thanks. It'll stick with the old. But, under Trudeau, the Liberals also stopped voting independently at the free votes, leaving only the Conservatives. That's where we are now. With every election, we lose yet another particle of our democratic heritage, and we do it to the sound of cheers and thundering applause for the perpetrators, I mean, Prime Ministers.
All things considered, this was probably the worst possible outcome. I would have picked the other two before him, and, failing that, him as a minority government leader over majority. However, to paraphrase John Wayne on JFK, I didn't vote for him, but he's my Prime Minister and I hope he does a good job.