Ghosts from the past
Keith Davey, Pierre Trudeau’s campaign manager, also known as “The Rainmaker,” used to say that every election required a move to the “radical middle.” By that he meant a political party shifted to the left to capture votes but then turned back to the right to govern. That radical middle was where Erin O’Toole was headed until he got rudely interrupted by reality. A week ago, according to the Nanos poll, he was a “political freight train” in the lead ahead of Justin Trudeau. Now, O’Toole is beginning to look more like a train wreck.
After all, can a Conservative leader really come out in favour of everything from prohibiting puppy mills to propping up pipelines? A few days ago O’Toole was hoist with his own platform. To keep the social Conservatives happy he’d promised to let them keep their semi-automatic guns but then said he wouldn’t and then said he would. At least I think that’s what happened. The end result was that Trudeau finally had O’Toole in his sights as someone he could say lies, changes his positions, and is a captive of the gun lobby. Depending on the leaders’ performance in this week’s debates, O’Toole could be yesterday’s man.
Another feature of this campaign that is far more troubling are the irate crowds that gather around Trudeau. They shout expletives, give him the finger, and at one appearance threw what the media called “rocks” but looked more like bits of gravel. Many leaders come under verbal abuse but what Trudeau is facing is worse than most. It’s also reminiscent of the occasion when Pierre Trudeau withstood bottles thrown at him as he watched the Saint-Jean-Baptiste parade during the election of 1968. The outcome in that case was voter sympathy and support. Maybe Justin will enjoy a similar positive response from the public, but maybe not. Yes, he is his father’s son, but he does not possess anywhere near the same gravitas. In the voters’ minds, both Trudeau and O’Toole now come with yawning flaws.