Justin Trudeau is out-Harpering Harper

Out-Harpering Harper

To paraphrase a recent Washington Post article, during his nine years in power Stephen Harper avoided topics he did not wish to talk about whenever possible. Burnaby Now reported that the former Conservative Prime Minister projected a friendly, approachable image at his rallies, “except for that part where we’re not allowed to get anywhere near him or ask questions. I can’t help but think how every little detail is deliberate. Nothing is left to chance.” The National Post adds, “To this day, Liberal henchpersons are happy to excoriate Harper for having tried to ‘game the system’ and avoid scrutiny” – but in this election Trudeau is clearly out-Harpering Harper. 

Powell River – North Island Conservatives

I experienced the local Conservative candidate’s reluctance to talk to the press during 2015. A couple of weeks after my initial request for an interview, someone phoned back to ask about my questions. After learning that pipelines were on the list, the Conservatives decided to pass. 

Four years later, I sent the Conservative candidate Shelly Downey’s campaign office requests for an interview on August 26, 27 and September 4. On September 11, I asked for a written quote regarding reports of an upsurge of support for centralist parties – especially the Conservatives – in the most recent Vancouver Island polling projections. I have yet to receive any replies from her office.  

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who Trudeau calls Harper with a smile. – Photos Andre Forget via Flickr (public domain)

Powell River – North Island Liberals 

By way of contrast, Liberal candidate Peter Schwarzhoff immediately responded to my request for an interview, “Yes Roy, I would, but I think we should wait until the Party releases the platform. Does that work for you?”

Of course it does. (We had an interesting discussion when Schwarzhoff ran during the last election.)

The Green Party & NDP

Meanwhile, I interviewed both Green party candidate Mark de Bruijn and NDP candidate Rachel Blaney. As most listeners find short 2-3 minute clippings more palatable than sitting through hour long interviews, I decided to also release daily shorts on specific topics on Cortes Radio. 

 To Make Information More Accessible

During the 2015 election, the National Observer reported that “while the leaders of the NDP, Liberals and Greens generally take questions from all comers at their events, including from audiences, this is not so at the well-financed Conservative campaign stops.”

When he was seeking office, Trudeau promised, ”We will make information more accessible by requiring transparency to be a fundamental principle across the federal government.”

This was not to be. By 2017, News Media Canada was reporting that the Liberal Government’s disclosure of information “was even worse than in the latter years of the former Stephen Harper government.”

Out-Harpering Harper

Last night, Trudeau clearly out-Harpered Harper. The former Conservative Prime Minister had slugged his way through the nation’s customary round of leadership debates. Rather than endure potential embarrassment at the Macleans Leadership Debate, Trudeau scheduled a campaign event in Edmonton. An empty chair represented our Prime Minister.

This prompted Elizabeth May to say, “In 2015, Justin Trudeau said more debates were healthier for democracy. Why isn’t he showing up tonight?”

Conservative candidate Andrew Scheer told CityNews, “It’s someone who is afraid of his record and if I were him, I would be too.”

“This is not the new politics Mr. Trudeau promised. It’s hard to know which questions Mr. Trudeau didn’t want to be accountable to. Why did you buy a pipeline? Why did you give the Weston family $12 million for fridges, but yet can’t find the money for a Pharmacare program? Why do you care more about helping your wealthy friends than hard-working families? I’m not surprised he doesn’t want to answer these questions because he wouldn’t answer me when I asked him in Parliament. But he should answer to Canadians,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in a statement.  

Seat projections from 338Canada  – Chart by Roy L Hales

Upcoming Debates

The Prime Minister also opted out of the Munk Debate on foreign policy scheduled for October 1, 2019. “This will make him look bad enough, but almost certainly not as bad as Trudeau would make himself look in the attempt to defend his foreign policy record, let alone articulate his plans ahead,” writes Terry Galvin of the National Post. Event organizers indicated they will set out an empty chair where the Prime Minister would have been. 

Trudeau is not as dismissive of Quebec, where he may find much of the support he needs. On October 2, he will join leaders of the Conservative, NDP and Bloc Québécois parties for the French-language debate hosted by TVA in Quebec. (The Green Party is not invited.) He will also join the other leaders for the Federal Leader’s Debate on Oct. 7 (English) and Oct. 10 (French).

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