Recently, prior to a highly contested by-election in Calgary-Centre, two prominent Liberal MPs effectively shot the party in the foot. Both David McGuinty (MP for Ottawa South) and Justin Trudeau (MP for Papineau and presumptive favourite in the ongoing Liberal leadership campaign) had to address comments that they made, which were perceived as being ‘anti-Alberta’.
At a time when the financial power of the Canadian federation is moving westward, these comments hurt a party that has long been thought to hold a bias towards Central Canada.
Recognizing the importance of Albertans for the future success of the Liberal Party, both men responded fast. McGuinty was forced to apologize and resign from his role as energy critic, while Trudeau made a quick apology and clarification of his remarks. Either way, though, the governing Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) has yet to let them off of their respective hooks.
The Harper Government is now pressing to have both McGuinty and Trudeau appear before the House Natural Resources Committee to explain their remarks. While this may or may not come to pass, it appears that the CPC may be running scared.
Justin Trudeau’s presence in the Liberal leadership campaign seems to have lifted the party’s fortunes, as some polls show a Trudeau-led Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) competing to win the next federal election. Having finally secured his sought after majority, Prime Minister Harper seemed to have lifted his foot off of the pedal that had been firmly in campaign mode during his time in 24 Sussex Drive.
Now, with a seemingly resurgent Liberal Party, Harper and the Conservatives seem to be back into campaign mode.
PM Harper’s previous Liberal opponents were deluged by a storm of hard-nosed advertisements. Both Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff were battered by aggressive advertisements from the Conservative Party. Comparatively, the New Democrat Party (NDP) Leader of the current Official Opposition, Tom Mulcair, has had to deal with relatively tame attacks as the Harper Government seemed to turn their attention to, well, governing.
The Government’s attempts to bring the two Liberal MPs to task seem to demonstrate two things: 1) Harper’s resolve to break the Liberal Party remains intact, and, 2) the CPC might be taking Trudeau’s, and the LPC’s, bump in the polls seriously. The Harper Government seems to be going to great pains to cast the LPC as anti-Alberta and, in doing so, has opened itself up to criticisms over past anti-Canadian statements. This stands in stark contrast to the soft-glove approach that the NDP received after moving into Stornoway.
The CPC may be doing themselves a disservice by opening up their own members to criticism and apparently discounting the Official Opposition NDP. What is apparent though, is that the Harper Government will go to great pains to paint the Liberals and Trudeau as anti-Alberta in order to sow longstanding beliefs about the party.
All things considered, if Trudeau continues to do well in the Liberal leadership campaign and in the voting preferences of Canadians, it looks like the Harper Government might move back into perpetual campaign mode in order to take as much wind out of his and the party’s sails as possible.
That, unfortunately, may lead to poor policy decisions that will hurt the governance of Canada and the Canadian public’s interests.