The news that Marc Garneau is quitting the federal Liberal leadership race is bad news for the Grits, and good news for the Conservatives.
How’s that, you say?
Well, the bad news part is easy. Justin Trudeau’s way to an easy, resounding, first ballot coronation has been cleared with his only remotely possible challenger now stepping down. The party should just save itself a bundle, cancel the convention, and hand Justin what’s left of the Liberal crown (tin foil wrapped around a coat hanger with a Canadian flag and a fleur de lis on either side). This is bad because a party in such bad shape as the federal Liberals needs a robust, idea-filled debate. But alas, the party is opting for a Hail Mary pass, instead of grinding it out for slow and steady yardage.
Why is this good news for the Conservatives? After all, some polls have suggested that a Trudeau-led Liberal party could win an election. You’d think that the dauphin Justin would be the Tory’s greatest fear. But no! With Garneau gone and Trudeau a forgone conclusion, the Harper election machine — the only election machine in Canadian history that runs 24/7, 365 days a year, election or no election — can begin the destruction of Justin Trudeau in earnest.
Remember Stephane Dion? The Tories devised attack ads designed to destroy his image before Canadians even got to know him. Remember Michael Ignatief? Same deal: he was “just visiting”, not interested in Canada, etc. No party in Canadian history has run attack ads in a non-election year, but it worked. Dion and Ignatief were dead in the water before they even started to swim.
For the Tories, Marc Garneau as leader would have been a real challenge. The guy’s record was impeccable: educated, former military, an engineer … he was an ASTRONAUT, for God’s sake. How do you attack that?
“Marc Garneau has spent hours in space … Canada not good enough for him? “
“Marc Garneau: we need a leader with his feet on the ground, not his head in the clouds.”
See? You can’t touch that guy. At any other time, Garneau would have been an ideal Liberal candidate, immune to the slings and arrows of a Tory negative ad campaign.
But Justin? I can guarantee that within hours of Justin Trudeau taking the Liberal leadership — probably even during commercial breaks of the convention TV coverage — the Tories will begin to define Justin Trudeau. And it’s almost too easy.
NEGATIVE AD NO.1:
Ominous music plays. Begin with an extreme close-up, black-and-white photo of Pierre Trudeau, emphasizing the pockmarks, looking at his most intellectually condescending.
Narration: Remember this guy? How could we forget? He nearly drove the economy into the ground. He told westerners “why should I sell your wheat?” He brought us a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that have paralyzed our courts. Yeah, that guy.
Image of Pierre Trudeau slowly morphs into a black-and-white picture of Justin Trudeau (note: may be difficult to find an unflattering photo).
Narration: Well, he’s back. Canada can’t afford more Trudeau government. Justin Trudeau … like father, like son.
NEGATIVE AD NO. 2:
Happy music plays. The opening graphic is a colourful scene of cartoon children playing in a classroom. It’s noisy and not very orderly. Enter cartoon figure of Justin Trudeau, bobble-head style.
Narration: Justin Trudeau was a school teacher before he entered politics. Now he thinks he can lead Canada.
Switch to cartoon of angry men and women in business suits screaming at each other. Phones are ringing, papers are flying, clearly decisions have to be made.
Narration: Is teaching school kids enough preparation for leading a country, where real world decisions, with real world consequences, have to be made? We think not. Justin Trudeau: it’s elementary… he’s not ready.
NEGATIVE AD NO. 3:
Ominous music. In black-and-white and in slow motion, a clip of Justin Trudeau, speaking in French, is shown. The translation on the screen translates Justin as saying: “Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn’t work.”
Narration: Justin Trudeau says only Quebecers should be allowed to run the country.
Switch to black-and-white, close up photos of Jean Chretien and Pierre Trudeau.
Narration: Really, Justin? How did that work out for us? Justin Trudeau: new hair, old school thinking.
Poor Justin. This branding is going to be painful.