Thomas Mulcair had a bad start to the week when a high-profile Toronto NDP candidate said one of those things that actually makes some sense, but in an election campaign is immediately torqued into something terrible.
Linda McQuaig, a high-profile journalist tuned star candidate, said on a CBC election panel that some of the oil in Alberta’s oil sands “might have to stay in the ground” in order to meet Canada’s environmental targets. Possibly true, in that we might have to cut back on production to show we mean business in the climate change battle. But of course, this kind of “anti-Alberta posturing” (in the words of Wildrose leader Brian Jean) is just the kind of thing the Conservatives feast on. You just know that all Conservative candidates in Alberta will be turning that legitimate statement into ‘the NDP wants to shut down the oil sands’. You can bet that this won’t be the only time that Mulcair — striving to appeal to the great big centre where most Canadian voters live — will have to put out a fire started by a wayward candidate.
Stephen Harper, on the other hand, is unlikely to have this problem; the control freak leader doesn’t allow anyone to speak out of turn. The Conservatives also bring new meaning to the term ‘crowd control’. When Harper comes to town to speak (his imperial majesty blessed us in Edmonton with a visit), the crowd is carefully vetted. Only invited guests can show up, so there is no chance of a heckler, and no chance that Harper will actually meet a voter who might disagree with him. It’s a tactic called the bubble campaign, and Harper has elevated it into an art.
Meanwhile, Justin Trudeau wades into crowds, and the crowds seem to love it. He cradles newborns, poses for selfies, shakes the hands of the great unwashed. This can, of course, backfire. A photo emerged this week of Justin Trudeau at a pride parade in Toronto last year, posing happily with a woman who seemed to have left the house without wearing a top. The photo appeared in some publications cropped, and in others with a cartoon depiction of the woman “to preserve her identity”, which is hilarious in that anyone walking down the street topless isn’t too worried about her identity. It might not have been the best idea for Trudeau to pose with a naked woman, but it does provide a perfect illustration of the difference between Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper. Trudeau is clearly a people person, regardless of their state of dress. Harper is the kind of person who showers wearing a suit.