Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Next Liberal Debate: Chasing Justin Trudeau

Prodded by the media and his pride as Canada’s first astronaut, Liberal leadership candidate Marc Garneau has let out the word: it’s no longer hands-off Justin Trudeau, the front-runner. In tomorrow’s 9-candidate debate, he’ll insist that Trudeau “take a stand.

Instead of taking on what Trudeau has been saying, Garneau will complain that he’s failing to spell out a concrete vision. The front-runner will demur; he’ll suggest there’s still plenty of time and wonderful ideas out there to consider before the 2015 national election.

Opinion polls reported this week that Trudeau is the most popular politician in Canada, the one Liberal that could beat both Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper. Also, we’re told that he’s made a good living in Canada as an "inspirational speaker." Is this the week to suggest that his campaign messages are too thin and won’t impress voters?

Unless the polls collapse, Liberals will go with Trudeau—win or lose, it’s their nature.

Nevertheless, Garneau could make his Party and their next leadership debate more productive if he forced Trudeau to explain in more detail what he’s already been saying in outbursts.

On foreign investment, oil pipeline approvals, and Senate and electoral reform, he’s taken positions well to the right as well as to the left of Stephen Harper. As important, he has not been saying what you’d expect to hear from a visionary young liberal.  

They’re not timid statements, just questionable.

For instance, on oil pipelines, he’s exclaimed, “Come to me with the best pipeline plan and we’ll talk.”

Is he saying boss Harper isn’t going far enough? Is he saying that the next Trudeau Cabinet should have more flexibility than simply accepting or rejecting a public recommendation from the National Energy Board? Does he think Western Canada wants that kind of leadership from Ottawa? Was his statement really intended to be taken seriously?

Not to sound like an old-fashioned liberal anywhere in the known liberal world, Trudeau has come out against an elected Senate, in principle, and scoffs at Harper’s qualms about further foreign investment by state-owned enterprises.

Garneau could make interesting a discussion of contemporary liberal ideas if he’d apply his mindand known liberal traditions—to what Justin Trudeau has already been saying forthrightly.

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