Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Sept. 21, 2016. (Photo: REUTERS/Chris Wattie)
"The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken in the necessity of the present." -Niccolo Machiavelli
"Sunny ways." The term crystallized Justin Trudeau's victory in 2015. His campaign was well run, and Trudeau successfully siphoned support from the right- and left-wing parties in Canada, ushering in what was supposed to be a new way of doing politics, a new way of leading and running the country.
In order to implement a kind of government palatable to the largest swath of Canadians possible, Trudeau has opted for a triangulation strategy.
Bill Clinton is credited with being the first politician to engage in triangulation, and this strategy is often referred to as Clintonian Triangulation. In fact, we are seeing Hillary Clinton follow her husband's lead in the American election, a tried and true strategy for her predecessor, Barack Obama, as well.
The best way to explain the scheme is to adopt the best ideas of any given issue from the right and left, insulating yourself from criticism from both and creating the appearance of a brand new vision.
But where Bill Clinton was successful -- creating a third pillar of politics that was distinct from the right and left in America -- Trudeau has stumbled.
Instead of creating a larger, more robust base of support , he has polarized the public by using doublespeak.
Since taking power, Trudeau's government has had some difficulties trying to be an ambidextrous government. Instead of creating a larger, more robust base of support on varying issues, he has polarized the public on several items by using doublespeak, a common misstep when trying to engage in triangulation.
Below is a list of issues where Trudeau has failed to successfully use triangulation as a viable political strategy:
His first time engaging in the strategy was when he voiced deep concern for the controversial legislation, only to then have his party vote for it. To most Canadians this was a contradiction, and Trudeau was left having to endlessly explain why he was throwing roses to both sides of the debate.
In triangulation terms, this was very sloppy. While the government could not criticize his vote, Stephen Harper nonetheless found it rather easy to criticize his intent. The NDP had an equally easy time tearing down Trudeau's scheme, and did so until and beyond Election Day.
Trudeau has been seen wearing native headdresses and almost tearing up when discussing Canada's abusive history. He has made special funding announcements meant to show Canada that he is on the side of reconciliation.
Meanwhile, he has shown little hesitation introducing pipelines to areas of the country where native support is nearly non-existent. He has also balked on funding for Indigenous children, clean water and western energy projects.
The reason why triangulation failed is because his message is contradictory, rather than complimentary.
Trudeau outflanked Tom Mulcair during the election, promising a complete overhaul of environmental policies that were gutted by the previous Harper government. His government has also supported the fracking industry, which runs counter to almost every serious environmentalist in the country.
His mantra -- balancing environmental and economic realities -- has morphed into a pro-business reality, making his attempt at a balanced approach both unstable and one-sided. Worse, his government, who used to make political hay out of Harper's modest emissions targets, has lowered the bar even further, with targets so low even Harper looks like a granola cruncher.
This was the first major initiative announced by Trudeau, and one that he actually voted against at his party's previous convention. By telling Canadians the war on pot was coming to an end, he reached all the way to the left of the political spectrum and gave the folks a fist bump.
Then, after winning the election, he delayed acting on his promise. Then he put an anti-pot ex police chief in charge of the file. Then he refused to decriminalize weed -- an act that can literally be done overnight -- and instead went against his previous position of not wanting to saddle young people with criminal records.
Out of all the major issues, and despite his contradictory statements, this triangulation effort has mostly been successful as Trudeau still has support on the left and a widening base of support on the right
Trudeau got in some hot water for being unlettered in his description of Harper's readiness to engage ISIL in Iraq. He originally called for an end to combat missions in Iraq, and has continuously rebranded Canada as a peacekeeping nation.
Today he is defending his government's Harper-like secrecy pertaining to our mission in Iraq by refusing to give details about the mission, prompting his critics and both opposition parties to question his government's transparency.
A main pillar of the Trudeau campaign was promising an end to the first=past-the-post system. He even cited Harper's measly 39 per cent popular vote count as one of the main drivers. After winning a majority government with, coincidentally, 39 per cent of the vote, Trudeau has walked back the promise.
He tried to appease the left and right by building a committee of NDpers, Conservatives and Liberals, promising to receive and consider input for all sides of the issue. Once again, Trudeau was playing nice with everyone until he began to show his appetite for reform was waning.
He even shifted the blame for the possible broken promise on the public. This might seem like a gift to the right wing on paper, but he has opened himself up to ridicule from virtually every demographic.
He has consistently stated two conflicting positions.
A natural byproduct of botched triangulation is the inability to shoot straight with the public. Throughout most of Trudeau's time as PM, instead of coveting the positive points of both the left and right, he has consistently stated two conflicting positions. His personal brand -- an affable, modern, progressive, approachable world leader -- has thus far shielded him from having to take responsibility for his various contradictions, but it has also shielded the public from specifics regarding arms exports, veterans affairs, infrastructure and a host of other important issues that call into question his government's ability to remain transparent.
If a promise is a necessity of the past, and if a broken promise is the necessity of the present, then there is no telling how will the pile of broken promises impact the elections of the future.
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