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Matt Price

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How to Lose it Like Trudeau

Posted: 12/19/11 03:32 PM ET

Wow. The success of my last post tells us something: if you are one of those people in the basement shouting at the TV news, you are not alone. I guess a lot of Canadians really are ready to be outraged by the outrageous. It's about time. Standing there getting hit in the face while saying "sorry" was starting to get old.

That's the good news -- we are legion.

The bad news? We are rudderless.

Back to the good news -- we can fix that.

But how? I've now been asked by many, "What can I do?" and have started to feel responsible for helping to articulate how we go beyond anger and towards action. I started to write a follow up piece along the lines of, "Five Things You Can Do to Save Canada."

It sucked.

Part of sucking is that in trying to avoid being arrogant ("THIS is what we need to do"), you end up laying out a shopping list of potential actions that just doesn't ring true. The fact is, while each Canadian does need to step up his or her personal contribution, we also need inspired leadership to stitch this effort together, or it won't have an impact.

So at this point I'm instead going to try to answer the question halfway. We need a bit more truth-telling to shape the activity that many of us are eager to jump into. We need to figure out what stands the best chance of working.

Here are three things, which are hard to say, but which we must grapple with if we are to do things that matter as opposed to spinning our wheels:

1) The government in Ottawa doesn't care what you think. You can write all the letters and make all the phone calls you want, but to a government who believes that anyone who disagrees with them are enemies to be destroyed as opposed to citizens with views to be engaged, it won't make any difference. The only thing they really care about is any credible threat to them losing power. And this means the only people they really cater to are swing voters in swing ridings -- people who can see themselves possibly voting Conservative, although not necessarily those who live in ridings that may go Conservative.

2) The Opposition is letting Harper have his way. If there was one sign that should be hanging on the walls of NDP, Liberal, and Green headquarters, it's this: "It's the Math, Stupid!" Harper was elected with 40 per cent of the vote, and 25 per cent of the eligible vote. Chretien governed because the right was divided, and Harper figured this out and fixed it. Pundits will roll out 27 reasons why the Opposition cannot or should not unite, but until it happens, the Conservatives will govern. Period. The only politicians publicly in touch with reality on this point -- so far -- are Pat Martin (no stranger to colourful language himself), and Nathan Cullen, who is running for the leadership of the NDP. Until more progressive politicians embrace the math, there is no credible threat to Harper.

3) Most of us are sheep. Sure I'm angry at the latest ideological insult from Ottawa, but what am I actually going to do about it in the morning? And are my neighbours even paying attention to anything out of Ottawa in the first place, other than whether the Sens beat the Leafs yesterday? I also don't want to be a downer at the Christmas party by rattling on about how Canada is going to crap, so I stick to talking about the weather, avoiding of course that weird weather conversation so as to stay on polite ground.

That's a pretty daunting trifecta of truth, one that could send someone back into their basement to shout at the television all alone, but I think once we grapple with it properly, it can be empowering. It's definitely necessary.

In short, we need to get together and organize smart, and in the right places. We need to be true friends to our friends in progressive political parties and tell them they need to get over their egos and get together. And, for those of us willing to step outside our comfort zone and shed our sheep's clothing, we must do so, while also charting a path for those who don't to instead flock together with us.

More on this in the New Year. For now, one final thought: If you'd like something more specific to sink your teeth into right now, and if you want to give a friend a gift of Canada this holiday season, then please check out and consider donating to a new organization that is relevant to this conversation, LeadNow.

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  • Careless Whisper

    However you look at Canada's 15th prime minister, it's hard not to see Pierre Elliott Trudeau as a politician cut from a very different cloth. While much of his globe-trotting, playboy image was doubtless driven by the media -- Trudeau was actually a workaholic and sleepless intellectual -- the man certainly had his moments. Luckily, the news wasn't delivered quite so relentlessly in 1971 as it is these days - or Trudeau wouldn't have heard the end of it when he told an opposition member to <a href="http://quotes4all.net/pierre elliott trudeau.html">"F-- Off".</a> Well, actually he mouthed it. And although the TV tape clearly captured his salty salute, Trudeau was allowed to tell reporters he had actually said 'Fuddle Duddle'. And that was that.

  • That's Pat F--ing Martin, To You

    Outspoken doesn't seem to quite cut it when describing NDP MP Pat Martin. The man speaks out a lot. And every now and then, he brings the thunder. Like last November, when he treated his 1,400 Twitter followers to a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/11/17/pat-martin-twitter-swearing_n_1099126.html">smorgasbord of swearage.</a> "This is a f---ing disgrace... closure again. And on the Budget! There's not a democracy in the world that would tolerate this jackboot s---." And the cherry on top? Telling one of his followers, "F-- you."

  • What About Bob?

    Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae took a page from Pat Martin's profanity playbook on Wednesday -- <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/12/14/bob-rae-twitter-bs-young-liberals_n_1149155.html?1323898891">and took it to Twitter.</a> A tweet about a feud between liberals Zach Paikin and Max Naylor may have caught him before breakfast. "What bullshit is this?" he tweeted back. Sure, the word likely ceased offending most people decades ago. In fact, we don't even bother covering most of the letters with asterisks. But hey, it does incorporate the s-word - which we still cover with asterisks.

  • No Fuddle Duddling Around

    Unlike his father, Justin Trudeau didn't merely mouth the words. In fact, he let them ring out from the rafters at the House of Commons on December 14. 'You piece of sh---' The recipient? Environment Minister Peter Kent. You know, Canada's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/elizabeth-may/canada-kyoto-protocol-withdrawal_b_1145648.html">public face of Kyoto withdrawal.</a> Also unlike his father, young Trudeau probably knew the Fuddle Duddle Defence wouldn't cut it. So within minutes of uttering the words, he owned up to them. "I lost my temper and used language that was most decidedly unparliamentary and for that I unreservedly apologize and withdraw my remark," Trudeau said at the end of question period.

  • 15-Year-Old 'Jack Ass'

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/01/10/tony-clement-jackass-twitter_n_1196261.html">Treasury Board President Tony Clement was forced to apologize after calling 15-year-old Keith Pettinger a "Jack ass"</a> in a private Twitter message. Clement sent the message after the teen criticized the spelling in one of the minister's tweets.