04/20/2016 04:15 EDT | Updated 04/21/2017 05:12 EDT

Chairman Harper Was Right About Justin Trudeau

Chris Wattie / Reuters
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes a statement about the Brussels attacks, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

In the run up to the 2015 federal election, I wrote a piece that I titled, "Chairman Harper Is Right: Justin Isn't Ready." Unfortunately, the well-intentioned editors at HuffPost changed the title to: "Harper Is Right When He Says Justin Isn't Ready."

Well-intentioned perhaps, but the rename wasn't nearly as snappy. Besides, instead of me being a critic of Harper, the edited title made me sound like a Conservative toady. Horrors!

After all, Harper was wrong about everything, right?

Pretty much. But just like the proverbial stopped clock that's still right twice a day, Harper was on target about Justin's inexperience as a leader.

At the time, I saw the inexperience for a couple of reasons. The first was magnified in contrast to the outstanding job Mr. Mulcair was doing in Parliament, holding Chairman Harper's feet to the fire.

Question: Où était Monsieur Trudeau ?

Justin was busy out in the community building up support. As the Liberal base saw it: good for him.

Drumming up business, however, wasn't why he was elected to Parliament as an MP. As Trudeau was out and about, he was being a free rider on Mulcair's due diligence, exposing Harper's various misdeeds back in the House. So much for gaining experience as a parliamentarian.

Then the federal election was called.

No doubt, Canadians were onto Harper. We were going to get out the vote and a majority Conservative win wasn't going to happen. How about if they gained a Conservative minority government? The Liberals, NDP and Greens said they wouldn't support it.


In a few words, Canadians were also losing their heads and soiling their collective pants out of fear and hatred for Harper. Understandable, but a sorry basis for voting. Making matters worse, Harper-fear-and-hate were feeding the "strategic voting" meme.

As an outcome, many NDP and Green voters ignored their own political convictions and voted Liberal.

Besides being a bad idea for any political power to have unbridled power, the second concern has arisen, as predicted.

Strategic voting may, in some selective cases, be exactly what it names. Under our present electoral system, make sure a candidate with the least amount of votes in a riding doesn't win because the other candidates split the vote. Yet as an overriding basis for voting, nation wide, it's an affront to the democratic philosophy of the vote.

Case in point: If Canadians would've voted their consciences (the real, original meaning of "strategic voting"), the Liberals still would've done well. But the NDP would've done well too, and even the Green Party would've picked up a few seats.

Result? A coalition of left-leaning parties to decide Canadian public policy, one based on deliberation and consensus. (Bonus: If the Liberals and NDP would've been close to winning the same votes, the Greens could've been in the position of brokering consensus.)

In any case, as we all know, Justin Trudeau and his federal Liberals were elected with a huge majority.

Besides being a bad idea for any political power to have unbridled power, the second concern has arisen, as predicted.

The greatest worry about Justin's pre-electoral inexperience was his sympathetic talk about oil pipelines and, for those of us in B.C., Premier Christy Clark's aspirations for LNG.

True, Mr. Trudeau didn't keep his mutually exclusive views a secret. He had already made his thoughts known about how it could be done "environmentally responsibly," a notion that's in contrast to the overwhelming science on climate change.

This is the most important decision he'll make as PM, and he has botched it.

As I argued in that first article, a telling litmus test for leadership was being able to understand, first, the seriousness of climate change, and then the science, economics and facts surrounding Clark's LNG epiphany for the future. (After all, for good reason, she's known out here as the, "She-Harper, Christy Clark".)

If an aspiring candidate couldn't see that it was all a debacle of epic proportions, then he or she wasn't ready for political leadership.

After all, the issues one has to deal with, qua politician, can be just as complicated, and if it first can't be done on the matter of LNG -- and pipelines -- then it's a fail.

Admittedly, in those early days of Mr. Trudeau's leadership, I thought perhaps I'd misjudged him. A few times I was thinking about writing an apology; perhaps he truly was ready.

But now I have to write, "I told you so." Although I like being right, I wish I weren't right about Justin's maturity as a thoughtful leader. But I am. This is the most important decision he'll make as PM, and he has botched it.

It makes no rational sense for him to huff and puff about the reality of anthropogenic climate change, with great fervor and handstands in Paris, and, in the same huff and puff, talk about "responsibly" building oil pipelines, and now, giving the green light to the dirty, frack happy, Woodfibre LNG project in B.C.'s Howe Sound.

Don't like it? Once again, you'll have to wait till the next election. But next time, let's vote out of optimism for the democratic process. That's the only way real change will come to our politics.

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