Diefenbaker and Trudeau, Part II

We're almost through coming back together. As I write this, I'm close to importing Erin's old MT entries into her new blog, and then it's on to Matt and Meg. Thanks, all, for your patience with me.

Frustratingly, this changeover means that the file numbering system that the old site used is now obsolete. Any links to pages within my website now pull up the wrong page, or don't pull up at all (which is especially frustrating for my multi-part posts like my critique of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials or my posts on the Canadian Senate). These can be fixed, but only through long and careful trawls through the site. So, if anybody finds an internal link that's pointing to the wrong place, please notify me, either by e-mail or in the comments, and I'll get it fixed.


There have been a lot of late nights this week thanks to this website and other things. Last night was more fun, however. Together, the folks at Alternatives Journal headed down to the EcoBunk Awards. After a meal at an excellent Thai restaurant (Bangkok Thai on Spadina Avenue, a block south of College), we walked over to a club and had a fun night of people ridiculing the worst of the new "green conscience" ads that some companies have been putting out of late -- and ridiculing it very well. My personal favourite has to be, in the "It's true if I keep saying it out loud" category, a print ad showing a girl holding a piglet and the headline "Hog Producers Make Excellent Neighbours". The presenter didn't need to say much in order to get us to laugh at that one.


diefenbaker.gifPaul Martin

Anyway, here's some political thoughts I've had of late:

As you know, we're getting a new prime minister in just nine days. With the passing of the old regime, we will see resignations, reassignments, patronage appointments and a bunch of other movements in this government. It's not unusual; Paul Martin knows, as with prime ministers before him, he needs to get people he works well with into key areas of government in order to effectively put forward his agenda. It's happened many times before.

But if you've been keeping an eye on Warren Kinsella's blog, you'll get a larger window on Paul Martin's moves and the consequences they're having for Chretien's supporters. Reading a few of the articles Warren links to, you get the impression that more might be at work here than just cleaning house. Paul Martin and Jean Chretien were rivals to the leadership in 1990, and their relationship and the relationship between their camps of MPs grew very strained in the last couple of years as Paul Martin made his leadership aspirations very well known. And now, with the changeover, Martin supporters are on their way up, and Chretien supporters are finding themselves with a lot of time on their hands.

Not much separates a house-cleaning from a purge, or political expediency from vindictiveness. Remember, Martin is the Liberal leader not just because he won the delegates' votes, but because because he had his people take over riding associations and other Liberal Party infrastructure to get Martin-friendly delegates into positions of power within the party to get those votes. As political takeovers go, Martin's elevation is more subtle than the Alliance takeover of the Tories, but it's been no less ruthless.

Warren Kinsella, a long-time Chretien loyalist, is not happy, and he's speaking for a number of Liberals within the party who aren't happy. Other Canadian bloggers have started to notice and are wondering what this means for Paul Martin's term as prime minister. Will he face attacks from within as did Jean Chretien? Who will be Paul Martin's Paul Martin?

Soon after the Liberal Convention, the Middleman (correction noted; thanks Andrew!) noted a comment on Warren's site - "The next leadership race just started, mes amis!" - and wondered whether Warren might be building towards a leadership run of his own. Only Warren can say for sure, but I personally think he's too comfortable in the backroom to think about running for the highest office just yet. However, he is so adept within the Liberal Party power structure that he makes an excellent Dalton Camp figure.

So, let's delve into some speculative fantasy, here.

If Warren Kinsella isn't going after Paul Martin for the Liberal leadership, this doesn't stop him from helping coalesce forces within the Liberal party who are angry at Martin for a number of reasons. This is a long-term thing; even if Chretien's loyalists find themselves too busy helping Dalton McGuinty set up his government over the next few months, this won't hurt Martin in the upcoming election, which is expected next April or May and is likely to give Martin a Diefenbaker-level landslide victory.

You see the analogy I'm going for? Martin is going to sweep to power, that much is certain. It's also certain that the bloom will be off the rose a year after that, as there is no way Martin can live up to what Canadians expect of him. There will be an inevitable backlash, and the Liberals ill-treated by Martin will have little reason to stand by him. The strains that we saw in the last days of Chretien's feud with Martin will return and start to make national headlines.

The Canadian Alliance and the Conservatives are in no position to form the government after a 2008 election, merger or no merger, but they will be knocking at the door. With the Liberals fighting not only them, but each other and voter disappointment, Martin's 2004 majority won't survive the 2008 election. He'll hold on (nobody wins a Diefenbaker-like majority and loses it utterly one election later), but it's possible that from 2008 to 2014, we will see a series of minority governments as was the case between 1962 and 1968 when Diefenbaker and Pearson battled for national supremacy.

At this point, any retirement for Martin in this period will be seen as a humiliation, a promise unfulfilled. He will, however, be dogged by the Dalton Camp-like forces within the Liberal party, possibly led by Warren Kinsella, slowly taking over the party infrastructure from within and campaigning for a leadership review. Age will come into play; Martin will be in his seventies, and the forces against him will take in much of the party's youth. Ego or no ego, Paul Martin will eventually be forced out.

And, just as at the end of the sixties, the people of Canada will be in the mood for something different after the years of minority government instability and political infighting. Just as Pierre Elliott Trudeau burst on the scene, embraced by Canadians looking for a bold new voice to excite and electrify, Canadians in 2014 will be looking for another voice to do the same thing. The Liberals, showing their miraculous ability to reinvent themselves in order to preserve themselves, will embrace this new voice, make it their own, and that person will be vaulted into the Prime Minister's chair for the next decade.

This could happen. It's happened before, after all. So, if Martin is Diefenbaker and Kinsella is Dalton Camp, who's Trudeau?

You know, by 2014, Justin Trudeau will be almost the same age his father was when he entered politics back in the 1960s.

We know he wants it.

And interesting times will repeat again.

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