The Week that Was - ‘The Mansbridge Moments’

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

September 13, 2015


Each week between now and the day we all vote, October 19th, Ray Rivers is going to give Gazette readers his take on how the election is going. The week that was will appear every Monday morning.

This was the week of the the ‘Mansbridge Moments’, the CBC’s National program of interviews with the leaders of the three main parties, and the Green Party’s Elizabeth May. Much as with the candidate debates, a rarity despite this exceptionally long campaign, the winners and losers will be found in the eyes of the beholders.

Harper witrh word NATO

Stephen Harper – on the ropes today – but don’t sell this man short.

I thought Mr. Harper looked tired, and resigned to the fact that his party has now dropped clearly into third place. A new air of humility, possibly him test-marketing the new Tory strategy, ‘Harper’s not perfect’, was in play. However, after his opining about the consequences of a Tory loss, one would be pressed to doubt his sincerity.. Mr. Harper has also parked his old campaign team and embraced a new hired gun to save his failing campaign. Perhaps that announcement alone was behind his strengthened numbers as the week closed.

The ‘Wizard of Oz’, as he is called is responsible for the winning campaigns of David Cameron in the UK and Tony Abbot in the Wizard’s own native Australia. He will have his work cut out for him to effect a mid-campaign correction for Mr. Harper, however. After all, this was a campaign meant to highlight the PM’s strengths as a man of principle, an accomplished economist and a purveyor of security. But that was before the Duffy fiasco, the economy hitting the skids, and the messy refugee crisis.

Topical columnist Margaret Wente has called him toast, what we do with stale bread. And Michael Coren took the time to write a column to let the world know that he couldn’t possibly vote for Harper because he is not a real Christian. After all Christians are supposed to steward the planet and pay regard for the meek who will inherit it.


Seem by many as a smart strategic thinker who adds value to the House of Commons – and thinks she might end up holding the balance of power on the day after the election.

Elizabeth May unveiled the most progressive policy agenda of the campaign. Free tuition, national high speed rail, the end of fossil fuels, and global leadership on climate change – what’s not to like? But then she knows she won’t be PM this time around. So she might as well be promising us perfect beauty and eternal life, oh and a place in Mr. Coren’s Heaven for the PM. May sees herself as a match maker, as a kind of Lava-Life or, dare I say, Ashley Madison; who can mediate the two left-wing parties into an unorthodox alliance – a same-sex marriage of sorts.

And Mr. Mulcair has sworn to wait for ever at the altar, though Mr. Trudeau would need to be dragged screaming. What unites these three opposition parties is their determination to end Harper’s reign. And they are not alone, the Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe and another sixty plus percent of Canadians feel the same way.

There are significant policy differences for the two leading opposition parties, despite agreement on restricting tax free savings, enriching the Canada Pension Plan, killing income splitting, and saving the environment. Still, though Mulcair is promoting his $15 day-care plan, the balance of his socio-economic program, so far, looks a lot like what Mr. Harper has been doing. His commitment to balance his first budget as Canada goes into recession, without even knowing what the real numbers are, looks a lot like risky business.

Mulcair didn’t have a good answer for how he’d get his agenda, including abolishing the Senate, past a potentially hostile Senate. And he hasn’t even got a lick of NDP in the red chamber to plead his case. Then there is the 50.1% vote he claims he’d accept for Quebec’s separation. A legacy of the Layton era, maintaining this promise is disingenuous to Quebecers and the rest of Canada, given the decision of the Supreme Court and his own history fighting against separatism.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, on Monday, May 14, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

NDP leader Tom Mulcair asks a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, on Monday, May 14, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

Unlike Mr. Harper he was upbeat and positive in his Mansbridge monument, something one would expect from someone leading in the polls. But he seemed to smile too much, likely to compensate for criticism of bearing a too-serious, almost dower, natural pose. But at least the smiling did detract from the fur on his face, which every woman I know thinks he should shave. But he was articulate, thoughtful and engaging enough to make people want to like him, even if they’ve never trusted his party before.

Mr Trudeau was enthusiastic to the point of being almost bouncy. It is hard not to think of the ‘not ready’ ad the Tories have been running, but then we should understand that his age is but a stone’s throw from that of Obama, JFK or his own father when they were first elected. And Mr. Harper, who became PM in his mid forties, is the proverbial pot calling the kettle.… Recall that though PET governed us sternly throughout the FLQ crisis, he also played – for example, doing those famous pirouettes or that ‘fuddle cuddle’ thing..

Trudeau promised to reverse the growing concentration of power in the prime minister’s office, a trend his father had initiated in order to improve the work of government. The alternative is a government which runs the risk of contradiction and in-fighting. While Harper is a control freak, it is the cloak of secrecy and reign of terror he has cast over the entire public service that is so damaging. Demoralized and overworked staff are behind the recent failures in the immigration department, for example.

Like Harper, Trudeau’s not perfect. He miscalculated in offering limited support for the Tories’ police state legislation, Bill C-51. It was a political gamble which cost him support both within and outside of his party, possibly one of the reasons for his decline in popularity after having led the polls for most of last year. He claims he’ll fix that though.

The country watched as another Trudeau headed towards the leadership of a political party

The country watched as another Trudeau headed towards the leadership of a political party

He is bold, and boldness is on the other side of stale toast. Voters want change in this election. Ms. May could be the outlier of that change, but Trudeau is a close second, staking out some new ground by offering to re-balance the income tax act in favour of the middle class. He has gone where no one else has gone by embracing a deficit needed to build badly needed infrastructure and grow the Canadian economy out of its recession.

As a consequence his party has bounced back and is now firmly in the second spot of this tight three-way race. Apparently Mr. Mulcair has more goodies up his sleeve and both opposition leaders are promising a fully costed policy platform before balloting time. And then there will be all that new wizardry from the Harper camp.


Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking. Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province.


Background links:

Christian Thing to d     Toast

Mansbridge Moments     Polls      The Wizard of Oz       More Wizard

Harper Not Perfect

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3 comments to The Week that Was – ‘The Mansbridge Moments’

  • Ken Colombo


    I was taken aback by zbf’s insightful comment. I thought to meself, here’s a guy / or GRRRL, who’s ready to offer free counselling to the world at large. I wonder what / how much his fee is. Then, it occurred to me that Ezra Levant was providing counsel to senator Mike Duffy at $2100 a crack. (Twice, Ezra performed the service at taxpayer expense.)Not to be outdone, I thought I would offer the same service at a more-than reasonable pro-bono rate. I basically told ‘The Old Duff’ “get outa here!” I offered my going rate of 21 cents for my 3-word essay!

    ‘kay wit’ you[z]e zbf?

  • Gary

    I did not think zbf’s comment was so inflammatory that it required a defence of the columnist by the editor. I thought the last sentence in that defence wherein the writer is “outed” in a way that implies cowardice on his part was a bit over the top. Likewise, the comment in the piece itself likening the effect of Bill-51 to the creation of a “police state” was also over the top.

  • zbf

    This is a revealing insight into the psyche of the author himself. Loathing and love. It is not about “his take on how the election is going” as the Gazette suggests. It is about where the author wants it to go.

    Editor’s note: The author of the comment is always free to write his own take on where he feels the deletion is going. Rivers has years of experience and while his viewpoint does come from a political perspective – everyone has a political perspective – that’s what politics is. Does the reader not think the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail and the National Post do not have perspectives of their own. The difference between Rivers and the author of the comment is that Rivers puts his name on what he writes -why would Mr. Pullin choose to hide behind a set of initials?