What happens when we don't trust the brand anymore? We stop buying

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 23, 2016



It’s been a year since Justin Trudeau was trusted by the Canadian public with an overwhelming majority. So what has he done? I was invited to attend a speech he delivered to an assembly of party faithful in Niagara Falls this past weekend. As expected he hit on some highlights from his achievements to date. It had been a hectic day in the PM’s schedule, including a visit to ‘Picone Fine Food in Dundas’ – a political pie tradition. And, along the way, a disgruntled former Green Party candidate, protesting pipelines, tossed some pumpkins seeds at him and got herself arrested. Power to the pumpkin people!


Protester confront Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – PM calms the man down.

The Liberals have dominated Canada’s national political history and the Liberal brand has worn well over much of that time. Liberals would like to think that is because they listen better to Canadians and mostly get it right on social and economic policy. Mr Harper’s naive belief that he could remake Canada into more of a redneck nation never really had a hope in hell. So despite a laundry list of political accomplishments, Trudeau knows his biggest job of leading this country is still ahead of him.

Just how popular the Liberal brand has become of late will be tested this Monday in an Alberta by-election. The Liberals are running small business owner and long-time resident Stan Sakamoto in an uphill battle to replace Jim Hillyer in the perennially safe Tory riding of Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner. But while that Trudeau brand is pretty strong back east, even the candidate is unsure how well it will play out for him. So he’s promising to “…ensure their MP is their voice to Ottawa, not Ottawa’s voice in Medicine Hat.”

Ontario will be also going to the polls in two by-elections in November and it doesn’t look good for the governing Liberals and their leader. The provincial Liberal brand has plummeted and approval numbers are barely above single digits according to some polls – with disapprovals hitting over 70%. Elected to a strong majority in 2003, the government has been hit by bad press. And its inability to explain or defend, or perhaps even to show that it is listening to the public has almost irretrievably damaged the brand.


When the trust is gone – it is gone.

Despite a new leader who won a strong majority two years ago, public confidence has fallen to levels seen only with consumer products from Volkswagen and Samsung – though at least the Samsung phone is a fiery hot item. The Premier and her ministers are seen as stale, having lost their way and having failed tax payers on the economy and rate payers on the electricity file.

The party could identify a list of accomplishments for Ontario residents till the cows come home, but nobody is listening anymore. They could contrast their record with the disastrous performance of the Harris/Eves near decade in government, but nobody cares. That much of the blame for today’s electricity prices can be attributed to Mike Harris for dismantling Ontario Hydro, in the first place, is no excuse for a government which hasn’t been seen to have fixed that system after almost a decade and a half in power – and which hasn’t lowered electricity bills.

Some people point out that the Tories have only their right-wing-nut leader Tim Hudak to blame for Wynne’s big win in 2014. And Hudak has been shown the door and moved on to peddling real estate instead of politics. So his old riding is up for grabs next month as well as a Liberal seat in greater Ottawa. New PC leader Patrick Brown is still an unknown quantity, and folks appear to have forgiven his amateurish flip-flop on sex ed, first opposing then supporting the Liberal policy.

Earlier this year another by-election in the Liberal strong-hold of Scarborough-Rouge River went to the Tories, allowing them to finally get a foot hold in seat-rich Toronto. And despite popular policies in health care, climate change, education and even bringing down the deficit, the voters will not be satisfied with this government. They’ve made up their minds and Hell hath no fury like a disappointed voter, it seems. It’s why many folks wouldn’t even consider buying a Volkswagen or a Samsung phone – they don’t trust the brand anymore.

Ray Rivers

Ray 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 in 1995.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.  Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Trudeau’s Accomplishments –    Progress Report –    Picone

Pumpkin Protester

Ontario Elections –   More Ontario ByElection –   Even More –   And More –  

Premier Wynne –    More Premier

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5 comments to What happens when we don’t trust the brand anymore? We stop buying

  • Steve

    What do you expect when you cancel cheap reliable clean burning natural gas for unreliable super expensive (not ready for prime-time) alternative energy like solar and windmills? Ontario should have some of the cheapest hydro rates in the world, but instead, we have some of the highest rates in the western world. This is killing business, and the middle and lower classes. Hydro bills are becoming like mortgage payments now.

  • @Susan

    Can you imagine INSURANCE COMPANIES having access to health records for everybody in the PROGRAM? We have seen repeated failures in the realm of data security. The Harris government wrote a law which virtually guaranteed repayment of highway 407 tolls to the consortium. How many times has Provincial and Federal Data Security decried the lack of data protection?

    It’s NOT JUST SOME OBSCURE SOURCE attempting to steal information for nefarious purposes. More often than not, it is someone who had previously had access to the data and now has been Secretly Contracted to provide access for a significantly more profitable venture.

  • Larry

    Yes the Wynne government needs to prove to be fiscally responsible – too much seems to be spent on the “hangers on”, and the brand is wearing thin. Not sure if the Tory’s are a better option, though – can’t see fattening the rich as making ON any better…..

  • Susan

    I am grateful to Kathleen Wynne. Because of her, I am now a non-partisan voter.

    I turned away from the PC’s when Mike Harris was Premier. Primarily because he started to privatize Ontario Hydro (the Bruce Nuclear site is now run by a private company) and he sold off the 407 but the taxpayers kept the debt from both companies. And that was a lot of debt!

    Harris also cut healthcare by closing 28 hospitals, firing 6,200 nurses and eliminated over 10,000 hospital beds. Of course there’s a lot more I disagreed with but these are the main points.

    Now, the Liberals have privatized more of Ontario Hydro, allowed alcohol sales in grocery stores and slashed healthcare. Since there’s not a lot of difference between the PC’s and the Liberals, I would have a hard time if I had to vote tomorrow.

    BTW, the man who advised Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government to sell a majority stake in Hydro One is now examining eHealth Ontario — but he insists that doesn’t mean another “For Sale” sign is about to appear. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ehealth-ontario-sale-kathleen-wynne-ed-clark-1.3808734

  • Wayson Holmes

    It is clear that Wynne must re-invent herself soon: very soon. If she reflects on her laudable accomplishments thus far, she will realize that those policies that offered to serve Ontario best in the long-term were also those that were the most popular. A good start would be (a)abandoning plans to sell any more of Ontario Hydro and (b)mothball permanently both our dinosaur-aged reactors and any plans for development of new ones. They are bold moves but we will save BILLIONS of dollars by buying cheaper Quebec power, continuing to grow our own green-power and shift the focus to energy conservation.