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Federal Politics
Election 2021

Please Advise! Who Tore the Cover off the Ball?

The candidates are all sliding across home plate. Dr. Steve rates their play and predicts a winner.

Steve Burgess 16 Sep 2021 |

Steve Burgess writes about politics and culture for The Tyee. Find his previous articles here.

[Editor’s note: Steve Burgess is an accredited spin doctor with a PhD in Centrifugal Rhetoric from the University of SASE, situated on the lovely campus of PO Box 7650, Cayman Islands. In this space he dispenses PR advice to politicians, the rich and famous, the troubled and well-heeled, the wealthy and gullible.]

Dear Dr. Steve,

We're in the home stretch of Election 2021. What do you see coming?



Dear Anxious,

Elation. Heartbreak. Hits. Double plays. And that's just the Toronto Blue Jays.

This September you have your choice of watching the American League wild card race or the equally wild Canadian league. Both feature five or six teams in a sprint to the finish, and in both races the early favourites are feeling nervous.

Reigning pennant holder Justin Trudeau has been struggling of late. The fact that the Montreal Canadiens made the Stanley Cup finals and Leylah Annie Fernandez the US Open final on his watch does not seem to have earned him many points in the standings. It could just be fan fatigue. Coaches and managers generally have a particular shelf life — you don't get many Generalissimo Francisco Francos in the world of sports, and they are just as rare in democracies. Canada isn't Florida after all. Up here we get to vote.

Trudeau has been dogged by hostile pursuers, screaming abuse and even things being thrown, like threats and gravel and bestselling books. Those tomes can really pack a wallop. The Liberals may want to expand the assault weapons ban to include books by disgruntled former cabinet ministers. Pretty smooth strategy of Jody Wilson-Raybould to turn the Liberal campaign into a sort of proxy book promo tour. Imagine how many more Harry Potter books they could sell if Voldemort were running for prime minister.

So far Trudeau has been saved only by the inability of his rivals to consistently make up much ground. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole was having a rookie-of-the-year season for a while there but unforced errors have crept into his game. If nothing else his support for a continued assault weapon ban, which contradicted the party's official platform, was a handy demonstration of why weapons are so dangerous. A guy can shoot his own foot off with those things.

Nor did it help that O'Toole has proposed scrapping the Liberals' daycare program while offering up a brief restaurant credit scheme to get people out to local eateries. No $10-a-day child care in the Conservative plan but hey — here comes Taco Tuesday! Maybe you'll be able to leave your kids at the diner and sneak out the back door.

Then there is O'Toole's unwanted running mate, Typhoid Kenney. With COVID out of control in Alberta, it has become awkward for the Conservative leader to suggest that Trudeau is the real superspreader. Pressed by reporters on Thursday, O'Toole was trying to sweep the whole Alberta thing under the rug. Which is rather difficult with the Rocky Mountains and all. It's like Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart except that the body isn't hidden under the floorboards — it's giving press conferences saying “I don't apologize.”

Personal attacks are starting to creep into the latter days of the campaign. Trudeau is attacking O'Toole, O'Toole is attacking Trudeau, and Yves-François Blanchet is attacking Shachi Kurl. As moderator of the English language debate Kurl posed a question to Blanchet implying that the province's Bill 21 was a discriminatory piece of legislation. Blanchet and Quebec Premier François Legault have reacted like Alabama state senators forming a protective ring around a Confederate statue. South of the border they call it states' rights, but this is apparently the French-Canadian equivalent.

Meanwhile, showing customary political courage, Trudeau and O'Toole have both stood up and proclaimed that they too are deeply offended by this insult to Quebecois honour. Never forget — in politics, the “Me too” movement has an entirely different meaning.

As for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, he may not become prime minister but after this campaign you would definitely pick him as captain of your dodge ball team. CBC's Rosemary Barton recently attempted to pin him down on his post-election plans for the Trans Mountain pipeline; earlier Global's Mercedes Stephenson tried to get him on the record about whether he would support a Conservative minority government. In both interviews Singh displayed moves reminiscent of Keanu Reeves in The Matrix.

If Dr. Steve can reconstruct one of Singh's answers from memory it went something like: “Canadians deserve clear answers on these issues and that's why I am stating clearly that, as a Canadian, I stand for clarity and also for questions, which Canadians must be allowed to ask in this great democracy, just as you have asked me this question which I completely support as a clear and firm alternative that all Canadians deserve because it is time for real change although I believe we are now out of time, thank you, good night.”

Dr. Steve didn't catch all of it — he woke up later during a rerun of Big Bang Theory.

As for the prime minister, he clearly hoped this election call would help him cash in the credits he earned for all those CERB cheques. That now seems unlikely. It happens all the time — Coach of the Year one season, fired the next. Dr. Steve expects Trudeau will hang onto his job for now. But there will be more playoff rounds to come. They usually do this every damn year.  [Tyee]

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