When not attacking the son they go after the father:
In a speech to the Economic Club of Canada on Wednesday, Finance Minister Joe Oliver was repeatedly critical of the former Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau while unveiling Tory plans for balanced budget legislation. The late prime minister is, of course, the father of current Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
Oliver said federal spending tripled between 1969 and 1979 because of the "ideology of the man at the wheel." He also accused the former prime minister of being "reckless" with taxpayer money.
Look I'm all in favour of kicking Pierre Trudeau. He's been dead for the better part of a generation but strangely it hasn't been long enough. For years now I've called for October 18th, the great ego's birthday, to be declared "National Hate PET Day". I've even drawn up some greeting cards that I plan on submitting to Hallmark right after the day is officially proclaimed.
I readily acknowledge, however, that the aging lounge lizard did some good. Getting the government out of the bedrooms of the nation. Kicking the ass of Quebec separatists. Telling Richard Nixon off. These are all solid accomplishments. Yet they pale in comparison with the genuine harm he did to the nation's finances, body politic and social fabric. One of the few things that unites virtually all of the Canadian Right is a hatred of the Elder Trudeau. Arguably he created the Canadian Right much in the same way that FDR created the modern American Right.
The main problem with PET bashing, as opposed to Justin bashing, is that it's terribly old. The last time Pierre Le Grande was on a ballot in our fair Dominion, a word he nearly erased from the national lexicon, was way back in 1980. That's 35 years ago. Run back the clock 35 years from 1980 and you're in 1945. There is now more distance between us and Trudeau's last run than between then and the beaches of Normandy.
What that means is that the youngest person who could possibly have voted Liberal in 1980 is today in their early fifties. For many Canadians the name Trudeau is vaguely associated with an era better known for disco and drugs. Is this how the Tories want to appeal to Canadians? The party of grumpy right-wing nostalgia?
Aside from seeming out of touch with their attacks on Father Trudeau, the Tories also come off as being hypocritical. Attacking any of PET's social policies is too politically dangerous. The Charter still has a vague halo around it for many people. The one uncontroversial point of attack is the Trudeau fiscal legacy. The man spent, spent and spent some more. That included one of his Finance Ministers, a certain J. Chretien.
But while the Grits created the fiscal mess of the 1970s and 1980s they also, sort of, helped clean it up in the 1990s. The Liberal retort, quite visible on Marc Garneau and Gerald Butts Twitter feeds, is that in the modern era of Canadian politics, basically everything since 1993, the Liberal fiscal record is far stronger than the Tory record. Just from a tactical standpoint when Team Harper talks deficits they open themselves up to unflattering comparisons with their immediate predecessors.
The Red Meat base, admittedly, won't care. Kicking any member of the Trudeau family is a cherished hobby for them. The quintessential Sensible Canadian Voter does care. They're not partisan and are more likely to associate Justin with the fiscal moderation of Chretien-Martin than with the spendthrift approach of his father.
Beyond those few precious Canadians who actually pay attention to politics there is a vast majority that watches out of the corner of their eye. They have no idea what NEP was, likely think that the October Crisis was a punk bank and view politics through the haze of the personal. What they see is mean old Harper, armed with his hockey helmet hair and ancient looking finance minister, picking on sweet little Justin's long dead dad. That's who Pierre Trudeau is to most Canadians. The father of the nice youngish looking man running the Liberal Party today.
Here's a tip to the Tory High Command: Leave the PET bashing to the bloggers. Focus on reminding the voters that Justin is a nice boy who really is in way over his head.