A BCer in Ottawa: Haters were going to call Eglinton-Lawrence a loss for Trudeau no matter what

When the narrative is against you, events don’t matter — they’ll be twisted to suit the desired message no matter what. Such is the case these days with Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party, and Sunday’s nomination in Eglinton-Lawrence offers a compelling case study.

As you probably know, some months back former Conservative MP Eve Adams crossed the floor to join the Liberal caucus. Told she had to seek an open nomination, she opted to run in a riding where she had no roots — Eglinton-Lawrence — as there was already a Liberal candidate nominated at the time in her home riding. A local Liberal, Marco Mendicino, was already seeking the nomination in Eglinton-Lawrence. After a long delay and a heated race, Mendicino won on Sunday — by some reports handily.

As we waited for the results, I tweeted this:

I predict pundits have 2 columns ready. 1 Adams wins shows noms not open. 2 Adams loses shows Libs reject Trudeau. #cdnpoli #EgLaw

— Jeff Jedras (@jeffjedras) July 26, 2015

And as you can guess, with Mendicino’s win they went for option 2. It was entirely predictable. Heads the pundits win, tails Justin loses. Tim Harper’s column is representative of the spin across social media and pundit land this morning. Haters gonna hate, and they were going to hate either way.

Just for fun, let’s try to look at this logically. Fact is if Trudeau really wanted Adams as the candidate, she’d be the candidate. He’d either have appointed her or fixed the race to ensure she won. Mendicino would have had swathes of memberships mysteriously disallowed or disappeared. People would have been strongly encouraged to not support his campaign. There were plenty of levers they could have pulled. They pulled none of them. Besides leaving the nomination call to second-last in the GTA (Thornhill remains) no process or other levers were used to support the supposedly favoured candidate. And Mendicino had the support of past (interim) leader Bob Rae and a lot of active establishment Liberals who, if Adams was really the hard Trudeau choice, wouldn’t have gone near his campaign.

The argument for option 2 also relies on Adams being “Trudeau’s choice.” Let’s examine that logically too, shall we? The only way Trudeau could have headed off this damned either way scenario is if he hadn’t have let Adams cross the floor to the Liberal caucus. She was hardly a big get and her Liberal bonafides were questionable at best, but the opportunity to pick up an MP at Harper’s expense is hard to pass up. And if he’d blocked her he’d have taken flack for that too; don’t kid yourself.

So now that we accept she’s coming onboard, of course he has to have a press conference with her — only Prime Minister Harper is allowed to never talk to the press without consequence. And of course he is going to say positive things about her — what, is he going to say I don’t like her but welcome to our caucus? But he took pains to make clear that she would have to face an open nomination and he would pick no favourites. So all the “Trudeau’s choice” arguments are predicated on the fact he had a press conference to welcome a new MP to the caucus. It just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

Of course, logic doesn’t help you when the gods of the narrative aren’t on your side. So be it. To quote a great philosopher, haters gonna hate. Liberals just need to shake it off. The pundits will move on to the next tortured story soon. And no narrative is forever — a year ago they’d decided the man walked on water.

Meanwhile, in Mendicino Liberals have a candidate with deep local roots and the Liberal grassroots behind him that is best positioned to take on and defeat Joe Oliver. And none of the rest matters.

Continue reading

A BCer in Ottawa: Why I have no time for David Bertschi’s complaints

I’ve tried to hold my tongue through David Bertschi’s dramatic performances through the nomination process, but after his conduct at the Ottawa-Orleans nomination on the weekend, enough is enough.

I’m the first person to be up in arms with regards to nomination shenanigans or interference from the centre. I’m a supporter of open nominations – it was a key part of Deborah Coyne’s democratic reform platform during the leadership campaign, and I was glad to see Justin Trudeau adopt a similar position shortly after we released ours.

I think everyone – if they’re being honest with themselves anyway – knew that there would always be an asterix for open nominations when the pledge was reaffirmed by the leader for this nomination cycle. A certain threshold of rules would need to be met by all candidates seeking a nomination, from a commitment to Liberal values (see supporting the right to choose) to a background check, and so on.

For the former leadership candidates seeking a nomination (including from 2006) there were additional rules. I have some insight into this, as I managed Deborah’s leadership campaign. Those carrying leadership debt were required to submit a debt repayment plan and schedule, and report regularly on their progress to the party. They were informed that their greenlighting was provisional, and could be revoked at any time if they didn’t maintain satisfactory progress.

This applied to all leadership candidates carrying leadership debt from recent campaigns, from Coyne and Bertschi and George Takach, to caucus members like Marc Garneau and Hedy Fry. The rules were clear and known to all.

The rules were also clear during the leadership campaign with regards to the amount of debt campaigns were allowed to carry, both in loans and in accounts payable. A financial filing was due regularly to the party for compliance purposes and, if the levels were violated, a range of sanctions were available, up to and including expulsion from the leadership race. Again, the rules were clear and known to all.

And it appears to me that Mr. Bertschi was unable or unwilling to follow rules, whether during the leadership campaign or during the nomination process.

Bertschi withdrew from the leadership campaign in a flourish, after hemorrhaging staff and volunteers, just before he was facing sanction from the party and possible expulsion from the race for violating those debt limits – post-race filings with Elections Canada confirm his non-compliance. This after making a virtue of having promised a debt-free campaign.

Nevertheless, he was provisionally green-lit by the party to seek the nomination in Ottawa-Orleans. Like every other leadership candidate carrying debt, he had to submit and follow a repayment plan. And once again, he couldn’t follow the rules. And so he faced the consequences.

Now, the current underlying all of this, of course, is the party centre’s favoured candidate for Ottawa-Orleans, Andrew Leslie – the former general was acclaimed this weekend following Bertschi’s expulsion.

Let’s be frank. Did the powers that be want Leslie? Obviously. Were they going to use the levers available to them to help make that happen? Most definitely.

Here’s the thing, though: Bertschi made it easy on them. No shenanigans were necessary. By failing to comply with the clearly stated rules, rules which applied to all (and the others managed to comply with), Bertschi made it easy for the party to remove him from the race completely by the book. No shenanigans were necessary, as Bertschi was the author of his own demise.

I might still be able to muster a measure of sympathy for him – being denied a dream you’ve long worked for is incredibly difficult – were it not for the arrogance with which he has conducted himself through this process. Attacking other Liberals, threatening lawsuits, his supporters disrupting meetings, heckling, disrespecting the Canadian flag. Bertschi isn’t about the Liberal Party; he’s about David Bertschi. And I have no time for people like that.

If Bertschi had followed the rules, he would have challenged Leslie this past weekend, and who knows what would have happened. The party’s pick doesn’t always win – see Don Valley North. Superior organization will take the day. Instead, he was the author of his own demise, and seems determined to light the bridge aflame behind him.

Don’t let the door, etc.

Continue reading