Keystone XL, the new PC party, and the Nov 25 federal by-elections

November 17th, 2013

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If Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is so willing to publicly state his support for the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington, why won't his candidate in Toronto Centre, Chrystia Freeland state whether she agrees with it at home?

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Brandon-Souris Liberal candidate Rolf Dinsdale (source: Twitter)The answer lies in what's becoming evident about the Liberal Party's new strategic positioning: they are staking out turf as the new progressive conservative party of Canada.

In Brandon-Souris, they're running Rolf Dinsdale, the son of the long-time PC member of parliament, Walter Dinsdale, who has been endorsed by another former PC MP, Rick Borotsik, and the Liberals are clearly cutting into traditional Conservative Party support by embracing that tradition.

But that shift to the right – even with a fake left on marijuana policy – risks leaving the party's centre-left flank open in Toronto Centre. Hence the need to remain vague on the kinds of policy details that make it hard to straddle the middle of the political spectrum.

The week before the commentariat pounced on Trudeau's sexy fundraiser in next-door Trinity-Spadina or his speech days later in Bourassa, it was in fact his first trip to Washington as Liberal leader that started to register on the doorsteps in Toronto Centre, particularly the unequivocal support he expressed for Keystone XL.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau expresses support for Keystone XL pipeline, Washington DC, October 24, 2013 (Chip Somodevilla / GETTY IMAGES)

The issue figured so prominently, that the NDP used an opposition day motion in Parliament the Thursday before the break week to raise it further and get the Liberals on the record, a debate that Trudeau missed to attend the now-infamous "ladies night" fundraiser. The motion will be voted on this Tuesday evening, November 19.

NDP support is now trending upwards in Toronto Centre in Forum tracking, as canvassers report hearing from voters in swing polls that they don't recognize the current Liberal Party. And after ducking a debate specifically on climate change, Freeland then avoided answering direct questions on Keystone from NDP candidate Linda McQuaig in the Rogers Cable debate Wednesday night, and again twice in Saturday's abbreviated all-candidates meeting at the University of Toronto. [That meeting was interrupted by several screaming fits from frequent candidate Kevin Clarke, after an earlier disruption by John Turmel, and then cancelled altogether.]

[Click photo to view the debate on CPAC]

Toronto Centre NDP candidate Linda McQuaig in the Rogers TV all-candidates debate, November 13, 2013 (source: Facebook)

Freeland says that she doesn't envisage any disagreements with her leader and caucus, since she will be heavily involved in drafting their policies, though that only makes her reluctance to answer the Keystone question more noteworthy. Instead her campaign started to portray her as Toronto Centre's "transit advocate" late last week. The Liberals have also tried to highlight differences between McQuaig's writings on tax policy and NDP leader Tom Mulcair's preference for corporate tax hikes over personal tax increases.

With just a week to go in the four federal by-elections, Brandon-Souris will see a few more all-candidates meetings; Bourassa has no further meetings scheduled after a single meeting last weekend where Liberal candidate Emmanuel Dubourg had to leave after 30 minutes to attend another event outside the riding; and the Conservative front-runner in Provencher, Ted Falk, has been reluctant to debate much either.

But three significant all-candidates debates remain in Toronto Centre this week, in what's looking like a closer and closer race:

  • Wednesday November 20, 7 – 9 PM – hosted by the association of community associations, and moderated by John Tory (Jarvis Collegiate, 495 Jarvis St.)
  • Wednesday November 20, broadcast at 8 PM (repeated at 11 PM) – on TVO's The Agenda, hosted by Steve Paikin
  • Thursday November 21, 7 – 9 PM – Rosedale United Church Sanctuary, 159 Roxborough Drive

NDP leader Tom Mulcair greets supporters in Toronto Centre, November 12, 2013 (photo: Ian Campbell; source: Facebook)

The final week of the by-election campaign will demonstrate whether the Liberals can grow out their base, from their current squeezed position in the middle, on both sides equally; or whether by shifting right to try and pick off a Tory-Conservative seat like Brandon-Souris, they've allowed a resurgent Tom Mulcair and Linda McQuaig to occupy much of the centre-left in their old Toronto Centre stomping grounds for the NDP.

POSTSCRIPT: It does look like the Liberals are trying to change the terrain of debate for the final week to their old standby: national unity. It will be interesting to which of the two issues becomes the vote-determining question for Toronto.

29 Responses to “Keystone XL, the new PC party, and the Nov 25 federal by-elections”

  1. James McLaren says:

    Interesting. I suppose the Liberals feel the benefits of possibly of winning the Manitoba riding outweigh the risks to the Montreal and Toronto seats. Time will tell. However, if the rightward shift continues into 2015 and only a few % of Harper’s voters shift that would certainly eliminate the threat of another Harper majority and probably minority as well.

  2. Oliver Kent says:

    The media attention to Toronto Centre can’t be good for the Liberals. The public is being given the opportunity to have an impact by voting for someone else, with no adverse consequences. Who could resist?

  3. Scott Tribe says:

    “NDP support is now trending upwards in Toronto Centre in Forum tracking, as canvassers report hearing from voters in swing polls that they don’t recognize the current Liberal Party”

    It WAS trending upwards until the most recent Forum poll, which showed Freeland and the LPC up on Mcquaig and the NDP 47-32, which was an increase of 4% for the LPC from the prior Forum poll.

  4. Shadow says:

    Sure or Trudeau’s political jujitsu is all for not and he loses Brandon-Souris and Toronto Centre for reasons that have nothing to do with positioning.

    In the first because of a superior CPC ground game and in the second because Linda McQuaig has been a better candidate who looks poised for a classic under dog victory.

    Freeland has done the front runner thing this entire election. She’s still shifting around trying to find a message and being elusive.

    McQuaig’s been the feisty one and won the debate.

    Forum has been scrutinized by others for their methodology. Short story is it may skew Liberal.

    If another pollster does the by-elections and finds Toronto Center close then McQuaig will seize on that as a sign of momentum.

    The closing days of the campaign will be all about her surge.

    That’s a lot of energy for the Liberals to try and contain.

  5. burlivespipe says:

    What a bunch of socialist hogwash. Keystone will travel about 80% through a foreign nation and if passed by their senate, will generate income from the sale of Canadian resources. Canada’s best point of interest is ensuring that it thus has the least possible environmental impact possible and that the corporations involved follow strict controls. What’s the NDP (and apparently PunditG’s) proposal? Stop the sale of oil? Increased rail and truck traffic? That sounds like an environmental winner. Why no point of question on Mulcair’s wild train of thought on Quebec referendum? So 50+1 of 65% is good enough to begin the tearing down of a nation? Why aren’t the NDP buying your ad space at top — oh right because their getting the ad space below for free.

  6. Patricia Houston says:

    Justin Trudeau’s support for Keystone has always been contingent on proven sustainability and sound environmental standards. He does NOT endorse Keystone without these conditions firmly in place and evidence and scientifically proven. Why can’t the media ever publish that???

  7. Oddly, national unity may not be a strong card for the Liberals any more IMO. Certainly the Liberals look better on that than the Conservatives. But the NDP have more seats in Quebec than the Liberals do, and have a middle-of-the-road approach that isn’t sovereigntist but doesn’t piss off the Quebecois a whole lot.
    In a time when the PQ have to desperately scrounge around in the territory of race-baiting in order to stir much anti-ROC passion, what national unity needs is mainly a party that won’t poke the sleeping dog with a stick, and won’t offend Quebec pride. Ideally a party that will give Quebec significant representation in the federal parliament. The NDP are probably a better bet on those counts than the Liberals, in part precisely because they’re not interested in using national unity as a political football.

  8. [That meeting was interrupted by several screaming fits from frequent candidate Kevin Clarke, after an earlier disruption by John Turmel, and then cancelled altogether.]
    Jct: I had protested to the crowd earlier at being segregated into separate groups, the “disruption” pundit says I called. Asking for the right to be treated the same as the other favored candidates this pundit calls “disruption.” Shame on him. The meeting was cancelled because John Turmel was refused to chance to participate in the minor candidate portion of the debate because I had sat in the audience until the minor portion and had not sat on the stage like a quiet lump on a log while the majors spoke in front.
    But I had no choice but to accept the format but wasn’t going to be part of the backdrop sitting on the stage like a quiet lump on a log while the majors spoke in front. The the Poli-Sci moderator decided that since I hadn’t sat on stage with the others in the backdrop, I could no longer get to participate in the minor share of the debate! I refused. He said I would have to leave. I asked: You and what army are going to make Jiu Jitsu John leave? I’d had the chance to mention the 1981 debate at UoT where a moderator had pushed me off the stage and had then ended off the stage himself so that the meeting was cancelled. So when I refused to leave, the meeting was postponed to have security remove me.
    Then Kevin Clark decided I needed help and started screaming until he was candidate to be removed. So the meeting was cancelled because of Kevin Clark taking over John Turmel’s protest that John Turmel was being refused.
    So my second UoT debate in 30 years broken up again for being undemocratic. Several times I noted nothing like that would have happened if they’d only opened the meeting to all candidates being treated the same and har har harred.
    This “pundit” didn’t really tell you the whole story, did he? Of course, protesting for democratic treatment is disruptive to him. Gee, and he was the only reporter in the room to even tell the story, let alone the wrong story. I”m pretty amazed the uproar was so almost-completely censored.
    John The Engineer

  9. Shadow says:

    *She and that all sounds very entertaining.

    One more thought. This business about Justin Trudeau being PC.

    It simply won’t hold.

    Sooner or later he’ll need to release policy ideas and a platform.

    It will certainly include heavy spending on veterans, natives, child care, maybe something flashy like universal day long pre-k.

    Probably tuition help and more skills training.

    To pay for all that he’ll need tax increases. He’ll either go the Ignatieff route and focus on raising corporate taxes. Or he’ll go the Dion route and focus on taxing carbon. Or both.

    Either way he’s going to be the NDP-lite tax and spend guy, not the PC guy.

    And people will just vote NDP if that’s their thing or vote CPC if its not.

    I guess he could just not release any platform and be deliberately hazy. I don’t think the Obama approach can work here though !

    Trudeau has already been framed as a light weight. It would feed into that narrative and just be devastating.

  10. Kyle H says:

    This is not the kind of article I expect from Pundit’s Guide, as it seems to veer in a partisan direction and comments on things in ways this site has not before. I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.

  11. doug says:

    I have no problem with what I increasingly see as Pundit Guide preference for NDP but I will have to remember that this is its bias when reading further comments.

  12. Cpt. Hindsight says:

    I don’t see this as much of a move to right of centre for LPC. What’s happening here, is a move towards labour. The NDP have anointed themselves the “greenest” of the Big 3 and this is alienating them from their base, which was largely union voters.
    By trashing oil sands, pipelines and development in general every chance he gets, Mulclair is losing the support of “the working families” the NDP is always prattling on about working for.
    The families whom work in Fort McMurray and on pipeline projects also are supporting families working in steel mills in Hamilton, auto makers in Windsor and all the way down the line.
    This is a good move for the Liberals and the only thing that could bring them back from the dead. If they can get labour on their side, they just might have a shot at being 2nd they just have to get a realistic leader. ;)

  13. Curt says:

    Patricia Houston, what is “proven sustainability”? In the oil industry, reserves are finite. When a barrel of oil is shipped down the pipeline it cannot be produced again. Therefore the very industry is not sustainable. Stop using buzz words that are meaningless.

  14. islandcynic says:

    Justin is borrowing from the exact playbook on pipelines as Christy Clark did in BC. Except we in BC knew that it was all hot air and that they approved of the pipeline. Her five conditions proved to be great talking points for dupes. These Liberals have no interest in anything left of centre and I suspect Justin’s Liberals are much the same, sharing some of the same back room players.
    The Keystone pipeline does not add many jobs to Canada but increases the number of exported jobs. Digging up the sands and pumping bitumen into a pipeline at a faster pace has little effect on job numbers but huge negative effects on the environment.

  15. Cpt. Hindsight, I’m not too clear that the anti-oil thing is necessarily a loser among union types, at least in Ontario and points East. The thing is that overall, over the past decade oil and some commodity exports have soared, while all other exports have sagged; jobs in the oil patch have increased, but union jobs in manufacturing have dropped by far more. That doesn’t in itself mean the one caused the other, but the case for Dutch disease has some fairly strong analysis behind it.

    If Mulcair can successfully make the Dutch disease case to Ontario workers seeing their jobs continuing to dwindle while Alberta imports its Caterpillar tractors etc. from the US or China, they will see oil as stealing their jobs rather than creating them. Sure, Alberta won’t vote for him, but that was never going to happen anyway.

  16. Shadow says:

    Cpt. Hindsight the NDP position is that oil should be upgraded in Canada rather than shipped to the US. That means more jobs for Canadian workers.

    The economics of this are nonsense, the oil would just stay in the ground.

    But their position is spun as labour friendly and has buy in from some of the union bosses.

  17. I do commend “The Pundit’s Guide” for covering all this (including the fiasco at the U.of T.)

    Just a reminder that Justin Trudeau has no need to re-create the “Progressive Conservative” Party, we have never left the building so to speak!!! Since the great betrayal we faced with Peter MacKay’s fraudulent merger with Stephen Harper’s C.R.A.Party in 2003 have continued as the real PC (Progressive Canadian) Party.

    We are in fact the only Canadian Federal Party that adheres completely to the Westminster Model of Parliamentary Democracy! Sadly the only debate that attempted to have an “All Candidates Debate” was hijacked at the U.of T.!!!

    Hopefully the Jarvis Collegiate Debate and the Rosedale Ratepayers will at least realize they are violating the Westminster Model of Parliamentary Democracy by preventing the residents of Toronto Centre from hearing the views of the other seven legally registered candidates!!! The Progressive Canadian website is worth visiting at:

    Respectfully submitted,

    Dorian A. Baxter B.A., O.T.C., O.P.P. M.Div.

    Progressive Canadian Candidate
    Toronto Centre By-Election (Nov. 25)
    President, Federal PC (Progressive Canadian)Party

  18. Shadow says:

    Dorian Baxter anyone who uses the term ‘C.R.A.Party’ removes themselves from consideration by serious minded folks.

    Also the merger was not ‘fraudulent’, it was upheld as legal.

    And I am glad to see you inserting Progressive Canadian in brackets after any usage of the abbreviation PC.

    ‘PC Party’ and ‘Progressive Conservative’ being terms that belongs entirely to the CPC by law.

    Any claim of representation of a legacy party by a non-CPC candidate being false and misleading.

  19. Joel says:

    Which comments did Alice make specifically that people are seeing as partisan? Seems like a well thought-out analysis (as always) to me.

  20. Wilson says:

    Shadow, While I agree that the tendency of people to use passive-aggressive terms like C.R.A.Party (also CONservative, Fiberal, etc) is annoying and does the speaker a lot more harm than good I’d like to disagree on some of the other points.

    The Conservatives own the term ‘Progressive Conservative’ but not ‘PC Party’. You will note their logo and website both make use of it. The Conservative Party shouldn’t really be able to hold onto the term ‘Progressive Conservative’ indefinitely either (and frankly if they haven’t established their brand yet its their own fault). If the PC Party tried again to rename their party to Progressive Conservative they would probably have better luck than last time as (assuming party names are covered by trademark) the Conservative’s non-use of the term may have lost them ownership.

    As to whether the PC or Conservative Party is the true heir of Slytherin, er, the Progressive Conservative Party: The PC Party was founded by several members of the Progressive Conservative Party (some quite prominent) and has espoused policies similar to said party and well within the conservative tradition. Its hard to *not* consider them part of the legacy of the old Progressive Conservatives. Where the PC Party runs into trouble is if they claim to be the *sole* representation of that legacy, which is unsupportable imho.

  21. Tory voters and Canadians looking for the reasoned and balanced political philosophy and policy directions of Canada’s Progressive Conservatives will find them in the Progressive Canadian Party (PC Party), certainly not in the CPC.

    It is interesting to see continuing confusion, or perhaps purposeful suggestion, that some connection between the former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and the Reform Party-led Conservative Party which appeared in 2003. The Progressive Canadian Party is built on the political philosophy and policy directions of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and this should not surprise since it was founded and formed by Progressive Conservatives, whereas the CPC’s leader and MPs describing Progressive Conservatives as “another time, another party.”

    PCs continue to be a party of nation-building, national vision of a balance of progressive social policy and of the fiscal responsibility necessary to sustain a strong united Canada.

    The following key points are noted in the announcement of PC Party Toronto Centre candidacy of party president Dorian Baxter:

    The by-election…raises the opportunity to discuss a number of important local and citizen-concerned issues of wide importance to Canadian infrastructure including the failure of the Harper Conservatives to consult the community rather than just his political allies in Toronto City Hall on GTA transit issues.

    What of national issues? Progressive Canadians continue to share the Progressive Conservative national vision and policies which reinforce Canada’s parliamentary institutions, democracy and social fabric in areas like health care and education and our responsibility to our veterans founded on real Tory principles which balance progressive social policy and fiscal responsibility in the national interest. All of this has been referenced by PC Party president and Toronto Centre candidate Dorian Baxter.

    The by-election called following the retirement from Parliament of Toronto Centre MP, recent Liberal Interim Leader and former Premier of Ontario the Honourable Bob Rae is in a very real sense a referendum on the Harper government and calls into question the standing of the Harper Conservative Party as a national party.

    Ten years after the take-over of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, Mr. Harper?s party continues to try to reshape Confederation and Parliament around old Reform Party prejudices as evidenced by his partisan Senate appointments, reform proposals and Scandal, and political prorogations of parliament as a zealous, inward-looking movement rather than with responsibility to all Canadians as a national party.

  22. Shadow says:

    Wilson I think its an objective fact that the PC party is now part of the CPC party.

    Polling data supports this. The vast majority of its former elected members are with us. The law supports this.

    New parties can claim whatever intellectual inspiration they wish.

    They can cast themselves as part of any political tradition they wish.

    But does the public support them in that regard ? Do elected officials ? Is there a legal connection ?

    There’s a certain objective reality and set of facts here that can’t just be wished away by folks who wished the merger never happened.

  23. Ron says:

    Thank you for the up-date, Alice.

  24. If the NDP Win all 4 Federal By-Elections
    as of Today it will be one Enormous Miracle. If they Do Even though I don’t
    Think that they will but if though they
    do it will be all due to the Fact of the
    Very Shakey Harper Administrations own
    Handeling of robocalls and as well as the
    Old Senate Scandal to do with Mike Duffy
    as well as Pamela Wallin. To whom would of
    thought that these two Media Ding Bats and
    Pit Bulls would of Ever been Appointed to the Senate is Alomost Anyones Guess. But
    Because of Both Wallin and Duffy Making the Headlines as well as Wallin as well the NDP Just May win all 4 Ridings as far as I am Concern. Don’t think that they will Be Re-Elected in the Next General
    Election however Because that’s their overall Next Number One Test. Thank you
    David W Glavin

  25. Ken Summers says:

    more than a bit off-topic. but…

    Alice, are you going to put up a blog-post on the nomination battle shaping up in Calgary West around Rob Anders?

    The Conservative frequenters of your blog get to chew this over anyway, but what about the rest of us?

    Ken Summers

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