The Politics of Opposition & Is Kathleen Wynne the Next Ontario Provincial Liberal Leader? by Craig Carter Edwards – November 6, 2012

“We can be in total disagreement with someone without denigrating them as a consequence.”

       Pierre Elliot Trudeau                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

CFN – Liberal Leadership season is settling in across Canada with races underway federally, in Québec and in Ontario.  Political people are lining up behind their preferred candidates and trying to convince others to join them.  Standard wisdom tells us that part and parcel of the running for game is running against.  As candidates actually declare, supporters are starting to ask themselves – if I stand for candidate A, why do I stand against Candidate B?  As with all political races, when the lines are drawn and the water hole of undeclared voters begins to shrink the contest inevitably turns into a competition not just of policy, but of personality.  But does it have to be this way?

Yes, it does – because when we vote, we’re not just selecting ideas we prefer, but trusting a leader to implement them.  Rob Ford’s win in Toronto was due at least as much to his perceived commitment to keeping his word as it was to his actual policies.  More than that, we pick leaders based on our perception of their ability to play politics successfully.  Part of Michael Ignatieff’s perceived appeal was that he would be the second coming of Pierre Trudeau.  A well-spoken intellectual with a bit of international seasoning would surely have the moxie needed to woo the masses and take on a rather bland Stephen Harper.  That didn’t work out so well because Ignatieff fell victim to the truest of political truisms – define or be defined.

Now, Justin Trudeau has ascended into the public spotlight in a fashion most candidates can only dream of, partly because he is the literal next-gen Trudeau, but also because he looks and sounds the part of a successful politician.  In the absence of specific policy, pundits have focused on how fresh and energized Trudeau will look squaring off against the two angry old men that are Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair.  Justin Trudeau’s hair has gotten more press coverage than Mulcair’s stance on just about anything.  According to some polls (always to be taken with a grain of salt), Trudeau’s image alone could be enough to return the Liberal Party to government.  Potential leadership opponents have been gun-shy to enter the race, faced with the prospect of out-charming a political superstar.

This reality presents a bit of a conundrum for the Conservative Party, too; the personalized line of attack that worked so well against Ignatieff and his predecessor, Stéphane Dion, will bounce off Trudeau’s flowing locks harmlessly.  Canadians already feel they know Justin and like what they see.  The Tories face the much more daunting challenge of attacking Trudeau’s eventual policies as harmful to our nation’s security and economy.  That will be a tough card to play, as it can cut both ways.  Count on Stephen Harper to buffer attacks with an attempt to soften his own image; we might soon be seeing more of the infamous sweater vest.  Given that his entire political narrative has been built on an arc of opportunistic cynicism, it’s doubtful any such attempt will be taken seriously by anyone other than Harper’s most die-hard supporters.

It would be silly to deny the importance of personal brand in shaping political success – but what of personal attacks on competitors?  Is it possible to do politics without denigrating one’s opponents?  The evidence isn’t promising.  Political attack ads are nothing new – they’ve been around, in fact, as long as politics itself.  As the best policy choices tend to hover around the middle, personal attacks present clear opportunities for candidates to establish why their political brand is a safer, stronger one than that of their opponents.  Survival of the fittest, after all, isn’t about being the strongest but being the last candidate standing. 

There’s an unfortunate sidebar to this, though – when would-be leaders or Parties focus so intently on shoring up their own political brand and relentlessly attacking their competitors, politics becomes more about attack and defend rather than working together to create the best policy. This is when mistakes happen, as they did with the Walkerton tragedy in Ontario or as they’re happening right now with Harper’s mismanaged trade deal with China.  These sorts of mistakes foster disillusionment in the voting public, leading to lower turnouts at the polls and a weakening of our democratic system.  Is this an inevitable political paradox?  Is the politics of opposition necessary to win, but unavoidably damaging over the long run?

Not, I would argue, if one’s political brand is designed to be supportive (dare I say, leader-like) from the get-go.  One of my favourite campaign moments came in the 2003 Ontario general election when then-Official Opposition Leader Dalton McGuinty came to the defense of Premier Ernie Eves.  Eves had been rattling off the nonsensical insults that frequently crop up in the waning days of campaigns, calling McGuinty a pointy-headed reptilian kitten eater.  When asked about this by the press, McGuinty’s reply was political gold; “I know Ernie, and this kind of thing isn’t him.”  With one sympathetic phrase, McGuinty showed the class and empathy most of us want from our leaders and undercut his opponent without resorting to personal attacks himself.  McGuinty walked away from that election Premier of a majority government.

One of my favourite Ministers in the McGuinty government is Kathleen Wynne, one of the two declared candidates hoping to become the next Leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.  The reason that I and many Ontarians of all or even no political stripes like Wynne so much is because she is sincere, dedicated and positive.  


In addition to this, she is consistent in both her thoughtfulness and in her personal integrity.  When she expressed discomfort with the recent prorogation to the Queen’s Park Press Gallery, there were few who assumed Wynne was strategically distancing herself from her Party for personal gain.  


Why?  Because the Wynne we heard that day was the exact same woman that expressed dismay when her Party backed down on increased sex education in Ontario’s public schools

Wynne remained consistent to her brand when she sent out a tweet Monday morning, congratulating her leadership opponent Glen Murray on a media interview:

Kathleen Wynne@Kathleen_Wynne

Just heard @Glen4TC on @metromorning Great job articulating your experience and ideas!

Now, I’m sure the people who actually get paid to do political punditry would disagree with me, but I’d argue that little line scored Kathleen Wynne the first point in Ontario’s leadership race.  She has demonstrated that the person who’s running for leader is the same one who was much respected as a Cabinet Minister, reaffirming her integrity and credibility.  She has complimented one of her opponents, setting the campaign respectability bar high and making it harder for anyone to use personal attacks down the line.  At the same time, she has set a positive tone for the race that will help avoid the fractious politics that often come with leadership races and could weaken the Liberal Party leading in to a likely spring election.  Not bad for a kick-off, I’d say.

Politics is perceived as a blood sport because it’s always been that way; this doesn’t mean it can’t change.  Just as there were days where it was unthinkable that a woman would have a vote, much less lead a Party or a province, there’s no particularly valid reason why we can’t put the politics of denigration behind us and move on with more respectful competition; such mindful contests could even be of strategic benefit, as I think Kathleen Wynne is teaching us.

Yes, politics is about fighting to the finish, but leadership is about setting the example.  It’s time for Liberals to show everyone just how progressive they’re willing to be.

Craig Carter Edwards

Born and raised in Cornwall, Craig has lived in or travelled to nearly 30 countries and currently resides in North York with his wife and son.  A political veteran, Craig brings a wealth of government, private and not-for-profit sectors experience to his current role as strategy consultant for the social entrepreneurship sector.

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  1. Casting stones, Pastor T? That’s not very Christian of you.

  2. “Casting stones, Pastor T?” – not at all just exposing a person’s depraved chosen sinful life style according to the unchanging Holy Scriptures -Lev 18:22 “And you shall not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is a perversion”. In that account about the stones being cast – John 8, the Lord Jesus Christ did say to the adulterous woman to “go and sin no more”. The Lord Jesus is not for perverted sexual behavior.

    It is up to the civil authorities to be the ones to case stones if they so deem it necessary, but there are eternal consequences that will be faced for choosing not to obey the Word of God, whether it is an individual, or for those God has placed in authority.

  3. Much information in this article. I have an issue with “show everyone just how progressive they’re willing to be” though.

    If the ideas are better than others and the associated team look like they will create a better Ontario, she/they may deserve a chance. I will not vote so people think I am progressive.
    Taxpayer money deserves that.

  4. Rumor has it that Sandra Pupatello might enter the race. I hope so.

    @ Mr. Newton. Expletives withheld.

  5. You must weep for all those sinful penguins, monkeys, etc out there, engaging in homosexual activity. Seems to be pretty common behaviour in the animal kingdom, evolutionarily speaking. Can you explain to me how God’s judgement impacts these perverted creatures?

    Better yet – can you provide us with your solutions to our economic woes and training deficit, fostering a sustainable healthcare system or ensuring future generations have clean air and water?

    These are the issues that civic authorities need to address. We’re lucky to have politicians of the depth, calibre and compassion of a Kathleen Wynne – knowing her, she’d probably even forgive you for your judgement and encourage you to contribute to collective solutions.

  6. Ed, fair point – it was a bit of a push on my part, just for fun. There’s room for bold ideas; the best ones should be brought forward by whoever leads, but you gotta get ’em out there first!

  7. I agree Craig. Either Wynne or Murray would be a capable party leader. But as Mr. Newton points out, they would be a hard sell in the backward areas of the province. Pupatello would also be very capable and wouldn’t be as adversely affected by the bigotry that prevails in small-town and rural Ontario.

  8. Author

    Um, are you guys forgetting Gerard Kennedy?

  9. Gerard Kennedy is a good man, but I don’t think he’s gonna run, is he?

  10. Author

    you never know….

  11. I would wait to see more of Murray’s ideas, however, I am suspicious as he had Smitherman at his announcement. You may remember Smitherman as leaving posts just before they became boondoggles…….
    Also, the College of Trades from McGuinty/Murray makes me go uhmm.

  12. Gerard Kennedy is a good man with some really great ideas. We’ll see if he runs. There’s also Deb Matthews, mulling a run. I want to see all of these folk enter and engage in some really solid policy discussions.

    Ed’s right about the need to appeal to rural Ontario – not just for votes, but because it’s the right thing to do. Rural Ontario presents a basket of opportunities that can be harnessed for the benefit of all Ontario. Specialized funding programs like the Eastern Ontario Development Fund have given SDSG-area businesses a competitive edge and have brought new business to the region.

    What about increased agricultural training and fostering innovation? What about putting it online? How can we expand tourism and cultural opportunities in the region? You could expand the 138 for increased business and safety, support waterway development, bring some attention-getting events to the region, etc, etc. Jim Brownell showed us what’s possible when there’s a strong voice representing the region – there’s nothing stopping the next leader from bringing their ear to the people in Eastern Ontario and across rural and remote Ontario.

  13. Craig writes “You must weep for all those sinful penguins, monkeys, etc out there, engaging in homosexual activity. Seems to be pretty common behaviour in the animal kingdom, evolutionarily speaking. Can you explain to me how God’s judgement impacts these perverted creatures?”.

    First of all, animals are not created as moral creatures in the image and likeness of God. So if there are some “perverted creatures” it is not that God made them that way. God’s creative command is still “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill…”. Any abnormalities (rare in fact) is due to the curse that is upon the earth and upon all of mankind due to the fall of Adam, and the entrance of SIN into our dispositions.

    Again, since animals are not made in the image and likeness of God, and since mankind has been given special revelation – the Holy Bible, which clearly condemns all forms of sexual perversions, especially sodomy. We are therefore without excuse and are held accountable for our sinful, depraved choices in life.

    Once sin is totally removed in the new creation of the earth that is to come, animals will no longer will be affected by the curse, seeing the curse will be removed. Animals having no souls, and not being created in God’s image and likeness will not come into final judgment. But you and I will!

  14. Why bother choosing a new leader? Tim Hudak and the Commom Sense Revolution II are going to pound the liberals after McGuinty’s fiascos. And with that horse mouth why would anyone consider this Wynne pig? She is obviously inbred.
    @Craig Carter Whatever
    Small minded politicos from third rate schools like yourself should not be given the chance to place your distorted first year political science studies in a public forum. Take your B.A. and get a real job at Home Depot and shut up you long-winded blowhard. Son.

  15. If “deviant” behaviour is the result of Original Sin and that was motivated by Devilish intentions, did the devil then incite non-human animals to engage in homosexual acts? For what purpose?

    There are countless variations among the human animal, ranging from hair texture to skin colour to epicanthal folds. Given this variation, which people were created in the likeness of God? What about those that weren’t?

    Good governance is about finding and building on common ground, not isolating and demonizing. But I guess that’s not your craft.

  16. OK. We got his introvert goat. Epicanthal. That’s funny. Son.

  17. @ Wow. Do you really think the smirking Hudak will be more palatable to the electorate in the next election than he was in the last one? He completely blew an election he should have won by a landslide. For him to win the next one, he’d have to ditch his wife and the lingering stink of Mike Harris, and get complete face and personality transplants. The bigger threat to the Libs in the next election will be the NDP.
    Libs and Dippers absolutely love Hudak as leader of the Cons.

  18. My craft –

    Pro 29:2 “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people sigh”.

    Pro 14:34 “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people”.

  19. Wow, are you e-crushing on me? I’m flattered.

    It’s @__cce, if you’re curious.

    Tell us – what’s Hudak’s non-political experience so far? Can he tell Ontarians directly without having to refer to Changebook?

  20. @ Mr. Newton. Yes I’m sure that Ms.Wynne and Mr. Murray should be burned at the stake for their evil ways, if that would please your god. Have a good day.

  21. No Ed, it is apparent you don’t know the God of mercy – Eze 18:32 “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye”. Another place the same words of mercy -“As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die…”.

    Yes, it it true, if you turn not in repentance and faith to the all merciful God for forgiveness and new life in Christ, yes, you will perish in your sins, and that justly! It will not be a earthly stake of fire, but a eternal lake of fire.

    John 3:15-16 “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.

  22. Sandra Pupatello is announcing her jump into the fray tomorrow!
    This is good.

  23. Craig Carter-Edwards
    November 6 2012 12:44 p.m.
    November 6 2012 4:54 p.m.

    Not being familiar with your style and the possibility that you are purposely being thick on this matter I admit in advance that I may be off base in offering the following; Human beings stand apart in that they among of all life on this planet have the ability to rationalize. All other creatures simply react to their environment with instincts. Since all creatures other than man cannot rationalize their actions, than what would they be accountable for ? In other words leave the animals out of the equation .
    With regards to the innuendo regarding Ms. Wynne’s sexuality, personally I fail to see the relationship between what lies between a persons legs and what lies between their ears. Pastor Tom Newton’s take on Christianity does differ somewhat from mine and yours it would seem however.

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