John Ivison: Trudeau’s incoherent gun registry position is a gift to his Liberal rivals
Dec 3, 2012
Bro. John Ivison
Sometime between now and the 2015 election, expect to see a Conservative Party attack ad featuring a YouTube clip of a rookie MP debating the long-gun registry with some university protesters on the steps in front of Parliament.
“The registry saves lives,” argues a young Justin Trudeau, passionately.
Cut to an interview on the Liberal leadership campaign trail. “The long-gun registry, as it was, was a failure and I’m not going to resuscitate it,” says a slightly older Mr. Trudeau.
In Hawkesbury, Ont., on Friday, Justin Trudeau threw the long-gun registry under his campaign bus.
This downright reasonable position simultaneously illustrates how unserious Canadian politics can be, and offers a strange glimmer of hope for improvement — strange because it’s coming from someone many people assumed, not without reason, was a fairly insubstantial, middle-of-the-road Grit, as wedded as any other to the party’s various myths and talismans.
A year ago at this time, po-faced Liberals were making political hay out of Conservatives being deliberately excluded from a Parliament Hill memorial for the 14 victims of the École Polytechnique massacre.
“I think everything we fought for after 22 years is being actively dismantled,” moaned Carolyn Bennett, suggesting the registry’s impending demise was the “ultimate” manifestation of the Conservatives’ preference for “ideology over evidence.” (This statement itself is the ultimate manifestation of the equation, correlation + policy preference = causation.)
Cut to a still picture of Mr. Trudeau looking like he’s about to drive off in the getaway car, accompanied by a Conservative Party voiceover: “Justin Trudeau will tell you whatever he thinks you want to hear, whenever you want to hear it. He’s not a leader.”
And that will likely be the ball game.
The best attack ads crystallize that nagging feeling people have about a candidate – that deep-seated concern that turns brows bleak as voters have their worst fears validated.
They work especially well when they throw the candidate’s own words back in his or her face.
The only prospect of the above scenario not playing out is if Mr. Trudeau either loses the Liberal leadership or drops an even bigger clanger before it’s over. Both are real possibilities, despite the in-built advantage of the Liberals’ ridiculous “supporter” category voting system, which means you don’t even need to be a party member to elect the leader.
Mr. Trudeau has already contributed, by his own admission, to the Liberals losing a by-election in Calgary Centre they may well have won without his comments about Albertans controlling Canada’s “socio-economic agenda.”
Expect to see that one come back to haunt him too.
Now, he has put himself in a position where he has to reconcile his years of support for the registry with a new position that states it was a failure and he won’t re-introduce it if he ever wins government.
The case for the defence is that this is the Liberal Party’s position – that it was a divisive solution to gun control. By coming out against the party’s former orthodoxy, the belief is that Mr. Trudeau has wiped the slate clean and can now bring forward new policy of his own. He has already done this once in this campaign, when he disowned his father’s National Energy Program before heading to Calgary to come out in favour of foreign takeovers in the oilpatch.