Part 3: Ensight’s Roadmap to the Liberal National Convention

Liberal delegates vote for the new party constitution at the 2016 Liberal Biennial Convention Winnipeg Saturday, May 28, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

The 2018 Liberal National Convention is scheduled for April 19 – 21, but why should your business be paying attention? Follow along with Ensight’s 4 Part Series as we take a peek behind how conventions run, what they debate and what it means for your business and the 2019 federal election.

Part 3 – Get Your War Face On

By: John Delacourt

And so the campaign convention begins. For the estimated fifty percent of attendees to the Halifax federal Liberal convention who have never been to one of these before (and, given about half of those are under 25, they may have also never been able to vote before), they will enter a brave new world when they get to the city’s convention centre. Part 24-hour pep rally, wonkathon, and cavalcade of party (upper and lower case P) suites, newcomers would be advised to attend the plenary session tomorrow where Trudeau’s Principal Secretary Gerry Butts interviews Obama-whisperer David Axelrod to grasp the essence of what this weekend is about. Welcome to Team Trudeau and get ready to go to war.

The significance of this conversation cannot be overstated. For progressive voters on both sides of our shared borders, Axelrod may have lost his moustache but he hasn’t lost his mojo. More than just a sharp tongued observer of the Trump years in the Twittersphere, he has transitioned effortlessly into pundit, podcaster and founder and director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago. Most important – he had nothing to do with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Axelrod’s wisdom on what it will take for Team Trudeau to win another mandate will be received as the closest thing to gospel here in the Liberal church. You will believe.

The larger theme of Axelrod’s counsel here has already been provided to the media; roughly summarized, Team Trudeau is going to have to sacrifice a little “positive politics” and stroll over to the dark side, going negative when necessary to draw a clear distinction between their vision for the country and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives.

And perhaps even Singh’s NDP on occasion.

The dark side, you might have noticed, is not the lonely place you might have thought it was in early years of the Axelrod-Obama alchemy, when everything they touched turned into hope and change. Amid the spectral presence online of trolls and bots and Steve Bannon’s new model army of the embittered and emboldened, North Americans have discovered that Facebook, their online community bulletin board for family photos and pet videos, has long been gamed so the friends of Mr. Putin can data mine and microtarget every curmudgeon who just might believe the worst and exercise their franchise accordingly. An angry man votes, and so does an angry woman, despite how angry candidates tend to treat women. Going high when “they” go low ain’t what it used to be.  And anger at governments who have lost the public trust is the real potent force of change progressive governments are now contending with – the world over.

So this convention is really about the bigger picture for this government, though the government’s current travails with Kinder Morgan and all things Atwal will undoubtedly colour the festivities. The 2015 campaign victory was supposed to herald in a new era of bright and shiny democratic engagement on the platforms where even Grandma and Grandpa spend an hour, on average, every day. The 2019 campaign will be very different; fear’s trumping (sorry) the better angels of our nature the world over. Get ready for the take-no-prisoners fight for hope and change, where sorry sounds a little too much like sari – and that look is so over now.