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There’s a strange wrestling match going on in Ottawa. The Conservatives have the Liberals in a headlock, and are hitting them with all kinds of distortions about their policies. And the Liberals are loving it.
In fact, on two key issues — Iraq and pipelines — the Liberals deliberately slipped themselves into the Conservatives’ headlock. And as with wrestling itself, it’s all phoney.
Take pipelines. The Conservatives claim the Liberals aren’t doing enough to get approval for Energy East. The facts, of course, tell a different story.
Liberals say they will not “redo” the Energy East assessment. They won’t “absolutely” give First Nations a veto over pipelines running through their lands. They say they’ll enhance the Energy Board’s assessment rules, but they haven’t shown their hand. (Remember, Trudeau’s campaign co-chair Dan Gagnier sent an email to the people behind the Energy East project offering them tips on how and when to lobby the new government.)
Yes, Trudeau’s rhetoric projects more ambiguity and indifference about pipelines than Harper’s ever did. But when you look at their actions, it’s clear the Liberals are pushing to get Energy East approved as much as the Conservatives did.
In the last election, progressive opinion wanted stronger pipeline reviews. Progressives were worried about safety, spills and the effect on communities. The Liberals agreed on all points, building a bridge to NDP voters that many progressives walked across.
The Liberals are deepening Canada’s Iraq engagement beyond what Harper envisioned. So to avoid the scorn of spurned progressives, they once again slip themselves into the Conservatives’ headlock and let them hammer away, calling Trudeau silly names.
Now, the Conservatives’ rhetoric is leaving the impression that the Liberals are maintaining their promise to the bridge-crossers. And the Liberals would very much like to thank the Conservatives for that.
And in return for participating in this wrestling theatre of the absurd, the Conservatives get to reassert their brand as the guys who are entirely committed to rapid oilsands development. Everybody wins. Sort of.
Take the debate over the ISIS mission in Iraq. Harper’s mission brief saw CF-18s sent to bomb Iraq. During the election, in an effort to leave the impression he had the same position as the NDP, Trudeau promised he’d withdraw the CF-18s. Again, the bridge was built.
To voters who don’t believe we belong in Iraq — or are skeptical of our ability to bomb our way to peace — this pledge sounded like a promise to withdraw from combat. And so, those voters crossed the bridge.
But the Liberals haven’t withdrawn — they’ve expanded the mission. Yes, Trudeau will withdraw our six CF-18s this month, keeping to the letter of his promise. But now he’s going to triple our troops on the ground and the military is looking to send four Griffon helicopters to run tactical missions. Far from withdrawing from combat, the Liberals are deepening Canada’s engagement beyond what Harper envisioned — without a timeline or clear objectives.
So to avoid the scorn of spurned progressives, the Liberals once again slip themselves into the Conservatives’ headlock and let them hammer away, calling Trudeau silly names.
The Liberals love it. Instead of sending “badass” Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan to explain the switcheroo, they put up Trudeau — the alleged ‘pacifist’ — to slip himself into the Conservative headlock.
The Conservatives strengthen their brand as military hawks, while the Liberals maintain their image as the more dovish party. And our role in the war expands. And Energy East continues uninterrupted. The world turns another turn.