Right in the centre - Policies and personalities


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

On way too many occasions, voters make voting decisions based on personalities and not policies. A politician is judged by their personality and not by the decisions they make.

Case in point is Donald Trump, President of the United States. Trump’s personality is almost beyond description, but many of his policies were actually quite beneficial. The latest examples are the reported peace agreements in the Middle East. Also, earlier in his mandate, it was generally agreed that the U.S. economy was doing quite well. It doesn’t appear he has done so well on managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of his policy successes or failures, he is being assessed by his personality. Is he an evil genius, a statesman, a sociopath? It depends who you ask.

It seems strange that politicians can go from hero to zero in a matter of a few short years. Sometimes, it takes even less time than that.

The American voters are very divided, but so are Canadian voters. Some people like Justin Trudeau, many people hate him. The voter divide surrounding Trudeau is similar to Trump, some hate him and some love him.

The problem is that personalities don’t mean good policies and yet politicians are far more remembered for their personalities than their policies. Diefenbaker is remembered for his flamboyant speeches, but not for his Bill of Rights. Pearson is remembered for being bland and maybe for the Maple Leaf flag, Mulroney for apparent arrogance more than the Free Trade agreement. Harper was called cold and aloof when he actually did a pretty good job on the economy.

Anyway, the point is made, personalities seem to garner or lose more votes than policies. Yet it is policies that we are governed by, not personalities.

As the U.S election looms, it seems that the battleground will be based on which old man’s personality will win over the most votes. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to convince the American voters that a 78-year-old white guy has the better personality and policies to run the country than a 74-year-old white guy. It’s absolute insanity, but it provides a context and background that may have a far greater effect in Canada than we might imagine.

Here is a scenario that may well play out in Canada. Justin Trudeau has a personality that is appealing to many people. His policies are also appealing to a core group of voters. However, his government has been involved in many scandals and has done a poor job of the C-19 pandemic. The country is teetering on financial instability because of the government’s C-19 spending. With a fresh, new Conservative Party of Canada leader, Erin O’Toole, Trudeau can hardly say he’s the fresh face as he heads into his third election. He needs someone to run against rather than run on his blighted record. Running against the likeable and relatively untainted O’Toole would be a tough road.

Who better for Trudeau to contrast against than Donald Trump? Trump is old, Trudeau is young. (Not as young as O’Toole, by the way.) Trump can be painted as screwing Canada over with the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. Trump’s softwood tariffs are hurting Canada. And besides, many Canadians think Trump is nuts, so who better to run against?

Trudeau needs a demon to protest against and who better than Trump? Trudeau likely figures Trump will lose in November, so the opportunity to contrast himself with Trump could be lost after the U.S. election. If the Canadian election runs at the same time as the U.S. election, Trudeau can also defy the Conservatives to say anything nice about Trump’s policies or personality during a campaign. Trudeau’s excuse will be the need for a post-COVID mandate for change, maybe reviving the guaranteed income idea.

Possible prediction: Canadian election in late October. It’s a bit of long shot, but given the perceived rise of Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives, the Liberal strategists may see this time frame as their best chance for victory.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.