The House

Midweek podcast: post-election lookahead

The marathon campaign is over, but the hard work is just beginning. Chris Hall chats with the Ottawa Citizen's Mark Kennedy and Tasha Kheiriddin, a columnist for the National Post and iPolitics, about the challenges facing all three main parties post-election.

The marathon campaign is over, but for Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau, there's no time for a recovery period. 

It's go time for the Liberals, so what do they focus on first?

Meanwhile, the other two parties have more time for recovery, reflection — and rebuilding. What's next for the Conservatives and the New Democrats, and where do they go from here?

Mark Kennedy, parliamentary bureau chief for the Ottawa Citizen, and Tasha Kheiriddin, columnist for iPolitics and the National Post, join host Chris Hall to discuss in the latest episode of our midweek podcast.

Q: Justin Trudeau made a lot of promises on the campaign trail. What does he have to do first?

Tasha Kheiriddin: He's already set the more positive, open tone I think Canadians wanted, and now he has to start fulfilling his promises. He's going to have to start making good on those commitments, and I think pretty quickly because people expect so much from him.

Mark Kennedy: Expectations are really high. The syndrome is the same — and that's Justin Trudeau now and Barack Obama in 2008. You've got a candidate promising change, hopes are high, and the last thing he wants to do is dash those hopes. The bar now is very high. The first thing he has to do is create a solid cabinet, and that isn't easy.

Q: He's pledged to have a cabinet of 25 ministers with gender parity. Is that a realistic commitment?

TK: He has an embarrassment of riches from which to choose, and that's maybe a good thing to have. He doesn't want to make mistakes or fall into the trap of appointing people just because of gender. 

MK: I asked him how he was going to accomplish the promise, which I've never seen another Prime Minister make before, of having gender parity. He says it can be done, and he's convinced it can be done, that he's seen it done successfully in the private sector. The one thing he has to recognize is that the regions need to be represented, that he has geographic parity too. That could be difficult.

Q: What about international obligations Trudeau may be facing in the next month, from the G20 summit to APEC or the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting?

TK: He may send his foreign minister, whoever that is, to some of these trips. I don't think that would be a mistake. I think getting his agenda through first for him would probably be a better political priority.

MK: This is just a gut guess on my part, but I wouldn't be surprised if he sent a foreign minister to go to the Commonwealth summit, perhaps the APEC summit. I do think he would be at the G20 summit. It's increasingly becoming the pre-eminent forum for foreign leaders, and for our newly-elected Prime Minister not to be at that might send a bad signal. I think it's a perfect opportunity for him to show his stuff on the world stage. 

Q: What about the Conservatives — how does the legacy of Stephen Harper affect the future of the party?

TK: The party isn't a disaster. 99 seats is a healthy Opposition. Stephen Harper leaves the party much better off than it was after its catastrophic defeat in 1993 when there were only two people left from the Progressive Conservatives. The problem is that the leadership will have to not only choose a new leader, but a new direction. The Conservative values [Harper] espoused may not be the values the party wants to espouse to grow beyond the 30 per cent base. If they're going to grow that tent, they're going to have to reassess.

MK: We need to remember that Stephen Harper has been this party's only leader. They were born out of the ashes of the Canadian Alliance and Reform parties, and the Progressive Conservatives. What we now have to watch for is whether a battle emerges between old-style Progressive Conservatives and Canadian Alliance-type Conservatives as to who they are and where they stand on values.

Q: Where do they need to go to be a successful force again?

TK: I think they need to go to the base of the Conservative party and grow from there. The bedrock principles of conservatism still remain — the family, having a smaller government, de-emphasizing the role of the state — and they will always remain the foundation of the Conservative party, but it's the manner in which they're expressed and communicated.

MK: I spoke with Tom Flanagan, who ran a couple of Mr. Harper's leadership campaigns. He said it's nothing more complicated than this — they need to pick the right leader. In today's politics, it's leadership that generally wins. It's what got the Liberals from 35 seats to 184. Apparently they picked the right leader. The Tories are going to have to pick the right leader.

Q: In the meantime, a new interim leader will be chosen. Any guesses?

MK: It clearly has to be someone with no leadership ambitions, and it has to be someone who may be there for a year. This person is going to be the face of this party, and they still are Official Opposition, so this person has to be a good performer in the House of Commons.

TK: I would say someone from the older flank of the party, who doesn't have political ambitions because they've been there for awhile. The interim leader should be a strong placeholder, but that's absolutely as far as they should go.

Q: What do the NDP need to do next?

MK: They need to ask themselves, 'did we do the right thing in trying to become a centrist party?', and it's really nothing more complicated than that. Mr. Mulcair convinced them they needed to become a more centrist party, but the moment they came out promising a balanced budget, people looking for change didn't see it in Tom Mulcair.

TK: I think it was the Liberals who outflanked the NDP from the left, and that was the unexpected move. I don't think the NDP had much choice but to say they'd run a balanced budget. It was the Liberals who outmaneuvered them. The NDP will have to have that conversation. I also expect they'll have a leadership race sometime between now and the next election.

MK: Tom Mulcair is a proud man. The question he has to ask himself is, does he want to do this again? Can he do this again? He's got time. But he himself will do some soul-searching, without a doubt.

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