Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hair of Politics

The world is busy mocking the US electoral situation right now because of The Donald and his never ending sideshow but there is plenty of ridiculous that goes on north of the border too.  We don't start campaigning a year and a half ahead of the actual event, mind, but when we do it gets fairly bizarre at times.

The Conservatives have aired an ad that attacks Trudeau's abilities on many fronts, questioning his ability to balance budgets, fight wars, etc.  It finishes off with "Nice hair though" as a backhanded compliment.

The ad is hilarious in a lot of ways, largely because the charges levelled against him are so absurd.  I mean, the guy is an example of dynastic politics who is only there because of his father's achievements... could we not explain why that is a real issue?  Instead the Conservatives want us to believe that he doesn't have the experience to balance the budget, which is hilarious since they took Canada from a big surplus when they took office to a series of large deficits.  We don't know how Trudeau and the Liberals would handle the finances of the country but we know for sure that the Conservatives are a disaster.  Surely it is better to take the unknown rather than the known when the known is terrible?

They also include a strawman arguing that marijuana legalization isn't important, as though leaders should never talk about anything they are going to do except the singular most important thing there is.  Even if you aren't big on pot being legal the argument that a person isn't fit to lead because they want to make small changes that they feel are good ones is nuts.

However, reducing the campaign to "Well, he is cute and all, but no good at leadership" is basically shutting down any useful discussion entirely.  They are essentially arguing that a young leader can't be a good leader and that old people are better at it.  This falls in line with the Conservative values being much more accepted by older Canadians but bothers me intensely because it ignores actual debate on the specific issues and focuses purely on the cosmetic elements of the leaders themselves.

The Conservative strategy is clearly to make themselves seem like the devil we know.  We know that fire doesn't rain from the sky when they are in charge, but who knows what will happen with a good looking firebrand like Trudeau at the helm?  Pestilence maybe?  You never know, with that hair!


  1. While I'm in no rush to defend the Conservatives, as a barely trained economist I feel compelled to pointout that the government has very little influence on the economy. The Conservative claims to have managed it well are ridiculous, as are the claims that now they've botched it. It takes a really big policy to impact the economy.

    What they are doing is actually what I think you're supposed to do - trying to reset expectations. Recessions partially happen because people expect the worst and change their behaviour in a way that makes things worse, so if you convince people that things are okay, maybe they won't be as bad. I'm not convinced this ever works, but I understand why they are trying. They don't have many other real options.

  2. I... I don't understand. How does the government have no influence on the economy?

  3. The government actually can't control the economy all that well. It is like parenting... you can screw the kid up if you try, but once you are vaguely competent it is extremely hard to actually ratchet that up to really improve your kid's outcomes. The difference between the minimally competent parent and the perfect parent in the kid's adult life is not much. The government and the economy are similar.

    HOWEVER! The government *can* control the deficit to a large degree. They can't produce bajillions of jobs or make the economy strong, but the can control their finances. The Conservatives have not displayed any competence at this. They did have to deal with the crash, true, but their track record is still abysmal.

  4. I'm not sure vaguely competent applies to Harper's parenting of the average Canadian.

  5. You haven't met the parents I have. My standards for vaguely competent might shock you.

  6. It's not even clear that deficits are bad. Earlier this week I read that our debt as a percentage of GDP is remarkably good and as a result, we shouldn't be concerned about deficits at all if there's a chance it will increase demand. And we shouldn't be cutting things just to balance the budget if it looks like we're heading into a recession.