So, Justin, when are we getting that back rub?

The parties can try all the slogans they want—we’re waiting for Trudeau’s firm hands

Photo illustration by Sarah Mackinnon

Photo illustration by Sarah Mackinnon

Only a year remains until the next federal election campaign—and each of the parties has been test-driving a slogan designed to increase its appeal. Let’s take a closer look:

New Democrats: “Change That’s Ready.” The NDP has had enough of being ignored, OK? They’re the official Opposition! They’ve got close to 100 seats in the House! Their leader offers Canadians the intelligence of an academic and the beard of a guitar teacher! And yet the media and the public pay far more attention to He Whose Hair Must Not Be Mussed.

The party’s new slogan attempts to position Thomas Mulcair as the most prepared alternative to Stephen Harper. It is being reinforced by Mulcair’s own musings in the public realm. Most recently, he’s been heard accusing his Liberal rival of having no policies, no solutions and no ideas—to which an irate Justin Trudeau has replied: [winks and offers Canada a back rub].

I’m kidding, of course. Trudeau actually has a whole bunch of policies. Would you be interested in hearing about them during your back rub, Canada?

It’s important to understand something else about the NDP: They are about more than slogans. They are also about trying to coax us into referring to their leader as Tom Mulcair. It’s always Tom this and Tom that. They’re trying so hard to make their leader seem relatable that it’s only a matter of time until they play the Tommy card. Hey look, kids: it’s Tommy MC! The ensuing ad is almost certain to include a puppy, two selfies and a hacky sack.

The impulse is understandable, but let’s face it: He’s just not a Tom. In fact, if there were a more formal version of Thomas, that’s what we’d be calling Thomas Mulcair. There’d be people across Canada saying: “Sure, I like the NDP’s message—but I just can’t connect with Thomaseth.”

Conservatives: “Better Off With Harper.” Strategically, this slogan aligns with the party’s longstanding argument that Canada is a great country and an enviable economic power that would immediately collapse into chaos and return to the barter system should Stephen Harper be defeated.

But the casual use of the Prime Minister’s surname is a little strange, no? Do you think there’s a single Conservative staffer who refers to the PM as “Harper?” I bet that even in their dreams, they address him as “Sir,” “Mr. Prime Minister” or “Stephen of the House Harper, first of his name.” (Game of Thrones-themed dreams only.)

Plus, it is perhaps worthy of mention that the expression “better off with” is most frequently used in reference to the choice between two unpalatable options: Well, last time, the burritos gave me the runs, so I guess I’m better off with the enchiladas. Not exactly an image to rally a political base.

Then again, the Conservatives are raising enough money that they’re on the verge of moving beyond the need for slogans. Give the poindexters at Conservative Labs another few months and they’ll be able to beam Harper talking points directly into our subconscious—like a U2 album into our iTunes. One day, we’ll just wake up with unfamiliar new opinions about the unemployed and corduroy.

Liberals: “Justin Trudeau—Getting Ready to Lead.” There are two ways to read this slogan. Here’s one way: “A confident Trudeau fully expects to become PM and is preparing tirelessly to bring real change to Canada.” Many, however, have been reading it the other way: “Justin Trudeau is not currently ready to lead—but he’s totally going to buckle down and possibly go to night school. Check back with us in a few months, OK?”

Under this interpretation, the slogan leaves unanswered the question of how long “getting ready” will take. Will Trudeau study on weekends? Will he enlist a cool mentor like Mr. Miyagi or Patches O’Houlihan? Is there a climactic test of some kind like in the Harry Potter books? Only after you navigate the Hedge Maze of Legislative Procedure shall you truly be ready to lead, my child.

That said, there are signs that Trudeau is getting a little closer to being ready. One recent ad included a photo of him sitting at a desk looking all leader-like and doing some paperwork. It was probably just a receipt so we can all file a workplace insurance claim for that back rub, but it’s a start.

Scott Feschuk’s new book, The Future and Why We Should Avoid It, comes out in October and is available for pre-order here and here.


So, Justin, when are we getting that back rub?

  1. I think the NDP needs to aim for that ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ vibe. He’s hard-working, really useful, and doesn’t derail anymore often than the rest of the engines, er…candidates.

  2. I’ve never voted liberal in my life, but this continual slamming of Trudeau in the press is making me wonder what those “in the know” are so afraid of. I’d call it muck raking, but there really is no muck, is there? To quote my favourite Disney character, “If you can’t say somethin nice, don’t say nothin at all.” Using conservative style articles, shame on the NDP for stooping to such levels.

    • Unless you are 20 and have never voted (or 24 and only voted Conservative because you were swept up by Harper’s overwhelming whirlwind of charisma), I call bunk.
      There are exactly zero Canadian citizens who
      1. voted Conservative last election and
      2. think the press has excessively scrutinized Trudeau the younger.

  3. JT has never done anything but run on Daddy’s name – his vast experience is from being a drama teacher.

    While I am not a lover of Mr. Harper, at least he has demonstrated some ability.

    Would I want JT representing me in the international arena? Nope.

    I would rather have the citizen of France who leads the NDP (I cannot believe I just wrote that)_ before JT would even enter my thoughts.

    Time for JT to get a real job for a few years – so far all he wants is to legalize/decriminalize marijuana and apologize to those who would harm us. If JT has at least had to worry about paying a power bill or make a car payment he would be that much further ahead.

    A spoiled prat in my mind and nothing more.

    • …so your saying a Drama Queen, is still much better than a Drama Knave ?

    • “While I am not a lover of Mr. Harper, at least he has demonstrated some ability.” Really? Where? Did you watch his speech at the Security Council (that we are not a member of because bankrupt Portugal took our place)? President Obama walked out as Steve took the podium. Or the following speech at the UN the next day, wherein our Stevie-Boy spoke to a near-empty room.

      Perhaps you mean the six consecutive budget deficits since he came into power. Maybe you want to boast about the number of trade deals he is working on. Six are fully concluded and implemented, and together they represent just 2% of global GDP. Canada has suffered large trade deficits, a situation the Bank of Canada has described as a “serial disappointment”.

      OK.. you must mean the unemployment rate: National unemployment rate in January, 2006: 6.6 National unemployment rate in December, 2013: 7.2 Increase in the number of unemployed in Canada since January 2006: 236,200 Youth unemployment rate, January 2006: 12.2 Youth unemployment rate, December 2013: 14.0 Rank of Canada among the 34 OECD nations in employment creation 2007-2012: 20th The number of governments since 1935 that have presided over a slower rate of real economic growth per capita than the Harper Conservatives: 0

      Amount added to the federal national debt since Conservatives took power in 2006: $123,500,000,000 A full 20% of our national debt has been accumulate since Harper came to power.
      At the very least, I have never had a good explanation to the missing and unaccounted for $3.1 BILLION dollars your economist happened to misplace. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-can-t-account-for-3-1b-in-anti-terror-funding-ag-finds-1.1303999

      I could go on but I hate to smear your rose-colored glasses.


      • You forget him hauling the country away from the 2008 disaster – and a lot of the continued deficit positions are due to helping bail out GM and Chrysler, or have forgotten even recent history. And the EU free trade deal has been inked with only Chermay a little angst. I think I’ll take Harper to a Mulcair who slid into opp because a fickle Quebec parked their votes with the Terror of Terrbonne as a change from BQ, Lib or PQ or whatever that province can dream up – Terrible Trudeau the Terror of ????.

    • This just sounds like a Conservative press release. Justin Trudeau was never a drama teacher (he taught one drama course for a colleague who was on medical leave). He was a French & math teacher. Unlike Harper who rarely travelled outside of Canada before coming to office, Trudeau travelled all over the world growing up. He’s fluently bilingual & has been in Parliament for a couple of terms now.

      As for Mulcair, why do Conservatives keep bringing up the citizen of France thing? Why is this supposed to be an issue? Mulcair has French citizenship through his parents (I believe it comes through a mother who was born in France). This was the case for Stephane Dion too and it also seemed to bother Conservatives. Many MP’s in the House are from other countries and have dual citizenship, including some in the Conservative caucus.

      • CB: This is not fiction writing exercise. If you don’t like JT’s CV, tell him to make the correction.
        Don’t try to camouflage. It could be OK to make yourself look pretty bad. But, JT? He is already in…

    • TOC: “Time for JT to get a real job”. The first thing for anyone to do is go to school, acquire knowledge, skills and competence. For JT, try emotional intelligence: Not so much. Try cognitive intelligence:
      non-existent. Get a real job? Not all employers are liberal.

  4. “Getting ready to lead” is dumb. Hopefully they do not continue with this line.

    • I think ‘Getting ready to lead’ refers to the Liberal Party itself re-building and putting a competent team together and not coming across as arrogant as in the past or just assuming they can take power automatically like in the old days. I think the slogan is meant to sound less cocky.

      The thing about the NDP is that although Mulcair has been in politics longer than Trudeau, he’s never served in a federal cabinet either, and nor has anyone else in the NDP because they’ve never formed government. So the NDP is also vulnerable to criticism that they are not ready to form government either.

  5. Also – once again very funny.

  6. “…two unpalatable options: Well, last time, the burritos gave me the runs, so I guess I’m better off with the enchiladas. Not exactly an image to rally a political base.”
    Actually, I’m OK with with your chosen image. Enchiladas = Harper; burritos = Martin (or possibly Trudeau the elder)? Yup, totally cool with that.

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