Waters: Looking back to get ahead as election campaign kicks off

Federal leaders focus on the past as they look to the future

Here we go.

The official federal election campaign kicked off Wednesday with more of look back then a view to the future.

Our incumbent prime minister, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, said a vote for the Conservatives would be a step back to the bad old days of former Tory leader and prime minister Stephen Harper.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said a vote for the Liberals would be a vote for man (Trudeau) who doesn’t feel the rules apply to him.

The NDP’s Jagmeet Singh accused Trudeau of empty promises. And the Green’s Elizabeth May said the country is in a climate crisis and her party has the best plan to address it.

So much for the Liberals’ “Choose forward” campaign slogan, the Tories “It’s time for you to get ahead,” or even the NDP’s “In it for you.” It’s clear all three are in it for themselves.

So instead of a positive look to the future, we got a negative look back. Obviously, three of the four felt a the back-to-the-future approach was warranted.

In the case of the Conservatives, NDP and Greens, the strategy is not unusual.

As challengers for the keys to power, attacking the incumbent’s record, especially its leader, is par for the course in any election. Records are a two-edged sword — something to tout, something to defend.

Depending on the performance of the party in power over the last term, it is either the most powerful weapon a challenger has in his or her arsenal of rhetorical attacks, or something to shy away from.

In this case, there’s no denying Trudeau is carrying plenty of baggage into the vote.

If it isn’t reneging on past campaign promises, such as electoral reform, it’s the ongoing SNC-Lavalin scandal. And Scheer made sure to mention the latter as he kicked off the Conservative campaign Wednesday.

Trudeau, likely well-aware that the SNC-Lavalin issue would be brought up, trotted out what he feels could be a major Conservative weakness — it own past under Harper.

Trudeau was elected, in large part, because he was not Stephen Harper. So, he has tried repeatedly to paint Scheer as Harper version 2.0. The strategy has had mixed success.

What resulted Wednesday was less of where the two front-runners who are jockeying to form the next federal government will take the country, and more about where it has been.

As the campaign kicked off, Trudeau and Scheer appeared to have forgotten their respective party slogans.

Meanwhile, Singh and May could be in as important a race against each other for third place in the House of Commons as Trudeau and Scheer are in for first.

With most pundits predicting a minority government this time around, either Singh or May could the kingmaker come Oct. 21.

Hopefully, by that time all the leaders will be looking to the future rather than glancing over their shoulders at the past.

Alistair Waters is a regional editor with Black Press in Kelowna.

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