Liberal Convention 2018: What to Watch For

Liberal Party of Canada activists around the country are preparing for the party’s biennial convention in Halifax, the second since the 2015 Federal Election. As exciting as conventions are, it remains to be seen if Halifax 2018 will be as celebratory as the convention in 2016 – but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a lively affair.

The Trudeau Government faces its first re-election challenge 18 months from now, with the opposition nipping at its heels from the left and right. The New Democrats under leader Jagmeet Singh continue to (with great joy) point out that the Liberals failed in their promise to reform Canada’s electoral system. Conservatives, on the other hand, are equally gleeful to point out the numerous embarrassing moments and ethical lapses which have plagued the Prime Minister over the last year.

The convention is a chance for Prime Minister Trudeau to rally his troops and prepare for an energetic lead up to the next election. This is made apparent through the convention’s formal agenda, which is dominated by campaign colleges, data management sessions, volunteer organization panels, and a speech by President Obama’s chief strategist David Axelrod.

This is not the agenda of a bashful, scandal-plagued political party. The 2018 convention schedule is a clear signal that the Liberal Party intends to approach the coming election much the same way as it did in 2015 – with a robust and aggressive election strategy dependent on motivated volunteers and well-organized ground campaigns.

Observers should keenly watch for Prime Minister Trudeau’s keynote speech. His tone will likely serve to reinforce the message of a confident political machine preparing to take its record to voters. There is also little doubt that the reaction to the Prime Minister’s speech will be just as important as the speech itself. While the reaction from the opposition parties will be predictable, the media truly holds the keys in determining whether or not the Prime Minister’s message resonates with the average Canadian.

The last and perhaps most important thing to watch for coming out of the 2018 Liberal Party convention is the aftermath. At the 2016 convention, a cabinet minister lost his job because of inappropriate behavior. It should be expected that attendees will be better behaved this year, but that remains to be seen.

The convention’s aftermath will also be determined by how excited Liberal Party activists are to carry forward the Prime Minister’s message into the next election. While there will always be internal debate around policy and politics, what is key is that those disagreements are satisfactorily resolved within, and stay within, the confines of the convention hall. Any leaky gossip or tension could easily be painted as a signal that there is trouble brewing in paradise.

So, as we approach the end of this government’s mandate, the Liberal Party’s 2018 convention in Halifax will be a key moment in defining the government’s energy moving forward. Observers should watch carefully for how the convention’s agenda is perceived, how the Prime Minister’s speech is received, and importantly how well internal disagreements are kept bottled up.

NATIONAL Public Relations will be attending the convention and will provide updates as the weekend progresses.