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Which is more distressing, the idiocy of our PM or the hypocrisy of our opposition leader?

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on the campaign trail in 2015. Image: David J. Climenhaga

Which is more distressing, the immaturity and sheer idiocy of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or the nauseating hypocrisy of Opposition eader Andrew Scheer?

One of them, sad to say, is still the most likely person to emerge as prime minister of Canada after October 21.

The former dressed up in blackface at an age and a moment in history when there was no longer any possible excuse for a decent adult to do that. Then he hid it from his own Liberal party and failed to make an honest disclosure and apology at a time and place the resulting furor could have been managed.

The latter, having failed repeatedly to curb the worst tendencies of his own Conservative MPs and strategists, and after hanging around himself with yellow vest creeps and white nationalists, said he'll stand by his racist and homophobic candidates as long as they say they're sorry. But no apology is acceptable when it comes to his chief opponent.

"I accept the fact that people make mistakes in the past and can own up to that and accept that," Scheer said recently. Except when he doesn't accept it, of course.

To give Trudeau such credit as we can, at least his apologies have sounded sincere, which is more than you can say for some of Scheer's forgiven candidates.

This is particularly distressing because for most progressive Canadians two other party leaders -- Jagmeet Singh of the New Democratic Party and Elizabeth May of the Green party -- both look better in comparison today, but still don't have much chance of forming government.

It's all very well for deeply committed partisans to condemn strategic voting, but for most progressive Canadians it's a harsh reality of Canada's first-past-the-post system, which Trudeau promised to reform, and didn't.

It's even more distressing because we understand the bleak reality that for all the Liberals' and their leader's multitude of sins, another Conservative government would still do far more harm to the country we love.

Which brings us to the next calculation: what the impact of this uproar will be on Trudeau's fortunes in the election on October 21.

When the photo bomb dropped, Trudeau's party and Scheer's were neck and neck in most polls, for whatever that's worth. The Liberals were deemed by most commentators to have the most "efficient" vote, and therefore a slight edge.

Does this upset that calculation? Or, as a family member living abroad asked me this afternoon, "is Trudeau sunk?"

Professional prognosticators employed by mainstream media seem to be tilting toward the analysis it will, and he is.

I am not so sure for the following reasons.

First, whether or not Trudeau recovers doesn't really have much to do with the specific details of the trouble he's got himself into.

If Canadians are sick of him, he's sunk.

If they're not sick of him, the crisis will be over for all intents and purposes in a couple of days, and he's not sunk.

And it's not yet clear, especially given the realistic alternatives, if Canadians are sick of him.

As bad as this is for the Liberals, it's better that it happened now than in two weeks, which makes me wonder, seriously, who leaked the incriminating high school annual photo to Time magazine?

The Conservatives, of course, will do their best to keep this issue front and centre, even if it turns out most non-Conservative voters say pfffft. So their media narrative will be that he's sunk.

It's funny to say this will be hard to explain to your racist uncle who hates the Trudeaus, but he's probably going to vote Conservative anyway, and the party, understandably, will do its best to shore up such voters.

The NDP want their missing mojo back, so their narrative will be similar to that of the Conservatives.

As for the Greens, despite May's tweet she was "deeply shocked" at the revelation, so far their narrative is not really clear. Some political calculations are being made there, I'd guess.

Media will continue to push this too -- not just because it's a good story, although it is, but because both Postmedia and the Globe and Mail have faced recent criticism about offensive commentary in their pages and this is an excellent opportunity to, as they say, restore their dignity.

So what will Canadians decide? Nobody really knows at this instant, but the herd instinct will be clear soon enough. My hot-take guess is it will be less than the Conservatives hope or the media predicts.

Remember back in 2011 when it looked as if the NDP was on a roll and then a story appeared saying leader Jack Layton had been "found" by police in a massage parlour 15 years before?

The night the news broke, I thought, "That's it. He's done."

I couldn't have been more wrong.

The next day Layton's approval ratings jumped. Maybe that was because voters thought the report was just a sleazy Conservative smear. Maybe it was because they thought it didn't matter.

Whatever their reasons were, it made no difference. The orange wave reached its highest crest under Layton's leadership and, had he not died of cancer later that year after briefly serving as opposition leader, he might well be running for his second term as prime minister by now.

Is this situation analogous? Not exactly. But when it comes to the imponderables of political calculations, what matters is how voters react.

And as Harold Wilson, the Labour politician who was Britain's prime minister from 1964 to 1970 and again from 1974 to 1976, famously and accurately observed: "A week is a long time in politics."

There are four weeks and three days until election day.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: David J. Climenhaga

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