As the Corona crisis lingers, pundits are warning of how Canada and the world will be forever changed afterward. But we have heard this kind of “nothing will ever be the same” talk before: after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But other than air travel, what really changed after 9/11? Remember the pall that fell over the United States and Canada after 9/11? The presumed death of irony? During those days, did it seem like the Kardashians would be possible, or The Bachelor, or United States President Donald Trump (other than on The Simpsons, which apparently predicted everything)? Yet they all happened, along with Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, and the thousands of other diversions we employ to make modern life tolerable.
Yes, it feels slightly wrong to issue yet another column criticizing Justin Trudeau. But with no end in sight for the Corona virus shutdown, offended readers are even less likely to come to my house with their complaints. If they do, I could really use some flour.
Though it may seem an odd comparison, Justin Trudeau often reminds me of a military officer who is perpetually surrounded by hostile fire, yet emerges unscathed, shirtless and ready to surf every single time. He could not be blamed for loving the smell of hand sanitizer in the morning, or at any time of day. To this minority Liberal government, hand sanitizer smells like … survival.
First there was the jubilation, and the upending of traditions. Then came the economic stagnation and mutual contempt. By the end, there was seething hatred.
Word came at lunchtime Monday that Justin Trudeau would address the annual convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada that very afternoon. Perhaps the surprise nature of the appearance was owing to some misapprehension in the prime minister’s office that, given enough notice, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre would be crawling with dungareed men wielding pick axes.
Then there’s the inconvenient fact that the convention’s lead sponsor is Teck Resources, whom Trudeau might remember as the proponent of the most recent energy megaproject abandoned during Trudeau’s tenure. Teck will certainly remember Trudeau.
Donald Trump’s visit to India this week is reminding us of Justin Trudeau’s shambolic tour of India, which was precisely two years ago. Trump’s many critics are joking about his pronunciation of Indian names, and speculating that he may starve without a steady supply of “hamberders” in the meat-challenged subcontinent. But even Trudeau’s usual defenders found it difficult to joke about Trudeau and his family’s daily Bollywood-inspired fashion parade, or spin the appearance of a Sikh extremist at an official reception.
Justin Trudeau’s triumphalist election night speech had not gone over well. “Tonight, Canadians rejected division and negativity” he bragged, after spending weeks smearing Conservative leader Andrew Scheer and the premier of Canada’s largest province. He framed his minority as a “clear mandate,” despite having been shut out of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Much of the post-election commentary described Trudeau’s speech as tone deaf.
If Conservative leadership candidates can get past their current preoccupations – which appear to be French proficiency, pride parades and yoga – they would do well to start staking out some policy positions to show they are fit and ready take over from our unshaven prime minister. If you have missed Justin Trudeau’s whiskers and whispery lisp in recent days, it is because he is currently on a nine-day jet fuel and light bribery spree in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, in hopes of attaining a temporary seat on the UN Security Council.
“Better than Trudeau” might strike many Conservatives as too low a bar, but there are always many higher, invisible hurdles for Conservative leaders, as Peter MacKay is now bumpily re-learning, after four years of peaceful family and work life.
I don’t have a parent’s perspective on the last few months of teacher strikes and job actions, but as a conservative I am naturally frustrated. “Fire them all!” I shout at the television, invoking the memory of the blessed Ronald Reagan, though I know very well that neither education minister Stephen Lecce nor premier Doug Ford can fire teachers who are employed by school boards. “Lock them out in January!” was another refrain I would mutter into the void. Again, same problem: politicians can’t lock out people who work for different politicians.
Sadly, the prospect of teachers picketing through weeks of winter weather has probably receded into Wiarton Willie’s lair.
Two weeks ago I predicted an eventful week in the race to succeed Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. Turns out my prediction was a week early: it was last week that we saw several events that will likely shape the contest that ends five months from now.
On Tuesday, former Mulroney cabinet minister and Québec premier Jean Charest frustrated hopes of an exciting fight between himself and Peter MacKay, by dropping out. The statement he released claimed the timeline for the leadership contest was too short, and made it difficult for an “outside candidate” (his words) to round up the $300,000 and 3,000 member signatures required in two months.
Something weird happened last week. Justin Trudeau blamed America for the circumstances that led to Iran downing a passenger plane with 57 Canadians onboard. In response, US president Donald Trump … did nothing.
In an interview with Global News, anchor Dawna Friesen asked Trudeau whether the Canadians were “collateral damage” to US-Iran tensions. Trudeau’s answer was in obvious agreement with the question’s premise: “If there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families.”
This should be an eventful week in the nascent contest to replace Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. The party’s leadership committee released the rules for the leadership contest over the weekend.
The key bits are: candidates will have to raise $300,000 just to cover their fees and deposit (the $100,000 deposit will be returned if they follow the rules); they have until February 27 to apply (with $25,000 due up front) and until March 25 to hand over the rest of the $300,000. Anyone who wants to vote in the race must be a Conservative party member by April 17th. Dates and locations for debates (or “leadership forums” as the rules call them) are pending.
Barely a day after the Canadian Press released a story about Justin Trudeau’s vacation beard – “Justin Trudeau is sporting a new, more serious look to go with his more businesslike approach to being prime minister” went the lede – tragedy has given Trudeau his first opportunity to prove how serious he can be.
Information emerged on Thursday that Iran had indeed shot down the Ukrainian airliner on which all 176 passengers and crew – including at least 63 Canadians – died on Wednesday. This explained Iran’s shady behaviour in the aftermath of the crash: immediately claiming that the plane had suffered a mechanical failure, refusing to release the flight recorders to civilian authorities qualified to examine them, then claiming the recorders were damaged and some data was likely unrecoverable.
Sometimes when I am still struggling for a column topic of a Monday afternoon, I turn on the TV and radio news channels, hoping something will present itself. Usually it does not, and I return to my computer in defeat yet again. Yesterday was an exception.
I happened upon Lisa Raitt – former Conservative MP, co-chair of the Conservative Party’s leadership committee, and Bell Media contributor since the election – on Evan Solomon’s radio show. After some call-ins about how the Conservative party handled various issues in the past, Raitt offered a non-answer to Solomon’s opinion on one of the potential leadership candidates.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s used to be a reliable window for little-known outfits to drop an outrageous story or claim onto hungry news outlets, which would often give such nonsense a boost that would be impossible any other time of the year.
On Monday morning, the day after finance minister Bill Morneau had criticized his Conservative critic for warning of a “made-in-Canada” recession, the news broke: Statistics Canada data showed that Canada’s economy shrank in October. From Reuters:
Canada’s economy unexpectedly shrank by 0.1 per cent in October, the first monthly decline since February, partly because of a U.S. auto strike that hit manufacturing, Statistics Canada data indicated on Monday.
You probably missed it in the pre-holiday hubbub. And if you check the news on the weekend you will probably still miss it. Because Justin Trudeau’s first broken promise since the October election disappeared from the news in 48 hours.
On Monday, finance minister Bill Morneau released the government’s fall economic and fiscal update, after MPs were safely in their home ridings for the holidays. It was immediately clear why: the headline was that the 2019/20 fiscal year will end with the government in the red by $26.6 billion, up from the $19.8 billion projected in Morneau’s budget way back in … March. Not a great topic for question period, and certainly an unhelpful distraction from the Conservatives’ ongoing Andrew Scheer drama.
The initial story (from unnamed sources) was that Conservative leader Andrew Scheer was using party funds to pay for his kids’ private school tuition, and was doing it “without the knowledge or approval of the [Conservative] Fund” as Global reporter Mercedes Stephenson tweeted in an “exclusive” moments before Scheer stood to speak in the House of Commons on Thursday.
But, as stories from unnamed sources often are, it was not entirely accurate. Two hours after Scheer resigned, party president Scott Lamb issued a statement that after Scheer was elected leader in 2017, Lamb offered to have the party reimburse Scheer for the costs of moving his family to Ottawa: “This includes a differential in schooling costs between Regina and Ottawa. All proper procedures were followed and signed off on by the appropriate people.”
Today marks one year since Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arbitrarily arrested in China for unspecified violations of Chinese state secrets laws. A lengthy piece in Monday’s Globe and Mail detailed the conditions under which they are now held: Kovrig in a jail outside Beijing, and Spavor in the Dandong Detention Centre.
The Globe and Mail published a lengthy piece on the weekend about the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, which happened in Vancouver on Dec. 1 of last year. It provided some new details about which Canadian, American and Chinese officials and politicians knew about Meng’s impending arrest (and when).
After a week which saw a new federal cabinet bursting with Sesame Street-worthy titles, a defence minister saying “We don’t consider China as an adversary,” and more evidence that Canada’s supposedly strong economy is about to get polar vortexed, the parliamentary press gallery still found time to take a few kicks at Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
The Toronto Star’s Chantal Hebert launched her Sunday column with this zinger: “With every passing week, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer looks more like a politician trying to whistle past the graveyard of his leadership.” Geez, where do you go after that? I wish I could tell you, but I was not going to pay to read the rest of Hebert’s piece.
“You cannot have your cake and eat it too. Pick a lane.” “There would be no oil industry in Alberta if Quebec had not willingly or not contributed to the very beginning of that industry.” Western separatism is a “weak threat.” “Maybe Alberta is jealous of some of the powers that Quebec has and would like to have that kind of autonomy.”
These were some of the barbs that were flying last week from (in order): Alberta premier Jason Kenney, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier, and former Liberal minister Denis Coderre. If only we could afford to hire Andy Cohen to moderate a panel discussion among this crew. But it might not be as entertaining without the hair extensions and fake nails.
So here we are, 11 weeks after now-defeated Liberal MP Ralph Goodale tweeted an old video of Andrew Scheer arguing against same sex marriage. And journalists are still asking Andrew Scheer what he thinks about gay people. Last week it was an unnamed reporter who asked Scheer whether he thinks homosexuality is a sin, as if Scheer were running for Pope and the journalist is a voting Cardinal.
Cheer up, Conservatives! Six-time sexiest Member of Parliament Peter MacKay has emerged from the wilderness of Toronto’s Beaches to save you from yourselves. Oh, he’s not interested in the leadership, mind you. Not unless it’s vacant, that is. And he totally supports the guy who is filling that vacancy now, though MacKay thinks Andrew Scheer blew last month’s election in the manner of “having a breakaway on an open net and missing the net.” And did you hear him describe abortion and same sex marriage as a “stinking albatross” around Scheer’s neck?
I think there’s an old joke that a war correspondent’s job is to show up after a battle and shoot the wounded. For political journalists in Canada, the equivalent would be to shoot conservatives after an election. Maybe it’s because journalists merely want to get a head start on the inevitable crossfire of conservatives shooting each other, which in election 2019 started before the ballots had even been cast.
Circumstances compel me to file this column before the results of Monday’s election are known, but it will not be published until the dust has settled Tuesday morning. Assuming the dust has settled, that is. The seat count and some ridings may be so close that it takes a few days – or God forbid, weeks – before we know who will be prime minister.
Heading into the last week of the federal campaign, many Canadians are ready for it to be over. It’s funny how most people can’t wait for an election – given the common dissatisfaction with governments of any political stripe – but then find the campaign period itself to be pretty near unbearable. Seeing Justin Trudeau’s breathy condescension on TV every day makes one nostalgic for his frequent vacations. In her umpteenth election campaign, Green leader Elizabeth May continues to distinguish herself as the most annoying resident of every retirement community.
It was not as damaging as Justin Trudeau’s brownface and blackface, but the news that Andrew Scheer has dual Canadian-American citizenship was a rare own goal, by a leader who has put very few feet wrong in the last two years.
The Globe and Mail reported last week that Scheer has US citizenship through his father, who was born in the United States. Scheer had let his US passport lapse, but has filed US tax returns and registered for the draft, as required by US law. Scheer began the paperwork to renounce his American citizenship this August.
If you think the word “broker” in the headline means this is going to be a column about whether or not Andrew Scheer was a qualified insurance broker in Saskatchewan 16 years ago, I apologize for letting you down.
No, this isn’t about Andrew Scheer fudging his insurance qualifications in various resumes and biographies over the last 16 years. Luckily for him, Justin Trudeau’s blackface antics have set a bar on 20s behaviour that is pretty hard to surpass, which for all we know may be surpassed again by Trudeau himself before we stagger to election day three weeks hence.
One of the sidebars from Justin Trudeau’s most egregious self-embarrassment (so far) included this telling scene on the Liberal campaign’s media bus – just before Time magazine released the first of three photos showing Trudeau in costume and dark makeup – described by Teresa Wright of the Canadian Press:
The journalists covering the Liberal leader’s re-election bid were heading away from a rally at a candidate’s campaign office in Truro, N.S., where a crowd of supporters and fans had done what they’d been doing all week: waiting and waiting for the leader to arrive before swarming him for selfies, cellphones at the ready.
The way the federal party leaders are promising new programs and tax cuts, you would never guess the federal government is running a $15-billion deficit this year, and is approaching $700 billion in debt (according to the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation debt clock).
And we are not even a full week into the campaign. There are 33 more days ahead for leaders to promise to help you with buying a house, having a baby, child care, health care, university, retirement, and so on. If you’re my age and are only slightly worried that you will still be alive when this Ponzi scheme collapses, it’s not so bad. For younger people it should be pretty alarming, though many of them seem preoccupied with climate change and Doug Ford.
Just over two weeks ago, public safety minister Ralph Goodale tweeted a 2005 video of Andrew Scheer debating same sex marriage in the House of Commons. It was a coordinated Liberal campaign attack, as it appeared simultaneously in English and French on no-parlez-francais Goodale’s Twitter feed.
Dropping the video was also an obvious attempt to change the channel from a fresh and devastating report from the ethics commissioner, who ruled that Justin Trudeau had violated ethics rules (for the second time) in attempting to secure a deferred prosecution for Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin.
The election call is expected sometime this week or next, leaving little time for the major parties to get their major election readiness pieces in order. These include things such as: nominating candidates in every riding (and managers and financial officers), the policy platform, the leader’s tour, the advertising campaign, the rapid response operation, and (last but not least) cash or credit to pay for all of the foregoing.
According to CTV, the Conservatives are in the lead on nominations, with candidates in 333 of 338 ridings. Max Bernier’s People’s Party is next with 315, the Greens have 284, and the Liberals 275. Going into the Labour Day weekend, the NDP had nominated candidates in barely half of all ridings, just 179.
The campaign is not officially on yet, but both the Liberals and Conservatives have revealed the catchphrases they want voters to remember in the weeks ahead and when they cast their votes in October.
Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives have apparently chosen “It’s time for you to get ahead,” or, as they present it in print: “It’s time for you to get ahead” (emphasis on the ‘you’). Anyone paying attention to advertising or self-help books in the last five years or so will recognize the naked appeal to the customer/voter by using the word ‘you.’
Much has been made of Justin Trudeau’s refusal to apologize for violating ethics rules – for the second time – when he and his office pressured then-attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to engineer a deferred prosecution for engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, after the independent crown prosecutor had decided not to offer them one.
“The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer,” was ethics commissioner Mario Dion’s devastating conclusion.
Well, China did warn us that they were going to become a world leader in every field. Their latest achievement is burning down their own reputation with the world’s nicest people, Canadians.
Over the weekend, the Globe and Mail published the results of a Nanos poll showing that nine in ten Canadians have a negative or somewhat negative impression of China’s government and its leader, President Xi Jinping. From the article:
“Significantly both the intensity and scope of negative views are on the rise among Canadians. The brand of the Chinese government has effectively been negatively hammered,” pollster Nik Nanos said in an interview.
“We walked into a buzz saw — (Narendra) Modi and his government were out to screw us and were throwing tacks under our tires to help Canadian conservatives, who did a good job of embarrassing us.”
Just when memories of Justin Trudeau’s disastrous tour of India had faded from memory – just in time for this fall’s election – the above assessment from top Trudeau adviser Gerald Butts landed on the National Post’s front page, like a Facebook memory of a vacation with an ex-boyfriend.
“We will grow the middle class, and we will help those working hard to join the middle class do so.” – Liberal campaign platform 2015
This was the promise that was repeated ad nauseam during the Liberals’ successful election campaign in 2015, and then again and again by their ministers and MPs while in power. And who but the most cynical voter could resist such an appeal?
On Wednesday, the Globe and Mail broke the story that Justin Trudeau’s staff asked a former ambassador to China to watch what he says about China, because The Election:
The Prime Minister’s Office asked former Canadian diplomat David Mulroney to check with the foreign affairs ministry before he makes future public statements on Ottawa’s China policy, citing the “election environment,” the ex-envoy says.
The request came in a telephone call from a senior Global Affairs Canada official last Friday.
I am too cheap to subscribe to HGTV or the DIY network, but they are usually available for free once a year, when their various programs make for viewing that is gripping, inspiring and self-shaming at the same time. Like most people, while watching I will sometimes say to myself: “I should do that.” Unlike most people, however, I then remember that I nearly had a nervous breakdown while preparing my last house for sale, and the biggest changes I did there were new paint and flooring.
Canada’s most famous fixer upper is in the news again, thanks to a Canadian Press story about the Prime Minister’s non-residence at 24 Sussex Drive. Justin Trudeau declined to move in after being elected in 2015, and has been living in a house on the grounds of the Governor General’s residence across the road. Nonetheless, all his family’s meals are prepared in the kitchen at 24 Sussex.
Everyone is predicting that the Prime Minister Formerly Known as Sunny Ways will be waging an ugly and negative re-election campaign over the next three months. As a tarnished golden boy dragging a cape now soiled with broken promises and ethics scandals, it would seem he has no other choice, and will have to add “positive politics” to his long list of unfulfilled pledges.
And some of the mud may well stick. No one likes to admit they were influenced by any party’s ads or messages, let alone the negative ones. But if attacks on opponents are not effective, why are they deployed by almost every party, in every election? So, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals will go negative, especially against the main threat to their hold on power: the Conservatives and their leader Andrew Scheer.
“Hey, I can pay” the bespectacled boy boasts, to the watchmaker whose specialized tools he wants to buy. You may recognize this scene from the Heritage Minute devoted to Joseph-Armand Bombardier, the founder of the company that bears his name.
Not only does this heritage minute honour the founding of Bombardier, it also memorializes a long-forgotten era in which Bombardier spent its own money, instead of taxpayers’. A cynical view, admittedly, but one that is understandable given Bombardier’s long history of sole-sourced government contracts and taxpayer-sourced loans.
Many political junkies are fans of the British comedy Yes Minister and its follow-up, Yes Prime Minister. It never seemed to air often enough for me to catch it more than once or twice, so I can’t say I am a fan (hopefully it will come to Netflix someday).
Nevertheless, the gist of the show seemed to be that administrative affairs minister (and later prime minister) James Hacker was a well-meaning but naïve politician, while his department secretary (and later cabinet secretary) Sir Humphrey Appleby was much smarter. It was Appleby’s experience and knowledge of government and public affairs that prevented the hapless Hacker from embarrassing himself and the government, often after Sir Humphrey’s ruthless-but-deferential argument proved that Hacker’s desired plan would be impossible to implement.
“Many of you have worried that Canada has lost its compassionate and constructive voice in the world over the past 10 years,” Justin Trudeau told an Ottawa crowd hours after his 2015 election victory. “Well, I have a simple message for you: on behalf of 35 million Canadians, we’re back.”
Trudeau has certainly tried to fulfill that pledge. He has practiced the touchy-feely internationalism the Liberal party thinks it invented. He flew 300 people to Paris to sign the climate change treaty named after the French city. He increased the number of Syrian refugees admitted to Canada. He tweeted that Canada would welcome anyone turned away from the US by Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban. He announced that Canada would seek a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, and diligently set about all the sucking-up involved. This included signing Canada on to the UN’s compact on migration (but don’t worry – it’s non-binding!).
Members of Parliament are set to close the books on Canada’s 42nd Parliament this week, but only a handful of them can look forward to a summer of cottaging or travel. Most will be campaigning full time, in the hopes of returning as Members in Canada’s 43rd Parliament in October.
To make predictions today, about what will be the decisive election issues when the ballots are counted four months from now, is setting oneself up for failure. But then failure is somewhat of hobby of mine, so here goes.
Pity the poor man (or woman), seeking to forget the stresses of life and this crummy non-spring for a few hours by watching a basketball or baseball game. Not wanting to miss any of the action, he is reluctant to channel surf during commercial breaks. Maybe it’s not so bad: some of those beer, truck and razor ads are actually kind of funny.
Sorry, sports fans. Your next five months of TV sports – baseball, football, even the start of the NHL season – will be so polluted by political ads, you may find yourself feeling nostalgic for adult diaper commercials.
For several days last week, barbs were traded over the Trudeau government appointing a Unifor representative to a panel that will decide which news organizations will receive $600 million in government funding over the next five years. Unifor’s membership includes 12,000 journalists working at media outlets across the country.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer argued that Unifor is a “highly partisan group with highly aggressive and partisan goals,” which has “made it clear their objective is to help the Liberals win the next election.” He said that Unifor’s appointment to the panel was part of Trudeau’s plan to “stack the deck” in the Liberals’ favour for the election. Liberal heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez deflected the criticism, accusing Scheer of “playing a dangerous game” by implying that journalists can be bought with government handouts.
When John Lennon wrote the lyrics to “Imagine” he did not imagine a world without political parties. I guess he didn’t need to. The song’s very first line – “Imagine there’s no countries” –seems designed to foresee a world free of political differences. This utopia is confirmed by the song’s third line: “Nothing to kill or die for.”
Lennon’s fantasy got a boost yesterday, when former Liberal cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott announced that they would stand as independent candidates in this fall’s federal election. Justin Trudeau ejected them from the Liberal caucus last month, for not shutting up about the SNC-Lavalin controversy (though Wilson-Raybould recording her phone call with the privy council clerk gave Trudeau a convenient hook for finally yanking them off the Liberal stage).
Later this week, Justin Trudeau is scheduled to visit Poundmaker Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Canadian Press is reporting that during the visit, Trudeau will apologize for the federal government’s prosecution of Chief Poundmaker for treason. The treason charge followed an 1885 battle between North West Mounted Police and natives at Cut Knife Hill. Poundmaker was convicted and sentenced to three years. He was released early because of poor health, and died in 1886.
It will be the latest in a long list of Trudeau apologies for the acts of previous governments. In some cases, the sinners and sinned-against are long dead. Some of Trudeau’s greatest theya culpas were recently recapped by Anne Kingston in Maclean’s:
He tearfully apologized to former students of Newfoundland and Labrador residential schools for the horrific treatment they experienced. He apologized for Canada not allowing entry to the MS St Louis in 1939. He apologized for the turning away of the Japanese vessel Komagata Maru in 1914.
As anyone might have predicted, the Conservative and NDP caucuses are demanding that Parliament investigate how Vice-Admiral Mark Norman came to be suspended from his command in 2017 and charged with breach of trust in 2018. Those charges were stayed by the Crown last week, after Norman’s lawyers presented the Crown with evidence that rendered its case unlikely to succeed.
On Sunday, Conservative and NDP members of the Commons’ defence committee wrote to the committee clerk, calling for an emergency meeting within five days, and contemplating hearing testimony from at least 14 witnesses, including Norman, the prime minister, former privy council clerk Michael Wernick, and former principal secretary Gerald Butts.
With the federal election less than six months away (and the campaigning set to start when the House rises in June) media outlets are turning a critical eye to Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. Of course, it’s their job to examine political leaders, especially potential prime ministers.
Scheer’s exam began as early as February, when Maclean’s ran a piece aimed at debunking Andrew Scheer’s oft-repeated claim that his parents were not well off, repeatedly citing their lack of a car (a particular hardship in suburban Ottawa, where Scheer grew up). Writer John Geddes went to the trouble of estimating the incomes of Scheer’s parents, and concluded that “Scheer and his two sisters grew up in a solidly middle-class, two-income household.” While the piece did not quite call Scheer a liar, it did suggest that his claim that “we didn’t have a lot of money” might have been stretching the truth.
There was some unusual anticipation around Sunday’s episode of “The Simpsons,” the animated series now in its 30th season; by consensus at least 20 seasons more than were necessary.
The episode centered around the most insufferable member of the Simpson clan – overachieving, goody two-sandals Lisa – who ends up in Canada after surviving a descent over Niagara Falls. After experiencing Canada’s ‘free’ health care, Lisa is placed in a Canadian elementary school. Naturally, the school offers a room dedicated to spontaneous Skyping with prime minister Justin Trudeau.
The big news in federal politics last week was also big provincial news: the United Conservative Party of Alberta – less than a year old – won a majority mandate in the Alberta legislature, ousting the one-term NDP government of premier Rachel Notley.
The soon-to-be-ex premier joins a growing group of women who have found Justin Trudeau to be a guy who makes big promises, fails to deliver, and then sometimes turns his anger on the ungrateful witch. Calling him the Dirty John of Canadian politics would be too far, but maybe Dusty Justin is a reasonable compromise. (Both the dramatized and documentary versions of Dirty John are well worth your Netflix time, by the way.) Justin’s feminist roadkill should start a support group, or at least go on a weekend yoga retreat together.
On the cusp of a welcome two-week break from Parliament, Justin Trudeau was in Mississauga Friday night, trying out some election messages on a room full of Liberals. As the CBC website reported:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau road-tested his campaign strategy Friday, lumping Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and other right-of-centre politicians who deny climate change, vilify immigrants and tolerate white nationalists.
[said Trudeau:]”Andrew Scheer conveniently fails to call out alt-right conspiracy theories. Andrew Scheer fought against a non-binding motion to denounce Islamophobia. Andrew Scheer has proudly spoken at the same rallies as white nationalists. Is that someone who will govern for all Canadians? I don’t think so.”
After enduring seven weeks of negative press over SNC-Lavalin and his underlings’ attempts to secure the deferred prosecution the company desired, a bruised Justin Trudeau thought it would be clever to hand dimple-cheeked Conservative leader Andrew Scheer an opportunity to look tough, while prolonging the controversy at the same time.
Maybe Gerry Butts really was the prime minister.
News broke Sunday that a week before, Justin Trudeau had sent a lawyer’s letter to Andrew Scheer, threatening a libel suit for Scheer’s comments in a March 29 news release. The lawyer’s letter alleged that Scheer libelled Trudeau by, among other things, accusing him of leading a campaign to politically interfere in SNC-Lavalin’s prosecution, and calling the entire SNC-Lavalin matter “corruption on top of corruption on top of corruption.”
Time is running out for Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott.
Sunday and Monday saw two Liberal cabinet ministers and several Liberal MPs speak negatively about the two former cabinet ministers, who – at this writing – remain members of the Liberal caucus and presumptive Liberal candidates for the fall election.
A few weeks ago, I speculated that Gerry Butts had won the Liberal caucus back to Justin Trudeau’s side over the SNC-Lavalin controversy. It was in part due to Butts informing the justice committee that Jody Wilson-Raybould turned down the portfolio of indigenous affairs in the January cabinet shuffle. Imagine you are among the 145 or so Liberal MPs who are not in cabinet (but think you are qualified to be), and you heard that. Holy cow, right?
It also helped that deputy justice minister Nathalie Drouin revealed to the justice committee that Wilson-Raybould held back a report that the PMO had requested – an insubordination on Wilson-Raybould’s part. These two points have received little attention from a media that is in the second month of a narrative in which Justin Trudeau and SNC-Lavalin are the villains, and Jody-Wilson Raybould and Jane Philpott are the victims.
Today, the Liberal government will unveil their last budget before the fall election. Finance minster Bill Morneau is expected to cram his election budget with voter-enticing goodies such as free prescription drugs and incentives for first-time home buyers. One hopes that someone has reminded Morneau that pushing young people to buy homes they can’t afford at the top of the market is an excellent recipe for a US-style housing crash.
But, good news: the 2018-19 deficit is going to be only $16 billion or so – from a government that ran on small, short-term deficits of under $10 billion a year. According to the finance ministry, the Liberals will add $133 billion to Canada’s debt between 2016 and 2023, despite campaigning on a promise of no more than $25 billion.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks at a poster of his late father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, during a campaign stop at a coffee shop in Sainte-Therese, Quebec, Oct. 15, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie Ever since his entry into politics, people have observed how different Justin Trudeau is from his father. Pierre Trudeau was one of […]
You know what the funniest thing is about this whole SNC-Lavalin-possibly-illegal-pressure controversy? It might have been unintentionally triggered by Donald Trump.
Think back to late August of last year, when the United States and Mexico unexpectedly announced that they had reached a trade agreement. This left Canada out in the cold from the NAFTA renegotiation that had begun at Trump’s insistence the year before. The Trudeau government had allowed the US and Mexico to negotiate separately, having been told that the two countries were working on ‘bilateral’ issues, and to accommodate the new Mexican government.
The receipts came in. From former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould’s testimony to the House of Commons justice committee Wednesday:
“For a period of approximately four months between September and December 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the Attorney General of Canada in an inappropriate effort to secure a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with SNC-Lavalin.”
Wilson-Raybould then detailed a list of interactions between her, her staff, Prime Minister Trudeau, his staff and the clerk of the privy council Michael Wernick. Taken together, they sound like the longest Harvey Weinstein hotel casting session ever. What began with polite requests and reassurances, ended with veiled threats, a demotion to veterans’ affairs, and an indignant Gerry Butts.
Well, here we are into week three of Jody-gate and as the oldies radio station DJs say: the hits just keep on comin’!
By the time you read this, former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould may have begun testifying before the House of Commons justice committee. And if her lawyer has advised her to say little or nothing, it may already be over. The word late Monday was that she will be making an opening statement of 30 minutes or more. But as I wrote this, the opposition was complaining that the Liberal committee chair will first be ruling on what Wilson-Raybould will be able to say in open session. So who knows.
Last Thursday’s testimony from clerk of the privy council Michael Wernick was so meaty that it was still causing digestive distress over the weekend. Wernick started his bizarre presentation with a handwringing performance reminiscent of Aunt Pittypat in ‘Gone with the Wind.’
I’ve never been married, but I understand there are some marital arguments that get to a point where anything you say, no matter how factually correct or well-intentioned, seems to make it worse. Justin Trudeau and his advisers are in that special circle of hell right now with the SNC-Lavalin affair. You might even say that everything they have done since the beginning has made it worse.
It’s an affair that began almost two weeks ago with the Globe and Mail’s anonymous allegation that PMO aides pressured then attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to direct prosecutors to settle SNC-Lavalin’s fraud and bribery charges with a deferred prosecution agreement.
It looks like it’s going to be a week of turmoil in the Ottawa-Montreal-Toronto triangle over this SNC-Lavalin business. Still, I can’t help wondering about the energy executives rattling around in their Calgary offices, who must be thinking: “Man, I wish the media and politicians where half as excited about us and our workers.”
Sure, there might be some share-price volatility and embarrassment involved, but it would be worth it to have a federal government fighting so hard for Canadian oil and gas that they are willing to rewrite the criminal code, and pressure their attorney-general to handle their foreign oopsies in a way that lets them stay in business (allegedly).
Adam Vaughan has never been known for being funny.
He still isn’t.
If you spend too much time online, you may have noticed that Toronto Liberal MP Adam Vaughan got into a spot of bother over the weekend on Twitter, thanks to this now-deleted (of course)
Presumably, Vaughan deliberately misspelled Doug Ford’s name as ‘Frod’ to suggest ‘fraud.’ But it was Vaughan’s snappy “Let’s just whack him” punchline (in both senses of the term) that soon attracted criticism, with many accusing Vaughan of encouraging violence against Ontario’s conservative premier, who sat on Toronto council with Vaughan from 2010 to 2014. Conservatives with a (justified) persecution complex speculated what the reaction would be had a Conservative MP used Vaughan’s language.
“Are Liberals finally wising up about China?” is the droll headline I put atop my column last week. Well, on the same day it appeared on this site, I got my answer: no, they are not.
Barely a week ago, the Liberal government was holding the line against China’s bullying and tantrums over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on December 1st. The arrest came at the request of the United States, pursuant to Canada’s longstanding extradition protocols with our closest neighbour.
“There are other suppliers, yes indeed.” With these six words, federal public safety minister Ralph Goodale signalled on Monday that Chinese telecom supplier Huawei may find itself shut out of providing equipment for Canada’s 5G network. Innovation minister Navdeep Bains went Goodale one better, volunteering the name of an alternate supplier: Ericsson, a Swedish company.
They were responding to reporters’ questions about China’s latest threat, issued via its ambassador to Canada in Ottawa last week. At a news conference with Canadian journalists, Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye warned that if Canada barred Huawei from 5G, “I surely believe there will be consequences.” Though this was milder than Lu’s earlier jabs of ‘backstabbing’ and ‘white supremacy.’
On Monday, Justin Trudeau shuffled his cabinet, promoting indigenous services minister Jane Philpott to treasury board, demoting justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to veterans’ affairs, and sidelining the increasingly embarrassing Seamus O’Regan from veterans’ affairs to indigenous services. Two newcomers to cabinet were appointed: Montreal MP David Lametti is the new justice minister, and Nova Scotia’s Bernadette Jordan is taking on the new portfolio of minister of rural economic development.
Trudeau probably would have preferred not to create a new portfolio, but a larger shuffle (some were hoping that immigration minister Ahmed Hussen and environment minister Catherine McKenna would be moved) would have been ill-advised. The last thing the Liberals need is ministers making gaffes in new portfolios in an election year. They will have enough trouble dealing with Trudeau’s. A big shuffle might also have suggested – God forbid – a government in disarray. And, regional sensitivities being what they are, and every Liberal seat in Atlantic Canada being Liberal red, Trudeau could not leave Nova Scotia without a seat in cabinet.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in politics is to re-fight the last campaign, or so the experts say. Nevertheless, it looks like in this year’s federal election, the Trudeau Liberals are planning to re-fight not just the last campaign, but also the 2008 campaign.
In a December interview with the CBC’s Rosemary Barton, Justin Trudeau claimed that “I’m always going to look for ways to bring people together, to involve them in the solutions, and demonstrate that Canadians deserve better than politicians who play the fear and division card every time they can.”
If “bringing people together” and “fear and division” sound familiar, it’s probably because they were among Trudeau’s most frequently-invoked catch phrases during the 2015 campaign, along with “sunny ways.”
The National Post ended 2018 by publishing some excellent reporting on the Liberal government’s innovation and infrastructure spending. Hopefully it is not because the Post will be hesitant to do this kind of reporting in 2019, once they are collecting the federal journalism subsidy that PostMedia’s CEO fought so hard to secure.
“Experts warn Ottawa’s latest innovation fund could be falling under political influence” was the not-so-shocking headline on the article about spending from the Liberals’ Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), announced in 2017. Set to spend about $2 billion over five years, so far the fund has spent $845 million on 32 projects, according to a public database.
If your Boxing Day was spent cleaning up, at a mall, or on the couch watching the world juniors, you might have missed the Global News/Ipsos poll on the carbon tax that Justin Trudeau has staked his re-election on.
The results make for some grim reading for the Liberal government. Its proposed carbon tax for 2019 – which would add 4.42 cents to the cost of a litre of gasoline – would prompt only 18% of motorists to switch to more fuel-efficient cars or alternate modes of transportation. The survey found that even if gas went up to between $2.00 and $2.25 a litre, only 30% of Canadians would switch cars, use public transit or cycle.
Perhaps it is one of the hazards of age, but every year it seems to get harder to look back and find anything positive about the 12 months that have just passed. Crime, cruelty, poverty, terrorism, cyber-everything, government failures, violent protests, disasters natural and unnatural, fears for the future – the miasma created by all of them seem to obliterate whatever points of light still shine in our fallen world. And so, in the spirit of despair, let’s remember the top blow ups of 2018:
Justin Trudeau’s Image: Trudeau began 2018 already under a cloud, thanks to the ethics commissioner’s late-December ruling that he broke multiple federal ethics rules when he accepted a ride on the Aga Khan’s private helicopter and stayed on his private island over the holidays in 2016. Then came India. Trudeau took his family and their colourful Bolly-togs to India for a nine-day road/disaster movie that left Conservatives across the country yelling “We told you he was a clown!” to their coworkers and screens. During the trip, it was revealed that someone in the government had invited Jaspal Atwal – a man convicted of trying to murder an Indian cabinet minister on Canadian soil – to a Canadian government reception in New Delhi. Atwal was even photographed with Trudeau’s wife, Sophie.
Justin Trudeau is doing his traditional year-end interviews, wisely attired in a business suit and not a Santa suit or Kwanzaa-inspired dashiki. Despite his sober attire, Trudeau’s year-enders are worth a look, as they are the last before he and his opponents face the voters in November.
The most interesting so far is his sit down with CTV’s Evan Solomon. Some might dismiss Solomon as a typical representative of the Media Party, but he is a competent interviewer, and managed to elicit some interesting responses from Trudeau.
Western Canadians will be sorry to learn that Trudeau, having failed to get the promised shovels in the ground for the Trans Mountain pipeline this year, is not promising to get them in the ground in 2019. After being asked twice, Trudeau would only say that “We’re working through the blueprint that the Federal Court of Appeals put forward to try and make sure that it gets done the right way and that’s the approach that we can take.”
Telecommunications manufacturer Huawei is China’s largest private company. Founded in 1987, it now employs 180,000 people, is the largest telecom manufacturer in the world, and is the second-largest supplier of smartphones worldwide. It is a sponsor of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada. If you did not know it was a Chinese company, you might assume it was just another Asian maker of smartphones, like South Korea’s Samsung.
On December 1st, Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver. The arrest followed an extradition request from the United States which, according to media reports, wants to charge Meng with fraud and violating U.S. sanctions against Iran. An alleged Huawei subsidiary, Skycom, allegedly sold telecommunications equipment to Iran, and Meng allegedly lied to financial institutions when securing loans for the alleged sales.
Comedian Trevor Noah (left) and Justin Trudeau (right). Last week was a pretty sorry one for the Canadian economy. On Monday, GM announced it would leave Oshawa after more than a century of building cars and trucks there. On Friday, Canada, the United States and Mexico signed a replacement agreement for NAFTA, despite US tariffs […]
In its fall economic statement, the Liberal government announced three measures to prop up Canada’s struggling newspaper industry. Non-profit journalism outlets will be able to issue charitable tax receipts and in turn receive funding from charitable organizations. Subscribers to digital news media will get a temporary, 15 per cent tax credit. The big one, however, is a new, refundable tax credit to news organizations. According to the government’s economic statement, this tax credit will:
…aim to support Canadian news organizations that produce a wide variety of news and information of interest to Canadians. The refundable credit will support labour costs associated with producing original news content and will generally be available to both non-profit and for-profit news organizations. An independent panel will be established from the news and journalism community to define eligibility for this tax credit, as well as provide advice on other measures.
The price tag? The total cost of these measures is expected to be $595 million over five years. While some of this will be in foregone tax revenue, the refundable tax credit means the government will be cutting cheques to media organizations.
On Monday, Calgary city council voted unanimously to abandon its bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi and his council colleagues had no other option after losing last week’s plebiscite, in which 56 per cent of Calgarians voted ‘no’ to hosting the games. What a contrast to the frenzy in Toronto, prior to it losing two summer Olympics bids: in 1990 (for the 1996 games) and again in 1997 (for 2008).
Of the games’ anticipated cost of $5.1 billion, Calgary was expected to contribute $390 million. Alberta and the federal government were on the hook for $700 million and $1.423 billion, respectively. To put Calgary’s contribution in perspective, the city’s entire operating costs for 2019 are budgeted at $4.1 billion, and its capital expenditures at $1.7 billion.
Calgary 2026 chair Scott Hutcheson regretted that the debate over the bid had become sharply divided: “I think building a dream and articulating that with our social media-type of environment today and a populist movement makes it more challenging”, Hutcheson told the Calgary Herald. “Almost on every issue, things are polarized today in a new way.”
Over the weekend, western leaders (and Vladimir Putin) attended various events to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. As with most such gatherings these days, it became all about Donald Trump. On Saturday, Trump was criticized for being a no-show to an event at a cemetery where many American war dead are buried. Critics charged that he feared wetting his pompadour in the rain. Then Trump and Melania were late to Sunday’s Armistice Day ceremony. Explanations centering on security were ridiculed. And on it went.
French president Emmanuel Macron used his remarks on Sunday to warn the assembled leaders against nationalism, which he described as the “selfishness of nations only looking after their own interests.” The consensus seems to be that his remark was aimed at Donald Trump, who unabashedly identifies himself as a nationalist. Macron’s remark will have absolutely no effect on Trump, except perhaps to lower Macron further in his eyes.
Does Liberal virtue signalling turn your stomach? You better stock up on Pepto-Bismol then, because we are going to be fed even more sugar-coated Liberal vanity over the next 12 months.
The Trudeau government is expected to introduce its Poverty Reduction Act this week, which will set Canada’s first official poverty line. Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos said in an interview with the Huffington Post last week that having an official measure and target in place will force the government to be accountable for its poverty reduction goals.
Is Justin Trudeau worried about next year’s election?
That would be one explanation for his petty, off-brand decision to call a by-election to fill just one of the four empty seats in Parliament. It keeps NDP leader Jagmeet Singh hanging on –possibly as long as next March – before he can run for the Burnaby South seat vacated by Vancouver’s new mayor Kennedy Stewart.
It was announced over the weekend that voters in the late Conservative MP Gordie Brown’s riding of Leeds–Grenville–Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes will choose a new MP on December 3rd. As a side note, it seems to me that when the number of MPs is getting larger (the House of Commons may well surpass the American lower house in my lifetime), the names of ridings should not be getting longer and longer. Brown’s riding used to be known simply as Leeds–Grenville.
It was barely a month ago that I observed in this space that Justin Trudeau seems determined to re-fight the 2008 election on the same carbon tax that defeated Stephane Dion. That was Trudeau’s first election, which can be the only logical explanation for his nostalgia.
He confirmed my suspicions about redeeming Dion on Tuesday, when he announced his “Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.” Despite this Dr. Seuss-like pan-bamboozler of a name, the Liberals have already lost the first battle of the war they have launched: nomenclature. Everywhere beyond a one-mile radius of Parliament Hill, it is being called a carbon tax, just as Dion’s “Green Shift” was. Not to mention that ‘pan-Canadian’ is a rather deceptive name for a scheme prompted by a desire to rein in four recalcitrant provincial governments. ‘Pan-conservative’ might have been more honest.
When it comes to climate change, the Trudeau government insists that we must act today lest the planet be uninhabitable in a few decades. Yet the Liberals continue to wave away the short-term economic and fiscal calamities that they are courting daily with their reckless financial decisions.
We all remember Trudeau’s 2015 campaign promise to run deficits of no more than $10 billion a year for three years, and return the budget to balance in fiscal 2019-20. That promise went out the window in finance minister Bill Morneau’s first budget, and subsequent budgets have promised no return to balance. When the $17.5-billion deficit for 2019-20 is added to the total, the Trudeau regime will have posted $72.8 billion in deficits over its four-year mandate. The federal finance department has projected that there may be federal budget deficits for the next 30 years, which would coincide with the oldest baby boomers approaching 100.
I remember once serving as a scrutineer for an incumbent city councillor. One of his challengers was a young pastor who had never run for office before. At the poll I was watching, I stood alongside a young lady who was scrutineering for this novice candidate. After observing the voting for a while, she naively asked me: how do the poll clerks know that voters are Canadian citizens? Like the jaded veteran I was, I told her coolly: they don’t.
People don’t have to prove they are Canadian citizens to vote in federal elections either, even though only Canadian citizens can vote. All they have to prove is who they are and where they live. If they have a driver’s license, that covers both bases. If they don’t, there’s a long list of ID to choose from, from which they must supply two. The 48-item list includes passports, health cards, social insurance cards and the like, and goes all the way down to a letter confirming residence in a homeless shelter. So long as one of the two shows their current address, they can vote. And even if they don’t have something with their address on it, another voter at the same poll can vouch for their address.
September not only marked the start of a federal election year, it also marked the beginning of Justin Trudeau’s two-year campaign to get Canada a temporary seat on the United Nations’ Security Council for 2021-22. Ten foreign affairs bureaucrats are working full time on
the bid. The campaign also features a maple leaf logo in multiple colours, though the predominant hue is a dark red that looks more like dried blood than the traditional true red of our flag. It’s an unfortunate choice, given the UN’s stated objective of increasing the peace.
Trudeau has been gunning for the security council seat since before the 2015 election, when Canada’s failure to win a seat in 2010 was a handy dart to hurl at then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In 2010, Canada was up against Germany and Portugal for two of the council’s 10 temporary seats (the five permanent security council members are the United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia). The security council votes on issues such as suspending economic and diplomatic relations between countries, imposing blockades, and authorizing the use of armed force.
In the slowly unfolding farce that is the Justin Trudeau era, the rare successes stand out. So get ready to spend this entire week hearing about Canada’s barely salvaged trade deal that replaces NAFTA: the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
In the same way that Doug Ford’s plan to cut Toronto council in half seemed to overshadow everything else he implemented in his first weeks in office, Trudeau managing to hitch Canada to the month-old US-Mexico deal at the 11th hour may temporarily sideline the government’s many poorly handled files. These include Tori Stafford’s killer now being housed in a native ‘healing lodge,’ the impending pot legalization on October 17th, and the backlog of dubious asylum seekers.
This is the strategy Justin Trudeau is gambling will win voters over to his besieged carbon tax in next year’s election, as he explained it to Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells in a lengthy interview last week. The high-minded piffle was reminiscent of erstwhile Liberal leader Stephane Dion’s ill-fated Green Shift platform from the 2008 election, in which Trudeau was first elected to Parliament.
Like Trudeau seems poised to do, Dion tried to convince Canadians that they would pay more taxes and end up with more money in their pockets at the same time. How? By taxing industrial carbon emitters. Dion claimed his carbon tax would subsidize a tax cut to people in the lowest three tax brackets, fund a new child tax benefit, and increase benefits to seniors and low-income families. With that kind of sales pitch, it’s hard to believe the guy lost.
Surprising more than a few people, Maxime Bernier has made good on his threat to start a new political party. It is called the People’s Party of Canada, and has a logo eerily similar to the old Reform Party logo.
Many doubted Bernier’s promise to build a party from the ground up, which was his parting – and unscripted – shot from his bombshell news conference on the eve of the Conservative Party convention in Halifax last month. Quitting the caucus after several testy months and some controversial tweets on multiculturalism, Bernier declared the Conservative Party “too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed.”
Even the most sympathetic observers will concede that Justin Trudeau has had a pretty bad few weeks, thanks to the Federal Court’s delay of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, and the worrisome NAFTA negotiations. But besides the imminent legalization of pot, Trudeau still one thing going for him: the NDP.
The federal NDP caucus will be in British Columbia this week to strategize for the upcoming session of Parliament and next year’s election. “No one’s afraid of admitting there are challenges and things we need to work on,” NDP caucus chair Matthew Dubé told the Globe and Mail. Good. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.
The New Democrats under Jagmeet Singh have a lot to recover from, if they hope to pose a serious threat to the Liberals’ re-election next year.
As Canadians anxiously await the restart of Canada’s trade negotiations with the US tomorrow, many smart observers have concluded that we will have to sacrifice our protected dairy industry to protect our auto industry.
“They [Canadians] have tariffs of almost 300 per cent on some of our dairy products. We can’t have that. We’re not going to stand for that,” Trump said at a news conference last week. “I think with Canada, frankly, the easiest thing we can do is to tariff their cars coming in. It’s a tremendous amount of money and it’s a very simple negotiation. It could end in one day, and we’d take in a lot of money the following day.”
Trump was exaggerating the ease and payoff of this scheme, of course, and overlooking the impact of auto tariffs on the US auto industry and American consumers. But it is no exaggeration to say that the tariff he is threatening would be devastating to Canada’s auto assemblers and parts manufacturers. TD Economics estimates that tariffs of 25% on vehicles and 10% on parts would cost Canada at least 160,000 jobs, the bulk of them in Ontario.
It is tempting to finger Donald J. Trump and Justin Trudeau as the only villains in this late-August NAFTA conflagration. There is certainly no shortage of evidence to support the shorthand indictments of each leader. Trump has been untruthful and mean. Trudeau has been arrogant and naïve.
Since he announced his run for president over three years ago, Trump has been railing against ‘unfair’ and ‘stupid’ trade deals which he believes are taking America to the cleaners. Many Americans agree with him, which is one of the reasons he prevailed over Hillary Clinton in states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
A few thousand Conservative party members, MPs and Senators are heading for Halifax later this week, for the party’s first national convention since Andrew Scheer was elected leader last year. The news leading up to the convention and the convention’s agenda, combined with a couple hundred MPs and reporters in one place, promise lots of opportunity for conflict.
With the election campaign just over a year away (or sooner, if the Liberals see an advantage), the conflict that Conservative brass will want to highlight is that between Andrew Scheer and Justin Trudeau. No doubt Scheer’s speech on Friday night will contrast him and his potential government most favourably against Prime Minister Personal Day and his crew of bunglers and lightweights.
Last week the City of Victoria voted to remove the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald that had stood next to the entrance of its city hall for 36 years. Two days later, Sir John A was horizontal on a flatbed truck, laying on a bed of foam on top of a wooden pallet. At least they put a Tory blue blanket on top of him.
Council had voted 8-1 to take down the statue, on the recommendation of its “city family” panel, comprised of the mayor, three councillors and three indigenous representatives. It was the panel’s first recommended act of reconciliation.
There has been much excellent commentary over the last week on the Trudeau-Freeland-Saudi Arabia conflagration, so much so that I hesitate to add to it (the commentary, that is, not the excellence). But Saudi Arabia’s reaction to tweets from foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland has overshadowed pretty much everything else on the national scene, and even made it into the US and British media. And when the American media are talking about us, it’s smelling salts all ‘round. The Hill Times recaps how it all began:
The blowback from Saudi Arabia started over tweets from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Global Affairs Canada last week that expressed concerns about the arrests of women’s rights activists, including Samar Badawi, and calling for their “immediate release.” Ms. Badawi’s brother, Raif, who has a Canadian wife and children, has also been sentenced to a 10-year prison term and 1,000 lashings for his criticism of the regime.
There are now five vacant or soon-to-be-vacant seats in the House of Commons, the most recent being the Montreal seat of erstwhile NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, who announced his retirement from Parliament last week. On Sunday, current NDP leader Jagmeet Singh tipped the media that he will be running in Burnaby B.C., another one of those vacant seats.
Another MP retirement was announced last week, this one closer to home. York-Simcoe MP Peter Van Loan, who has represented the riding since the 2004 general election, is retiring from the House of Commons on September 30th. He has joined the Toronto law firm of Aird & Berlis to resume his municipal and land use planning practice.
Over the weekend, the CBC website carried a story originally reported in La Presse, about gifts that Justin and Sophie Trudeau received at last month’s G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Québec.
Unfortunately, the CBC buried the lede: Donald Trump gifted Justin Trudeau with a photo from the 1983 G7 meeting attended by Pierre Trudeau, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and other world leaders of the day.
If there is any comfort to be found after the shooting in Toronto on Sunday night, it may be in the fact that the shooter, had he survived, would have been put away for at least 50 years. Having murdered two people in cold blood, he likely would have received two consecutive 25-year sentences for murder.
Consecutive sentencing (at a judge’s discretion) came into effect in 2011, thanks to Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. While all opposition parties said they supported the measure, some MPs could not suppress their true feelings. During debate, Liberal Marlene Jennings said: “This bill addresses a relatively minor concern, therefore, and would affect relatively few people.” She continued: “We think it is contrary to the principle of rehabilitation to completely eliminate any possibility of parole in sentences that could reach more than 50 years.”
Between Justin Trudeau’s fights with Donald Trump, and his maladroit musings on the Kokanee Grope, it’s been easy to lose sight of the struggles of Jagmeet Singh, the Brampton MPP who captured the NDP leadership less than a year ago.
Singh has been trying to win over the NDP caucus and prepare the party for next year’s election, even agreeing to forego a party salary. This is no small hardship, given that Singh has no pension from his time as an Ontario MPP, no other apparent income, and was recently married. His in-laws must be thrilled.
Starbucks has announced it will eliminate plastic drinking straws from all its locations by 2020. The move comes on the heels of Seattle – Starbucks’ birthplace – banning plastic drinking straws and utensils. I remain hopeful that someday Starbucks will eliminate the burnt taste from its coffee as well.
Plastic straw bans have become the fidget spinners of 2018: suddenly everywhere, with everyone wondering where they came from. According to the CBC News website, they came from a 2015 video that showed rescuers removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nose. That led to cities such as Fort Myers, Florida banning plastic straws, while other cities are considering similar bans.
Despite my confident prediction last week, Justin Trudeau’s “Kokanee Grope” refuses to disappear into the British Columbia mist.
To recap: In April, the satirical magazine Frank posted a 2000 editorial from the Creston Valley Advance in B.C. The editorial accused Trudeau of “groping” the paper’s young female reporter, who was covering the Kokanee Summit, a music festival that Trudeau attended as an onstage guest. Trudeau was accepting the festival’s donation to the Kokanee Glacier Alpine Campaign, which was building a backcountry cabin in memory of Trudeau’s late brother Michel and other avalanche victims.
As if Justin Trudeau hadn’t done enough to disrupt my always-shaky peace of mind, he’s added another offense: he’s revived my pity for Patrick Brown.
It was just five months ago that two anonymous accusers ended the political career of then Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown. Each woman alleged that Brown had pressured her into sex several years prior, with one woman claiming she was still a high school student at the time. Brown’s political staff and MPPs abandoned him, and he resigned as leader. A few weeks after CTV aired the explosive story, Brown refuted the allegations with witnesses and other information that suggested the incidents could not have taken place. One of the accusers later admitted that she was not in high school at the time.
When it was revealed a week ago Monday that Donald Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow had suffered a mild heart attack, it was a startling but almost fitting coda to the drama and verbal fisticuffs that surrounded the G7 meeting in Quebec. Luckily, Kudlow was released from hospital two days later and is expected to be back at work soon.
National Post columnist Andrew Coyne, linking to a news item about Kudlow’s heart attack, tweeted: “You come at the prime minister of Canada, you’d best not miss.” Coyne was referring to Kudlow’s appearance on American television the day before, in which Kudlow had attacked Trudeau for having “really kind of stabbed us in the back,” adding that Trump “is not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around.”
You can say one thing about this year’s G7 that you couldn’t say about most of the previous ones: it was newsworthy. Sunday gave interested parties and observers the opportunity to react to and analyze the bad feelings and ugly words that erupted after the G7 meeting of world leaders in Charlevoix.
And there was a lot to analyze, because Sunday was like those tell-all shows The Bachelor/Bachelorette does after the finale, so the contestants can say what they really think of each other, in case their passive-aggressive antics during the competition didn’t make that clear.
“May all your disgraces be private” was Mayor Quimby’s birthday wish to his nephew Freddy, in that episode of The Simpsons where Homer Simpson was a juror on Freddy’s assault trial. But like all great Simpsons episodes, that one came before the internet took off. Now, however, everybody’s disgraces are public and – thanks again, internet! – can never be buried.
With polls suggesting the threat of an NDP government after Thursday’s Ontario election, the PC campaign has released the not-so-private disgraces they uncovered about some of Andrea Horwath’s candidates and potential cabinet ministers. Some, such as the workplace discrimination and bullying complaints against Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller and Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor, were already known. But the newly-discovered ones reflect the extreme environmentalism and anti-military attitudes that are typical of the hard left.
It sucks to have to root for Justin Trudeau.
But now that his ego has written a $4.5-billion cheque that the rest of us are going to have to cash, what else can we do? On Wednesday, Trudeau’s finance minister Bill Morneau and natural resources minister Jim Carr were trotted out to announce that the federal government is solving the Trans Mountain pipeline impasse by buying the entire project from Kinder Morgan. The government is also providing loan guarantees to ensure pipeline construction gets underway this year.
The first thing I need to say is: it’s about time, you SOBs.
The Nobel committee gave Obama the peace prize before he even did anything. Here I am, Canada’s hottest progressive politician for four decades, and what do I get? Bupkes. I didn’t even get to be Governor-General. Too bad I didn’t say I identified as a black woman. But this is nice. Heck, any time I can get a free meal that hasn’t been thrown at me by CUPE it’s a good night.
Looking forward to taking a legal toke on July 1st? Don’t buy a new bong just yet.
Just over a year ago, the Trudeau government announced that it would make marijuana legal by July 1, 2018. After discarding our beautiful Dominion Day for the dull and generic Canada Day, and reducing the 150th anniversary of Confederation to a sad exercise in shame about native Canadians, the Liberals seem intent on wedding what’s left of our national holiday to glassy eyes, stinky dreadlocks and Doritos.
Oh, but that’s an outdated, unfair portrayal of cannabis users, you say? We’ll see. But just seven weeks out from the Liberals’ target date, completing the necessary legislation, regulations and infrastructure for legal pot is proceeding like a foot race at a nursing home.
I should have bought the book a week ago.
Tuesday afternoon, I picked up Jordan Peterson’s blockbuster book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Despite perusing it until 3 a.m. Wednesday, I had yet to reach the chapter that tells you how to deal with the brutal unfairness of a death too soon, too soon in more ways than one: Ontario MP Gord Brown’s came less than 24 hours after my purchase.
I knew Gord a little in our days in youth and campus conservative politics in the 1980s. Gord was then known as Gordie Brown. As if having the quintessentially Canadian given name ‘Gordon’ wasn’t enough, he carried the diminutive forever associated with Gordie Howe. Erstwhile foreign affairs minister John Baird was then known as Rusty Baird, and I had styled myself rather pompously as Joan J. Tintor, always refusing to disclose what the ‘J’ stood for. Gordie decided that it stood for Juanita, and mischievously addressed me as such from time to time. (Today, both of us would be accused of anti-Latino stereotyping.)
Macaulay Culkin, the most successful child star of the 1990s, was on the Ellen DeGeneres show earlier this week. Culkin mostly stays out of the spotlight, but has been gamely making the talk show rounds this week to promote his podcast/website, “Bunny Ears.” Bunny Ears is Culkin’s most serious hobby – as he calls his pursuits – since he basically retired from acting over 20 years ago.
During her interview with Culkin, DeGeneres flashed some throwback photos and asked Culkin for his reactions: sort of a celebrity Rorschach test. When a photo appeared of Culkin posing with Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser), Will Smith (the Fresh Prince of Bel Air), and Jaleel White (Urkel), Culkin quipped: “That is the most 90s photo I’ve ever seen,” and “I’m probably wearing Reebok pumps.”
Mad Max got his sanity back.
Quebec Conservative MP and recent leadership runner-up Maxime Bernier has halted publication of his book Doing Politics Differently: My Vision for Canada, which was to be released in November. Bernier’s decision came after a preview chapter of the book caused an uproar in the Conservative caucus. The chapter discussed Bernier’s long-time opposition to Canada’s supply management regime for dairy, eggs and poultry. In it, Bernier partly blamed his narrow loss in the leadership race on “fake Conservatives” in rural Quebec, who joined the party “only interested in blocking my candidacy and protecting their privileges.”
While Conservative leader Andrew Scheer declined to comment on the book excerpt, it was discussed vigorously in Conservative caucus on Wednesday, and Bernier put a stop to the book soon after. On Twitter, Bernier wrote “This book and the ideas it contains are very important to me. But now is not the right time to publish it. After consideration, for the sake of maintaining harmony within our party, I have decided to postpone its publication indefinitely.”
“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” A well-known life lesson from Maya Angelou, widely popularized by Oprah Winfrey. You might call it an Oprah-fied version of: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. George W. Bush famously mangled it thus: “Fool me once, shame […]
Remember the early 90s? Among the top TV shows were Roseanne, Murphy Brown, and anti-racism riots in Los Angeles and Toronto.
A quarter-century later, Roseanne is back with boffo ratings. A rebooted Murphy Brown is also on its way, in which Murphy’s adult son will no doubt prove that Dan Quayle was wrong about single motherhood (social science data be damned). Anger about racism is back too, though one hopes without the riots.
In what seems like an attempt to tide us over until The Bachelorette starts, men are fighting over women in the halls of power in Canada. And, as on The Bachelorette, the fights are just about as sincere.
This week’s bout was on Parliament Hill, where Conservative MP Lisa Raitt ran a reality check on finance minister Bill Morneau’s recent budget, which is going to make all women go to work, whether they or their families like it or not (she who does not toil outside the home does not count, I guess). At a finance committee meeting, Raitt pointed out that Morneau had a lousy record of hiring women, both as a private employer and minister of the Crown.
There hasn’t been much hubbub around Canada’s Senate since we were dissecting the living arrangements and expense reports of Conservative Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, and Liberal senator Mac Harb.
At the height of the Duffy scandal, then-Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made the bold move of kicking all the Liberal senators out of the Liberal caucus, rendering them independent Liberal senators. I guess the Senators Formerly Known as Liberal would have been too cute by half, and Trudeau pretty much has a monopoly on political cuteness for the foreseeable future. Trudeau promised that, if elected, he would end the appointment of partisan senators. Instead, his appointments to the still-unelected Senate would be based on merit, and vetted and recommended by an independent committee. Sort of an Order of Canada without the jewellery.
You have to admit the socks had a good run.
There were the Star Wars socks with OG androids C3PO and R2D2. There was Chewbacca. There were the multi-coloured, striped Ramadan ones. There were yellow ducks at Davos. And by golly, how the media – even in other countries – ate it up like foot fetishists, while grumpy old Conservatives cringed. But it all came crashing down around Justin’s bare feet in India.
“You buy the ticket, you take the ride,” goes the old warning. For erstwhile actor and highly-paid public speaker Justin Trudeau, this could translate as: When you elect a model, you get a fashion show. And in India, what a show it was. A different, elaborate Indian-themed ensemble every day, complemented by lovely wife Sophie and their three cute children, similarly garbed. And, as a final flourish, an impromptu dance onstage at a dinner in New Delhi.
Last week the federal government and Bank of Canada unveiled the latest re-design of the $10 bill, featuring Viola Desmond. Desmond replaces tired old nation-founder John A. Macdonald, whom the government had already started “disappearing,” Where’s Waldo-style, on a new $10 bill issued just last year. On that $10 bill, Macdonald was thrown into a lineup with three other former parliamentarians. Quick – name the other three! Just kidding. Of course you can’t.
Do not let anyone tell you, however, that this is some kind of insult to Sir John A. Reportedly, Macdonald is to be moved to the $50 note, and Wilfrid Laurier from the $5 to the $100. No, this is really a step up for Macdonald, who will be honoured in your wallet for years to come, every time a convenience store refuses your $50 bill.