Canada’s own “March Madness”

This week, Canadians were treated to Canada’s own version of “March Madness,” the political frenzy created when 39 federal cabinet ministers fan out over the country to conduct more than 100 press conferences – with many re-announcements of federal funding. Pictured: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. Photo Credit: PMO/Adam Scotti.


South of the border Americans are eagerly awaiting the first jump ball of the NCAA’s “March Madness” tournament, a sporting extravaganza that has the top 64 college basketball teams compete in 14 cities over a three-week period for a coveted national title. 

This week, Canadians were treated to Canada’s own version of “March Madness,” the political frenzy created when 39 federal cabinet ministers fan out over the country to conduct more than 100 press conferences – with many re-announcements of federal funding. 

Though the thrills and spills of the season’s madness are much different in Canada than in the U.S., there is still an element of flash and dash as each political announcement is looking to feature a miraculous three-point swish that will capture headlines for the ministers’ “home team.”  Let’s recap the week’s sport. 

Ahmed Hussen’s inglorious air ball 

The International Development minister waited until later Friday afternoon to announce that Canada will be resuming its funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the agency which was exposed to have staff who aided and participated in the Hamas savagery of Oct. 7. Much of the UNRWA’s funding has been halted until an investigation is complete. However, Canada has pre-empted the probe’s findings to resume the funneling of millions of dollars into Gaza. Amira Elghawaby, the Trudeau government’s special representative on combatting Islamophobia, was the featured cheerleader at Ahmed Hussen’s announcement, while officials in the U.S. and Israel were critical of Canada’s move. Ironically (one presumes this was not planned) Hussen’s play came on International Woman’s Day, when many around the world were paying their respect to the Israeli women who were brutally raped, kidnapped, and killed by the Hamas. 

Sheilah Martin called for a personal foul

Supreme Court Justice Sheilah Martin shouldered into Canada’s culture war when she stated that using the word “woman” was “problematic” and “unfortunate and engendered confusion.” With a woke-ish swagger Martin bulldozed past any sensibility in writing her court decision concerning sexual assault, that the female complainant should be known as a “person with a vagina.” Though openly ridiculed by many Canadians, Martin will be forever remembered for her personal foul — the first use of the phrase “person with a vagina” in a Canadian legal decision.  

A flurry of buckets scored against Arif Virani

Throughout the week the country’s justice minister seemed overwhelmed trying to defend the Trudeau government’s new Online Harms Bill C-63 against waves of criticism. The government’s legislation is being roundly vilified as an authoritarian approach to internet censorship that establishes the government’s own approved lexicon, thought police, and pre-crime sentences. Elon Musk, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Russell Brand and many others all scored beautiful three-point-shots against this legislation. But it was only after Canada’s literary legend Margaret Atwood pulled up on X to dazzle fans with a jump shot about Trudeau’s “Orwellian” legislation that Virani appeared hapless in his defence. Atwood’s shot was on the money: “The possibilities for revenge false accusations + thoughtcrime stuff are sooo inviting!” (Virani was last seen, toweling off on the bench. When Parliament resumes, it will be interesting to see how the government responds to having to play from behind.) 

Chrystia Freeland’s embarrassing double dribble 

The highlight reel from the government’s affordable housing media session in Victoria B.C. can be described as nothing short of embarrassing. Like past scripted press events for the deputy prime minister and finance minister (recall her grocery shopping, or her security handcuffing a news reporter), Chrystia Freeland was in B.C. to talk about “housing, housing, housing.” She touted her government’s efforts at providing affordable housing for low- and middle-income Canadians by using the example of a government-funded 23-storey rental high-rise development. The said “affordable” housing opportunity provided by Freeland was a 330 sq/ft rental unit costing $1,600 per month. Freeland dribbled on about how her government provides affordable homes for families, younger Canadians and persons with disabilities, while her audience was skimming over the Hudson House development marketing materials: one-bedroom units start at $2,410 and two-bedroom units start at $3,300 per month. (The National Post reports that these prices are above the average rents paid in Victoria and CMHC stats peg the average rent paid in the city at $1,516 per month – less than Freeland’s 330 sq/ft rental!) Not surprising, the Freeland footage from Hudson House has been buried by legacy media. 

Justin Trudeau gaming for a buzzer beater 

Playing on opponents’ court in Calgary Alberta, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had his game-face on when he talked about his refusal to put a halt on the scheduled carbon tax hike he is imposing across the country in a few weeks’ time. Trudeau is withstanding a full court press by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and a growing number of provincial premiers, politicians, and economists who are urging him to provide some much-needed relief to financially stressed Canadians. Trudeau is playing scrappy by deflecting criticisms that his carbon tax is fueling inflation and Canada’s affordability crisis. He claims that eight out of ten families are better off receiving his tax rebates. He’s been elbows-high in calling opposing politicians “short-term thinkers.” And at the Calgary event, Trudeau was bobbing and weaving, hands flailing, trying out new lines about his government following a market-based approach, opposing any state intervention, and trash talking Conservatives as the party that would use the “heavy hand of government through regulation and subsidies.” Still Poilievre is repeatedly slam dunking his call to “Axe the Tax,” reminding us that Trudeau has already taxed our patience – and “he is not worth the cost.” As time ticks off the clock, we see Trudeau searching for some room, gaming for a buzzer beater that will cap what is a crucial must-win for his team.  

Reporting from centre court on Parliament Hill 

While the ministers performed in venues from coast to coast, there were a few interesting battles on the Ottawa hardwood. The following tilts went largely unnoticed: the burying of any further mention about how the Prime Minister’s Office obstructed an RCMP interview with Trudeau about his knowledge of the SNC Lavalin scandal; the CBC News report that the federal daycare program is failing with less than half the promised spaces created and no commitment for new funding to make up for increased program costs; the Liberal-NDP announced pharmacare program is being seriously questioned and in some quarters already rejected; and, the MP inquiry into the multimillion dollar ArriveCan app scandal took another twist with GC Strategies owners appearing before a MPs committee to again reject their questioning and ignore the damning auditor general report. Even with the ministers out of town, there was more activity on Parliament Hill than any one fan could possibly keep track of. 

The final word on this week’s action must go to George Raveling, an illustrious American college basketball coach whose teams played in many March Madness tournaments. Raveling once said in jest, “Fans never fall asleep at our games because they’re afraid they might get hit by a pass.” No doubt, with the political games being played across the country, Canadians can certainly relate to this quip.  

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