Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (left) and former cabinet minister Catherine McKenna (right) were both out front of the Liberals’ recent offensive using ingenuine arguments that were deliberately confusing the facts and misinforming Canadians. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Justin Tang and Reuters/Chris Wattie
With each new opinion poll revealing PM Justin Trudeau and his government falling further behind their opponents, the Liberals are countering with combative rhetoric that plays to their political base. This week the prime minister and a former cabinet minister were out front of the Liberals’ offensive using ingenuine arguments that were deliberately confusing the facts and misinforming Canadians. In reaching new lows in Canadian politics, the posturing and arguments of Justin Trudeau and Catherine McKenna through the week were dishonest, vitriolic, and designed to divide Canadians.
At a press conference covering the cabinet retreat meetings in PEI, PM Trudeau explicitly implicated Facebook of “putting corporate profits ahead of people’s safety.” Trudeau was commenting on the wildfires in the Northwest Territories and B.C. when he launched his assault on the social media corporation. “It is so inconceivable that a company like Facebook is choosing to put corporate profits ahead of ensuring that local news organizations can get up-to-date information to Canadians, and reach them where Canadians spend a lot of their time; online, on social media, on Facebook.”
Trudeau accused Facebook of “making billions of dollars off of Canadians” with their practice of providing hypertext links to Canadian news and publishers websites. He chastised the company for “blocking news from its sites” stating, “In the larger picture it is bad for democracy…”
Such was the manipulative spin and melodramatic performance of a person who is fully aware of the facts behind Facebook’s recent removal of Canadian news links on its platform. Facebook’s parent-company Meta began to block news links from Facebook and Instagram in Canada as a result of a new law passed by the Trudeau government. This new law dictates Internet giants to pay a fee (a.k.a. a news tax) for displaying links to Canadian news articles. For more than a year throughout the highly contentious legislative process, Meta warned the government that its Online News Act (Bill C-18) would result in the platform dropping the links rather than having a new tax imposed on what was a free service for Canadian news sources. (Google has also issued this warning.)
Today, the government is feeling the heat from Canadians who have become suddenly aware of the circumstances brought about by the Liberals’ uncompromising actions in passing the legislation, and by news organizations and publishers who have already seen a dramatic drop in their online traffic and revenue stream that had once been generated by the free links which appeared in Facebook.
However, PM Trudeau has never let facts get in the way of a political smear. Peter Menzies, outspoken critic of the Online News Act – and former vice chair of the CRTC – felt it was reprehensible that the Liberals were using the struggles faced by Canadians evacuating the wildfires as the pivot point of their argument. Menzies observed, “All political parties are prone to put their own interests ahead of the public’s” but he admonished the Liberals for stooping so low in his Epoch Times editorial: “It’s Crass to Politicize the Wildfires.”
Menzies wrote: “Nothing, not even the mass evacuation of tens of thousands of people threatened by wildfires, gets in the way of advancing the interests of politics. Policy and even public safety are too often little more than opportunities to be exploited to advance the electoral prospects of those who hold or seek to hold power.”
In a separate verbal assault, former cabinet minister Catherine McKenna took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to attack Conservatives as well as Canadians who do not share her fevered views on climate change. Like Trudeau, McKenna used the news headlines of the wildfires. She lashed out at the Conservatives’ current campaign to “Axe the Carbon Tax” and made the bald accusation, “You are the arsonists.”
The full text of McKenna’s tweet last weekend reads, “Conservative politicians want to fight about a price on carbon pollution? You want to make it free to pollute while Canadians pay with their lives threatened, homes destroyed and their communities obliterated? So what are you going to do? You are the arsonists.”
Then on Tuesday she doubled down on the political firestorm she had lit in media by tweeting out: “We need a mandatory climate science lesson for Conservative politicians & Premiers – as well as cost to the lives & livelihoods of Canadians from climate change, and the economics of the clean transition. Otherwise Canadians pay the price. It’s absurd. But that’s where we’re at.”
She also retweeted a February assertion: “Even if it is no longer outright denial, climate disinformation remains effective. It tears through social media, slowing or even blocking climate action and fuelling the rise of right-wing politicians like Poilievre, Donald Trump and Danielle Smith.”
McKenna’s provocative attack on conservatives attempts to tie criticism of the carbon tax with denial of climate change – and even more absurdly, with causing (literally lighting) the wildfires. This hyperbolic affront was met with immediate ridicule on X and with conservative-minded news commentators. Spencer Fernando stated the former Trudeau minister’s comments were “entirely dishonest and manipulative” and that, “McKenna is exploiting a tragedy and – with absolutely zero evidence – blaming her political opponents for it.”
Some media made the point that McKenna’s tactics were representative of “Post-Truth Liberals,” the politicians who develop rhetorical arguments meant solely to reassure and embolden their political base. So, they purposely develop arguments that resonate with partisans who accept an argument based on emotions and beliefs, rather than one based on facts.
On the same point, the National Citizens Coalition expresses doubt that the Liberals are making any political headway by employing this tactic. The NCC opined, “The more the Liberals turn to their misanthropic, far-left, ‘post-truth’ agenda, the more they’ll lose everyday Canadians who have already grown tired of all the broken promises, the gaslighting, and the managed decline of our standard of living.”
The Ottawa press corps questioned Pierre Poilievre about McKenna’s “arsonists” insult. In response he expressed concern for the denigrating tone of the arguments being made by the Liberals saying, “What I really worry about is the increased radicalization of rhetoric by liberals, particularly Justin Trudeau, but the nastiness and meanness that they’re directing at people who disagree with their policies, whether it’s true, those nasty comments directed at Muslim parents, or whether it is him jabbing his finger in people’s faces, and now a former Liberal minister, saying that anybody who doesn’t want to pay higher taxes is an arsonist.”
Then Poilievre directly retorted to McKenna’s tweet, “Really, really, as if we paid higher taxes, we’d have less for forest fires. Come on. Let’s get back to some common sense in this country. And let’s start to bring our people together instead of tearing the country apart.”
From the PM’s and former minister’s performances this week, it is evident the Liberals are adhering to the age-old adage “the best defence is a good offense” – they must divert Canadians’ attention from the country’s high interest rates, inflationary cost of living, and increased taxes. So, with the governing Liberals’ political fortunes waning, expect their divisive rhetoric and dishonest arguments to continue.
Chris George is an advocate, government relations advisor, and writer/copy editor. As president of a public relations firm established in 1994, Chris provides discreet counsel, tactical advice and management skills to CEOs/Presidents, Boards of Directors and senior executive teams in executing public and government relations campaigns and managing issues. Prior to this PR/GR career, Chris spent seven years on Parliament Hill on staffs of Cabinet Ministers and MPs. He has served in senior campaign positions for electoral and advocacy campaigns at every level of government. Today, Chris resides in Almonte, Ontario where he and his wife manage www.cgacommunications.com. Contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.