Forget 'positive politics.' Expect a steady stream of Liberal bile until election day
A tour of senior PMO Twitter accounts is the best place to see where Liberal priorities are these days
If the past few months of Canadian politics have taught us anything, it's that bile works. Weeks of Liberal caterwauling about abortion and hidden agendas have put Prime Minister Justin Trudeau back on top of the polls.
Desperate times brought desperate measures and they have, in turn, brought relief. There was a point in April, you'll recall, when the Trudeau government was desperate for something – anything — other than SNC-Lavalin to talk about. Day after day, week after week, month after month, the conversation had revolved around former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, Prime Minister Trudeau, and their interactions over the ethically compromised engineering company. And to deleterious effect: the Liberals were sinking in the polls and Trudeau's approvals were taking a beating.
Moreover, no channel change seemed to be working. A report citing the coming climate apocalypse was leaked. The absence of an Andrew Scheer climate plan was noted. Repeatedly. A frustrated Trudeau then drummed Wilson-Raybould and former Treasury Board President Jane Philpott, who was also embroiled in the scandal, out of caucus. And still the Liberals bled.
Even worse, the breach of trust case involving Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, who was accused of leaking confidential cabinet information, then stepped to the fore, once again casting Trudeau and his office in a dubious light. The prime minister who promised transparency failed to meet his own bar. The public was regaled with tales of meetings between the country's top soldier and Trudeau's top foot soldiers at which, for some reason, no notes were taken. The government was also refusing to turn over material to Norman's defence. It looked bad and smelled worse.
Enter the abortion brigade.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in town to talk trade? Let's talk abortion instead. Some anti-abortionist who's buried so deeply on the opposition backbench he'll never be able to find a cabinet, let alone serve in one, says he's sad about abortion on demand? Evidence of a plot! Is Conservative leader Andrew Scheer reciting how a government led by him won't reopen the abortion debate? Well, down is the new up, you rube, so run before they take your uterus away and lock it.
The recent brouhaha over the anti-abortion movie Unplanned, which will screen at some Canadian theatres this week, is but the latest front in the multi-pronged Liberal assault on an imaginary Gilead. Here, Tourism Minister Mélanie Joly was sent to savage Quebec entrepreneur and cinema chain owner Vincenzo Guzzo for allowing the film to be screened. Guzzo's true sin? Being a Conservative donor, which Joly made sure to note, making his chain's business decision proof — to Liberal eyes, anyway — of the impending Conservative assault on women's rights.
Conservative fundraiser <a href="https://twitter.com/Guzzo_Vincenzo?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Guzzo_Vincenzo</a> is supporting anti-choice by airing “Unplanned”. This is not a question of freedom of expression, but a political decision that is dangerous for women’s right in our 🇨🇦. The <a href="https://twitter.com/AndrewScheer?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@andrewscheer</a> Conservatives are showing their real colours again. <a href="https://t.co/KbIY7Hn3s6">https://t.co/KbIY7Hn3s6</a>—@melaniejoly
What makes this all so depressing is this crop of Liberals was supposed to be different. They were supposed to believe in evidence. They were supposed to be positive. What the abortion routine shows is they are neither of these things. In fact, they're the opposite; Trudeau's Liberals are cynical and divisive.
Now, I wouldn't like the prospect of access to safe and legal abortion being taken away any more than the average Liberal. But here's the thing: access to abortion, while uneven, isn't under threat in Canada. And you know how I know that? Trudeau has had four years to buttress access to abortion and has done the square root of nothing.
How can the purported party of evidence look at the nearly 10 years of Harper government and still detect signs of serious life in the anti-abortion movement? How is portraying Scheer's assurances as lies not corrosive to people's perceptions of public life? More to the point, are Canadians – Conservatives included — no longer allowed to express anti-abortion sentiment? Or are the Liberals now the arbiters of acceptable speech, too?
- OPINION We're adopting U.S. abortion anxieties as our own. They don't fit
This is to complain about politics, I know. But the reason so many people are disappointed in politics at the moment is because they feel their leaders are untrustworthy. Repeating a pack of lies to evade a beating in the polls might work in the short term, but it does more long-term damage.
Not that the Liberals appear concerned. They're now on to conversion therapy — which attempts to change an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity — as the next front in the culture war. Having turned down an opportunity to legislate against the practice in the spring session, the Liberals are now saying Scheer can't be trusted to do the right thing, even after Scheer said he is against forcing anyone into a therapy against their will. And instead of calling the Liberals out on their hysteria and hypocrisy, the media are gleefully writing the attack up, torqued headlines and all.
The Prime Minister's Office isn't even trying to hide their desperation now, so convinced are they that it's working. Trudeau's director of communications, for example, lobbed an untruth bomb into the first ministers' meeting this week, tweeting that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper had "frozen" health care spending, a claim that is as far from the truth as anything out of U.S. President Donald Trump's mouth. And to think: these are the very same people who want you to trust their monitoring of social media for truthfulness during the upcoming election.
When he was Prime Minister, Stephen Harper refused to meet with Premiers. His government froze funding for services like health care, childcare, & housing. He refused to work with provinces on climate change. His ministers disrespected Indigenous governments & communities. <a href="https://t.co/G4n7V9kr0L">https://t.co/G4n7V9kr0L</a>—@CameronAhmad
A tour of senior PMO Twitter accounts is undoubtedly the best place to see where Liberal priorities are these days. You will find lots of conversion therapy, a heaping helping of abortion, and lots of partisan campaign photos. What you won't find is an equal dollop of concern for the two Canadians abducted in China, a looming global trade war, lack of movement on the NAFTA ratification, or the current fiscal position of the government, which will hamper any response to a downturn.
In other words, it's all politics all the time. Canadians can expect a steady stream of Liberal bile from here until election day.
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