Ethics, shmethics. The Liberals know they can rely on a pliant media to win them another election
The old maxim is you should test drive a vehicle before purchase. The same goes for a political party approaching a federal election. It pays to knock off the rust on your door-knocking and get-out-the-vote efforts before embarking on the real thing nationwide.
Thus it was instructive to see Justin Trudeau’s Liberals take their election EV out for a little exercise in the Mississauga-Lakeshore riding last month. Understand that this riding is already so Liberal that you could run a hat stand and the Grits would romp. Add in their candidate was a popular former provincial Liberal finance minister, and it was never in doubt, of course.
To make the whole episode work, the Libs shoved the standing member aside to some patronage paradise so Charles Sousa could romp. A selection of Liberal heavies sashayed through the riding. The outcome was so pre-destined that a paltry 26 per cent of eligible voters bothered to cast a vote.
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The other warm-up for Trudeau’s re-election chances was the predictable interpretations applied by Liberal-bought media. Despite the fact that Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre had invested approximately zero political capital in the by-election, pundits were quick to condemn his leadership when the hapless Conservative candidate drew fewer votes than the candidate in the 2021 federal election.
Based on this single by-election, Poilievre Fever was declared to have peaked. Despite national polls that show the Conservatives polling ahead of Team Trudeau by five to seven points, the by-election results are deemed proof that the 905 region in Southern Ontario is going to hand Trudeau another mandate when the writ is possibly dropped next spring.
To an outsider, this Trudeau love must all seem a little dissonant. If you were trying to assemble a portfolio of political disasters and optical pratfalls, you couldn’t have done much better than Trudeau’s record since the Hair Apparent was awarded the PM job in 2015.
We will avoid a shopping list here except to say that this past month can speak eloquently for what has happened in the previous seven years. The Ethics commissioner (installed by Stephen Harper) found Trade Minister Mary Ng had rewarded a pal with not one but two government contracts from her department. “Minister Ng twice failed to recognize a potential conflict of interest involving a friend, an oversight of her obligations under the Conflict of Interest Act,” Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion said.
To the cries for her resignation, the PM, who’s twice been cited for ethics violations himself, executed a Pierre Trudeau shrug while consulting surfing tides at Tofino for his next holiday. This is the same Justin Trudeau who howled like a banshee that Conservative minister Bev Oda be perp walked for ordering a $14 glass of orange juice on a ministerial trip. Go figure.
The Ng thing came on the heels of a report from the Auditor General that the government paid as much as $32 billion in pandemic benefits to people who were ineligible. When pressed on how it plans to recoup the fire-hose distribution of public funds, Trudeau’s CRA opined that chasing the recipients “would not be cost effective nor in keeping with international and industry best practices to pursue 100 per cent of all potentially ineligible claims.”
Which comes as cold comfort to those currently engaged in a death struggle with CRA over a $250 health-care claim or a $375 moving expense. It’s of a piece with the seizure of bank accounts from blue-collar truckers because they cheekily parked on Wellington Street in February. (Forcing various levels of police to look positively foolish.)
As the expression goes, when you owe the government $1,000 you have a problem. When you owe the government $32 billion, it’s the government’s problem. One that Trudeau chooses not to acknowledge. Free money was fun money, so why harsh the vibe, dude?
Yes, the Liberals seem blithely confident should the NDP finally end their tacit support of the Trudeau administration and force an election. They look at the by-election in Mississauga – the NDP vote was cut in half – and say, “What, me worry?” They can poach Jagmeet Singh’s left-leaning vote with little effort. All the while knowing they can rely on the press – after C-11 and C-18 – will be cashing federal cheques – to pummel Poilievre for his “corny” kitchen-sink attacks on Trudeau.
Finally, the Liberals know that, fundamentally, their urban base that determines federal elections doesn’t give a flip about much that happens beyond their suburban driveways or their condo elevator shaft. Their homes are cash boxes. The high-handed Covid restrictions were seen as cleansing exercises. The Leafs are winning.
When it comes to calling the next election, however, maybe Trudeau knows he needs to get out in front of bad news being created by mortgage interest-rate jumps that are approaching seven per cent and the effects of a predicted recession. And spiking Covid death rates this winter. Those are pressure points that might rattle even the complacent urban voters who are his base.
So, ethics, shmethics, it was fun to get the old Happy Ways bandwagon rolling in Mississauga-Lakeshore. Life is a highway named Justin Trudeau Way. Let’s roll.
Bruce Dowbiggin is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book by bookauthority.org. His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best.
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