For someone who spends so much time emoting on his personal views and feelings, Justin Trudeau seems to have astoundingly little sense of himself.
How else to explain his confession that his great regret as prime minister is the divisiveness that has split the country into warring regions since he took office four years ago.
“One of the things we were most focused on in 2015, after 10 years of a government that played regional politics, pitting Canadians against Canadians, was to bring Canadians together … Yet we find ourselves more polarized, more divided in this election than in 2015,” he said. “I wonder how, or if, I could have made sure we were pulling Canadians together?”
Well, yes, sure … you certainly could have worked to ensure we were pulling together. But that would have required abandoning the strategy that treats all viewpoints that conflict with Liberal orthodoxy as the work of inferiors, idiots, malcontents or the uninformed. It would have meant suggesting to chief guru Gerald Butts that he stop tweeting raging insults about everyone holding beliefs that aren’t in line with Liberal policy pronouncements. It would have meant accepting that Canadians can hold a wide variety of opinions without being scorned as unCanadian.
It’s astonishing that the Liberal leader could have expressed such a personal dilemma after having devoted great parts of his campaign to denouncing two Canadians he holds in particular contempt: former prime minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Doug Ford. I doubt there’s a day that’s passed since the writ was dropped that Trudeau didn’t heap assault after assault on the pair, some of it justified, much of it the product of Liberal war-room fantasizing. As fellow columnist William Watson pointed out recently, “the hurtful cuts of the Conservative years” actually saw federal spending rise 43 per cent from 2006-7 to 2015-16. Trudeau sees Harper’s determination to respect provincial jurisdiction as “playing regional politics,” yet his is the government that has imposed its will on provincial leaders elected on platforms that oppose his own.
It never seems to dawn on Liberals that Conservatives keep getting elected to important offices because many Canadians agree with them, in whole or in part, and that endlessly demonizing their very existence is, by extension, an argument that the millions of Canadians who share some or part of their views are blockheads. Much as Liberals may dislike the fact, Stephen Harper served more than nine years in office by winning three elections against three different Liberal leaders. His final victory was his biggest, a majority government after five years of minorities. Trudeau, in contrast, has seen his solid 2015 majority erode to the point he’s campaigning frantically just to match Conservative support and somehow rescue a minority. It’s an enormous rebuke for a leader who was hailed on magazine covers across the globe as a breath of hope for the world just four years ago, and yet Trudeau — far from being humbled — spends his time vilifying others.
It’s an approach he has followed throughout his government’s time in office. Trudeau’s is an absolutist, zero-sum world, in which you either defend to the death “a woman’s right to choose” or you’re not worthy of calling yourself Liberal. The possibility that honest, respectable Canadians might harbour some sense that unborn children might also deserve a modicum of consideration is treated as evidence of raging misogyny.
Equal intolerance pervades the Liberal stance on climate change. Very few Canadians still view the matter as a giant hoax, but quite a few have legitimate concerns about the best way to deal with it, and harbour doubts about the alarmist camp that insists the world, to quote Barry McGuire’s 1965 apocalyptic pop hit, “is on the eve of destruction.” Yes, it’s a critical issue that must be addressed; no, we won’t all be dead by next Thursday. Far from encouraging compromise, Liberal attempts to play both sides against the middle helped defeat the most eco-friendly Alberta government in history and reopen the yawning gap between East and West, while simultaneously failing to placate a distrustful Quebec, where Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet scores points by demanding Trudeau pledge that no pipeline shall ever blemish the sacred soil of his province.
Trudeau’s team launched its re-election bid with the co-ordinated release of embarrassing moments in the lives of opponents. Maybe they tweeted something ignorant, expressed an opinion they now regret, or spoke into a microphone before their brain managed to shift into gear. It happens to everyone, but the Liberal strategy was to smear first, worry later. The opening salvo was a 2005 video of Andrew Scheer remarking on same-sex marriage, giddily released by veteran Liberal Ralph Goodale, even though Goodale himself had twice voted against same-sex marriage. No matter: Liberals were happy to keep up their stream of revelations right up to the moment they were blindsided by photos of Trudeau capering around in blackface and goofy costumes on at least three occasions.
The evidence is right there, piled up all around him, yet Trudeau can’t figure out how he’s failed to bring Canadians together. Here’s a suggestion: talk to some voters who haven’t been gathered by loyal organizers to nod their heads at your every pronouncement. Spend some time in some constituencies you’re about to lose, and listen to the reasons why. Get over yourself. Look in a mirror. It couldn’t hurt.