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'The Picture of Justin Trudeau': One year later, Liberals still masters of the façade

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"There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candor of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world….He was made to be worshipped." - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

One year ago, we had our made-in-Canada Hope and Change moment. A dark decade of brutish and nasty rule had been replaced overnight. Even hardened cynics like myself dared to feel the warmth of sunlight streaming through the windows the next morning.

It was a famous victory. Friends had deserted monumentally decent and hard-working NDP stalwarts like Paul Dewar out of blind panic that the Dark Lord would somehow contrive to pull the One Ring out of the Crack of Doom just in time and rule us forever. "Strategic voting," they called it. They didn't stop to consider that the NDP, unlike the Liberals, would be unlikely in any new Parliament to join forces with the Conservatives in the event of a Liberal minority. And so the Liberals swept the field.

Four out of six Canadians got what they wanted, although this time it was a different four. The NDP had cratered, leaving the field to the Liberals and their leader, Justin Trudeau, who was obviously what dreams in impressionable minds are made of. Judging by the polls, he still is.

And wow, he started off with a bang. Longform census: back. (Liberals do like their facts and data. Conservatives prefer to get along without them.) Plainly unconstitutional anti-union legislation nipped in the bud or repealed. Veterans' services offices reopened. Ditto the Kitsilano Coast Guard station. An inquiry into murdered and missing  Indigenous women launched. Grotesque and expensive Stalinoid monuments nixed. A step towards electoral reform, which is actually pretty big -- but Trudeau is already walking that one back.

One can't ignore these initial good moves, although they didn't cost much for the most part. Fighting to preserve the anti-labour legislation would have been a plain waste of taxpayers' money, with the legal outcome assured. Re-opening an office here or a Coast Guard station there is welcome, but not particularly expensive. There was much to be gained and very little to be lost by starting up the MMIW inquiry.

In a larger context, this set a tone, heralded a new style of governing, without much risk or a lot of money spent. Like the selfies and the shirtlessness, image matters in contemporary politics, and a new one was accordingly crafted -- sunny ways vs. Darth Vader.

Ok. Step back. Focus. What do we see, a scant one year later? The Conservative agenda, writ somewhat larger:

  • Canadian citizenship ended by fiat. Despite Liberal protestations against the unilateral revocation of citizenship without appeal introduced by the former government, the Trudeau Liberals have used this power to revoke citizenship at an unprecedented rate. This includes children who weren't in a position to provide information, false or otherwise, to immigration officials when they arrived. The Liberals are, however, generously making one exception.

  • Anti-labour moves. For all its alleged support for organized labour, which has apparently sucked in one major private-sector union and blown it out in bubbles, the Liberals remain true-to-form as a fundamentally anti-labour, big business party. Last month they used their Parliamentary majority to crush an anti-scab Bill before it could even be studied by committee -- a knee-jerk reaction by a party that has always owed its allegiance to Bay Street, not to ordinary folks. One might point also to the current round of bargaining with Canada's largest federal public service union: nothing has changed, it seems, since the previous government put its massive takeaways on the table.

  • War-mongering. By putting our troops on the border of Russia, Justin has signaled that he wants to run with the big dogs. He's playing with fire. Imagine if Russia were to mass its troops at our own border (assuming it were geographically possible). Might we view this as a threat? Might we react as though it were? How many troops is Trudeau prepared to sacrifice to make himself look macho?

  • Climate change inaction. That one was easy. Trudeau simply adopted the previous government's Paris targets.

  • Leaving Canadians in poverty. The successful made-in-Canada "mincome" experiment so spooked the big-business Liberals that even the study of a guaranteed minimum income was too much for them. A Liberal MP delivered a passionate statement supporting the idea -- and then, called to heel, voted against it. Trudeau himself, a trust-fund kid, is even opposed to a $15 per hour minimum wage for workers in federally-regulated industries.

  • Organ donation. For reasons unknown to ordinary Canadians, the Liberals think an efficient system to match organ donors with recipients is a bad idea, and voted down a proposal to establish a national organ registry. This is irrational, rather than (to use their cant phrase) "evidence-based," and defies any reasonable explanation.

  • Animal cruelty. Lining up with the Conservatives (and folks better get used to this de facto coalition), a Bill against cruelty to animals was quashed by the Trudeau Liberals. As with organ donation, no reason was given, but it's likely that wealthy lobbyists invested in raising and slaughtering livestock, as well as well-heeled hunters and trappers' associations, played their role behind the scenes. For Liberals, victims (human or animal) are just the price of doing business.

  • CRA audits of progressive charities ramped up. Despite language in Ministerial mandate letters, the Liberals are not only pursuing Harper's vendetta against selected charities, but widening the net to go after new ones. The sordid political witch-hunt continues, then, and, signalling the true intentions of the government, the CRA Witchfinder General has been promoted.

  • Betrayal of First Nations. It's now a Liberal go-ahead for flooding ancestral land. And likely for pipelines as well, despite First Nations opposition. Trudeau's promises to reconcile with First Nations proved to be so much hot air.

  • Afghan detainee issue under-rugged. In opposition, the Liberals fulminated about a scandal involving Canadian authorities transferring Afghan detainees to local authorities to be tortured. They demanded a full inquiry. The Liberals are now in power. There will be no inquiry. 

  • Defending CSIS malfeasance. Three Canadians, tortured in Syria and Egypt in part because of misinformation provided by CSIS, have been suing for compensation. In Opposition, the Trudeau Liberals were supportive. Now they have lined up with CSIS to fight these victims in court even more strenuously than the previous government did.

  • Arming the Saudis. Through his spineless Minster of Foreign Affairs, Trudeau approved a $15 billion deal with one of the ugliest, most misogynist regimes on the planet, to deliver light military vehicles for use against civilians at home and elsewhere. For the Liberals, feminism and human rights can never tip the scales against hard cash.

  • More anti-Canadian trade deals. CETA, which will drive up the cost of pharmaceuticals, is a Trudeau priority. All that stands in the way is gallant little Belgium. Well, part of Belgium. Don't imagine that the Walloons will hold out for long, though. Then there's the TPP, slated to cost tens of thousands of Canadian jobs. Full steam ahead.

  • Ill-treatment of wounded veterans. Begun under the Conservative government, a legal case to restore justice to our injured vets will continue to be fought in court by the Liberals. To paraphrase Donald Trump, neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives like veterans who get wounded. Re-opening few service offices pales into insignificance when compared to the benefit rip-off that our vets are presently having to fight in court.

  • C-51 remains intact. In fairness, the Liberals consistently supported this police-state Bill while in opposition. "Consultation" with Canadians has been promised. Do not expect much.

So it's quite a list, and I may have missed a few items, but it's growing fast. The previous prime minister took much longer to implement the same agenda. He dispensed with subtlety, and his minions and buddies had no sense of it. They were oafish and brutal and bigoted, and they gloried in it. Liberals, on the other hand, have always been masters of the façade. They can deliver the same results to the Bay Street boys as the Conservatives, but with a healthy dose of rhetorical valium, and they can do it at breakneck speed. The Conservatives must be rubbing their eyes.

One year later, Justin Trudeau is as popular as ever. And he never seems to age.


"He went in quietly, locking the door behind him, as was his custom, and dragged the purple hanging from the portrait. A cry of pain and indignation broke from him. He could see no change, unless that in the eyes there was a look of cunning, and in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite. The thing was still loathsome, -- more loathsome, if possible, than before, -- and the scarlet dew that spotted the hand seemed brighter, and more like blood newly spilt." -- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

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