(Image Credit: Author ‘Mldu’ via Wikimedia Commons; the image is at this link. Used without modification under Creative Commons Licence)
The attempts to discredit any criticism of PM Trudeau (such as the #TrudeauMustGo movement) are farcical, but seen from a long-term perspective, they are extremely pernicious for the health of Canadian society.
As I delineated in my previous article ‘Is The Tide Turning?’, the spontaneous, grassroots movement of #TrudeauMustGo was sought to be discredited in sequential steps, each step following the effective refutation of the previous one. After writing the article, I pondered whether this was Standard Operating Procedure for PM Trudeau’s defenders. Before I could put much thought to this (as I was busy responding to the positive feedback to the article), yet another example of this behaviour helpfully emerged.
A short video started floating around on social media, showing PM Trudeau, dressed in a t-shirt, singing Bohemian Rhapsody (accompanying someone playing the piano) while on his official visit to the UK to attend the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II. Naturally, a chorus of disapproval erupted online. Almost instantly thereafter, the ‘Defenders of Trudeau’ (DoT) league sprang into action – and once again we saw the sequential steps being followed as defence of… shall I say, ‘the indefensible’? Here is how the sequence went:
- The video is fake (this was quickly disproved),
- The video is real, but it is from last year (this, too, was quickly disproved),
- The video is real & was taken during the current visit, but this took place two days before the Queen’s funeral (this didn’t fly),
- PM Trudeau was paying tribute to the Queen (this was laughed out of the room, on grounds to numerous to reiterate here),
- So what? (This was an actual tweet from Chantal Hebert, columnist with the Toronto Star and a regular fixture on CBC for almost as long as I have been in Canada),
- Aaron Wherry, also of the CBC, declared that he refuses to believe that anyone is seriously and genuinely concerned about this (so much for being a journalist, who is supposed to approach all issues with an open mind), and finally,
- Althia Raj, who shares Chantal Hebert’s credentials as a Toronto Star columnist as well as being a permanent fixture at CBC, expressed gratitude for living in a country like Canada where this was the biggest concern (as if it is proper that we compare Canada with other countries where there are really serious challenges, such as Syria or Zimbabwe).
THE DAYS BEFORE TOMORROW
These attempts at ‘protecting the king’ (imagine a game of chess here) are met with either anger or its alternative, derisive laughter. But setting these feelings aside, we need to think objectively about what is happening here, and where it could lead us unless we take remedial measures. This is especially true because we have seen similar patterns in the past 7 years whenever PM Trudeau came under fire for any action (or failure to act) in sensitive cases, such as the SNC-Lavalin scandal, the WE Charity controversy and the Tofino escapade on the very first Truth & Reconciliation Day on September 30th last year. The question here is this: What accounts for the reflexive and stubborn defence of PM Trudeau even when all the facts are pointing to the conclusion that he messed up? The DoT team consists of politicos, media and lay people – a diverse group that strangely acts in lockstep with each other. A lot of people hold the opinion that many (perhaps all) members of the media are severely compromised via the ‘media bailout’ that PM Trudeau put in place a while back. But I believe that this does not explain all of what is transpiring on that side. Something deeper is at play.
As we know, the fact that Justin Trudeau is the Prime Minster is largely (or perhaps entirely, depending on your point of view) due to the fact that his last name happens to be Trudeau. I started being active on social media in the early part of his tenure as PM. At the time, it was common for his proponents to bring up the term ‘Brand Trudeau’. One day, someone countered this by saying that the term is being used as if Trudeau is some kind of a detergent soap or something.
Going beyond jokes (good ones or bad), it is clear to me that over a span of 7 years, ‘Brand Trudeau’ has metamorphosed into a personality cult around Justin Trudeau. A lot of people call PM Trudeau a dictator, or more obliquely as ‘Dear Leader’, but I think that those expressions go over the top (for a detailed exploration of my thoughts on this, please listen to my podcast episode ‘Is PM Trudeau *really* a dictator?’). While there is a great difference between a real dictatorship and the federal government that we have now, there is one aspect that is common to both: the cult of personality. As such, it is a sine qua non that the head of the government be treated as being beyond reproach. In real dictatorships, any breach of this fundamental requirement is dealt with harshly – sometimes even with ‘terminal prejudice’, sadly. That is certainly not the case in Canada (a point that members of the DoT league are at pains to emphasize). Being the more open & free country that we are, these detractors are merely sought to be discredited. And since everything is fair in love and war, the quality and provenance of the means deployed to do the discrediting are not a matter of concern for the DoT league.
One crucial feature of every personality cult that is extremely relevant here is that by definition, they don’t have any succession planning. In fact, they studiously remain lightyears away from the very concept. As all things – good or bad – must come to an end, Justin Trudeau’s tenure as the Prime Minister will also be over at some point. And at that juncture, the Liberal Party will face an insurmountable obstacle. There will be no natural successor to Justin Trudeau who has been groomed to take over the reins of the party and take it into the future.
This may bring a smile to the faces of the detractors of PM Trudeau – particularly because the end of his tenure as PM will most likely coincide with the end of this Liberal government – but we need to be careful here. Any government needs a strong and credible opposition that can keep it in check. The end of this Liberal government will mean the beginning of a Conservative government (I don’t consider the NDP as a contender – or even a spoiler for a majority Conservative government). If we want good governance from a future Conservative government, therefore, we need the Liberal Party to be strong – but that cannot happen when LPC is defined by a personality cult around PM Trudeau.
We often see names such as Minister Freeland and former BoC governor Mark Carney being tossed around as likely successors to PM Trudeau. Realistically, though, neither is likely to take over the reins of LPC – at least not effectively. Ms. Freeland is reportedly setting her sights on a cushy gig at NATO, and if that doesn’t pan out, her personal appeal to the Liberal base (besides a claim to potential fame as the first Liberal female PM) is limited. Mr. Carney would, in my opinion, suffer the same fate as Michael Ignatieff in the 2011 election; he has been away for too long and has had his finger in too many pies.
And this, I believe, is the real disservice that the DoT league is doing to Canada. After enabling an out-of-control Liberal government, they could likely enable a similarly unaccountable Conservative government. I know this may (or will) sound unpleasant to many in the Conservative camp, but this is how I see it. As responsible & patriotic citizens of Canada, our first and only priority should be good governance, not which party is in government. Therefore, I see it as essential that we come together to discredit the DoT league – but without using the kind of questionable tactics that the DoT league uses to discredit those who disapprove of PM Trudeau and his government. A weakened DoT league will give us a better Conservative government. Let us band together and get to it.