Everything he has done — everything he has said — has been wrong. Everything.
Justin Trudeau’s response to his burgeoning China crisis, that is.
Criminal interference by the Chinese regime in multiple Canadian elections. A million dollars pumped into Trudeau family interests by China – including thousands for the Trudeau Foundation, and even $50,000 to fund a statue of Pierre Trudeau. Chinese-Canadian seniors being bussed to Liberal nomination meetings to vote for candidates friendly to the People’s Republic — with the name of the chosen Grit candidates inked on their arms.
These are just a few of the deeply troubling revelations that have been oozing out of the Liberal-China scandal in recent days. It’s a fetid, putrid stew — one that the Globe and Mail, Global News and Postmedia have pursued for weeks.
The media have been aided by a flood of leaks, some allegedly coming from intelligence services within and outside this country. It’s happening because the intelligence community is clearly appalled by the degree to which the Chinese regime has wrapped its tentacles around the Trudeau Liberals — and by the truly Nixonian denials being bleated daily by Trudeau and his desperate-sounding cabal.
I’ve taught crisis communications to young lawyers and journalists for years. Here’s just a few of the things Trudeau had gotten wrong.
— Don’t deny, deny. With every new development in the China scandal, Trudeau and his ilk have issued denial after denial, to no effect. The story just keeps unspooling in the media. Trudeau needs to recall the lessons of the SNC-Lavalin scandal: Namely, that denials never work if there isn’t a compelling counter-narrative — and if the denials are lies.
Trudeau lost all credibility in the SNC scandal: Despite his attacks on the media, despite his smearing of Jody Wilson-Raybould, the truth came out. And the truth, I like to say, is like water: It always finds a way out.
— Take responsibility: Justin Trudeau, as is well-known, loves to offer up dewy-eyed apologies for the misconduct and misdeeds of others — but never himself. Most often, Trudeau only fesses up when there is absolutely no escape route left to him — and even then, he will usually engage in lots of whattaboutism: Saying, in effect, he had made a mistake, but that his political opponents make more and bigger mistakes.
That approach only works with die-hard TruAnon types. Most voters want their leaders to swiftly take responsibility for their mistakes – and they tend to be very forgiving thereafter, too. Unless the mistake has happened too many times, that is.
— Do it early. Don’t wait! Keeping silent, and waiting for the story to fade from the headlines, simply doesn’t work — in the Google era, scandals now live forever online.
Instead, Trudeau needed to move swiftly to clean up the China mess, but he didn’t. When the first election interference story broke months ago, Trudeau had an opportunity to take responsibility and make some long-overdue changes, but he didn’t do that, either.
He let the story fester, and now it’s infected — and the infection is getting worse daily.
— Words aren’t enough! As noted above, it’s no longer good enough to make an act of contrition. An apology isn’t good enough.
In the post-Watergate era, voters have seen too many scandals too many times. And, after the issuance of an apology in both official languages, they are no longer content to let a politician off the hook. They want to see action, not just words.
Here, Trudeau could have created a foreign agent registry, as Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called for — so we can know which foreign powers are trying to persuade Canadian governments. He could have toughened up the Criminal Code, and election laws, to mete out tougher penalties for abuse. He could have worked with other Western allies — who have also been the targets of Chinese wrongdoing — to develop a multi-nation response.
He’s done none of those things.
Instead, all that Trudeau is doing is deny, deny, deny — and refuse to take even a modicum of responsibility for what is metastasizing into a real threat to his government’s survival. It’s not working. Because the China crisis?
It isn’t going away.