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Meng Wanzhou, who did wrong, goes free.
The two Michaels, who didn’t, remained imprisoned until tonight.
Welcome to justice in the Justin Trudeau era: the guilty win, and the innocent lose.
It all happened yesterday, a Friday afternoon, which is typically when governments do the dirtiest deeds, in the hope that fewer will notice. But we noticed.
Here’s what happened: as this newspaper has previously reported, Huawei Technologies Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was facing prosecution for bank and wire fraud charges in the United States — for allegedly lying about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
She was detained at Vancouver’s airport in 2018, at the request of American authorities, and was facing extradition to the U.S. And she’s been fighting extradition ever since.
Huawei, meanwhile, was charged by the Americans with operating as a criminal enterprise, stealing trade secrets and defrauding financial institutions. It has pleaded not guilty and still faces prosecution.
But Meng Wanzhou isn’t anymore. U.S. Justice Department officials reached a deferred prosecution agreement on Friday afternoon with Meng Wanzhou that freed her from house arrest in Canada and enabled her to jet back home to China.
It was, the Washington Post dryly noted, “a major development in an ongoing investigation that could have geopolitical implications.”
It sure could. But not, apparently, for Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were illegally imprisoned in China on bogus charges of espionage for more than 1,020 days.
Spavor and Kovrig — whose family members allege have faced torture — remained behind bars. Any attempts by the government of Justin Trudeau to secure their freedom had failed, utterly.
Pointing out that the Trudeau regime is useless internationally isn’t really front-page news, of course. Trudeau’s efforts internationally have been a laundry list of abject failure: he failed to get a seat on the United Nations security council.
He failed to boost foreign investment in Canada. He failed to rebuild our reputation as peacekeepers in international hotspots. Internationally, Trudeau has led Canada to defeat after defeat.
The Meng Wanzhou deferred prosecution agreement is yet more evidence of that. How in God’s name can she be permitted to go free, and the two Michaels weren’t before now? How could Trudeau permit the Joe Biden administration to cook up such a deal without addressing the plight of our own citizens before now?
Under the so-called deferred prosecution deal, federal prosecutors agreed to defer — and then ultimately drop — the charges against Meng.
To anyone who has followed this sordid affair, it has been obvious that the imprisonment of the two very innocent Michaels was China’s petulant and illegal response to the detention of Meng Wanzhou — even though Meng’s “detention” was mere house arrest and included plenty of posh shopping sprees and high-end jaunts around British Columbia’s Lower Mainland.
Trudeau, now returned to power with a mere minority, was immediately under more pressure than ever before to secure the freedom of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. The single largest roadblock to their release had been removed.
Would Trudeau try? Would he be successful?
Joe Biden was. The two Michaels are coming home because of him. Not Justin Trudeau.
— Kinsella was special assistant to Jean Chretien
Erin O’Toole looked like he was doing good. Justin Trudeau looked like he was doing badly.
What went wrong?
Well, as a public service, Yours Screwly put together a few random, linkless thoughts.
There are 10. Here they are:
1) As I opined in these pages mid-campaign, the assault weapon thing hurt O’Toole. It was in his platform, and it was therefore pretty hard to erase. When the Conservative leader realized it would hurt him with urban women, he tried to execute a pivot, but it was too little, too late. The assault weapon thing hurt him.
2) The unvaccinated candidates issue hurt O’Toole, too. Why? Well, the pandemic is the biggest economic, cultural and political event of our lifetimes. Eighty per cent of Canadians favour vaccines, masks and tough rules. O’Toole was offside on vaccines. People noticed.
3) But — if you are fair — you have to admit O’Toole otherwise ran a good campaign. He came across as decent and relatively centrist. He was positive, he wasn’t angry. The fact that he couldn’t improve his seat count means something important.
4) And what it means is this: There isn’t a Liberal media conspiracy. There isn’t even a political Liberal conspiracy. But there are Liberal voters in Canada — lots of them. As it becomes much more urban and diverse, Canada is much more Liberal. That presents a structural problem for the Tories.
5) A lot of Tories will think the solution to that is changing their leadership, yet again. But that’s superficial. That’s stupid and knee-jerk. That’s what they always do, and it never really works, does it? Their problems go a lot deeper than that, Virginia.
6) Consider this: Justin Trudeau was accused of groping a woman. He indulged in racist tropes, many times. As prime minister, he obstructed justice and leads a deeply corrupt administration. But he still clings to power. How?
7) The fact that a corrupt, allegedly groping, parlour-room racist could win again says more about us than it does about him. It says the country’s attachment to the Liberal brand is real and deep. It says Canadians are usually going to give Liberals (and a celebrity Liberal leader) the benefit of the doubt.
8) Lots of folks are saying that the election was about nothing. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t at all. It confirmed something pretty big: The country has changed. And if you want to defeat Liberals, you need to change, too, Conservatives.
9) That means making no mistakes, at all. That means campaigns that are micro, not macro — fight in regions, inch by inch. That means getting life-and-death issues — guns, vaccines — right the first time. That means having the very best candidates and the very best policies and the very best strategy.
10) But here’s a final thought, folks: The sun is up, where I am. The birds are chirping. Prime ministers come and go, but the country always goes on. And it’s a pretty great country, Justin Trudeau notwithstanding. If you want to change it, do that. There’s no time like the present.
— Warren Kinsella was Jean Chretien’s Special Assistant
Dear Female Voters:
Yes. This is a guy writing an open letter to you on the weekend before the big vote. I’m a man, with all of a man’s (many, many) faults.
I am writing to you because, if it wasn’t for you, Justin Trudeau would have been a historical footnote by now. Sorry, but it’s a fact. Without your support in 2015 and 2019, the Liberal leader would have been consigned to memory long ago.
He wasn’t. He won, and won again. Mainly because women stuck with him. Men didn’t.
Was it because he claimed, repeatedly, to be a feminist?
Personally, I’ve never believed a man should ever, ever say he’s a feminist. That’s a coveted designation that women, alone, are entitled to hand out. Not men, and certainly not men talking about themselves.
Best case, men can and should be allies to women – for equality in and out of the workplace, for reproductive rights, for everything, really.
But a man calling himself a feminist? That’s arrogant. And when a man gropes a reporter at a beer festival – as Trudeau did, according to a female reporter whose allegations were never refuted – he’s worse than arrogant.
He’s a liar.
On the #MeToo movement, too, Justin Trudeau claimed to be onside. All dewy-eyed, he said he believed in #MeToo, and it again seems like not a few Canadian women believed him.
Personally, I am generally pretty unenthusiastic about hashtag campaigns. Most of the time, they are just slacktivism. You know: the false belief that posting something on social media is enough. It isn’t.
Mostly, I resisted writing or saying anything about #MeToo because I felt men should just shut up and listen, for once. But Justin Trudeau couldn’t. He can’t help himself.
So, when asked about #meToo by Paul Wells of Maclean’s in 2018, Trudeau solemnly declared: “There is a massive shift going on in our society and our workplaces and important conversations that are really, really overdue.”
Fine. Pretty words. All true.
And therein lies the problem, Canadian female voters. Justin Trudeau’s rhetoric soars. It glistens. It lifts hearts and minds.
But then the grim, gritty reality intervenes. Over and over and over.
Examples of that ugly reality abound: knowing about the General Jonathan Vance sexual harassment allegations – but claiming, with a straight face, that he didn’t know they were about sexual harassment.
Knowing about allegations of sexual harassment and assault by Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara – and allowing him to run anyway.
Knowing about recent examples, too. Such as: a member of Trudeau’s Liberal caucus had been the subject of multiple complaints of sexual misconduct – and one of the complainants actually attempted suicide in the MP’s office.
Trudeau’s response? He said he believed the MP. Later on, the MP resigned his campaign – but his name is still on the ballot.
Then, this week, yet another one: Kevin Vuong, the Liberal candidate in Ontario’s Spadina-Fort York, was revealed to have been charged with sexual assault in 2019 (no trial took place because the alleged victim could not participate in the prosecution, the Toronto Star reported).
Trudeau’s reaction? He smirked, again. And he refused to rule out permitting Vuong to join the Liberal caucus, should he win on Monday.
It goes on and on and on. Justin Trudeau says he is a feminist. But does act like one?
He says he believes in #MeToo. But does he, really?
No, no, no. And you know it, female Canadian voters. You know it.
Time to act on it.
[Written twenty years ago this week.]
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon just over a week ago, when the rural Ontario sky was clear and cloudless and seemed to go on forever, my wife and I pulled our 20-month-old son from the water of Stony Lake.
Sam was not breathing, and his little face was blue. His arms and legs lay on the dock of our friends cottage, as still and white as tiny pieces of china. Somewhere, I could hear my wife screaming Sam’s name and mine. I cannot remember very much, but I know that I picked him up and cleared his mouth, and tried to push the water out.
A friend, who is a doctor in Ottawa and who had invited us to the cottage, arrived to perform CPR. After a half-minute or so – 30 seconds in which the world was utterly quiet – Sam started to cough, then cry, and then come back to the world of the living.
We still do not know how long he was in the water, or how the cottage’s side door became unlatched. Following two days at the hospital, it became apparent that Sam – somehow, inexplicably – was just fine. His parents, suffused with guilt and fear and a feeling of powerlessness, weren’t. In the journalistic shorthand favoured by some, it was a near-tragedy. To us, it felt like one. It still does.
Notwithstanding that, I decided it was time to return to work. Numbed by what had happened not 48 hours before, I slipped into my office in a downtown Toronto office tower on an unforgettable Tuesday morning. Within minutes, I learned another office tower in New York City – one containing people I and my colleagues do business with all the time – was facing a tragedy of an entirely different sort.
There has been an avalanche of words in the days since September 11, when unspeakable crimes were committed against you, the people of the United States. Out of all of the images, and out of all of the words, it must be difficult to know very much that is certain. So let me offer one modest certainty, from a neighbour who came close to the edge of an abyss last week, too.
We, your friends and allies in the country to the North, have been outraged, and shocked, by what took place on that Tuesday in New York City and Washington – and greatly moved by the heroism that has taken place since. We have cried at the images flickering on our television screens – and, in our schools and workplaces, we have talked of nothing else. Canadians are, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, profoundly affected by the attacks on the United States of America in a way that is as enduring as your great Republic.
We know, in our deferential Canadian sort of way, that you do not think about us very much, most of the time. (Given our relative population, and the relative degree of influence we wield internationally, that shouldn’t surprise anyone.) But in the days that have gone by since that Tuesday, I can testify to the fact that we have certainly thought a lot about you.
There were many Canadians working in the World Trade Centre on that horrible day, which is one of the reasons we have shared your rage and sadness and dread. But for Canadians, it is not enough to simply state that these outrages could have targeted us. From our perspective, they did target us. Our shared way of life, our systems of democracy, our methods of commerce. If terrorism is a method of creating fear by striking at symbols, we in Canada are no bystanders to all of this. Because many of our symbols are yours, too.
Our relationship with the United States is a complicated one, most days. We watch your television shows, but we sometimes feel our own slender culture is being overwhelmed by the giant to the South. We live more securely under the U.S. defence umbrella, but we sometimes feel we need to be more independent of you, in places like Cuba, or on issues like landmines. We marry each other, and heal each other, and teach other. But we are Canadians, we proclaim to the world, stitching maple leaf flags onto our backpacks, cheering what remains of our hockey teams. We are not Americans, we declare.
Well, in that terrible week – and this week, and I suspect in many weeks to follow – we became Americans, in a way. The attack on you was an attack on us. As our Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, said at a ceremony in Ottawa marking a national day of mourning – a ceremony attended by more than 100,000 people on Parliament Hill, the Mounties estimated – we are with you in this one, and right to the very end.
Our friendship has no limit, Mr. Chretien said in his speech, while addressing the U.S. ambassador to Canada, Paul Celucci. “Generation after generation, we have travelled many difficult miles together. Side by side, we have lived through many dark times. Always firm in our shared resolve to vanquish any threat to freedom and justice. And together, with our allies, we will defy and defeat the threat that terrorism poses to all civilized nations, Mr. Ambassador, we will be with the United States every step of the way. As friends. As neighbours. As family.”
I can report to you that our 20-month-old, Sam, is fine. He speeds around our home, chasing his older brother and sister, seemingly oblivious to what could have happened – what did happen. He survived his brush with finality and, eventually, so will his parents.
You will emerge from all of this, too – stronger, and more united, and filled with moral purpose. And if it matters at all, you should know that we Canadians will be there with you.
Always have been, always will be.
The English-language leaders’ debate is hours away. So think about this: A light switch.
That’s what Justin Trudeau kind of was, a Conservative pollster has said. A light switch.
“Other politicians are like dimmer switches: They lose popularity gradually,” the pollster said. “Our polling showed Justin Trudeau is like a light switch. People like him until they suddenly don’t. It’s on or off. A light switch.”
All of us having had our fill of sports metaphors to explain political phenomena — and the crucial English debate about to happen — the light switch explanation is compelling. It might be wildly wrong, but it was at least novel.
Because, tonight, it’s make it or break it time for Justin Trudeau. He needs to bring his best game.
Just a few short weeks ago, it was all going to be so simple, wasn’t it? Trudeau and his Liberals were way ahead of the alternatives in the polls. The alternatives were unknown, or making lots of mistakes, or both. The Liberal universe had unfolded as it should.
The pollsters, the politicos, the punditocracy all agreed: The Boy Wonder would be rewarded with a majority. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy. He’s good-looking. The Conservatives are cross-burners. Justin had kept most of us alive during the pandemic, or something like that. Vote Liberal.
And then: Click.
Kabul falling on the first day of the campaign didn’t help, to be sure. Wildfires raging in three provinces, ditto. Early election call: Really, really dumb. And the fourth wave, of course, which the experts all said was heading our way, and about which Trudeau gave a Trudeauesque shrug.
It was all that, yes. But mainly it’s him. Him, him, him: Justin Trudeau.
If you now say you saw it coming, you’re fibbing. I didn’t see it coming, and neither did just about anyone else. Apart from a gaggle of true-blue, true-believer Tories who worked in the office of Erin O’Toole, all of us are slack-jawed, a bit, about what has taken place.
The polls reflect what is now going on, but they sure as hell didn’t foresee it. More revealing is the anecdotal stuff. Because — per my Daisy Group’s political catechism — facts tell, but stories sell.
Stories from a pollster pal that his call centre workers are getting angry earfuls about Trudeau: It’s deep and it’s undeniable. They loathe the Liberal leader.
So, too, stories from Liberal candidates and MPs and senators who still dare to speak with Yours Truly (anonymity guaranteed, natch). Some are chiselling Trudeau’s name off their literature and signs.
One told me about his kids. “My kids hate Trudeau,” this Grit Parliamentarian said. “They hate him for lying to Indigenous people. They hate him.”
“Desperation,” said one longtime Liberal and senator. “It’s desperation when Trudeau is now calling it ‘the Trudeau team’ because his popularity has turned negative. What team is he talking about? He made them all into water carriers.”
The signs of decay and defeat are everywhere. Trudeau campaigning in previously safe Liberal seats. Liberal cabinet ministers — the aforementioned water-carriers — being nudged into the media glare. The flinging of every possible smear at O’Toole — no matter how false, no matter how absurd — in the hope that something will stick.
As in life, in politics: The causes of defeat and victory are multiple and myriad. It’s never just one thing that sinks you.
But mostly, it’s him — Justin Trudeau. A country that once loved him now loathes him. So he needs to win tonight’s debate. Or he’s done.
— Warren Kinsella was chairman of the federal Liberal war rooms in 1993 and 2000
It was Feb. 15, 1996: National Flag Day.
Jean Chretien tells the tale: “There was a bunch of young kids in front of me. I was signing autographs. The kids were there with Canadian flags, and they asked me to autograph their flags. So that’s why the (RCMP) bodyguards were behind me at that particular moment, to permit me to have access to the kids.”
“(After the speeches and autographs,) I was going back to my car, and these two guys rush towards me, shouting. One had a steel bullhorn. He was screaming things, it was not highly complimentary. So when the first one arrived, I grabbed him by the neck and flipped him over. But the press didn’t ever report that, with the other guy — the one with the steel bullhorn. I pushed down the bullhorn, too, right after I flipped the first guy over. Then an RCMP guy flipped the (bullhorn-waving protester) over.”
He pauses, and shrugs. “I had to grab the guy by the neck and flip him. So I did.”
And so, the Shawinigan Handshake was born.
Chretien went home, wondering if his wife would be mad at him (she was). An aide called. The aide said a Toronto radio station had conducted a quick survey about the Flag Day fracas. Fearing the worst, Chretien preferred to put it off: “I said to him, ‘Don’t tell me give me the results until I’m back at work on Monday.’”
The aide replied: “Mr. Prime Minister, we won’t tell you on Monday, in any event.”
“Why?” Chretien asked, genuinely puzzled.
“If we tell you,” answered the press secretary, “we’re afraid you will go out and grab another protester by the neck. It’s gotten an 85% approval rating!”
Not every prime minister — as we all know, too well — is like Jean Chretien. Not every prime minister will grab a protester with his bare hands and flip him out of the way. And not every confrontation with protesters ends with something as memorable as the Shawinigan Handshake.
Monday in London, Ont., for example. Another prime minister, Justin Trudeau, was leaving a Liberal campaign event at a brewery. A mob of angry protesters — many clutching home-made signs, but many more clutching People’s Party of Canada signs — surrounded Trudeau’s bus.
As Trudeau stepped onto the bus, a phalanx of nervous-looking RCMP officers surrounding him, a shower of rocks and gravel rained down — on media, on police, on protesters. It’s unknown if Trudeau himself was hit (asked later by a reporter, Trudeau wouldn’t say).
A video posted to Twitter showed a single protester by the bus — one alleged to be a People’s Party organizer and white supremacist by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network — leaning down to scoop up rocks. And then rocks rained down near Trudeau and others.
Whether Trudeau was hit or not, whether another political party was involved or not, the event was serious. Someone could have been hurt, perhaps badly. And many questions remained unanswered, among them:
- Why has the Trudeau Liberal campaign repeatedly held events in places, and in circumstances, where crazed protesters have gotten too close?
- Why hasn’t the Trudeau campaign moved to a more controlled — and pandemic-safe — approach to events, as Erin O’Toole’s has done?
- Why has the RCMP not exercised its authority, and stopped the Liberals from holding events like the one in London?
Many questions, too few answers.
One thing is for certain: If Jean Chretien was still running things, the rock-throwing protester could count on one thing.
He wouldn’t ever get a chance to do the same thing twice.
— Warren Kinsella was Jean Chretien’s Special Assistant