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The rumours about Justin Trudeau

Rumours. It’s more than a Fleetwood Mac album.

Rumours about Justin Trudeau have littered Canadian newsrooms like confetti since the start of this election. Rumours about Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.

As we now know, some of the rumours about the Liberal leader turned out to be true.

So, in 2014, this writer was told there were affidavits detailing inappropriate conduct between Trudeau and various young people. I simply did not believe it, but I raised the allegation directly with Trudeau’s most-senior adviser.

To my surprise, he acknowledged the allegations had been made in affidavits, but said that Trudeau’s insular inner circle were not worried. They had rebutting affidavits of their own to respond.

Subsequently, a female parliamentarian sent me an editorial written by a B.C. reporter in which she alleged that Trudeau had groped her, quote unquote, at a beer festival. While Trudeau said he did not act inappropriately, he apologized, saying “people can experience interactions differently.”

In 2016 and again in 2017, this writer was told by a senior Liberal that photos existed of Trudeau wearing blackface, dating back to his time as a teacher at a private school in Vancouver. The Liberal war room knew about the photos, he said.

Efforts to find any proof, however, were unsuccessful. It did not occur to us to simply check the private school’s year books. I — and others, as it turned out — did not believe Trudeau could be that stupid. To pose for photographers wearing blackface.

But it was true: At the age of 29, while a teacher and in a position of responsibility with children, Trudeau had indeed partied in racist blackface. Turned out he had done it several times, too.

Did the blackface rumour — now the blackface fact — mean that Trudeau was a racist? In no time, several non-white Liberal MPs hustled to microphones to say that, sure, the blackface incidents had happened. But Trudeau wasn’t a closeted drawing-room bigot, they insisted.

And then Omer Aziz, a former Trudeau government aide, authored a scalding op-ed in the Globe and Mail. He wrote about Trudeau and his inner circle, and their attitudes towards minorities: “Condescending attitudes were regularly revealed. Minorities were undermined, ghettoized. The casual disregard of the privileged was systemic. I felt like I could not breathe.” Aziz quit.

Those are just some of the rumours. Some turned out to be true, others are just false, or without a shred of proof. One is presently making the rounds on a fake-news website that has fooled many in the past, this writer included. It should not be taken seriously, in any way.

But those of us privileged to hold positions in the news media, whether we admire Trudeau or not, have an obligation to investigate and report. When the subject-matter is the prime minister of Canada — a man who has repeatedly held himself out as a feminist and anti-racist and a family man — we in the media owe our readers and our listeners the truth.

On a segment on a Toronto radio program this week, and in an opinion piece on Canadaland, this writer was criticized for wondering, in a single tweet, why a Globe and Mail reporter asked Trudeau about why he abruptly left the aforementioned Vancouver private school. My answer: Because it is relevant. Because it is newsworthy. Because it is important.

When the media start acting as an extension of any political party’s war room — when we proactively self-censor — we do our readers and listeners a grave disservice. We work for them, after all.

Rumours may be just rumours. But with Justin Trudeau, as we have seen, oftentimes the rumours turn out to be the truth.


My latest: debate? What debate?

Here’s the thing about Monday’s leader’s debate, Canada.

You won’t be watching it.

Well, let’s amend that. Sun readers are a scrappy, elbows-up lot, who dig politics and a good scrap. Sun readers are likelier to be watching the debate. They like debates.

But most everyone else? They won’t be.

Everyone else will be watching Shark Tank (which this election kind of is) or Wheel of Fortune (which this election isn’t). Or, they’ll be binge-watching old episodes of Arrested Development (which neatly describes most of our federal political leaders).

Increasingly, voters simply don’t watch leader’s debates in Canada. For example, Maclean’s magazine put together a debate in 2015, but it had fewer than 40% of the viewers who took in the 2011 English-language debate. And Maclean’s actually counted people who only watched part of that debate, not all of it.

Master Chef got way more viewers.

Last time around, there was a Globe and Mail debate, too, and it was absolutely awful to watch. YouTube later found only about 400,000 Canadians did so. That’s in a country, in 2015, with 36 million people in it. Ipsos later did a poll and found only about 20% of Canadians watched the first couple debates in 2015.

There’s been one debate in 2019 that Justin Trudeau has deigned to attend. It was entirely in French.

Around 1.2 million Quebecers allegedly took in the TVA leader’s debate, in which Andrew Scheer, Jagmeet Singh and the separatist leader, Yves-Francois Blanchet, also participated. In a province with more than six million eligible voters, 1.2 million viewers isn’t anything to brag about, although TVA did.

Oh, and in English Canada — in English — nobody got to watch the French debate when it was happening. Because it was entirely in French. To get a sense of what happened, the vast majority of Canadians needed to check out the media after the fact (Widely-held consensus: the separatist guy won, hands down).

As someone who owns a public opinion firm — Daisy Data, at your service! — I can relate one empirical statistical fact: a dwindling number of voters watch debates from gavel to gavel. They may in take part of a debate, sure. But not all of it.

What voters do, instead, is watch the news media’s coverage of a debate. They’ll see a clip of a fiery exchange on TV, or they’ll hear a so-called defining moment on the radio heading into work, or they’ll read expert commentary in the pages of the Sun and hopefully nowhere else.

But they don’t watch all of the debate.

I’ve prepared prime ministers and premiers for debates, and I now know I did it all wrong. I assumed, as did my debate-prep colleagues, that everyone else watched the debates as closely as we did. That was a flawed assumption.

It also explains how Justin Trudeau was seen as a winner in the 2015 debates, even against two superior debaters — Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair. Trudeau’s strategy in 2015 was a lot like what he did in his celebrated boxing match with Patrick Brazeau: he waited in his corner for an opening, then he’d go in with a flurry of punches.

He didn’t try to dominate all of the matches — he just did what he needed to do to get clipped on TV, then he’d sprinkle the results all over social media.

It worked, because he knew that Canadians were more likely to see clips of a debate than all of a debate.

That’s what he’s going to do on Monday night, too. In an era of shrinking debate audiences, it works. Will the other leaders let him get away with it in 2019 like they did in 2015? Tune in and see.

Or, join everyone else, and go watch Shark Tank.

— Sun columnist Warren Kinsella will be providing debate commentary on Bell Media radio on Monday night


My latest: why isn’t Andrew Scheer way ahead?

So, Andrew.

You don’t mind if I call you Andrew, do you? It’s better than what I sometimes used to call you, which was Blandy Andy.

I stopped calling you that because you figured out a way to make the bland thing work, like Brampton Bill Davis did. You embraced your inner ordinariness.

You starting hanging out in hockey rinks and you commenced rubbing Timbits all over your torso – which, unlike Prime Minister Blackface, you have never exposed to a grateful nation. You became the Canadian Everyman, and you made it work for you.

The pocketbook stuff, too. That was good, too. You and Hamish concluded, rightly, that voters regard everyone in politics as an unindicted co-conspirators, so you stopped hollering all the time that Justin is a crook. You just kept talking about how hard it is for regular folks to get by, and left the scandalmongering to the media. That was smart.

And the polls bore fruit, sort of. Ipsos says you’re ahead, and you have been for the entirety of the campaign. Nanos says you’re tied with Trudeau for best choice for Prime Minister, which is way better than you’ve been in the past.

But. But, Andrew, seriously?

Why haven’t 110 per cent of respondents declared you their favoured choice for Prime Minister? Why isn’t your party a kabillion points ahead of the Liberals? Why, Andrew, why?

Because that’s the question everyone is asking themselves, Andrew. Hell, that’s the question members of the Liberal caucus are asking themselves – many of whom had purchased political funeral insurance, and now they’re wondering if they can convert it to another kind of policy at the insurance brokerage where you used to fetch coffee and answer the phone.

By any reasonable standard, Andrew, Justin Trudeau leads the most corrupt – the most casually evil – government in Canadian history. It is shiftless; it is reckless; it is soulless. It is a mess.

And they could still win, Andrew. They could still beat you. How can this be?

A scan of Trudeau’s press clippings reads like a grand jury indictment.

• In LavScam, he obstructed justice when he tried, repeatedly, to stop the criminal corruption trial of a Québec-based donor to his party.
• He violated conflict of interest laws when he accepted freebies during a junket to the Aga Khan’s private island.
• He lied about electoral reform, and balancing the budget, and improving relations with the provinces and the world.
• He made us an international laughingstock with his Griswolds Vacation India trip, and enraged the world’s largest democracy – our ally and Commonwealth partner.
• And, most recently, he admitted he repeatedly mocked black people by wearing blackface and jumping around like an ape – and he admitted that there’s more of it out there in the ether, but he doesn’t know how much, because he was wasted a lot of the time.

After all that, Andrew – after all that scandal, more of which this newspaper has been investigating for weeks, stay tuned to this bat-channel, everyone – why aren’t you way ahead? Why aren’t you creaming Chewbacca Socks?

Why, to cite just two examples from the past 24 hours, did you attract fewer people at a Brampton rally than Justin Trudeau’s Portuguese Water Dog, Kenzie, gets during a stroll through the park?

Why can’t you put an end to the interminable questions about your CV, and simply joke that you’re so boring, you’re the only guy in Canada who brags about being an insurance broker?

None of it makes sense, Andrew. None of it. You should be playing Fortnite with Hamish about now, getting ready to move into wherever we put Prime Ministers these days.

Instead, you’re fighting to get a decent lead. Instead, your caucus are whispering about the next leader.

It’s crazy, Andrew. But one thing isn’t crazy at all:

You’ve got three weeks left to win this thing.

And if you don’t, you’ll forever be remembered as the guy who couldn’t beat Prime Minister Blackface.


Who won and lost the French-language debate

Who won? The separatist guy, Yves-Francois Blanchet. He was calm, he was cool and he was collected. He totally dominated.

Who lost? Justin Trudeau. He needed to remind everyone that that hopey-changey guy from 2015 is still around. He didn’t, because he isn’t.  (And he was clobbered on one key point.  More on that in a minute.)

Who won a silver? Jagmeet Singh. His French was better than expected, and he played the class-warfare card expertly.

Who barely won a French-language bronze – but seized an English-language gold? Andrew Scheer, with a caveat, which is also discussed below. Because, while he may not have won the French debate in French Canada – his equivocation on abortion was pretty bad – Scheer definitely won a French-language debate in English Canada.  (I will explain.)

Anyway. Here’s my caveat about Scheer, who as I say won the debate outside Quebec, partly because no one watched it outside Quebec.

In a leaders’ debate, you need to make certain that your story that dominates. Here’s why: no matter how nice your opponent looks — no matter how articulate, no matter how charming — he or she can’t win if your message is the dominant theme of the night.

Like Andrew Scheer’s attack on Justin Trudeau’s two campaign planes. Because it (a) exposed Trudeau to be a hypocrite (b) it made him look vain (because he uses the second plane for his “canoes and costumes,” as Scheer quipped) and (c) it was the dominant theme in all the subsequent coverage in English Canada, and the Tories had graphics and ads ready to go to ensure that it dominated.  It reminded me of what Jack Layton did to Michael Ignatieff in another debate, with devastating results.

Televised leaders’ debates show us all why having the dominant narrative is so crucial. TV debates give candidates a chance to stress basic campaign themes, and in front of what is usually the biggest audience of the campaign. They also let candidates depict their opponents’ campaign message in an unflattering way. But contrary to what some media pundits claim, debates are not about defining moments.

Debates are about ratifying your side’s issues — and the issues in the campaign — and looking good at the same time. They’re not about defeating the opposition’s claims, proving something, or answering reporters’ questions, either. They’re about getting your story — your spin, your message — heard by as many people as possible. Full stop.

Now, keep in mind that last night’s debate is not going to change voters’ minds about the key issues. Most of them have their minds made up by now. But in a tight race, like this one, debates can make a huge difference.

The most successful presidential and prime ministerial performers enter debates with a single clear message they wish to get across — and they use questions and interruptions to return to, or highlight, their single key message. As Dick Morris told me once, a simple way to measure success is to count the number of debate minutes devoted to your key messages (eg. for a progressive, health or the environment) and not the opposition’s (eg. for a conservative, tax cuts or “getting tough on crime”). You win when your story has taken up the greatest number of minutes. Before they head off to bed, you want the people who tuned in to conclude that your guy or gal is humble, energetic, trustworthy, passionate, positive — and that he or she is “fighting for me.”

Losing, on the other hand, is easy. If a liberal guy or gal performs well on an issue like “getting tough on crime,” and the other side doesn’t, it doesn’t matter that the liberal did a fabulous job presenting his or her case and sounded like the best debater in the history of planet Earth. The “getting tough on crime” issue is their issue. The other side will always sound more credible when the subject matter is their issue.

Anyway: facts tell, stories sell. And when you’ve got a winning story, stick to it. Don’t talk about the other guy’s story.

The plane thing is a winning story. It hurt Trudeau, big time.


Random, contextless links about #elxn43 and #cdnpoli and punk rock

So.  First day of October.  Here’s bits and pieces, this and that:




Debates, debate moderators and those who seek to influence them

The picture above was apparently taken last night in Ottawa.  It shows the Huffington Post’s Althia Raj and the Liberal Party’s Gerald Butts.

Raj is one of the moderators in the crucial (and only) English-language leaders’ debate.

She and her employer have been criticized many times in the past for being biased – in favour of the Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau.

In my view, Butts was merely doing his job, and doing it well.  But was it a good idea for Raj to get together with Butts, mere days before the debates kick off?

No.  And some studies actually make that clear, too.

There’s bias, and there’s appearance of bias.  In a tight election race, it is stupid for a reporter to do anything that provides evidence of an appearance of bias.  Particularly when there is a requirement that “high journalistic standards” be maintained in respect of the debates.

It’s always the same: people in Ottawa regularly think that everyone South of the Queensway don’t notice what they do after hours.

But we do.


Trump and Trudeau: brothers of another mother

Trump and Trudeau: They’re not that different, really.

Sons of millionaires. Never had to worry about a hydro bill, never needed to fret about a mortgage payment. Never experienced the pocketbook terror that is everyday existence for lesser mortals.

Bodyguards, maids, chauffeurs, private jets: These were the emblems of the lives that Trudeau and Trump led and lead. They breathed the same rarefied air as other millionaires and billionaires. They got invited to all the right parties. We in the media hung on their every utterance, stupidly believing that being born rich renders someone worth listening to.

No military service for either. No involvement in government before they both somehow seized the top job. No known ideas or policies. But models, yes. Lots.

And famous. Trump became famous for The Apprentice, and for his expert manipulation of New York City’s viciously competitive media. He’s the assignment editor for all journalists, and he bragged about it in his various ghosted books. Said he in The Art of the Deal: “Most reporters, I find, have very little interest in exploring the substance of a detailed proposal for a development. They look instead for the sensational angle.”

Trudeau gets that, too. He became famous because of the sensational eulogy he gave to his father — the one that his pal, Gerald Butts, told everyone that he wrote — and he became even more famous when he sensationally beat up an indigenous man.

He actually bragged about that. Trudeau actually crowed that he consciously targeted an indigenous man for a public beating. Said Trudeau to Rolling Stone: “I wanted someone who would be a good foil, and we stumbled upon the scrappy, tough-guy senator from an indigenous community. He fit the bill. I saw it as the right kind of narrative, the right story to tell.”

So: Rich, privileged, famous. There’s a reason why Trump and Trudeau have mostly gotten along so well: They both are charter members of the lucky sperm club.

But there is one characteristic that they share above all others. There is one thing, in government and out, that makes them brothers of another mother.

They believe the rules don’t apply to them.

This week, Trump reminded us of that. This week, we learned that he really, truly had called the newly minted president of Ukraine, and requested, seven times, that Ukraine investigate a U.S. citizen, one Joe Biden. Conservatives may not regard that as a “high crime,” but it sure as hell is at least a “misdemeanour” — and, therefore, an impeachable offence.

And how did we get the evidence that Democrats are now relying upon to impeach Trump? Well, they got it from Trump himself. He provided his political executioners with the rope they needed to fashion a noose.

Because he doesn’t think the law should apply to him.

Ditto Trudeau. He can brag about beating up someone who is indigenous (Patrick Brazeau), he can try and destroy an indigenous woman who refused to break the law for him (Jody Wilson-Raybould), he can wear racist blackface to mock others (black Canadians) — and then brazenly claim he isn’t racist.

(Oh, and he and his cabal can come up with a racist name for NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, too. More on that in my next column.)

Trudeau can do all those racist things, and then insist he believes in tolerance and diversity. Which is standard operating procedure for someone who believes the rules don’t apply to him.

Only one thing differentiates the two leaders right now: Donald Trump is facing impeachment for his sins, and Justin Trudeau isn’t.

Shame, that.