Categories for Feature

Dimples? Simple

Dimples.

That’s what you actually get some Trudeau trolls nattering about online: Andrew Scheer’s dimples.

Seriously.

For some reason beyond the understanding of sane people, the Trudeaupian types think that the Conservative leader’s dimples disqualify him as a candidate for Prime Minister. They go on about it all the time.

The same criticism used to be made about Bill Clinton. The Democratic president’s many Republican antagonists would say that Clinton’s ever-present grin was unsettling. They would say that Clinton seems to be smiling when, you know, he shouldn’t be.

In recent months, the upward tilt of Andrew Scheer’s lips haven’t been as evident. We don’t know if he’s received advice to look less happy, or if he is simply distressed by the state of Confederation. Either way, Andrew Scheer is not smirking nearly as much as he used to.

This tendency of some people to attack politicians for something over which they have no control – to wit, their physical appearance – is nothing really new.

Haters on the left attacked Doug Ford for his weight, just as they did with his deceased brother, Toronto Mayor Rob. Kathleen Wynne was mocked for resembling the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live.

And, as Wynne would certainly know, female politicians are regularly attacked – viciously, ceaselessly, unfairly – for their appearance: their hairstyle, their style of dress, their relative attractiveness. All the time.

Such attacks can change the course of political history. The infamous 1993 Conservative Party ad that pointed out the facial paralysis of my former boss, Jean Chretien, is the most infamous example. On the night those ads hit the airwaves in the midst of the 1993 federal election campaign, this writer was running Chretien’s war room at his Ottawa headquarters.

We did not know those attack ads were coming, and we were shocked when they did. Unidentified voices could be heard asking if the Liberal leader “looked like a Prime Minister.“

My boss had been waiting his whole life for that attack. He responded a few hours later, at a campaign stop in New Brunswick. He pointed out that “this was the face” that God gave him, and – unlike Tories, he said – “I don’t speak out of both sides of my mouth.“

Boom. Tories reduced to two seats.

In political back rooms, however, a great deal of time is still devoted to discussing and debating the physiology of political candidates. Example: prior to this writer arriving in British Columbia in 1996 to assist the BC Liberal campaign, some nameless genius strategist decided to stick BC liberal leader Gordon Campbell in a plaid shirt, so he would look a little more proletarian, and a little less house street.

The gambit backfired dramatically. Campbell was ridiculed for trying to be something that he was not.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presents a political anomaly. Trudeau, like Gordon Campbell, is a handsome fellow. Even Rolling Stone gushed in a cover story that Trudeau and his family are “photogenic” and “glamorous.”

In Canada, the politicians who tend to succeed are unlike Trudeau. They are the ones who possess the hockey-rink-and-Timmmies Everyman look. Ralph Klein, Rene Levesque, Mel Lastman, Jean Chretien and Rob Ford were frequently attacked by the elites for being dishevelled or, at least, somewhat less than a Hollywood matinee idol.

But voters, clearly, loved them for it. Because, in the main, not too many voters resemble Hollywood matinee idols either.

If they’ve gotten this far, serious students of policy  will be offended by all this talk about physical appearance.

They’re right. We shouldn’t make important decisions based on looks.

But, not long after he lost the aforementioned 1996 BC election, Gordon Campbell ruefully remarked to this writer: “It’s 70 per cent how you look, 20 per cent how you say it, and only 10 per cent what you say.”

Campbell knows whereof he speaks. And, if you don’t believe me, go looking for Andrew Scheer’s dimples.

They’re gone.


Yell at the spouse, lose the house (updated)

That’s a headline that ran in the Sun, nearly a generation ago. It changed political history.

Remember Lyn McLeod? I do. McLeod was the leader of the Ontario Liberal Party in the mid-1990s. In the months leading up to the 1995 election, McLeod had a massive lead in every opinion poll. NDP Premier Bob Rae’s government was despised; P.C. leader Mike Harris was mostly unknown.

One fateful day, McLeod talked to a reporter on proposed legislation that would change the definition of domestic violence – and the penalties for it.

One penalty for abusing one’s spouse, she said, should be the abuser’s eviction from the family home. Hard to argue with that, perhaps.

But then the reporter asked McLeod if  domestic violence included “verbal abuse.” It did, she said. Yes.

The next day, the headline in the Toronto Sun was this: “Shout at spouse, lose your house.”

Almost immediately, the Ontario Liberals started to slide in the polls. Mike Harris would go on to win a big majority. And a close friend, and a senior advisor to McLeod, later told me: “Yell at the spouse, lose the house,” he said. “That’s why we lost.”

Which brings us to this, the former Bill C-46:



The law that destroyed the Ontario Liberals was a proposed law. This one now is law.

Lawyers like me have been warning, for months, that this change is wildly unconstitutional. It’s legislative overreach. And it’s a political suicide note, too.

But it’s the law of the land. It gives police the power to demand you submit to a breathalyzer, even they don’t have a reasonable suspicion you’re impaired. Even if you aren’t behind the wheel.

When this change was being considered, legal experts warned that a Canadian who drives home, sober, and then consumes some alcohol could register a fail on the breathalyzer – even though they didn’t drive while drunk. And that’s in fact what happened to a B.C. woman: she was by the pool at her sister’s place, having a drink, when the RCMP arrived and demanded a breath sample.

She lost her licence and her vehicle. Ultimately, she defeated the impairment charge on a technicality – but not before spending thousands on legal fees.

The media are already calling this a “police state” law. That it’s “an inexcusable violation of an individual’s Charter rights, and an invitation to police harassment of visible minorities“. Hell, even the CBC is calling it “unnecessary police power.”

Make no mistake: this issue – coming in the Summer before an election – is potentially lethal for Justin Trudeau’s Liberals. Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives, I am told, are now preparing to do to Trudeau what Mike Harris and a Toronto Sun headline did to Lyn McLeod.

Have a drink, wind up in the clink”: may not be as deadly as that long-ago Sun headline. But it may do the trick.

UPDATE: Oh, look. Shortly after the above post went up, something interesting happened. I’d say they are nervous, wouldn’t you?



My latest: amend the constitution, save the planet

Want to save the planet? Amend the Constitution.

In the United States, such an amendment has been sought since 1996.   Here’s what it says: “The natural resources of the nation are the heritage of present and future generations.  The right of each person to clean and healthful air and water, and to the protection of the other natural resources of the nation, shall not be abridged by any person.”

That sort of statement exists in the state constitutions in Hawaii, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Montana.  But it hasn’t happened yet at the U.S. federal level.

Same in Canada.  In our constitutional rights document, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there are all manner of protections.  Section two says that all Canadians have the fundamental freedoms of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression and “freedom of the press and other media of communication.”  It also declares that peaceable assembly and association are fundamental freedoms.

Sections three, four and five proclaim and protect democratic rights.  Six gives us mobility rights within Canada, and the right to a livelihood.  Section seven asserts our right to “life, liberty and security of the person.”  Eight protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures; nine protects us against arbitrary detention or imprisonment.  Ten to 14 describe our rights when we are arrested or facing trial.

And section 15, importantly, constitutionalizes the notion that Canadians have “the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination” – meaning no discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.  There are quite a few sections about language rights after that.  Section 25: aboriginal rights.  Section 27: multiculturalism.  Section 28: gender equality.

But nothing – nothing – about the environment.  When you consider, say, that mobility rights don’t matter so much when your part of Canada is on fire, or under water, that’s a critical lapse.  When there’s no air left to breathe, equality rights tend to take a back seat.

It can be argued, and has been, that section seven’s “life, liberty and security of the person” includes the environment.  In about 20 countries around the world, in fact, constitutional court challenges are presently taking place, in which plaintiffs are arguing that life, liberty and personal security are being infringed by inadequate, or non-existent, environmental protections.  

Last November in Quebec, a group called Environnment Jeunesse started a class action in Quebec Superior Court, seeking $340 million in damages – $100 per young person in the class.  The young Quebecois are arguing that the section seven rights of young Canadians were being violated because the federal government hasn’t done enough about climate change. 

Because, you know, it hasn’t.  

The Justin Trudeau government talks a good environmental game, of course.  With much fanfare, it recently insisted that it will ban single-use plastics.  And then, just a few days later, Trudeau is photographed by his own office – In Quebec! At a lunch with a group of young people, the aforementioned plaintiffs! – sitting at a conference table where plastic cutlery was in plain view.

The Conservatives have an environmental plan, too, but it has been attacked by its former leader, Kim Campbell.  The New Democrats have tabled something called “Power to Change: A new deal for climate action and good jobs.”  It says it’ll meet its targets before other parties say they’ll meet theirs.  But everyone knows the federal NDP will be unlikely to form government anytime soon.

The Green Party, as its very name suggests, is arguably the most serious about avoiding environmental calamity.  That is partly why Elizabeth May’s party has rocketed ahead of the NDP to take third place in recent polls – and why liberals and Liberals (like this writer) have donated to them, and plan to vote and work for them.

The Green Party’s environmental plan is the one that deserves the greatest scrutiny, because – if, as recent polls also suggest, a minority government is almost inevitable – it is the one now most likely to be implemented.  Elizabeth May will be the most powerful person in Canada, in effect, because she will hold the balance of power in late 2019 and beyond.

May’s plan calls for modernizing the national electricity grid; creating trades jobs by retrofitting every building in Canada; ending all imports of foreign oil, and using only Canadian fossil fuels; and pushing adaptation measures to protect agriculture, fishing and forestry from climate change.  It’s not bad.

To achieve it, or part of it, more than a minority Parliament is needed.  We also need a national consensus, one that can’t be diluted by lobbyists, self-interest, and the vagaries of election results.  If recent events have shown us anything, it is that there is a paradox at the epicentre of Canadian politics: we all care about the environment, but we all lack the means or the will to do something meaningful about it.

The Constitution, as Environnment Jeunesse has already figured out, is the way to address that.  If we are serious about saving our part of the planet – and polls suggests that an overwhelming majority of Canadians, from cost to rising coast, are – then let’s constitutionalize our collective desire.

Every other right and freedom is protected in there.  Why not the right to an environment, too?

 


My latest: hypocrisy, thine name is JT

“A hypocrite,” Adlai Stevenson said, “is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.”

That’s all that the first Adlai Stevenson left behind in the sands of time, pretty much. He was the 23rd vice-president of the United States, he was from Illinois, and he was a Democrat. His grandson was the Democratic Party’s candidate for president a couple of times, in the 50s. But old Uncle Adlai, as he was called? He was just remembered for his aphorisms, pretty much.

That one above, the one about political hypocrisy, should be printed out, laminated, and pinned to Justin Trudeau’s shirt (You know, like parents do with kids who might wander away during field trips to the zoo).

Trudeau’s PMO staff, too, should have Adlai Stevenson’s pithy maxim tattooed to their foreheads, so that they remember the cardinal rule when they are at their next “deliverology” meeting: In politics, you can get away with all manner of misdeeds and sins. But hypocrisy? Political hypocrisy is lethal. It is toxic. It is the scarlet letter.

To wit: Justin Trudeau and his PMO are hypocrites. There is no shortage of evidence.

This week, for example, Prime Minister Selfie tweeted out a nice photo of himself with something called the “Papineau Youth Council,” whatever that is.  Fresh-faced youngsters ringed a table listening to Trudeau talk about, as he put it, ways “to fight climate change.”  That’s a quote.

Eyeballing the taxpayer-subsidized snapshot, we see:

• Pizza (not weird, it’s a political backroom staple)

• Trudeau’s pizza slices, both flipped over (super weird)

• None of the kids smiling, not even a bit (also weird, but who can blame them, really)

• Right in the foreground, a pile of plastic cutlery (weird AND wildly hypocritical)

Plastic cutlery?  That’s weird – because, really, who uses cutlery to eat pizza?

And it’s hypocritical, too, because this is the selfsame Prime Minister, boys and girls, who just a few days ago said he planned to ban so-called single-use plastics. Like, um, plastic cutlery. He also said his family uses “like, drink box water bottles sort of things,” and none of us know what that means. Still.

Political graveyards are littered with the remains of political hypocrites. Pat Buchanan, for example. As I write in my must-have book, The War Room, when he was making one of his many quixotic runs at the presidency, Buchanan started promoting the Trumpist “America First” tagline everywhere. Hire only Americans, buy only American. 

So the advisors to George H. W. Bush discovered a key factoid about Buchanan’s “America First” private life: he personally drove a Mercedes, made in far-away Germany. They passed along that little revelation out to the media hordes, and that was the end of Pat.

Another example:  Democrat Gary Hart.  Back in 1987, when the family-friendly Senator was making his second run at the top job, rumours were rampant he was following his little soldier into battle a bit too frequently. Gary was indignant about this scurrilous assault on his personal life. Said he: “Follow me around.  I don’t care.  They’ll be bored.”

The media followed him around. They weren’t bored.  Gary – thereafter photographed with model Donna Rice balanced on his senatorial knee, on a yacht called (we kid you not) Monkey Business – ended up caring, quite a bit.  And that was the end of Gary.

Have Justin Trudeau’s well-documented hypocrisies similarly doomed him to defeat in October? The polls suggest the best the Liberal leader can hope for is a minority government. If that.

So, if Trudeau loses, LavScam, unbalanced budgets, the Aga Khan and decidedly unharmonious fed-prov relations will figure prominently as causes.

 But one politically-fatal word, above all the others, will be seen on Justin Trudeau’s headstone:

 HYPOCRITE.


My latest: dogs and politicos

Why do political people love dogs?

Because we do, we do. Proof is at hand.

MacKenzie King’s personal legacy – characterized, as it was, by his avid spiritualism, his byzantine diaries, and his nighttime strolls down certain streets the Market – is not without controversy. A debate rages, even now, about whether Canada’s longest-serving Prime Minister was a political genius or a certifiable nut job.

But about one part of King’s private life there can be no dispute: his love of his three Irish Terriers, all of whom he named Pat.

Pat, Pat and Pat. (Among other things, it reduces monogramming costs.)

Alliteratively, King called the Irish Terriers “red, racy and rectangular,” and they sort of were. King, being a man who was always distant from his fellow man (and woman, except for those ones he ran into in the Market at night), was closest to Pat. The dog went everywhere with him. He trusted it more than he trusted any human, save and except his beloved mother. (Who, along with the departed Pats, he attempted to commune with in seances.)

Here is what he write in his diaries about the Pats. It is something that any politico could write about their dog, too.

“[Pat is] a God-sent little angel in the guise of a dog, my dear little saviour,” King wrote. “[He is perfect because he] asks only to be near your and to share in a companionship of pure trust.”

And that is why every political dog is beloved by their political human: trust. They listen, they do not talk back, and they keep secrets secret.

After taking office in 1957, Dief the Chief ordered his staff to come up with a name for the dog he was given by a fan. He wanted to call it “Tory,” but his staff were worried that the pup would become fodder for editorial cartoonists. So he was named Happy instead.

Like King, whom he deeply despised, Dief was singularly unimaginative about dog names. Thus, there was more than one Diefenbaker dog named Happy. Happy the Second was not a terrier, but he was a terror, often disappearing from the Conservative leader’s office. Dief’s driver would then be dispatched to find Happy II, and he always did. “My dog has the ancestry and the distinguished pedigree, but no training at all,” said Canada’s thirteenth Prime Minister, who could have been also describing Canada’s twenty-third Prime Minister.

Stephen Harper was a big fan of cats, by the way, which tells you all that you need to know. He also had a chinchilla named Charlie, which is partially redeeming, but not entirely.

Did Pierre Trudeau like dogs? Did he have one? Was he almost certainly a cat person, like that Harper fellow? History does not record the truth. His son Justin, however, has a Portuguese water dog, who is neither Portgguese nor made of water. His name is Kenzie.

When he arrived at the Prime Ministerial homestead in 2016, that hard-ass hard-news outlet, The Huffington Post, headlined the resulting story: “Justin Trudeau Dog: The Prime Minister’s Family Got Even Cuter! Meet the prime minister’s newest family member!”

In a tough and unforgiving report, the HuffPo wrote: “Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke some very big news for his family: they got a puppy! Along with an adorable photo of two-year-old Hadrien playing with the new dog, Trudeau tweeted: “#tbt to the little one meeting our newest arrival a few months ago. Say hello to Kenzie.”

Kenzie, we note, hasn’t been much seen in public since 2016. In this way, he is like electoral reform, a balanced budget, federal-provincial harmony, and reconciliation with indigenous peoples.

Why all this talk about politicos and dogs, you ask? Simple: one of mine – the beautiful, sweet and perfect Daisy, after whom I named my company – slipped away last week. I have been shattered ever since. I miss that dog, a lot.

Why do we political types love them so? Because, as King, and Dief, and others knew too well, politics is a business you do not enter to make friends. It is nasty, brutish and usually shorter than expected.

But at the end of a long day of treachery and back-stabbing, nothing repairs the political heart better than those brown eyes, and that wet nose, asking for nothing but love.

Rest easy, Daisy. Meet your new friends, Pat and Happy and all the others.

You all have secrets to share.


Pizzagate poll: the shocking photographic evidence

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the “Papineau Youth Council,” whatever that is.  One of his fart-catchers took a photo (of course).

I and and a panel of experts have closely studied this photograph.  It shocked us.

There are a number of problems revealed in it.  Vote now on the ones you consider most serious.




My latest in the Sun: when they came for the Jews/Sikhs/Muslims, they said nothing

Silence.

That’s all that could be heard from the federal party leaders, essentially: silence, or something approaching that.

The occasion: the decision of assorted Quebec politicians to pass a law telling religious people what they can wear. Jews, Sikhs, but mainly Muslims.

The law, formerly called Bill 21, was passed last weekend in a special sitting of the so-called National Assembly. It makes it illegal to wear religious symbols at work if you’re a teacher, a bus driver, a cop, a nurse, or even a day care worker. It applies to everyone who gets a stipend from the province, basically.

The law is illegal. It is wildly unconstitutional, for all the reasons you’d expect: it stomps all over freedom of speech, freedom of religion and equality rights. It giddily shreds the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The law is against the law. So, Quebec’s ruling class – who have never been particularly fussy about Jews, Sikhs or Muslims, truth be told – also stipulated that their law would operate “notwithstanding” the Charter.

In Quebec, now, you’ve theoretically got freedom of speech and religion. Except, say, when the chauvinists in the National Assembly say you don’t.

Stick that yarmulke in your pocket, Jew. Remove that turban your faith requires you to wear, Sikh. Put it away.

As history has shown us, freedoms rarely get swept away with dramatic decrees. Instead, we lose freedoms by degrees. In bits and pieces. Fascism typically slips into our lives without a sound, like a snake slithering into the kitchen, unseen.

This week, the snake curled around the ankles of Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer and Jagmeet Singh. All of them pretended that the snake was not there.

Justin Trudeau, in his teeny-tiniest mouse voice, suggested that no one should “tell a woman what she can and cannot wear.” That’s all we got from him, pretty much.

Andrew Scheer, for his part, said he “would never present a bill like that at the federal level.” But, he hastily added, he would also leave the whole messy business to the “elected members in Quebec.”

Jagmeet Singh, who now couldn’t get a provincial job in Quebec because he wears a turban himself, said this about the law when it was tabled: “I think it’s hurtful, because I remember what it’s like to grow up and not feel like I belong.”

Words.

But action? Actually, you know, doing something to protect minority rights and religious freedoms in Quebec?

Not on your life. It’s an election year, pal.

During one of the many, many debates Quebec has had about this legislated intolerance – when controversy was raging about the then-Liberal government’s bill that would force women to remove veils when, say, getting on a city bus – Francois Legault, then an Opposition leader, was asked about the crucifix hanging in the National Assembly.

It should stay, he said. “We have a Christian heritage in Quebec,” he said. “I don’t see any problem keeping it.”

That’s when Francois Legault’s veil slipped, as it were. That’s when we got to see who he really represents.

At his very first press conference after the Quebec election, Legault dispensed with any notion that he would be the Premier to all. To the Muslims (with their headscarves), and the Jews (with their kippahs), and the Hindus (with their markings on their faces), Legault’s message was plain: I don’t represent you. I don’t care about you. You are lower-class.

And, now, from our federal leaders: a shrug. Indifference.

Jesus, from that spot He long had above the National Assembly, is (as always) needed. Right about now, Jesus could remind our politicians, federal and provincial, what he said in Matthew 23:3. You know:

“Do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”