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Column: desperate politicians do desperate things

How desperate is Justin Trudeau to keep NAFTA?

Ask the Mexicans, now peering out from under the proverbial bus – where, you know, Trudeau pushed them.

Pretty desperate.

As they welcomed the Canadian Prime Minister to Mexico City on Thursday – and as they gamely extracted the Canadian-made stainless steel that had slipped between their shoulder blades – the Mexicans likely marveled about this once or twice. “¡Tan encantador! ¡Muy guapo! ¡Tan despiadado!” they must have said, to themselves. Rough translation: “So charming! So handsome! So ruthless!”

It wasn’t always thus. As recently as June, Trudeau was welcoming Enrique Pena Nieto to Ottawa, even bestowing one of those Trudeauesque both-hands-and-almost-a-full-hug things on the beaming Mexican president. (It almost went as far as those vaguely-unsettling, nose-to-nose eye couplings Trudeau also favours – but those mano-a-mano moments are apparently saved for swearings-in of new cabinet ministers at Rideau Hall.)

Still, it was pretty cuddly, back in June. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland had previously ruled out throwing Mexico under the bus. On the record, no less. Said she: “I’ve always been clear, and the Prime Minister has always been clear, about the importance of our relationship with Mexico.” At the time, that unctuous windbag Brian Mulroney even chimed in, solemnly wheezing: “Throwing friends and neighbours and allies under the bus is a position for a weak leader. This is not the Canadian tradition.”

Resulting CBC headline: “Canada isn’t about to ‘throw Mexico under the bus,’ foreign ministers say.”

Uh-huh. Gotcha.

When he was still getting all grippy with Enrique Pena Nieto in June, Justin Trudeau continued to proclaim the same sort of stuff. “I think it’s important that allies and partners like Mexico and Canada work together to address the challenges we’re facing together,” Trudeau declared, and the Mexicans smiled and nodded a lot.

Well, that was then, and this is now. Belatedly, correctly, Trudeau has concluded that Donald Trump is a monkey with a machine gun – and that, if there has to be a victim supplied at the NAFTA murder scene, well, Enrique c’mon down! 

Thus, when Agent Orange was asked if he was open to a U.S.-Canada trade deal – one that excluded Mexicans, who he regards as rapists and killers, anyway – Trump responded: “Oh, sure, absolutely.”

At that moment, of course, Justin Trudeau could have said no way, José. He could have repeated what he had said to Enrique Pena Nieto. He could have declined to nudge one of the “Three Amigos” under the bus. But here’s what he said instead:

Nothing.

After an uncomfortable moment or two, during which Mexico’s government was likely coming up with imaginative new swear words to describe us Canadians, Trudeau was asked about a two-way trade deal. Said he: “I continue to believe in NAFTA…so saying, we are ready for anything, and we will continue to work diligently to protect Canadian interests.”

Translation: “Enjoy the view under the bus, Enrique!”

This Benedict Arnold-style strategy creates three new problems for us, the Snow Mexicans.

One, it mainly helps Trump, not Canada. The American “president” may be a racist, sexist, lying bastard – but he knows a thing or two about negotiations. Decades devoted to doing New York City real estate deals with his Daddy’s money taught him that the best opponent is weakened opponent. 

By dispensing with a united Canada-Mexico front, Justin Trudeau has reduced his bargaining power. As Donald Trump knows – and as Trudeau may soon discover – it is always easier to steal the lunch money of one kid. Not two.

If Justin Trudeau doesn’t watch Game of Thrones, he should. Every fan of that shows knows that, when seeking a bargain with a much-more-powerful opponent, you need to form alliances with other less-powerful kingdoms. In Westeros terms, Trudeau has sped up Winter’s arrival.

Two, nudging Mexico under the proverbial bus makes a big, big assumption that almost certainly will be proven wrong: namely, that Donald Trump’s promises are worth they’re printed on. They’re not.

As half his cabinet, all of his wives, most of the Republican Party and all of Puerto Rico can attest, Trump will turn on you in a New York minute. His word is no good. He was elected on a platform to tear up the TPP and NAFTA – and build a xenophobic, inward-looking, protectionist demi-monde. He hasn’t kept any other promise, but he’s kept that one.

Thirdly, finally – and seriously, folks – this makes Canada look bad. It makes us look like we will turn on our allies, even after we repeatedly said we never would.

Desperate people do desperate things. Canada is looking desperate. 

And that isn’t a good thing.

 


Did Donald Trump obstruct justice?

The Brookings Institute has just released a 108-page, single-spaced, fully-footnoted, tightly-reasoned indictment of Donald Trump. The whole document is here.

At the risk of spoiling it for you, here is the key part of the conclusion:

 With that caveat, our review of the facts and the law leads us to the view that the president likely obstructed justice. Should that conclusion be borne out, we believe he will be held to account under one or another of the vehicles we have outlined, for no one is above the law in our system. 

Accountability will have significant consequences for the functioning of our democracy. We offer this paper as a framework to evaluate the facts and the investigation as they develop, and to help prepare for the turbulence that may well lie ahead. 

The key factors in getting them to that conclusion include multiple, multiple violations by Trump (or his criminal underlings) of key federal obstruction of justice statutes. 

Say Brookings’ guys: “Trump may be liable for intimidating, threatening, and corruptly persuading Comey in order to influence, prevent, or delay his testimony or cause Comey or others to withhold testimony from congressional or grand jury proceedings even if his “words did not contain overt threats.”

What is most striking about their analysis, when you read it, is the astonishing amount of evidence there is in support of obstruction charges. There is a mountain of it. With Trump, because he says and does outrageous things so often, it is easy to forget what he did just a few days ago. 

What Brookings has done is assemble just the known facts, of which there are many – and then subject those many facts to rigorous, careful legal analysis. When they do that, you will agree the conclusion is pretty unsurprising. And they don’t even include the many facts that those of us outside of Mueller’s team don’t know. 

Reading this, it seems impossible to me that special counsel Robert Mueller is not going to return indictments against Trump and his cabal. Reading this, too, you would understand why the Unpresident would start issuing pardons for his cronies and his family members sometime soon.

They’ll need them. 


The Kinsellian Political Rules™

So, I tweeted about Donald Trump’s fired Chief of Staff being interviewed by Robert Mueller, the Russiagate special counsel. I said it recalls the Kinsellian Political Rule Two: never fire someone who knows lots of shit during a crisis. 

This then moved some folks to ask what Rule One was, and so on.

So here, gratis, are all ten. Clip, save and post to the war room fridge door. You’re welcome. 

KINSELLIAN POLITICAL RULES

1. Never discount the possibility that they did it because they’re just stupid. 

2. Never fire someone who knows lots of stuff about you during a crisis. 

3. Never call the other guy a crook, because normal people think we are all crooks. 

4. Never forget, never forgive. Forgiveness is for wimps, and forgetfulness is for the aged. 

5. Never fly first class. Fly economy and take a selfie. 

6. Never take a job with a politician who is screwing around. If he’ll do that to his wife, he’ll do worse to you. 

7. Never use acronyms. If you do, you should go hang yourself. 

8. Never be photographed when golfing, eating or doing shooters. 

9. Never talk about your relationship with God. Just don’t. God fucking hates politicians. A politician killed His son. 

10. Never get involved in party politics. It always ends in indictments or misery. 


Big political graves are dug with tiny shovels

Bev Oda’s orange juice. David Dingwall’s gum. Mike Duffy’s travel claims. British MPs claiming for barbecues and garden equipment. 

None were capital offenses, none approached the threshold for a crime, and none were very significant when compared to overall government expenditures. But it’s still the little stuff that ends big political careers.

As I always tell the candidates I work for: a surprising number of people don’t know how many million are in a billion. But they sure as Hell all know that paying $16 for a glass of orange juice is insane.

Charles Adler and I talked about this stuff on his show last night.  In particular, we talked about the possible scandal that the Blacklock’s people have uncovered: namely, that the Department of Finance spent nearly a quarter of a million for the cover of their budgetary document. 

Here:

The Department of Finance spent nearly a quarter-million dollars on artistic themes for its 2017 budget, say Access To Information records. Costs included $89,500 for talent fees and photos of models posing as middle class Canadians.

“I like the colour scheme,” wrote Natalie Rieger, senior marketing advisor for the finance department. “It’s fresh. I love where this is going.”

Staff paid the McCann ad agency $212,234 including the cost of photos depicted on the cover of the March 22 budget document Building A Strong Middle Class and related marketing materials. Images were supposed to illustrate budget themes. “The future of children is an issue that is central to the 2017 budget,” wrote McCann executives. “That is why they are the focus of every visual.”

It looks bad, and it comes after what seems like a nearly-daily string of Finance Department screw-ups. How will it all end?

Badly, I wager. I’ll bet you sixteen bucks. 

“”


From next week’s column: Enjoy the view under the bus, Mexico! Love, Canada

From next week’s column.  I was particularly proud of the gratuitous Game of Thrones reference, so I leave it here for your elucidation and merriment, gratis:

This Benedict Arnold-style strategy creates three new problems for us, the Snow Mexicans.

One, it mainly helps Trump, not Canada.  The American “president” may be a racist, sexist, lying bastard – but he knows a thing or two about negotiations.  Decades devoted to doing New York City real estate deals with his Daddy’s money taught him that the best opponent is weakened opponent. 

By dispensing with a united Canada-Mexico front, Justin Trudeau has reduced his bargaining power.  As Donald Trump knows – and as Trudeau may soon discover – it is always easier to steal the lunch money of one kid.  Not two.

If Justin Trudeau doesn’t watch Game of Thrones, he should.  Every fan of that shows knows that, when seeking a bargain with a much-more-powerful opponent, you need to form alliances with other less-powerful kingdoms.  In Westeros terms, Trudeau has sped up Winter’s arrival.

Two, nudging Mexico under the proverbial bus makes a big, big assumption that almost certainly will be proven wrong: namely, that Donald Trump’s promises are worth the paper they’re printed on.  They’re not.

As half his cabinet, all of his wives, most of the Republican Party and all of Puerto Rico can attest, Trump will turn on you in a New York minute.  His word is no good.  He was elected on a platform to tear up the TPP and NAFTA – and build a xenophobic, inward-looking, protectionist demi-monde.  He hasn’t kept any other promise, but he’s kept that one.

 


Ten reasons I will be voting for John Tory

 

So, Lisa and me are going to this Liberal-ish thing tonight where John Tory will apparently be present.  If and when he runs for Toronto’s mayor again, he’s the guy I’ll be voting for.

There’s ten reasons for that.

  1. He’s an adult.  After the Ford Nation chaos, Toronto needed someone who was decent, thoughtful, and a grown-up.  Tory is all that, and then some.
  2. He’s better than the alternatives on the Right.  Most reasonable folks agree the Ford Nation thing was a big, big (big) mistake.  They don’t want to go back to it.  It’s that simple.
  3. He’s better than the alternatives on the Left.  My friends Layton and Cressy need to figure out which of them is running.  Neither is as well-known as they need to be, yet.  Their time may well come, but it isn’t now.
  4. He’s a centrist.  That’s where most residents of Toronto are, and that’s where Tory is, too.  He doesn’t ever go too far Left or too far Right.  That’s why he’s still got approval numbers that are up in the stratosphere – he knows that the safest place to drive is within the lines.
  5. He’s smart.  I helped out on his 2003 mayoral campaign, and I got to know him pretty well.  He is, as noted, a decidedly thoughtful person.  He doesn’t rush to judgment, and he isn’t an ideologue.
  6. He’s decent.  When my Dad died, my family heard from lots of folks – Stephen Harper called my Mom, Justin Trudeau sent along some beautiful flowers and some great advice, Jean Chretien came to the funeral and they all made us feel a lot better. But John Tory? He sent my Mom a long handwritten letter that she has read many times since.  It is an extraordinary letter, and it frankly shines with John’s decency and kindness.  It’s like him.
  7. He’s done what he said he’d do.  He said he’d build SmartTrack: it’s being built.  He promised to scrupulously follow a code of conduct: he’s done that, and then some.  He said he’d keep taxes down, and he’s done that.  He said he’d aggressively go after the feds and the province for housing help: he’s done that, too.  He’s kept his word, I think.
  8. He believes in redemption.  Some political folks – like Yours Truly, too often – never forget and rarely forgive.  Not Tory.  When I made a stupid, thoughtless, unfunny tweet during 2014’s race, John accepted my apology – and we resumed our friendship.  He’s been like that with others, too: when they make mistakes, and make amends, John gives them a second chance.  It’s a good thing.
  9. He’s prepared to fight for the city.  I can attest to the fact that John Tory has been unafraid to give Hell to Justin Trudeau – and, before him, Stephen Harper.  He’s done likewise with the province.  Even though he and Harper belonged to the same party – and even though he and Trudeau share the same vote in Toronto – Tory has always been ready, willing and able to fight for what this city needs.  His partisanship is Toronto.
  10. He’s a likeable.  In politics, even in the Trump era, that still matters.  The ones who tend to do well are the ones – like Chretien, like Trudeau, like Tory  – who treat others (even adversaries) with respect.  That’s the John Tory I’ve known for a decade-and-a-half.  He’s a HOAG – a Hell Of A Guy.

And it’s why I’m voting for the guy again.  And it’s why you should too.

(If he runs again, that is.  Which I hope he does.)


Holy Joly

Does she have photos of Justin Trudeau in a compromising position? Does he owe her a lot of money? Is she holding hostage a member of his family?

There’s no longer any other rational or compelling explanation for “Minister” Melanie Joly being a “Minister,” is there? She is, hands down, the worst cabinet minister in the Trudeau government. She is a disaster. She is incompetent. She is inept. She makes Bev Oda look like a PR whiz – and Vic Toews a model of self-restraint.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s just a short sampling of what others are saying about Minister Cassette (so named by Quebec pundit Paul Arcand, due to Joly’s insistence on robotic repetition of talking points):

  • Globe: “Her fall from grace in her home province has been swift and merciless, sped by her maladroit attempts to sell a deal with Netflix…”
  • National Post: “[Joly] she has been savaged in Quebec media, artistic and political circles.”
  • Globe: “The Minister has been roasted and ridiculed to her face on live radio and TV, and dismissed by commentators of all stripes as naive and – worst of all – unable even to understand what the fuss is about.”
  • Québec’s culture minister: Joly makes him “speechless and angry…[she] legitimizes a fiscal inequity which grants preferential treatment to a foreign company over Canadian companies.”
  • Michael Harris, iPolitics: “Joly’s medicine worse than the disease…[Joly’s policy] is absurdity in hot pursuit of farce.”
  • Richard Martineau, Journal de Montreal: “[Joly sounds] like a living answering machine having a nervous breakdown.”

We could go on (and on), but Kate Malloy says quoting Melanie Joly’s bad reviews would take up an entire special section. Besides, you get the point. As one wag on the influential Quebec show Tout le monde en parle put it: “She makes us f**king angry.”

Folks in the rest of Canada may think Joly’s cultural calamity isn’t page one news, but they’d be wrong about that. As Stephen Harper discovered the hard way, “culture” has an entirely different meaning in Quebec than in the rest of Canada. Woe unto the politician who is seen to be indifferent to the importance Quebec attaches to its truly distinct culture.

But Melanie Joly, the wrecking ball of Canadian politics, wasn’t done yet. Non, monsieur! A few days after she pulled a pin on her Netflix hand grenade, then held onto it, Joly decided to insult every Jew in Canada. Seriously.

Her department, you see, came up with a plaque for the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa that…didn’t mention Jews. Or the six million. Or anti-Semitism. Joly then thrust the Prime Minister into the middle of the controversy – which attracted negative media around the world – by inviting him to the unveiling of the monument.

Senator Linda Frum noticed Joly’s error, tweeted about it, and Joly speedily executed a whiplash-inducing volte-face. But the damage had been done. The Jewish community, who this writer knows rather well, will not forget Joly’s insensitivity anytime soon. Because, by keeping her in cabinet, Trudeau suggests to Canadian Jews that he doesn’t think it’s such a big deal.

How, then, does Melanie Joly survive? This, after all, is the minister who turned Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations – and you only get one of those, as far as I am aware – into an unmitigated farce. The Ottawa Citizen recently got its hands on some of the letters average Canadians wrote to Joly and her department about that day. They’re worth clipping and saving.

  • “Shame on you Ottawa. Shame on you Heritage Canada and the organizers. You failed us!”
  • “I have never seen such a poor, chaotic display. Shame on you Ottawa. You actually ruined Canada Day for many thousands of people visiting Ottawa.”
  • “[A] shameful fiasco on many levels…It was an explosive situation…Wasn’t there any brain at the top?…I would like to hear a formal apology from your organization.”
  • “The organizers of Canada Day 2017 should be ashamed of themselves for the shoddy work that went into this year’s event.”
  • “I would respectfully suggest to Justin that he should consider sending you [Joly] for some intensive ‘major event planning’ training because you certainly flopped badly for the July 1st event on Parliament Hill this year.”

One anonymous citizen, however, had the pithiest review and therefore deserves the last word: “What a mess your department made! Time for you to resign!”

Will she? Not a chance.

Melanie Joly has some serious leverage over the Prime Minister, and she clearly isn’t afraid to use it.


Welcome to Canada’s best-loved political web site!


Looks a bit different, eh?

I’ve been doing this wee web site – [Don’t tell him it’s a “blog”! – Ed.] – for more than a decade and a half. Started in 2000 or so for a couple reasons.

One, various neo-Nazis and white supremacists were going after me online (how times change, etc.) and I needed to respond. Two, I’ve been writing a thousand words a day since I was 11. I’m a writer: I need to write. This gave me another place to do so.

Nearly four million yearly voters later, here we are.

The new-look web site is designed to be:

  • Easier to read on your handy-dandy device!
  • An aggregator, so you don’t ever have to leave!
  • A platform for writers other than me – from all points on the ideological spectrum!
  • The solution to all your Internet needs!

I am going to be adding to the website in the coming days. There will be regular polls, there will be a Lisa-Warren podcast, there will be a regular Lisa-Warren video thing, there will be consolation prizes for participants, there will be all kinds of changes. (Oh, and ads, too. Everyone else has ‘em, so why not Canada’s Best-Loved Political Web Site™ too?)

If you spot a mistake or problem, please let me know. There’ll be a typo or two, I suspect.

In the meantime, I hope you like it, and I hope you keep coming back for more. For about 17 years you’ve been doing so, and I am grateful for that.

Thank you and God bless Canada.

Love and fishes,

W