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Five free comms tips for Justin Trudeau

The Gettysburg Address it was not.

Standing on the picturesque shores of some picturesque lake in Mont-Saint-Hillaire, Quebec, Justin Trudeau was asked what he and his family had done to cut single-use plastics out of their lives.

Here is what he said, verbatim.

“We…uh…uh…we have recently switched to drinking water bottles out of…water out of when we have, uh, bottles out of, uh, plastic, sorry, away from plastic towards, uh, paper.  Like, drink box water bottles sort of things.”

The Liberal Prime Minister’s was so proudly unintelligible, so defiantly incomprehensible, it instantly went viral, supplying fodder for dozens of anti-Trudeau memes across the Internet for the next 100 years.  It was mocked and maligned from coast to coast to coast, including by people who actually still sort of like Justin Trudeau.  Heck, the clever Sodastream beverage people even put together an ad about it, with the tagline: “Justin, just say Sodastream.” Trolled by a big international company: ouch.

It reminded all and sundry that Gerald Butts has indeed left the building, and that Justin Trudeau has started to sound like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, except way worse.  Or Zoolander, even, but on a bad day.

How did the oxymoronic brain trust in Trudeau’s PMO not see that coming?  How did they not supply the Actor-In-Chief with an answer to one of the three most enduring political questions, namely: “Do you practice what you preach? (The other two being: “What did you know and when did you know it?” and “Why did you party on that boat with a bunch of topless co-eds?”)

Since it is becoming evident that Chief of Staff Katie Telford and Liberal campaign manager Jeremy Broadhurst couldn’t communicate their way out of a moist, environmentally-friendly paper bag, it is incumbent upon the rest of us to provide Prime Minister Chewbacca Socks with some communications guidance.

Herewith and hereupon, the Hill Times’ Five Immutable Comms Rules, gratis.

  1. Don’t mangle the message, man.  Last week, in the wake of the important report by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Justin Trudeau declined to say “genocide” had taken place.  A few hours later, he flip-flopped and said genocide had taken place.  Then, a couple days later, he changed his mind again, and said it wasn’t genocide, but “cultural genocide.”  In the process, Trudeau sounded like the aforementioned Messrs. Gump and Zoolander.  As such, it was essential that Trudeau’s Great Big Announcement about single-use plastics be clear, consistent and coherent.  It wasn’t.
  2. Don’t sell snow shovels in June.  Or, in this case, don’t make a Great Big Announcement – and we know it was a Great Big Announcement because your office had been telegraphing that for days – when the biggest sporting event in Canadian history was also taking place.  You know: that little match-up between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors.  It was in all the papers, Katie and Jeremy: it was kind of a big deal, in the immortal words of Ron Burgundy.  Pro tip, Justin: if you are proposing something to fundamentally change the way millions of Canadians will live their lives, don’t do it when Canadians are paying attention to someone who has fundamentally changed the way millions of Canadians now live their lives, cf. Kawhi Leonard.  Just don’t.
  3. Don’t wait too late.  In slightly more than 100 days, the writs will drop for the 2019 Canadian federal general election.  Why, why, why did the Trudeau Party wait untilnow to make their plastics announcement – when the European Union, among others, had done likewise long ago?  Announcing something this big, this late, convinces the few folks paying attention (see point two, above) that it was a cynical, desperate move to halt the undeniable momentum of the much-admired Liz May.  Because it was.
  4. Don’t forget to make it relevant. The banning of plastic straws became an early and frequent target of Trudeau’s announcement.  Parents of autistic kids, for example, reminded Trudeau that their kids needed such straws to, you know, consume liquids.  Why, then, didn’t Trudeau focus on the number one source of single-use plastic pollution.  Namely, cigarette butts.  They’re unsightly, they’re ugly, and they’re universally disliked.  They’re made out of cellulose acetate, which is plastic.  But Trudeau’s press release didn’t even mention them.  Dumb.
  5. Don’t be a hypocrite.  Mere moments after Trudeau said what he tried to say, the Internet was flooded with recent photos of the Prime Minister swilling water from plastic bottles – and it was reported that Trudeau’s family had spent $300 in a single month on water in plastic bottles.  Hypocrisy, thy name is Justin.

Anyway.  Will Justin Trudeau listen to all that excellent free advice?  Not on your life.

Because, these days, there’s no one who personifies the phrase “single-use plastic” better than the guy who, you know, made the announcement.

 


My latest: Trudeau’s enemy

Justin Trudeau needs an enemy.

In politics, you always do. Someone you can demonize. Someone you can warn voters about. Someone who suggests to voters that, while you may be imperfect, your enemy is far, far worse.

In politics, having the right enemy is more important than having the right friends. For voters, the devil one knows is always preferable to the devil one doesn’t.

For months, then, Justin Trudeau has been casting about for an enemy. He knows he is deeply unpopular – a Forum Research poll released this week found that 56 disapprove of his performance, with only 34 per cent approving – so he needs to act quickly. The election is just over 100 days away, give or take.

The Liberal leader’s task: find someone who is less popular than him. But who?

For a while, Trudeau attempted to convince Canadians that Andrew Scheer was a cross-burning, mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, red-necked lunatic. He’ll ban abortion, gay marriage and hold midnight rallies at 24 Sussex with Faith Goldy, Trudeau insinuated.

Except: Scheer said he won’t do any of those things, and polls indicate Canadians tend to believe him. Hell, Trudeau’s own Liberal caucus doesn’t even believe it – selfsame Liberal caucus having voted to instal Scheer in the Speaker’s chair, a few years back.

In his commercials, Scheer celebrates his blandness, his ordinariness. As he lopes around the hockey rinks of the nation, Timmie’s in hand, Scheer repeats his mantra: “I’m Blandy Andy, and I’m boring. You can count on me to do nothing radical. Go back to sleep.”

As Bill Davis memorably observed, eons ago: bland works. It’s working for Andrew Scheer.

So, who now to demonize, Prime Minister Chewbacca Socks? NDP leader Jagmeet Singh? That’s a waste of firepower. Singh, likeable as he is, is going nowhere fast.

Same with the People Party’s Gauleiter, Maxime Bernier. Trudeau doesn’t want to demonize Bernier – he wants him to do better, and chip away at Scheer’s lead in the polls. But Bernier has gone full alt-Right, and thereby consigned himself to the margins of Canadian politics, and the dustbin of history.

The Green Party’s Elizabeth May, meanwhile, is a worthier target: the aforementioned Forum Research poll has determined that May is the most popular leader in Canadian politics, with voters approving of her by a factor of two to one.

Her party, meanwhile, has reached a truly historic benchmark: Forum found that the Green Party of Canada is now actually tied with the New Democrats, at 13 per cent apiece. Many expect the nascent Greens to eclipse the Dippers in coming weeks.

Trudeau hasn’t attacked May – yet. But he has been, ahem, liberally swiping her policies to halt her momentum. His single-use plastic announcement, which made the wetsuit-and-jetski-era Stockwell Day sound perfectly Churchillian, was a disaster. It became the stuff of memes – and future attack ads – instantly.

All of it was motivated solely by Trudeau’s desperation to staunch the loss of Liberal support to the Greens. It is unlikely to work, because May is simply seen as more credible on the environment than Trudeau.

So, who to attack? The answer is obvious: the Mango Mussolini. Donald Trump is deeply disliked by Canadians from East to West, old to young, Left to Right. There is nothing that unifies Canadians more than anti-Trump sentiment.

But Trudeau has spent three years cravenly sucking up to the Unpresident, with nothing to show for it. It’s too late to do a volte-face now.

So who is left to demonize? Who, truly, is Justin Trudeau’s worst enemy? Who should he blame before he blames anyone else?

It’s the guy you spot in the bathroom mirror every morning, Justin.

It’s you.


Fifteen years

Dr. T. Douglas KINSELLA, CM, BA, MD, FACP, FRCPC.

Like some men, and as was the practice in some families, my brothers and I did not hug my father a lot. As we got older in places like Montreal, or Kingston, or Dallas or Calgary, we also did not tell him that we loved him as much as we did. With our artist Mom, there was always a lot of affection, to be sure; but in the case of my Dad, usually all that was exchanged with his four boys was a simple handshake, when it was time for hello or goodbye. It was just the way we did things.

There was, however, much to love about our father, and love him we did. He was, and remains, a giant in our lives – and he was a significant presence, too, for many of the patients whose lives he saved or bettered over the course a half-century of healing. We still cannot believe he is gone, with so little warning.

Thomas Douglas Kinsella was born on February, 15, 1932 in Montreal. His mother was a tiny but formidable force of nature named Mary; his father, a Northern Electric employee named Jimmy, was a stoic man whose parents came over from County Wexford, in Ireland. In their bustling homes, in and around Montreal’s Outremont, our father’s family comprised a younger sister, Juanita, and an older brother, Howard. Also there were assorted uncles – and foster siblings Bea, Ernie, Ellen and Jimmy.

When he was very young, Douglas was beset by rheumatic fever. Through his mother’s ministrations, Douglas beat back the potentially-crippling disease. But he was left with a burning desire to be a doctor.

Following a Jesuitical education at his beloved Loyola High School in Montreal, Douglas enrolled at Loyola College, and also joined the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. It was around that time he met Lorna Emma Cleary, at a Montreal Legion dance in April 1950. She was 17 – a dark-haired, radiant beauty from the North End. He was 18 – and a handsome, aspiring medical student, destined for an officer’s rank and great things.

It was a love like you hear about, sometimes, but which you rarely see. Their love affair was to endure for 55 years – without an abatement in mutual love and respect.

On a hot, sunny day in June 1955, mid-way through his medical studies at McGill, Douglas and Lorna wed at Loyola Chapel. Then, three years after Douglas’ graduation from McGill with an MD, first son Warren was born.

In 1963, second son Kevin came along, while Douglas was a clinical fellow in rheumatism at the Royal Vic. Finally, son Lorne arrived in 1965, a few months before the young family moved to Dallas, Texas, to pursue a research fellowship. In the United States, Douglas’ belief in a liberal, publicly-funded health care system was greatly enhanced. So too his love of a tolerant, diverse Canada.

In 1968, Douglas and his family returned to Canada and an Assistant Professorship in Medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston. More than 35 years later, it was at Kingston General Hospital – in the very place where Douglas saved so many lives – that his own life would come to a painless end in the early hours of June 15, 2004, felled by a fast-moving lung cancer.

Kingston was followed in 1973 by a brief return to Montreal and a professorship at McGill. But an unstable political environment – and the promise of better research in prosperous Alberta – persuaded the family to journey West, to Calgary.

There Lorna and Douglas would happily remain for 25 years, raising three sons – and providing legal guardianship to grandson Troy, who was born in 1982. At the University of Calgary, and at Foothills Hospital, Douglas would achieve distinction for his work in rheumatology, immunology and – later – medical bioethics.

He raised his boys with one rule, which all remember, but none observed as closely as he did: “Love people, and be honest.” His commitment to ethics, and healing – and his love and honesty, perhaps – resulted in him being named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1995.

On the day that the letter arrived, bearing Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc’s vice-regal seal, Douglas came home from work early – an unprecedented occurence – to tell Lorna. It was the first time I can remember seeing him cry.

As I write this, I am in a chair beside my father’s bed in a tiny hospital room in Kingston, Ont.,where he and my mother returned in 2001 to retire. It is night, and he has finally fallen asleep.

My father will die in the next day or so, here in the very place where he saved lives. He has firmly but politely declined offers of special treatment – or even a room with a nicer view of Lake Ontario.

Before he fell asleep, tonight, I asked him if he was ready. “I am ready,” he said. “I am ready.”

When I leave him, tonight, this is what I will say to him, quietly: “We all love you, Daddy. We all love you forever.”

[Warren Kinsella is Douglas Kinsella’s eldest son. His father died two nights later.]

[From Globe’s Lives Lived, June 15, 2004.]


Prime Minister Single-Use Plastic

From next week’s Hill Times column. It’s pointy, like a juice box straw.

The Gettysburg Address it was not.

Standing on the picturesque shores of some picturesque lake in Mont-Saint-Hillaire, Quebec, Justin Trudeau was asked what he and his family had done to cut single-use plastics out of their lives.

Here is what he said, verbatim.

“We…uh…uh…we have recently switched to drinking water bottles out of…water out of when we have, uh, bottles out of, uh, plastic, sorry, away from plastic towards, uh, paper. Like, drink box water bottles sort of things.”

The Liberal Prime Minister’s was so proudly unintelligible, so defiantly incomprehensible, it instantly went viral, supplying fodder for dozens of anti-Trudeau memes across the Internet for the next 100 years. It was mocked and maligned from coast to coast to coast, including by people who actually still sort of like Justin Trudeau. Heck, the clever Sodastream beverage people even put together an ad about it, with the tagline: “Justin, just say Sodastream.” Trolled by a big international company: ouch.

It reminded all and sundry that Gerald Butts has indeed left the building, and that Justin Trudeau has started to sound like Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, except way worse. Or Zoolander, even, but on a bad day.

How did the oxymoronic brain trust in Trudeau’s PMO not see that coming? How did they not supply the Actor-In-Chief with an answer to one of the three most enduring political questions, namely: “Do you practice what you preach? (The other two being: “What did you know and when did you know it?” and “Why did you party on that boat with a bunch of topless co-eds?”)