, 04.30.2020 12:57 PM

My latest: oppositional

Being in Opposition is never fun.  Being in Opposition during a pandemic is even worse.

Power and no power: in one job, you get to answer questions, and everyone listens to what you have to say.  In the other job, you only get to ask questions, and no one ever notices you.

A million years ago, when Yours Truly was Special Assistant to Jean Chretien, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition neatly summarized the distinction for me.  He was a bit grumpy, and so I asked him what was wrong.

“I like answering questions,” Canada’s future greatest Prime Minister said.  “I don’t like asking them.”

When you are an Opposition leader, Chretien later said to me, your job is to oppose.  Your job is not to give the government foot rubs and encouragement.

As a result, voters will ask you “why you’re so negative all the time.”  And: “Don’t you have anything constructive to offer?”  The media will get in on the act, too.  But that’s only because the media like to corner the market on asking lots of negative, non-constructive questions.

During the Great Pandemic, the job of an Opposition leader becomes even worse.  In Ontario, for example, Doug Ford has done so well that his fiercest critics are regularly singing his praises.  Ford has looked and sounded empathetic and informed.  He’s spoken to Ontarians.  He hasn’t spoken at them.

As a result, his principal opponents have simply vanished, like Jimmy Hoffa.  They’re invisible.  Does anyone even remember what they look like?

Now, invisibility isn’t all bad.  Take Joe Biden, for example.  The presumptive Democratic presidential candidate effectively won the primaries a few days ago, and then promptly slipped into the political shadows.

There’s a reason for that, as a Democratic friend reminded me: “When your opponent is destroying himself, don’t interrupt him.”

And, holy Toledo, has Donald Trump been busy destroying himself, or what?  Before 2016, every American knew he was a racist and a criminal and a thug, so they knew what they were getting when they voted for him.  They’d be getting a racist and a criminal and a thug.

But ingesting disinfectants?  Beaming light into people’s bodies?  At that point, on that fateful night, Donald Trump became an object of pure ridicule.  A walking joke.  And he handed his Opposition leader a ready-made campaign slogan:

“Joe Biden: he won’t inject you with bleach.”

Andrew Scheer, for reasons known only to himself, decided to do the reverse.  He decided to get visible during the pandemic.  Scheer hopped on a crowded Ottawa-bound government jet with his wife and his one hundred kids, and got busy.

On the day after the worst mass-murder in recent Canadian history, for instance, Scheer decided to make the scheduling of Question Period his top issue.  And, when questioned about a Conservative MP and leadership nobody who had made racist remarks about Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer?  Scheer shrugged.

No biggie, to him.  He wants way more Question Periods.

Pro tip, Blandy Andy: Canadians see Question Period as what is wrong with government.  Not what is right about it.

And attacking public servants who can’t defend themselves from political smear-merchants  Canadians don’t see that as very fair, at all.  They don’t like it.

What did Andrew Scheer get after his ill-considered decision to get super noisy and all oppositional during a pandemic?  He got members of his caucus demanding that he step down right away, that’s what.  He got a poll showing Justin Trudeau’s popularity has skyrocketed upwards, some twenty percentage points.

That’s what he got.

Being a leader of the Opposition is no fun, true.  But being an Opposition leader during a time of actual crisis – when most everyone agree that we all need to set aside petty differences, and pull together for the common good – requires skill and intelligence.  Neither of which, it is now painfully evident, Andrew Scheer possesses in abundance.

If your opponent is setting himself on fire, as Bleach Boy Donald Trump is doing, don’t interrupt.  But if your opponent is doing a pretty good job in a crisis – as Justin Trudeau and Doug Ford are clearly doing – don’t interrupt that, either.

As Opposition leader during a pandemic causing death and misery everywhere, your job is not to just carry on as usual, and oppose oppose oppose.

Your job is to be quiet, and wait your turn.


  1. Steve Teller says:

    On the topic of Biden, what are your thoughts on the sexual assault allegations? Much is being made in the U.S. media (mostly the conservative media) of the apparent double standard between Biden and Judge Kavanagh. Both have been accused, with little or no tangible evidence other than the say-so of the accuser.

      • Steve Teller says:

        Excellent article, and I completely agree with it. However, the argument is that this same critical lens should have been applied to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations, rather than the “believe them because they say it” approach.
        Similarly, much was made of the overturning of accusations against Jian Ghomeshi, that were full of holes.
        Like the article says, we have to apply the same analysis to these accusations as we do to all criminal accusations – otherwise, it is just a “hit squad”.

        • In the present political climate, all of these types of allegations will be judged through a partisan lens, unfortunately. IMHO each allegation should be judged objectively and the credibility of the accuser determined after an impartial investigation. Tragically, it would seem we are headed towards the type of society Arthur Miller portrayed in The Crucible.

        • Fred from BC says:

          “However, the argument is that this same critical lens should have been applied to Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations”

          No no no…Christine Blasey Ford was *totally* credible, and never lied at all.

          Except about Leyland Keyser, and having other witnesses to her allegations, and not knowing where the attack happened, and not knowing how she got there or how she got home, and telling people about it at the time, and her fear of flying, and not knowing who paid for the polygraph or her lawyer, and not knowing when she remodelled her house, and how many doors a Safeway has, and her therapist notes (etc etc etc)…

          Yeah, aside from ALL THOSE lies, she’s totally credible.

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:


            I’m taking all of the above at face value. If it’s 100% accurate, what does that say about what politicians are now prepared to do to block an opponent? It started with blocking Bork, then Garland and unfortunately continues…

  2. the real Sean says:

    The Liberal Party’s answer to every question for the next ten years is going to be “COVID”.

    Can you imagine the CPC leadership prep for the next televised leader’s debate? What a nightmare it will be for team blue.

  3. Yet Another Calgarian says:


    Their job remains the same as it always does pandemic or not. Hold the government accountable for their decisions.

    The pandemic doesn’t make the leader of the day unaccountable and whether it bores us to tears or not on CPAC question period is supposed to be designed to allow that.

    Especially with a minority government that has and continues to show a common disregard for ethics, legal and constitutional requirements.

    We all know the way things work here for politics means if they… and by they I mean the ruling party at the time… aren’t immediately held accountable for decisions they never will be.

  4. whyshouldIsellyourwheat says:

    Dr. Theresa Tam has had the opportunity to defend herself. She has been invited and scheduled to appear at the Health Committee twice, and skipped out at the last minute each time.

    She had plenty of time for an interview with Rosie Barton.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:


      That seems right as long as we’re also sure that her political masters aren’t pulling a Harper and Scientists Routine. I have my doubts. What about you?

      • Dave says:

        Don’t feed the troll.

        • Fred from BC says:

          “Don’t feed the troll.”

          I know, right? It was bad enough when we just had the one throwing out one-line nitpicks, now we have another spewing one-line insults. Two supposed adults acting like ADHD kids jumping up and down and whining “look at me look at me LOOK AT MEEEE!!” , while doing their very best to derail as many threads as possible.

          (would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad….)

    • Douglas W says:

      Informing the public?

      Mike, how can you possibly have any confidence in her?

      She was wrong on travel bans.
      She was wrong on asymptomatic transmission.
      She was wrong on voluntary quarantines.

      She needs to go.

  5. Douglas W says:

    Conservatives’ only hope: they can prove that the Liberals took “good care” of their friends.

  6. Martin says:

    Great answergiven by Ford today about the stupidity going on in Ottawa by over zealous bureaucrats. “That’s ridiculous-I don’t know who has come up with this ridiculous idea. Go ahead and visit them.”

    When asked about it, he kind of sighed for a second and then said he wouldn’t give the politically correct answer(like Tam had done just an hour before).

    The mind boggles.


    • Ronald O'Dowd says:


      None of us in our family has been able to see our Mom for a month and a half…and phone calls are out because her dementias are too advanced at this stage. Really rough for us. Thankfully, less for her as she has at least temporarily forgotten us. As a result, she’s not depressed and crying like so many other residents.

  7. whyshouldIsellyourwheat says:

    Being accountable to the elected represenatives of the people is an essential part of her job, even if might be unpleasant.

  8. Yet Another Calgarian says:

    I’m knowledgeable enough to know that our host was speaking from a public relations point of view where my post was based on the mechanics of checks and balances on a sitting government.

    Did you understand that Mike?

    The Conservatives need better questions not less of them. And I’m fairly certain we won’t get those questions asked by the BQ or the NDP.

    Also fairly certain Scheer needs to go before that will happen.

  9. Derek Pearce says:

    Once again, just like with social issues in the election only even MORE pointed this time, Scheer dilly-dallies and hems n haws instead of doing the right thing. The right thing being to outright, unequivocally condemn Sloan and kick him out of caucus. Good luck with that 905 vote Conservatives, your leader seems like he’s purposely trying to poison the well for his successor. Perhaps he is?

    • Derek,

      Scheer has that astounding but wonderful quality of being able to personally train wreck every issue he addresses…no wonder MacKay, O’Toole et al. want to get on with it, pronto.

  10. IMHO, Scheer has checked out. He appears to feel, not unreasonably, that since he was stabbed in the back after the last election by many members of his own party, why should he now take responsibility for the bozo eruptions caused by these same individuals. These people wanted him out, and he is leaving, so the current situation is not his problem. It’s theirs.

    • ER,

      That only washes if you’re not prepared to put party before yourself and country before party. A lot of nice livings were made as CPC MPs, over the long haul…

      • Those others weren’t concerned about party unity, or the impression that would be created about the CPC by their attacks on Scheer after the last election. It is a long road without a curve.

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:


          Thing is, the three main parties have all had instances of trying or actually eating the leader. It’s relatively new to the NDP but for the LPC and CPC, it’s really, really, old hat.

          Full disclosure: yours truly was among those who tried to give the heave-ho to Harper in 2005.

          • I don’t have inside knowledge, just my opinion on what is going on. Scheer has no future as the party leader, and I’m sure he is not interested in the leadership shenanigans on display. It will the next leader’s problem.

          • Fred from BC says:

            “Thing is, the three main parties have all had instances of trying or actually eating the leader. It’s relatively new to the NDP but for the LPC and CPC, it’s really, really, old hat.”

            We almost had a BC Conservative Party out here, until the very same thing happened.

            I forget the guy’s name, but the leader was an ex-Socred and from the Christian side of things (small-c Christian, like Harper). The membership of the party voted him in by a 70% margin…and a small faction went *ballistic*. They demanded that he immediately step down and allow an interim leader to fight the next election (only months away). When many people objected, they claimed “you are hurting the party!”; the fact that 70% had chosen this man to be the leader *for good or bad* didn’t seem to register with them at all, and the fact that THEY THEMSELVES were the cause of all the internal warfare didn’t seem to faze them either.

            The infighting and back-stabbing began in earnest, and the news media of course loved every minute of it (“See? See? We TOLD you they weren’t ready for prime-time!”). Eventually the rabble-rousers were (reluctantly) booted from the party, but the damage was done.

            I’m sure if you talk to one of them today they will *still* insist that they tore the party apart “for the good of the party”. Idiots, every one…

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:


            One day Harper will confirm publicly, or in a book, who the hero of his time as leader is and it boils down to two words: Don Plett. Senator Plett and others made a monkey out of me! LOL.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        I’m slightly acquainted with Plett.

  11. Fred Scott says:

    Just wondering, could you clarify your assertion that Prime Minister Trudeau is clearly doing a pretty good job in this crisis? I am just not seeing it. The provincial governments are doing all the heavy lifting in this, and doing a bang up job across the board, but all I am seeing on the federal level is a vacuum of leadership from all parties.

  12. Fred from BC says:

    “As Opposition leader during a pandemic causing death and misery everywhere, your job is not to just carry on as usual, and oppose oppose oppose.

    Your job is to be quiet, and wait your turn.”

    Mostly, yes. Unless the government uses this as an excuse to try and seize additional powers and make themselves totally uncountable for taxation and spending for two years. THEN it’s okay to make some noise, I would think.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:


      You don’t advance your own cause by making it overtly personal. You don’t see me attacking Trudeau that way, even when sorely tempted on SNC and other issues. Even our host is able, much to his credit, to turn the other cheek in light of what Trudeau’s PMO did to him personally. In this instance, he’s a far better man than I am. In his place, I would have TOTALLY gone for the gusto after that one.

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