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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

This content is restricted to subscribers

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Doubtless there is a place where Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez’ egregious fumbling of the “C-18” attempt to squeeze money out of major social media platforms and drizzle it onto Canadian journalists would still have gotten him fired. As his incompetent lies about Paul Bernardo’s transfer to a medium security prison would have gotten serial comic bungler Marco Mendaciousino sacked. But it is not Justin Trudeau’s Canada.

Instead, in his latest doubling down on a policy problem layered onto an attitude problem, Trudeau has accused Google and Meta of “bullying”. A subject which, to be fair, he knows all about. He is, after all, the guy who personhandled fellow MPs on the floor of Parliament when he wasn’t getting his way on a vote. The one who preaches sunny ways and trendy socks, but snarls about fringe minorities who take up space.

To remind you, the idea behind C-18 was to force Google and Facebook to give some of their money to faltering Canadian media because these internet giants had a lot of it and we did not. There was no issue of their having stolen the money or acquired it under false pretences (except perhaps claiming online advertising works much as in-paper advertising used to, but there caveat emptor applies). The problem was just that the world had changed, and the mass-media business model of selling audiences to advertisers that could not fail for a century could not succeed in the Internet era.

Speaking as a journalist, I hate it. The Ottawa Citizen, where I began my ink-stained-wretch career shortly after email became a thing, long had a licence to print money. And it was nice to be getting some of it. But them days is gone. Throughout the 20th century, if you wanted a new mattress you looked at the ads in the front section of the paper, and for a used crib you looked in the Classifieds. Now you don’t. You look online. Good for you, bad for us.

Maybe bad for you too, since a vigorous free press is important to a democracy however flawed both may have been. And most newspapers were biased to the left, sporadic in their coverage, prone to amusing errors and so on, while politicians were skunks and bullies. But the fading of newspapers has not reduced the latter problem and nobody wants to pay full cost for them.

So if there were some magic way to make the daily paper again a profitable central institution in the life of a city, a province or a country, I’d be inclined to say “Abracadabra”. But there isn’t. And everyone saw that the thuggish, inflexible approach in Bill C-18 was going to cause a disaster.

Or rather, everyone but cabinet. Because one important quality Justin Trudeau possesses in abundance is incapacity to attend to practical matters. From military procurement to productivityplanting trees, ethical conduct, fiscal prudence and drinking water on aboriginal reserves, the man is a deliverologist’s nightmare.

Here I want to quote a fellow newspaper columnist while I still can. Andrew Coyne recently wrote (on Twitter not paper) that he had “Never seen a government that so perfectly fused ruthless partisanship, ideological fanaticism and flower-child naivety.” Coyne added “Usually it’s one or the other” but it put me in mind of the old East Bloc joke: “Smart, honest and a Communist; pick any two.” Yet Trudeau is thoroughly ruthless, relentlessly woke and unaware of original sin, at least where he personally is concerned.

Curiously, he claims to be a Roman Catholic. Since he also claims to be inclusive and transparent it would be unwise to accept his self-assessment at blackface value. And he gleefully undermines Church doctrine on sexuality at every opportunity, which they scandalously tolerate rather than excommunicating him, and clearly has no interest whatsoever in their teachings on humility.

Instead another striking quality in Trudeau, this time metaphorically, is his overweening vanity. He never listens to critics. Like his father, he cannot begin to understand what they are talking about (Trudeau Sr. notoriously didn’t get Press Gallery Dinner jokes at his expense) and doesn’t waste his precious time trying to decipher it. Only enemies could criticize Justin for, say, firing Jody Wilson-Raybould over prosecutorial independence, using COVID as a wedge issue, groping what he thought was some cub reporter and so on and so forth.

None of us is perfect. And I’m told all sins appal God equally. But here on Earth there’s a hierarchy, with Trudeau some way up it. Imagine you are on his staff and you realize he’s charging arrogantly ahead with a blunder or worse. Would you dare tell him?

No, because he’s a bully. It’s his default mode whenever someone dares cross him.

When he’s trying to seem reasonable the ahs and ums stagger from his tied tongue. His apologies are as laughable as his contempt for practicalities is palpable. For instance in October 2022 he blithered that while Canada had missed every greenhouse-gas emissions target it ever set, it would work for sure this time, a mere seven years into his premiership, because “Every other plan was based on targets. Any politician can put forward a target. Can you actually put forward a plan to do it?”

It’s utter gibberish, not least because he himself had already put forward a dud plan in 2016. But he speaks nasty fluently. From pillorying the convoy as a fringe minority to his recent eruption at New Brunswick’s premier for thinking parents should be told if their kid shows interest in changing genders that “Far-right political actors are trying to outdo themselves with the types of cruelty and isolation they can inflict on these already vulnerable people”, his abusive tirades flow smoothly and coherently.

I realize politicians who fold at any significant sign of opposition are not persons of state. You want leaders with principles laid atop courage. But their ostensible principles should bear some important resemblance to their real ones, and their real ones should include thinking before acting, or speaking, and enough humility to take criticism seriously, recognize when you’ve made a tactical or even ideological blunder, and walk it back graciously.

I might mention here that Neville Chamberlain, whose Munich deal with Hitler rightly brought him the wrong kind of immortality, came back to Britain and speeded up rearmament efforts, and on being replaced by Churchill issued a genuinely moving public declaration that “you and I must rally behind our new leader, and with our united strength, and with unshakable courage fight, and work until this wild beast, which has sprung out of his lair upon us, has been finally disarmed and overthrown.” Which he did until his death from aggressive bowel cancer just six months later.

Chamberlain is not exactly my model statesman. But his character, and especially his reaction to having engineered a disaster, are rarely seen today.

There might be places where prime ministers showed dignity, and ministers who were belligerently obtuse even as their policies collapsed around them would be shown the door instead of those who upheld integrity when the boss did not being shown the window. But Trutopia isn’t one of them.

Instead it rots from the swelled head.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.