People unfit for freedom – who cannot do much with it – are hungry for power. The desire for freedom is an attribute of a “have” type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. The desire for power is basically an attribute of a “have not” type of self. — Eric Hoffer
Frank A. Pelaschuk
When it comes to oozing sincerity, none can beat Justin Trudeau. He knows how to milk every happy, sad, or tragic event particularly when he’s caught the camera’s eye. He is equally convincing, or was when running for his first term as prime minister, when it comes to making loudly boastful promises with chest puffed out knowing that these are often what the public wants or wants to hear: honest government, transparency, gender equality, jobs creation, feminism, electoral reform. But these, well, these are just promises and some, while approved, even desired by most, may not quite match or meet his own expectations: what’s the payoff for him. It’s alright to give but much better to receive. So, if the promises fail him in some way he is just as willing and eager to work at undermining and killing them as he did with electoral reform. Promises of openness and transparency, honesty, and integrity where left behind rather quickly and early during his first term as prime minister as he was found guilty of several conflicts of interests issues with friends and donors to the Trudeau Foundation and forgiving of members helping friends out with government contracts. For these breaches there was little blowback but lot of noise from opposition members.
During his first campaign for the top spot as Prime Minister, he often and loudly brayed about his feminism only to later fail twice to condemn Donald Trump’s recordings of “grabbing” women by the “pussy” when given the opportunity by reporters. Perhaps the issue hit too close to home when it came out that he had failed to disclose that he had been accused of groping a BC reporter when attending a music festival when he was twenty-seven or eight or that he once attended an event in blackface. Of the first incident, Trudeau merely responded that people can interpret the same event in a different way. Yeah, right.
To my mind, these by themselves are egregious missteps. But then we have his seeking to interfere in the justice system and the rule of law regarding SNC-Lavalin when he sought to get his Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to intervene on the Quebec company’s behalf as it was about to face the courts on various corruption and fraud charges. When she refused, he set about to undermine her before expelling her from his caucus and then, with other fractures in their relationship, from the party.
But there is another politico, just as cheap, maybe smarter and, without doubt, meaner and uglier in tactics, though it’s difficult to imagine anyone more cold-blooded than Trudeau who, in January of 2014, unilaterally stunned his Party by expelling all Liberal members of the upper chamber; liberal senators were no more. That was cold and brutal.
While Poilievre is certainly smarter than Donald Trump, while he seems quite willing to stoop as low, be as vicious and as untruthful as the former president and seems more than adept and in his best element when swimming in the sewer with the other sewer rats, it is difficult to envision him topping Trudeau’s mass expulsion of former colleagues.
Even so, I believe him more dangerous for Canada.
Recently, he has picked up that old bugbear favourite of conservatives, the CBC. In doing so, he turned to American billionaire Elon Musk, owner of Twitter, with a questionable, conspiracy oriented and erratic worldview to “accurately” label CBC as “government-funded media”(The National Post in the Ottawa Citizen, April 18, ’23). Poilievre knows better. True, CBC is partially publicly funded with dollars appropriated through a parliamentary vote of all parties. But by having it appear as “government-funded media” on Twitter, a subtle distinction but deadly in intent in political terms, Poilievre is able to make his point even though deliberately misleading, and to tweet, as reported by the National Post, “now people know that (CBC) is Trudeau propaganda, not news”. That is not breaking news. But it is misleading, it is malicious. The Canadian Broadcast Act ensures its editorial independence and has done so during the Harper years and since its inception. Poilievre knows this but facts and truth do not matter to those with an agenda which, in this case, is winning power by any means, including exploiting a perceived weakness, public money spent on programs some voters consider frivolous, mere entertainment. I don’t believe that’s the view of a majority but of a substantial number.
But what is it about the CBC that Poilievre doesn’t like? Likely it’s the public funding. Too, it may also be the editorial independence that he does not like and fears. If he becomes leader of the country and public funds are going into the organization then he, as master of the purse string, should be allowed to control how it reports. That’s my take on what I believe he believes. For the Conservative leader and his gang, I strongly suspect the version of independent journalism they would welcome would be much like my barber’s, Fox “News” and its gallery of lying rogue commentators who were recently exposed as shameless election results deniers spreading information even they did not know or believe to be true.
Loud, outspoken, hypocritical, few can best Poilievre; he will exploit anything and any weakness with the unerring instinct of a viper. Watching news clips in which he is speaking, it is clear that his team and he have made concerted effort to soften his image and manner. He has showing an alarming tendency to smile more broadly and more often looking like a man uncomfortable and in pain and, when the mask slips, as one with bared teeth ready to shred the nearest object. It seems to work for some too eager, I believe, to accept at face value what they see while all I see is a calculated mask impatient to shed the fake facade for the real thing. Those who embrace him, even as he urged them and fellow Canadians to adopt cryptocurrency and rails against the Liberals for making it impossible for young Canadians to own homes and the high cost of renting while he and other MPs invest in rental housing, seem unfazed by the first and is evidently untroubled by taking advantage of what he rails against. After all, he is a free enterpriser.
But does he truly believe in democracy? Judge for yourself.
Consider his support of the so-called “Freedom” Convoy occupation of Ottawa. He and a few other Conservatives proudly posed with convoy members, a motley grouping of malcontents, whiners, swastika waving white supremacists, conspiracists who, when not honking their horns and intimidating locals wearing masks going to work, called for the overthrow of an elected Liberal government while whinging about loss of freedoms and wallowing in victimhood because of mandates regarding masking. Poilievre, ever the opportunist, saw a moment to bask in the sun and win votes having no scruples about appealing to the worst in others. I do not recall him condemning those seditionists but I do recall him saying they were a peaceful group. Locals did not think so. Nor did he condemn those who refused to follow the masking mandates that were put in place to help the public; instead, he and the Leslyn Lewis and others fed the line that freedoms were taken away. Tell that to those fleeing wars zones and totalitarian dictatorships. But these are relatively harmless to his first real effort at weakening Canadian democracy. Under Harper, as Minister of Democratic Reform, he introduced the so-called Fair Elections Act that demonstrated indelibly how he really felt about democracy, freedom and fair elections. Not much.
As reported by PressProgress in Feb. 4th, 2014 (updated on Feb. 10th) Poilievre tabled the Act 70 weeks late in 2014 and, a mere 24 hours later, cut off debate. That there was no consultation of Elections Canada officials did not trouble him. Nor did his move to strip the investigative powers of the Commissioner of Elections Canada by moving the office to the Director of Public Prosecutions, thus limiting the powers of a non-partisan body to transferring them the office of government appointees. It’s called rigging the game. Limits of annual donations were raised from $1200 to $1500. The beneficiaries of this legerdemain were, of course, Conservatives who, typically, do very well in campaign fund raising. As well, he moved to deny or make more difficult the voting process for First Nations members, young people and the poor, by no longer accepting polling notification cards as ID, eliminating vouching for others and banning advertisements encouraging people to vote as well as Elections Canada kits meant to teach students about the democratic process. Students away from home and the homeless would be most affected and disenfranchised. Not content with that, the Conservatives also sought to cut off debate on complex legislation, including omnibus bills in which legislation could be slipped in without anyone noticing. Of course, some did. But, there was more. Costs relating to donors from previous five years would be exempt from spending limits and poll station supervisors would be appointed by the candidate of the party that won the riding in the previous election. This is Pierre Poilievre. Fortunately, public outrage was swift and loud and the government was forced to make amendments and delete the more contentious elements.
Still abrasive, Poilievre nevertheless talks nicer these days, even toning down the shrill hysteria he is prone to. But do not mistake that as a voice for tolerance and justice. He talks it. Don’t buy it. When campaigning against Justin Trudeau in 2015, the Harper regime sought to introduce the Barbaric Cultural Practices Act snitch line targeting Muslims. That didn’t go over too well with the public. I don’t recall Poilievre speaking out against it. He is always the first to yap when he doesn’t like something but then? — peculiarly silent.
When it comes to loudness, meanness, no one can beat Pierre Poilievre. This is where he loses to Trudeau. Trudeau is colder, more calculating and patient better able to play the long game. Poilievre not so much. He is mistaken in resorting to a makeover that will not work and cannot work because, while he may control it somewhat these days, he is still too quick to anger, to reacting and fighting back. He relishes the battle and over time the mask he wears will simply be tossed aside, all gloves off and he will attack, especially if he believes he has won the vote.
In recent days, following incidents of violent, random, deadly attacks on individuals, he blames the rise of crime on NDP and Liberal mayors, on progressives and lax rules governing repeat offenders and bail. He offers no evidence, just spits it out and, for some, that seems sufficient. It may make for good headlines but it is cheap, much like the man and the Conservative Party offering it. Eventually folks will simply discover there is nothing there and tire of it. By then, it may be too late.
But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.