A Tory Leader Could Never Get Away With the Gaffes That a Liberal Leader Can

October 5, 2021 Updated: October 5, 2021


On the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I asked some university students what percentage of their holiday federal bureaucrats spent, on average, reflecting about truth and reconciliation.

It was obviously a trick question. No one in the class knew the answer because no one anywhere could know the answer. The day was newly designated to mark the most serious moral issue facing the country: how Canada reconciles its past to align its future with just and honourable treatment of indigenous people. Did anyone involved in its planning think to track what Canadians actually did in that regard? Apparently not. All we know for certain is that federal public servants got another paid day off.

The prime minister himself was no exception, of course. The PM, we learned at the end of the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, had slipped out of his Ottawa office under the pretext of being “in his office having meetings” and flew across the country to go surfing (you couldn’t make it up) in Tofino, B.C. On a day devoted to reconciling with truth, Justin Trudeau vamoosed and had his underlings fib for him to, ah, avoid making waves.

Cue the Tofino tsunami. A deluge of criticism crashed down around him for what indigenous leaders characterized as slap in the face. Familiar accusations of hypocrisy, tone-deafness, self-centredness, duplicity, etc. followed in its wake. Of course, Trudeau later apologized. Are we noticing a pattern here?

As a veteran poser of trick questions, though, I myself wonder whether the real blame shouldn’t be put on other, let us say more institutional, shoulders. How is it that the Liberal Party of Canada isn’t stepping up to take its figurative clout on the ear for the prime minister’s persistent goof-ups?

Consider, by contrast, the rather extraordinary immediate reaction of cohorts within the Conservative Party within days of the Sept. 20 federal election. At least three identifiable rebel poses were already vigorously plotting to oust Erin O’Toole after a single election in which he bested the Liberals in the popular vote but failed to form government. Social conservatives, insiders seeking to settle scores for former O’Toole rivals Andrew Scheer and Peter Mackay, and ideologues upset at the Tory campaign’s tactical tack to the centre, are all up for bringing O’Toole down.

Giving a comparatively new leader such short shrift might seem like a dubious long-term strategy, but it certainly sends a strong signal about the length of leash he’s on if he’s already being walked toward the door. The alternative of compounding fiasco with foul-up following foolishness begins to reveal its democratic downside. Looked at that way, the question is less how long the Liberals should wait to say farewell to Justin Trudeau and more what in the world they’re waiting for.

This is a prime minister who turned a majority government into a minority government, then insisted he needed a summer election during a pandemic to gain a majority government to do what he was unable to do with a minority government, and after winding up with another minority government now insists he intends to govern as if he has the majority government he doesn’t have. In any other of life’s many and varies endeavours, that would count as triple failure, yes, but also as incipient detachment from Canadian reality.

The flagrant inherent contradiction is one thing. Worse, in many ways, is Trudeau’s insistence that Canadians voted for the agenda he offered during the election. Simple arithmetic shows they did not. Canadians voted 66.48 percent for five other parties, a margin slightly more than double the 32.62 percent the Liberals received.

The PM must know Canadians voted against rather than for his agenda. So for him to say that Canadians voted for the Liberal platform means either than he believes what he knows isn’t true or he believes that it doesn’t matter what he, or anyone else, believes. It only matters that he says it because whatever he says, and whatever anyone believes, falls under the category he once infamously described as everyone experiencing life differently.

So in the case at hand, he can say words that commit him to the truth of indigenous reconciliation, and even authorize a National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and then take the day off and fib about it. But alas, there comes a point where experiencing things differently extends so far it impedes experience of the real world. The trick for the Liberal Party will be asking if and when that time has come.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Peter Stockland is a former editor-in-chief of the Montreal Gazette and co-founder of Convivium magazine under the auspices of the think tank Cardus. He is also head of strategic communications for Ottawa’s Acacia Law Group.