Dispatch from the Front Line: Take heart, Liberals. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery
Big oops in Alberta, and the great ethical debate about how to celebrate Canada Day.
Your Line editors were amused this week to see so many Liberal partisans completely forget everything they've ever known about politics when racing to express their shock and horror that Green party leader — as of this precise moment, anyway — Annamie Paul would dare criticize Justin Trudeau.
Now, the Greens get too much attention in our politics and from our news media in the best of times. As an electoral force, they're non-entities, and we're honestly a little baffled they aren't treated that way. That said, this current moment may be a worthwhile exception. Paul is facing a full-blown party meltdown after Jenica Atwin, the party's only MP in Atlantic Canada, crossed the floor to the Liberals.
The background of all of this is complicated, and we're not going to bother recapping it. If you care enough about Canadian politics to follow the Greens, you know it all already. What's interesting to us — and funny as all hell — is how angry the PM's die-hard fanbase was, how shocked and sincerely surprised they were, when Paul turned her guns on the PM instead of her own rebelling party executives and grassroots:
"To the prime minister, Justin Trudeau," Paul said at a press conference, "I say to you today, you are no ally. And you are no feminist. Your deeds and your words over these past weeks prove that definitively. A real ally and feminist doesn't end their commitment to those principles whenever they come up against their personal ambition."
And, gosh. Liberals everywhere were just stunned.
It was cute. As we said, it's like every Liberal across the land forgot about politics. And that's ridiculous. Canadian Liberals are the most ruthlessly effective vote winners precisely because they are relentlessly amoral and craven. We don’t even mean this as an insult! Your typical Canadian Liberal constitutes the purest sample of raw partisanship known to human science — which is why they're so good at winning.
And that's why they should have instantly understood what Paul was doing when she attacked the PM. She was picking a fight she could win because she's losing the one she's actually facing. Paul is a black woman. She's Jewish. She's obviously lost control of her own party. The only chance in hell she has of surviving is to lay every possible identity group card down on the table, declare herself the champion of those oppressed groups, and then dare her own party to purge her. She’s adopting the mantle of the WOC woke champion. It's a lot easier for Paul to fight that battle against the PM than it is for her to fight it against her own party.
As much as Liberals hate to admit it — and they really, really, really hate to admit it — the PM is vulnerable to accusations of hypocrisy on the feminism and racial equality files. Obviously.
Paul is desperate. She's in a fight for her political life, and she seems to be losing. So she's picked a fight with a powerful white man to play up her own "voice of the oppressed" credentials. It's cynical and desperate. Frankly, the Liberals ought to be honoured. What's that they say about imitation and flattery?
If you are a loyal reader of The Line, you will no doubt recall columnist Jen Gerson’s piece last week, in which she laid out the latest episodic drama from the Alberta legislature. A new online publication, the Western Standard, published a piece claiming that premier Jason Kenney and his inner circle had been secretly boozing it up in an kind of underground supper club near the legislature. If true, the premier would certainly be in for some trouble. But Gerson had her doubts. To wit:
“The Western Standard story does not meet what most of us in the media business would euphemistically call a ‘publishable standard.’ The sources are anonymous; we have no sense of whether or not the accounts of secret hypocritical supper club boozing are first-or-second hand. The premier's office was, arguably, not given enough time to offer a response to the allegations. There is no independent corroboration from anyone who is willing to put a name on it.”
Further, the publisher of the Standard is hardly an unmotivated source.
“Fildebrandt quit the UCP in 2017 to sit as an independent, and was later denied the right to run under the UCP banner after his constituency was re-drawn a year later. All this to say, Fildebrandt and Kenney don't appear to be on each others' Christmas card lists.”
Kenney et al. sent the Standard a cease and desist letter and seemed intent on suing, and on Thursday, Fildebrandt backed down, offering a full retraction and apology.
Put this one in the “be most skeptical of the things you want to be true” file; a habit that never fails, although it rarely pays off so quickly as this.
Lastly, a quick observation and prediction about Canada Day; for those watching the twinkling lights at the front of the culture wars, you’ll have noticed increasingly dour conversations about whether we should, or should not, be celebrating our nation’s founding with cake, fireworks, and miniature flags. After an overload of horrific news events in recent weeks — unmarked burials, hate-fuelled terrorist attacks, and ongoing pandemic — it seems poor form to mark the holiday in high spirits. Much better to mark it by vandalizing and tearing down founding statues in order to build a more perfect world anew. In some quarters, anyway. In others, Canada is still one of the best countries on earth, and we all to celebrate it as such.
As we watch these two poles entrench themselves, we’d like to offer a prediction for the years ahead. If this debate grows more bitter and polarized, we fully expect Canada’s least patriotic Anglo province — Alberta — to take the lead on the pro-Canada Day divide. This would lead to an enormously ironic spectacle: The province that makes political bread on its show of disdain for Ottawa would wind up hosting the most rambunctious and over-the-top Canada Day celebrations in glorious defiance of the puritan self-flagellation of the rest of … Canada. We cannot imagine an outcome more perfectly Canadian than this, and endorse it wholeheartedly.
Daniel Tencer had some tough words for Doug Ford (and François Legault) about flagrant use — abuse — of the notwithstanding clause. "There is an argument to be made that some kind of constitutional override makes sense," he said. "There should be mechanisms to prevent judicial overreach, to stop higher courts from rewriting laws at their whim. Chrétien himself pointed out that it could be used to uphold child porn and hate speech laws that run afoul of Charter rights. But this particular notwithstanding clause gives power to legislatures in often random ways, because it wasn’t the product of any debate on political philosophy, but the result of political horse-trading.
The Line scored another sweet exclusive interview with a major party leader, this time, with the NDP's Jagmeet Singh. It covered a lot of topics, but this little bit jumped out at us. Asked about talk among some that Canada Day should be skipped this year because we're all genocidal racists, Singh replied, "Days like Canada Day, for me, are an opportunity to think of some of the victories, some of the positive things, but also a time to recommit to fixing the problems and building the Canada that we want to see, where there is justice for the first peoples of this land, where we tackle systemic racism. I take the position that celebration doesn't mean ignoring the problems. It means acknowledging things that are victories, the things that are positive, and then also acknowledging the problems and fixing them." It's a completely lucid, sensible answer. And an indictment of our politics that it's remarkable to hear it from a politician.
Taylor C. Noakes was also hammering away on constitutional matters, this time, noting the total unwillingness of federal leaders to comment meaningfully on Quebec's increasingly ethno-nationalist laws. "It’s fairly clear why Trudeau was so open to Legault’s proposal, and why no other major national party opposed it: Quebec is a battleground province that can easily go one of four ways in a federal election, and soft ethno-nationalism seems to work well at the polls. It’s evidently inadvisable to let values, ethics, basic morality or constitutional law get in the way of potential gains in a possible election year."
And Jen Gerson wrapped up the week for us, proudly asserting that she is, indeed, a producer of fishwrap. "Justin Trudeau is right. We are fishwrap. We the media are fattened fans who live on the sidelines, and we exist only to whine at the players and trash the ref. None of us have any idea of how difficult it is to be on the field — that's not our role in the process. Our role is to say what we think, and then to have that observation be forgotten. Frankly, it's easy and it's fun."
Well that was a good week for us! A reminder that The Line depends entirely on reader support to keep the hot takes fresh. If you have not considered throwing us some cash, please consider doing so! We already know that you like us, and we have grand ambitions for the coming few months. We need the support of readers like you. See you next week!