Dispatch from the Front Line: Trudeau is deeply, deeply sorry you had to read this
Also, don't drink from any mug in Ottawa
Happy Friday, Line readers. We hope you had a wonderful if abbreviated week. Just a reminder: we'll be taking some time off in about a month! But we'll be staying at our posts in the meantime.
And as spring slides into summer, and the pandemic begins to retreat thanks to a steady barrage of vaccines, you're probably running into some variation of the "nature is healing" joke or meme. They're everywhere these days; some of them are actually funny. The basic joke is that something ridiculous and unpleasant is beginning to appear again — drunken roaring house parties near campuses, traffic jams in Toronto — and someone cracks wise about how "nature is healing" and the country is getting back to something more like normal as the COVID-19 era slides into history. (We hope.)
We've resisted the temptation so far, but that's never been our forte, so here's The Line's version: Justin Trudeau just gave a profound apology for something that happened decades before he was born. Ahhh. Nature is healing.
Italian-Canadians received the Prime Minister’s sorrowful remorse, this time. For their internment during the Second World War. "To the tens of thousands of innocent Italian Canadians who were labelled enemy aliens, to the children and grandchildren who have carried a past generation's shame and hurt and to their community, a community that has given so much to our country, we are sorry," Trudeau said.
Yeah, we're sure he was real broken up about it.
We all know why Trudeau does this. Beyond the obvious hopes of scoring points with voters — he likes it. Our PM is a performer. He got to give near-daily press conferences during the worst of the pandemic, including a bizarre national address. Now that the need for his constant soothing presence has declined along with the pandemic, well, he's back to apologizing for stuff he isn't actually responsible for. It's a natural fit for him: it doesn't require any actual contrition or self-reflection. It's pure style, zero substance. It's Trudeau through and through.
But it's also, in this case, an odd reach. There's plenty of stuff to apologize for in our history — including some stuff this prime minister is actually responsible for! — but this is more nuanced. Colby Cosh explained why in the National Post — and we confess to not having known any of this. Check out his column. You'll learn something the PM left out of his remarks ... for some reason.
Speaking of our Prime Minister, your intrepid Line editors were intrigued to see an item in the Sun tabs this week. Columnist Brian Lilley took the PM out to the chemical sheds for Trudeau's refusal to answer a specific, valid question raised by Conservative leader Erin O'Toole during Question Period.
The Globe and Mail reported last week that Canada's top infectious disease research centre, the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, had hosted and otherwise collaborated with guest researchers and scientists from China — including some with links to that country's military or government. O'Toole asked about this in the House, and Trudeau gave a very routine Trudeauvian non-answer. O'Toole and other Tories kept up the questioning, Trudeau eventually responded with this (as per Hansard): "Mr. Speaker, we have always and will always take this threat seriously. Public safety officials have met with more than 34 universities to help them keep their research safe. In 2020, CSIS engaged more than 225 different organizations, including universities, to ensure that they were aware of foreign threats. I also want to mention that we are seeing a disturbing rise in anti-Asian racism. I hope that my Conservative Party colleagues are not raising fears about Asian Canadians."
Sigh. Where do we begin?
First of all, though this may shock our readers, the Sun papers, and its columnists, have been known to exaggerate their criticisms of the PM. The PM gave a more substantive answer than Lilley gave him credit for. You can disagree with the PM — see below! — without getting cute with what he actually said. The racism line was dumb, and shitty. It was beneath the PM and unfair to the legitimate questions that were being asked. Trudeau shouldn't have said it, and he was right to get called out for it.
So yes, a dick move by the PM — in a hundred years, maybe one of his descendants can apologize for it. But let's not take our eye off the ball.
Trudeau's answers were more than Lilley suggested, but they're still not good enough. O'Toole and the Conservatives are onto something. China's ruling regime is aggressive, brutal, and thuggish. They're a threat to security abroad, they're committing outright crimes against humanity against their own religious minorities, they've crushed Hong Kong underfoot, and they're actively hostile to Canada. None of this is racist to note.
And yet our federal Liberals remain alarmingly unable to admit any of this. We don't buy that it's just a matter of political expediency, an awkward but necessary consequence of the ongoing detention of the two Michaels. Hell, we wish that the Liberals were just being publicly cautious with their real views on Beijing while remaining clear-eyed about the threat behind closed doors. The evidence continues to suggest that the federal Liberals, from Trudeau on down, remain hopelessly naïve about the nature of Beijing's rulers, even as more and more of our allies are getting real about what the next generation or two of geopolitics is gonna look like for the Western alliance. (Which Canada remains a part of, whether Trudeau likes it or not.)
The growing tensions with a rising China are a big deal. It is only going to become a bigger deal. The Liberals need to get with the program. We hope to see more on this across the Canadian media — and hopefully it's a bit more useful and productive than what the Sun ran with this week. The Liberals look terrible on this file already for entirely legitimate, serious reasons. We don't need to pop our aging joints as we stretch and contort ourselves to make it seem so.
We at The Line have a soft spot for Mark Carney. We’re always happy to see Canadians succeed on the world stage, and even happier when they come back and don’t act like they are doing the country some huge favour by returning to Canadian soil.
Carney has had a helluva career, moving from Edmonton to Harvard then Oxford, then steadily crawling his way up the tentacles of the Great Vampire Squid, Goldman Sachs. When he was recruited into the Bank of Canada at 38 he was already more financially successful than any of us here at The Line will ever be, and since then he’s devoted his career to public service, most notably as the Governor of the Bank of Canada and then to London as the first non-Briton to head the Bank of England.
What’s kinda cool about Carney is that when left for the UK, he made it clear he was planning to come back to Canada as soon as possible — he even signed on for a shortened term of five years instead of the usual eight, though Brexit forced him to stay on for an extra year and a bit.
But now he’s back in Ottawa, clearly a bit bored, and is sending ominous signals about diving into politics for the federal Liberals. We say “ominous” not because we are necessarily concerned about the optics of a former BoC Governor going partisan — we’ll leave the niceties of that question to other people. No, what’s got us most worried is how electoral politics will damage Carney himself. This past week was instructive on this front.
On Wednesday, as part of his promotional tour for his new book Value(s), Carney did a podcast with the GMU economist and blogger Tyler Cowen. It’s a great interview, and they talk about everything from central banking, digital currencies, and Brexit, to the Clash, state capacity, and life back in Canada. Throughout, Carney comes across humble, interesting, and fantastically smart, and he even ventures some thoughtful takes on populism in Canada and our less-than-stellar pandemic response.
The next day, in his capacity as head of impact investing at Brookfield Asset Management, Carney appeared before the House of Commons Industry committee to talk about the transition to a low-carbon economy. Instead, he found himself badgered relentlessly by Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, who baited Carney about China’s treatment of the Uighurs, asked him how many birds Brookfield windmills have killed, and generally tried to paint Carney as a self-dealer and a partisan hypocrite. Poilievre’s message to Carney was pretty clear: you want to play at politics? Let’s play at politics.
Who “won” the exchange was, typically, pretty much determined by where you stand on the partisan spectrum. “RIP Carney’s political career” tweeted one Alberta Conservative. “Mark Carney schooled Poilievre on the economy today” countered a former prominent Liberal.
We think there’s a bigger question here, which Mark Carney should be asking himself today. Does he want the next phase of his life (he’s only 56) to be more like his Wednesday conversation with Tyler Cowen, or more like his Thursday mudwrestle with Pierre Poilievre? Because he can’t have it both ways. Before he takes the final, fateful, step into politics, Mark Carney might want to ask Michael Ignatieff to lunch.
Rounding out this already Liberal-heavy dispatch, we bring you the increasingly sordid tale of MP Will Amos. You will remember him — if for nothing else — for being the guy who got caught nude on an internal parliamentary feed that was subsequently beamed to his colleagues. He claimed he had returned from a jog, and was changing in his office before realizing his laptop was on. A colleague screengrabbed the Heritage Minute, and the picture soon made the rounds, prompting Amos to respond in high dudgeon: “It sends a terrible signal," he said to the CBC.
"It says if there's partisan gain to be achieved, then anything goes and that's not acceptable.
"What does that tell our children and what does it tell society about the nature of proper behaviour in a digital society?"
Well, Amos made another oopsie this week. He was caught peeing during House of Commons proceedings, reportedly into a coffee mug.
Now, getting caught in a compromising Zoom situation is the kind of error one might make once. But most of us would learn that lesson, uh, hard. I can’t imagine many would fall to that kind of error twice in our lives, much less in the same month. (Honestly, men, what is it with some of you? Just because nature granted you a convenient pee tube doesn’t mean you ought to whip it out all the time. This is not the Bronze Age, and you are not a bushwhacking nomadic hunter. Unless you are an Amazon warehouse worker, or a long-haul trucker, embrace central plumbing. It’s called civilization.)
As a result, Amos announced he would temporarily step down from his crucial role as Parliamentary Secretary to Innovation, Science and Industry, and his seat on the Veterans Affairs Committee.
In the meantime, he also said he would “seek assistance.”
Presumably, with potty training.
Peter Menzies kicked off our two-four shortened week with a re-flipping of the line, where he savaged (once more) Bill C-10, and those who defend it. “Feel free to argue that there is nothing wrong with speech and society being controlled and shaped by the state in the way a pitcher sculpts water,” he wrote. “Put your back out arguing that somehow the Internet is a form of radio wave/spectrum and therefore a publicly-owned asset which justifies the regulation of speech and manipulation of choice upon it. But just don’t say the CRTC doesn’t regulate or censor speech. That is its — and the Broadcasting Act’s — raison d’etre.”
Laura Mitchell savaged, with total justification and righteous anger, the stupidity of many of the COVID-related restrictions we are living under … or, increasingly, not living under, as we tune them out. “I have a confession to make,” Mitchell confessed. “Both my parents have been inside my house since that was made illegal back in December. It’s currently illegal for my own mother to pee in my house. Maybe this is TMI, but she has peed in my house. I have another confession; I have a group of mom friends in the neighbourhood. We have had an illegal outdoor gathering every single day the elementary school has been open on the field behind the school since Dec. 8.”
Lock! Her! Up!
Keeping up our relentless, unblinking focus on Bill C-10, Daniel Tencer offered up some suggestions on how the feds could, you know, if they, like, wanted to, fix their own bill. “Bill C-10’s supporters are right, and uncontroversial, in their insistence that there are reasons for the government to regulate online content to some extent: The proliferation of child porn, the live-streaming of terrorist acts and intellectual property theft are real problems and our ability to combat these things should be robust,” Tencer grants. “So how about a bill that specifically targets these problems that C-10’s supporters are worried about?” Indeed!
Jen Gerson — yes, the Jen Gerson — hilariously referenced one of the funniest moments in internet history while analyzing Alberta’s re-opening plan: “Alberta will be Canada's test case because Kenney needs it to be. If we come out the other side intact, other provinces will have to follow our lead. That said, it is a gamble. Jason Kenney is going all-in. Can someone do a number crunch, real quick. Nah? Leeroy Jenkins, baby.”
Hey. At least Alberta will have chicken.
Alright, Line team. We’ve had a great month and we’re hoping to have a great, err, next month, before we slow things down a bit over the summer. You know what would help make June amazing? More subscribers! Click the little blue button below and join the winning team today.
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