She-lection Bullshit Bulletin No. 5: Marriage-ruining swollen testicles of bullshit
On electoral reform, when calendars get made, and dodging questions in the final hour.
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As we have recently noted here at The Line, Alberta is deep in the poop on COVID. Last week, rising hospital numbers forced the province to declare a state of emergency and implement vaccine passports in a humiliating flip-flop from Jason Kenney's much criticized "Open for Summer" plan.
And, of course, this being an election campaign, the Liberals saw an opportunity to tie the worsening situation in Alberta to Conservative politicians more generally. This wasn't helped by Conservative leader Erin O'Toole's own praise of Kenney and Alberta's handling of the pandemic, noting in a video clip that the province was handling the crisis "far better than the federal government has" and that "the federal Conservatives can learn a lot from our UCP cousins."
Trudeau himself further cemented the connection on the campaign trail last week.
"Just a few days ago, Mr. O'Toole was still applauding [Alberta Premier Jason] Kenney for his management of the pandemic. That's at the heart of the choice Canadians need to make in this election," he said.
Now we understand the tactic. If you're the Liberals, an opportunity to discredit the Conservatives on one of the most pressing issues of the moment is a gift. We have also stated here in several previous columns now that there is a fair and pressing question about the degree to which conservatism as an ideology has hampered provincial governments in their response to a big-government problem like COVID.
But, boy oh boy, is this line of attack some bullshit.
First of all, the clip of Erin O'Toole praising Alberta’s pandemic response? It's from October 2020, and hails from a moment in history in which Alberta's COVID management was arguably better than peer jurisdictions. (Mr. O’Toole claimed more recently that he was lauding Alberta’s contact tracing efforts.)
Secondly, as everyone reading this well ought to know, the provincial and federal governments are, well, different governments with different responsibilities on this file. Justin Trudeau isn't running against (the doomed) Jason Kenney; he's running against Erin O'Toole, and if you want to suggest that O'Toole is too incompetent to manage the pandemic, you have to point to areas that fall under federal, not provincial, jurisdiction.
For example: no government of any stripe would fail to open the government coffers and directly support Canadians via some kind of wage subsidy program in the face of a society-wide shut down, which is why it's so disingenuous and unfair for the Conservatives to attack the Liberals on pandemic-related spending and deficits. (In fact, The Line’s own Ken Boessenkool was among the Conservative voices calling for a crisis income in the pandemic’s early days.) This is a topic on which there was rare pan-partisan consensus.
There's no evidence that the Conservatives would have acted with any less urgency than the Liberals did to procure an adequate and rapid vaccine supply — and, in fact, many Conservative premiers put extraordinary (and perhaps too much) stock in the ability of vaccines to return society to a state of normality.
So what are we left with within the federal purview?
Do we think a Conservative-led government would have failed to rapidly identify the emerging threat of COVID in its early days? Oh wait. Would they have have advised against masking? Oh wait. Would they have botched COVID management at airports? Oh wait. How about setting up safe and effective quarantine facilities to keep variants out of the country? Oh wait. At least they didn’t politicize border closures. Oh wait. Well, at least we know the Liberals, unlike those dastardly Conservatives, moved extremely rapidly to set up a vaccine passport system for international travel. Right? ... Right?
Look, just about the only things the Liberals did reasonably well during this pandemic was spend money and procure vaccines. We give them points for this! But even on the vaccine front, we were a few weeks behind other peer nations. The Liberals spent time weirdly working with China, and were months late getting to work on developing our own mRNA production capability. They get a good mark on vaccines, but not an A+.
And what about vaccine mandates, you ask? The Liberals are proposing a vaccine mandate on federal workers that it probably can't enforce. They also want to mandate vaccines for travellers; the Conservatives would allow rapid tests for travellers to suffice. This is a legitimate, albeit relatively minor policy difference.
Further, if the Liberals thought these mandates were so desperately urgent, we would remind readers that they could have imposed them five weeks ago before calling an election.
Meanwhile, all of the decisions that led to Alberta's current predicament happened under Trudeau's watch, not O'Toole’s. We, of course, don't blame Trudeau for decisions that were made by the provincial government, because that would be dumb. Trudeau did, however, visit Alberta in July of this year, shortly after Alberta lifted all restrictions and declared itself fully Open for Summer. And while Trudeau wasn't offering a full-throated endorsement for Alberta's plan at the time, he also wasn't exactly condemning the province for it, either.
The body language and the theatrical masking in that clip are something to watch, though, eh?
Next up, more guns pow pow pow.
We don’t expect everyone to understand this — but a lot of people in Canada are into guns. They like to own and shoot legal guns, and they like to socialize with other people who like to own and shoot legal guns, and they are fantastically unlikely to commit a crime with said gun. More than two million adults hold a gun license in this country; it isn’t exactly a fringe hobby.
Guns don’t have to be your jam, but there’s nothing wrong with being into them. We’d also point out that a lot of veterans — and has Erin O’Toole mentioned that he was in the military yet? — are especially into gun owning, gun shooting, and gun socializing.
So the fact that Erin O’Toole showed up to an event and took a selfie next to a firearms advocate and a “Gunnie Girl” calendar means … nothing. We mean, we suppose it could indicate that Erin O’Toole likes guns and is generally opposed to more ineffective overly politicized gun legislation (although not so opposed that he actually stuck to his guns on this point!) But otherwise, the juxtaposition here is simply meant to make him seem scary and alien to people who aren’t familiar with this subculture.
As for Faith Goldy’s presence in the same calendar, the photo in question clearly shows that the calendar was from 2017. The Line has confirmed that the calendar was produced in 2016, because, well, like, yeah. You obviously create your calendars the year before you release them.
Back when that calendar was assembled, Goldy was, bluntly, not a white nationalist (as far as we knew.) She was a right-wing provocateur who came up in the industry by offering standard right-wing fare for mainstream publications. She was a fixture at media-adjacent parties and had friendships and relationships across the political spectrum. This remained so until at least 2015, the year her employer Sun News Network — which was cheap but not unhinged — shut down. The exact moment Goldy moved out of the mainstream is disputable, but many conservatives types were privately starting to get weirded out by her positions and behaviour throughout 2017. It wasn’t until August of that year, when she infamously attended the Charlottesville rally and portrayed white nationalists favourably, that it became unavoidably obvious that the girl had veered way off yonder. Media organizations and colleagues cut ties lickety split after that.
Cut back to the present.
Tying Erin O’Toole to Faith Goldy because he appeared in a selfie with a calendar that contained a picture of Goldy taken before 2017 is rank bullshit, folks. But if it’s fair game to attack O’Toole for a link this tenuous, we’d like to remind Liberals that back in 2016, they all thought the world of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott, to name a few names. We could name others. We suspect we don’t need to.
From the news: “Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Saturday that he remains open to getting rid of Canada's first-past-the-post electoral system if his party is re-elected, but added that it's not a priority since there's no consensus on the issue.”
Does Justin Trudeau thinks the Dippers are that gullible? Well, not entirely.
“Trudeau said, however, that he would not favour proportional representation as an alternative, saying the system ‘gives more weight to smaller parties that are perhaps fringe parties.’”
There’s the tea, as the kids say.
We at The Line would rather inject our own brainstems with bathtub gin than weigh into one more stupid Twitter fight about electoral reform. They key takeaway is that this was a Liberal campaign promise back in 2015. There was no general consensus on any particular replacement to First Past the Post and, worse, this was an incredibly niche issue that most of the public didn’t care about at all. For the same reason that no one wants to renovate 24 Sussex Dr., no party is going to be keen to change the system in such a way that appears opportunistic or self serving — especially when every other electoral alternative will only anger and energize every other party that feels itself to be at a disadvantage in the new system.
Also, hey guys, you check out those surging PPC numbers, lately? The polling that suggests they’d be in line for a chunk of seats if their vote were more efficient? Yeah, something tells me that in such a scenario, the arguments in favour of a system that provides more legitimacy to angry cranks is going to have its challenges.
There are no perfect electoral systems. Let it go.
One more thing we’d add on the above, and a related issue: as social platforms that lack routine editorial safeguards found at most news outlets become a bigger slice of our media ecosystem, everyone has to adjust. And that includes media outlets who should refuse to lean into overenthusiastic framing of statements that were, in fact, fairly routine answers to questions someone was asked.
There’s two examples on our mind, and that includes the story discussed above: Trudeau discussing electoral reform. He did discuss it, after he was asked about it, causing headlines like this:
In response to the headlines, Trudeau was attacked on Twitter, and we think at times unfairly. The reporter who asked the question felt moved to clarify, but by then, a thousand tweets had been launched.
And it’s not just Trudeau who’s been the victim of this. Check this headline out:
See, again, this makes a great headline, and O’Toole was killed for it by a lot of partisans sneering about “low bars” and “the least he can do” — but he was answering a question. If you ask someone if they’re evil, and they say no, the headline should not be, “Person Denies Being Evil.”
We get that the headlines aren’t inaccurate, but they are intended to provoke, and they are exploited by bad actors. Things are already nasty out there. Don’t feed the bullshit, fam.
Oh, boy, and then there is this.
Presuming this isn’t some twisted Freudian slip, Trudeau is playing the HARPER SCARY card in this clip. But, aside from that, can we just note that in our experience, Liberals tend to get really touchy on promises they haven’t delivered — look, it was a long time ago and things have changed, OK!? If promises from a few years ago don’t matter, stop pretending you’re running against the guy you beat six years ago. All the really embarrassing broken promises and scandals hobbling the Liberals these days are the current leader’s fault. By comparison, Harper is a warm, sepia-toned memory for the CPC.
Also kinda bullshit: whatever the Conservatives are doing here.
It’s probably too late to matter, as we suspect most votes are locked in already, but this isn’t a good look. The entire Tory campaign has been about how Erin O’Toole is a decisive leader you can trust because he has nothing to hide. Obviously he’s worried about the Kenney questions, but this isn’t how you want to end a campaign.
True leaders don’t run from questions.
… in Canada, they just refuse to answer them and talk about something else, like so:
Also, wow, we aren’t blaming anyone in particular for this, but just on general principles, we have to say, is this some bullshit or what?
Thanks so much for reading these as the election has gone on, folks. We’re glad you enjoyed them, and while they won’t remain a weekly feature, we doubt you’ve seen your last Bullshit Bulletin from The Line.
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