Questions abound concerning the tale of Liberal cabinet ministers Ahmed Hussen and Marci Ien using a combined $106,000 of constituency funds to purchase unspecified communications advice from a restaurant and food-service PR firm, Munch More Media, that happens to be owned by the sister of Hussen’s policy director.
How hard is it to run a constituency office, really? What would a restaurant and food-service PR firm know about it? And to what extent is Munch More a PR firm at all? At time of writing, its Twitter and Instagram accounts have been deleted, and its very basic website redesigned — having reportedly gone dark in the interim — to offer PR expertise beyond the world of food. Fishy.
To be fair, I can think of one reason Hussen and Ien might reasonably seek PR advice, though not at public expense: How to escape relatively warm and dry once Justin Trudeau finally drives his government into the river. If anyone in Trudeau’s government needs comms work, surely it’s Trudeau himself.
Asked by reporters about the Munch More problem on Monday in Hamilton, Ont., where the Liberals are holding a cabinet retreat, Trudeau cracked his most obnoxious smirk and backhandedly defended the expenditures. “My preoccupation is that rules always be followed,” he said, “but also that members of Parliament continue to put a priority on connecting and communicating with Canadians.”
That’s terrible PR. But it pales in comparison to some of the altogether wacky musings published in recent days in the Toronto Star and La Presse. Far from “connecting with Canadians,” Trudeau seems more out of touch than ever.
The Liberals have never had a good answer to Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre’s “Canada is broken” narrative. “I don’t see a Canada that’s broken when our brave women and men in uniform are picking up chainsaws to cut fallen trees and clear roads in Atlantic Canada after the hurricane (Fiona),” Trudeau memorably told the Liberal caucus’s holiday party.
Here he was clearly differentiating Atlantic Canada circa 2022 from, say, Louisiana circa 2005. Which was essentially a failed state. Hurray for us.
Chris Selley: Speedier justice is the bail reform Canada really needs
Chris Selley: Poilievre hints that he won’t be pandering to Quebec
Poilievre’s message is that a central bargain of Canadian life — work hard, buy a house, retire comfortably — has been broken by various “gatekeepers.” That bargain was always semi-fictional, of course, but politicians of all stripes promoted it, and a lot of millennial-and-younger Canadians really seemed to believe it, and so it’s no surprise they’re massively hacked-off and cash-poor.
“What is (Poilievre) actually proposing?” Trudeau rhetorically asked the Star’s Susan Delacourt.
Actual answer: He’s proposing making federal housing funds contingent on provincial and local governments getting out of the way of housing construction. It’s a great idea both in substance and in strategy.
Trudeau’s answer: “He’s playing and preying on the kinds of anger and anxieties about some Canada that used to be — where men were men and white men ruled.”
Trudeau’s comment is unhinged. He might as well wear a T-shirt reading “I’m weird and I don’t understand your problems so don’t vote for me.”
Talking of unhinged, let’s move on to the La Presse interview, and in particular its extraordinary final paragraph. Reporter Joël-Denis Bellavance’s entire piece had been about the notwithstanding clause, but then the interview with Trudeau swerved violently at the last minute toward the Ottawa convoy.
If anyone in Trudeau’s government needs comms work, surely it’s Trudeau himself
“You see the populists shouting ‘freedom, freedom, freedom’ without really understanding that the freedom to marry the man or the woman you want, the freedom to choose whether you want to have an abortion or not, these are much more fundamental freedoms than my freedom to walk around unvaccinated on a plane,” Trudeau averred.
What on earth did the Freedom Convoy have to do with abortion or same-sex marriage? It’s as though the prime minister has conjured a sort of all-purpose bogeyman representing non-Liberal voters: They hate abortion, gays, vaccines and minorities. Their only saving grace is being uncomplicatedly wicked, and their opinions thus not worthy of a moment’s consideration.
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, the Angus Reid Institute found a whopping 91 per cent of Canadians, if appointed justice minister, would either leave Canada’s legal vacuum on abortion alone (34 per cent) or “introduce legislation to guarantee access to abortion” (57 per cent). Just nine per cent said they would introduce legislation to restrict abortion. That number rose no higher in any province than 15 per cent, in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In every other province, at least 90 per cent would leave it alone or legislate abortion rights. Among Conservative voters, the figure was 86 per cent.
Same-sex marriage has been a non-issue in Canadian politics for years. In 2019, Ipsos found 75 per cent of Canadians supported same-sex marriage. Of the 27 countries Ipsos surveyed, only the Netherlands (84 per cent), Sweden (79 per cent) and Spain (76 per cent) had as much support or more.
As for having to be vaccinated to get on a plane, that rule expired six months ago. Because Trudeau’s government let it expire.
In short we’re dealing with a government that doesn’t seem to understand its opposition, doesn’t seem to understand the country and — as always — is far too consumed with its own inherent virtue to see the cliff coming before it’s too late. At the rate the Liberals are going, leadership change may rapidly become much less a thought experiment and much more a burning necessity.