Justin Trudeau quietly suggests we change everything - Macleans.ca

Justin Trudeau quietly suggests we change everything

Justin Trudeau invites questions, but finds only Liberals willing to quiz him


Justin Trudeau

Tuesday night might’ve been a remarkable night in the story of Justin Trudeau. Perhaps it even was.

It might’ve been the night he was publicly thrashed by one of his eager opponents. It might’ve been the night he proved capable of handling himself when there is nowhere to hide. It could have been something like the test of him that we might all imagine the leaders debates at the next election will be. But no one showed up to have a go.

Even still, maybe he made something of it. Or maybe there was something here.

On Monday afternoon, Trudeau’s office had emailed MPs with an invitation to a “question-and-answer session” about his private member’s bill, which would have made changes to the board of internal economy (the committee of MPs that governs internal House matters) and the access to information system. Some, he said, had RSVP’d and Elizabeth May says she would’ve attended if she hadn’t been busy making a doomed effort at amending Bill C-51. But when 6:30pm on Tuesday evening arrived, it was just Justin Trudeau and 11 Liberal MPs sitting around a rectangular arrangement of tables in a committee room in an obscure corner of Parliament’s East Block. At one end of the room sat Trudeau, flanked by five placards set up to highlight elements of his bill. Directly opposite him were two empty chairs. Otherwise, the assembled included: four aides to Mr. Trudeau, one individual employed by the NDP, one cameraman, one photographer and three translators, and a grand total of two reporters who had turned out to see a man who has better than decent odds of being the next prime minister.

“It’s one of the reflections that I’ve had on our parliamentary democracy, how it is often now a game of talking points opposing each other, rather than actually listening and discussing and arguing and aiming for the best possible legislation to serve Canadians,” he said. “So it is with that optimism, and in that spirit, that I announced this public information session.”

It is possible, of course, that everyone was simply otherwise engaged—that some numbers of MPs would have been there if not for some reception or another. Still, it surely seemed improbable that any Conservative or New Democrat would ever appear at such a thing. Access to information isn’t exactly advantageous ground for the Conservatives. And anyway, rivals are otherwise no doubt loathe to do anything that could led credence to an opponent.

Perhaps a hundred years ago it would’ve been possible to imagine two or more MPs openly and happily engaging each other in such an open setting, but our politicians are far more risk averse (cowardly? fearful?) now. One imagines the appearance of a cabinet minister here would have been preceded by hours of preparation and counsel, probably with various forms to be filled out and approved by a committees and sub-committees within the Prime Minister’s Office.

It is, of course, possible that Trudeau and his advisors wagered as much—perhaps they could have announced the event a week earlier and spent days hyping it and somehow increased the odds of someone from the blue or orange teams appearing. Still, even if it was a relatively safe bet, it was still a gamble of some kind.

“I was optimistic, perhaps idealistic, that the opportunity to take on directly, in a semi-formal setting, a party leader would be too good to pass up for some of my opponents,” he said. “I guess I’m a little bit reminded of the difficulty I had finding a Conservative willing to step into the ring and punch me in the face…

His Liberal audience laughed

“… but that’s another issue.”

There had been more takers 24 hours earlier when Trudeau had appeared in the House to make his second speech on the government’s latest plan for intervention against the Islamic State. As soon as Trudeau had finished those remarks, Jason Kenney, who the Liberal leader had singled-out for criticism, was up to ask a question. But so eager was Mr. Kenney to explain just how silly Mr. Trudeau is that the defence minister proceeded to squander a perfect opportunity to truly challenge the seriousness of the Liberal party’s position on this war—fussing at length over some various inelegant remarks of Mr. Trudeau’s before barely getting in an non-specific question about military intervention. So challenged, Trudeau took the opportunity to chide Kenney for his own stumbles with Twitter and precision weapons.

Left unasked was a simple question: Can the forces of ISIS possibly be defeated without the dropping of bombs from Western jets? (And, if not, why shouldn’t Canadian jets join the cause of dropping those bombs?) That would seem to be the most problematic question for the Liberal position, a position formally committed to Monday night with a vote in the House. And it would’ve been useful to see Trudeau try to answer that question.

Answering that might question have been easier than explaining his party’s take on C-51, a half-hearted vote in favour that was confirmed on Tuesday when Liberal critic Wayne Easter signed off on a bill that was barely amended by the public safety committee. As with the war, the Liberals have taken a position somewhere between the New Democrats and Conservatives—voting in favour of the government’s much-fretted-about anti-terror legislation even while they lament for the bill’s defects. To some degree, the logic seems coldly practical: give the security agencies new powers, perhaps take away a government point of attack, then hopefully fix the details in a few months once in government. The bill, of course, was going to pass anyway. But to that might be put a counter-factual: What if Trudeau had thrown his full force behind calling for changes to C-51? Could he have rallied the sort of pressure necessary to force further concessions? Would that have made it more or less likely that a Liberal government will be in power by the end of this year?

Beyond matters of war and civil liberties, Trudeau also drew a picture this week. And perhaps that was silly. Though if it helped the Liberals to another solid quarter for fundraising, it might at least have been also lucrative.

On Wednesday afternoon in question period, he swung wildly and fell right into a counter-punch from the Prime Minister. And on Wednesday night, his bill was easily defeated along party lines. The former was perhaps more of a loss than the latter—the latter being fairly predictable and the former being the sort of public embarrassment Trudeau, he whose seriousness is questioned, does not need.

And all the while, Liberal support seems to have been sliding.

But back to Tuesday evening.

After lamenting that no one had turned up to rhetorically punch him in the face, Trudeau proceeded nonetheless with a review of his bill and its purpose. He then opened the floor to questions, his Liberal colleagues politely raising their hands to quiz him.

Halfway through the hour, John McKay, the six-term MP who was secretly recorded last year lamenting for Trudeau’s edict of party discipline on matters related to abortion, queried his leader. Recalling the Harper government’s introduction of the Accountability Act and positing its subsequent failure to become the most open government on earth, McKay noted that there were selfish reasons for control—that it limits the amount of time you spend playing defence.

“I’m rather in favour of open by default, but the downside is that were you to be in the next government and adhere to this, this is going to be a very difficult piece of legislation to administer and it may actually be counter-productive to your best political interests because it will show you as a government that is going in this direction or that direction or whatever,” McKay suggested. “I’m assuming you’ve thought about those things and that seems to me to be the questions that other people will be asking rather directly.”

In response, Trudeau recalled a story he’d heard about his father, about how his father, as a student of history, had regretted the certain avoidance of documentation that resulted from the arrival of the Access to Information Act in 1983.

“The fact is I don’t think we can turn the clock back on that time,” the younger Trudeau now said. “I think we’re going to have to embark on a completely different style of government. A government that both accepts its responsibilities to be open and transparent, but also a population that doesn’t mind lifting the veil to see how sausages are made. That there is a dual responsibility in changing towards more open and transparent functioning, that really will go to a deep shift in how… government… operates.”

He stressed these three words. And then he went on for another 500 words.

“Once I look at the trend lines in democracy, the empowering of citizens and activists, I know that the government of the future is going to be very, very different than governments of the past. And there will have to be learning done, both by governments, breaking old habits, and by citizens, shifting their expectations. But I know we’re going there eventually and it’s a question of whether we want to step forward with that with confidence and optimism, knowing that we’re going to stumble, knowing that it’s going to provide challenges, or whether we get dragged there kicking and screaming by mobs with pitchforks, metaphorical of course…”

He said he’d once heard a story about fast-food purveyors agreeing, for the sake of their industry, to refrain from attacking each other, this apparently a parable for our current situation of attack ads and declining turnout.

“So yeah, our opponents will dig up emails and information, no doubt as every opposition ever has, that the government will have to explain and my hope is that government will begin to engage in a way that is open and transparent. And on this, I can only call on my own personal experience as someone who has lived much of his life in the public eye who now finds himself in the situation where people are scrutinizing my life to try and write attack ads and convince people to vote against me. I’ve had to conduct my life in a way that acknowledged that my life might well be an open book. And was I horribly limited because of it? Because of decisions I made? I don’t think so, but it was a choice that I made and I think it’s a choice that governments in the 21st century should make, of being open, accountable and transparent.”

There was a lot here. Even if what was here was a little elusive and vague—a hazy dream of an idea of something different. There was a certain searching to it.

Trudeau can be tested against that ideal. By how well and precisely and readily he explains himself according to both current standards and this dream-like future standard. By how well his proposals are crafted and by how far he clears the cynicism he seems to want to get over. There was that problematic take on the relevance of Parliament, but there is that interest in data. Possibly his own bill didn’t go far enough. Perhaps he could promise right now to put himself in something like Tuesday night’s situation every couple of months if he ever becomes prime minister. And even if he says he wants to change the game, he still must play the game and prove adept at it and that is perhaps a conundrum.

But after looking around this Parliament and taking it all in it is surely tempting to see the appeal in changing everything.

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Justin Trudeau quietly suggests we change everything

  1. Hey Justin. Show me how this openness works, by having all your campaign platform, and Liberal Redbook planning sessions open to the media and public.

    You know, set up a couple of Go-Pro’s and live stream all the internal debates. Show us how the Liberal sausage is made.

    Do as you say. You don’t have to wait. You can do it now.

    Or is this like your phoney promise of open nominations….just nice fancy rhetoric.

      • Most people have an idea where the Conservatives stand on most issues.
        Trudeau and the Liberals, not so much.
        My bet is pretty well the same playbook as Harper but with some multi-culti BS and inclusiveness BS drizzled in to differentiate. Enough to make it unpalatable.

  2. So, Aaron, your hero wants to open and transparent?

    How about Justin starting with:
    – open and transparent Liberal federal nomination processes – which, in a growing number of cases, have been anything but!,

    – open and transparent about his policy platform – which apparently Canadians must breathlessly wait until the October federal election is called to see any detailed, coherent – hopefully costed – policies?

    This article is essentially much ado about nothing because all we know from Justin – the advocate of open, transparent government – is unwilling or unable to stop the often dramatic rhetoric and become a serious leader of a national party with major programs to fit his “vision, values, openness, transparency” ad nauseum,

    Meanwhile Tom Mulcair is doing him for dinner – as the Aussies say!

    • I don’t think Mr. Wherry is Trudeau’s hero, you got the wrong person. Mulcair is a bully, just like Harper, all hat and no cattle. The thing a lot of people don’t realize is, we elect a MPs not PMs, so Trudeau will be elected in his riding anyway, it’s just a matter if the rest of his MPs will be elected, and from what I can see, the grits should be able to take out the, ” Day Care Center ” back bench the Dippers have, you know the 20 something year olds. I see the “This Hour” seems to be big fans of the dippers these days though, they have been doing a lot of fluff pieces on the dippers and selfies with Tom the last couple of weeks.

      • So people with an agenda to deliver based on commitments are bullies.
        Is that it CP?
        Both Harper and Mulcair make Trudeau the Shiny Pony look like a prom queen.
        He does not stand for anything. except vacuous nonsense like Canadian values, and then criticizes Harper over the niqab issue. A Canadian value where you show your face to make an oath. A basic western value.
        Mulcair will eat him for lunch in PQ, and Harper everywhere else.

        • Just what Canada needs, another Harper for 4 more years, you sound as angry as Mulcair. There are 2.7 million reasons for Canadains not to vote Mulcair. Mulcair is a lame duck when it comes to questioning the cons, the dippers have no credibility, they even use their local riding offices with money stolen from the voters treasury, to do partisan politicking as well. Mulcair also wants to work with Brad Wall(Harper lightweight) and Joe Ghiz, I don’t know why Joe Ghiz, I thought he was retired, in order to open the charter of rights to abolish the senate, you know the Charter, the one that the dippers have been using to pander to Canadian’s in the C-51 hearings, bother way, how did that C-51 thing workout for you, it’s still going through just like a freight train, and with all the posturing and tantrums, even if the grits voted with the dippers, it was still going through. The dippers have no right to claim they are a charter party, when they want to take it apart. That’s called talking out both sides of his mouth. Mulcair is a panderer and a populist and nothing more, just like the other guy in the PMs seat now. why would Canadian wants to elect a government who’s first days in office, is to open up the charter of rights and start a battle with other provinces, how is that taking care of the economy. You and a lot more will get quit the surprise when the debates come around, we will see who is the lightweight then. Don’t go off like the rest of the MSM and think Trudeau is going to be eaten for lunch in the debates, actually no, keep on thinking that way, because that lowers the bar for Trudeau in the debate, just keep JT the underdog, that’s where he needs to be, low expectation.

  3. My question would be, with regards to C-51, what did the NDP and the left wing media gain by banging the drum of the dangers of C-51, and having a crowd of intelligent people parade into the committee hearings on the hill and be ostracized and demeaned by the conservative party? Whether liberals voted for it, or against it, no one was stopping this bill from going through anyway, and it gave the conservatives 5 weeks of talking points about terror(racking up party funds) and not the economy. Whenever you start fighting over a bill against this government while in opposition, you are either pandering and playing populist politics, or help give this government more air to suck away from you. Then the final result, the government passes the bill without any opposition, I don’t hear any screaming today. Don’t the NDP get it, this is exactly what the government wants them to do, the cons make a fortune on it in fund raising. While Tom is fighting Harper in the HOCs to get the headline everyday in the news, his MPs never get noticed, and the dippers prevent their leader from being out raising money for the party, come election time, the party won’t have enough money to battle’ in the election. As far as liberal policy goes, you can be sure, as soon as Harper finishes cooking the books and comes down with a budget, you can be assured, the liberals will feel, it will be a good time to put a bit of policy in the window. Harper was hoping Trudeau would flinch by now, no matter what the polls say.

    • Mulcair is the leader of the opposition. Trudeau leads the 3rd place party. Trudeau can spend all his time fundraising because, like you said, they’re irrelevant in parliament. But Mulcair is the leader of the opposition, and he has a duty to oppose the government, not play wishy-washy and go begging for money.

  4. “a man who has better than decent odds of being the next prime minister.”
    Excuse me.
    Only in the minds of liberal media like MacLeans is this vacuous do nothing a possible PM.

    • Your reading too much Toronto Star. There is not one Paper in this country that flogs for the liberal party, the dippers own this paper and the Star, except for Paul Wells, The cons have dibs on him. I haven’t read a paper yet that shows any kind of support for the grits. The Star is a complete lefty news paper, and all the rest carry the Harper mantra. I think your a little confused and I’m not sure you even read the whole article, because I don’t see any Trudeau fluff, I see the same rhetoric that most papers, both right and left like to spew about Trudeau everyday. Justin Trudeau drives news paper viewership up, and the media knows that, because that’s all you see in the papers these days is Trudeau bashing, it never lets up. The media loves Tom and his courtroom diplomacy in the HOCs, at a cost to his party, the MPs are like members of the Maytag team, never allowed to ask a question in QP until Tom gets his mug in first during the leaders round of questions, because Tom likes to get the days headline in for the nightly political talk shows and nightly(gets lots of support from CBC too), its called pandering or populist pandering.

  5. As usual, it’s all about Trudeau. I wonder why more people didn’t show up to hear him pontificate about tales his daddy told him when he was a kid. Mulcair and Harper talk about Canadians. Trudeau seems occupied with talking about himself.

    • Maybe Harper and Mulcair might form a coalition like the dipper did with Jack in the 2005 election to try and take the grits out again, and we know how that worked out today.

      • There’s that Liberal arrogance. Harper and Jack formed a coalition in 2005? Could you point me to a news story about that? In your self-involved mind, anybody who doesn’t support Liberal corruption is somehow part of a coalition. No, most of us just don’t like crooked politicians and the Liberals were as crooked as they come.

    • “Mulcair and Harper talk about Canadians.”

      Mulcair has spent a lot of time talking about his childhood and his family lately, or perhaps you did not notice?

  6. When you are dead, you don’t know you are dead. The dire affects only interrupt the life of the people around you. The same applies to STUPID. Trudeau is stupid.
    It seems to me that the admirable flock of people trend that came to see Trudeau speak about himself will be the same trend of the population coming to vote for his party. As Bobdo6 commented. He is vacuous.

    • “Vacuous” pretty much sums it up. He may have many attributes, but he is simply not deep and his handlers and admirers would be well advised to try to shift focus away from that regrettable fact. Evidence of this emerges pretty much every time he opens his mouth. His statements, though mostly innocuous, repeatedly demonstrate he doesn’t think before he talks (“lifting veils” to reveal “sausage making”?) He also doesn’t walk the talk – how much “openness” and “transparency” has he demonstrated in turfing his MPs, intervening in nomination races, stripping senators from his party of the right to refer to themselves as senators from his party?

      The attempt by Trudeau’s opponents to set the narrative about him as “not ready” is the thing his followers rage most about. He’d be well advised to stop feeding it.

    • Heh. It is always good strategy to call your opponents stupid. I hope the CPC follows your lead.

        • Wow. It’s almost like you don’t understand what has been posted here.

          • Cogency is required before understanding is possible. Nothing I’ve heard from the dauphin to date meets that threshold. He longs for “transparency” and “openness”, yet fails to explain how either are currently lacking nor how enhancing either solves any problems (which he also leaves undefined). He fancies himself a “visionary”, but cannot articulate his vision beyond “doing things differently” and being “accountable” (a concept apparently different from standing in front of the voters every 4 or 5 years). He sounds like he’s running for high school student council, not to be PM.

            You are too smitten with him and blinded by Harper animus to appreciate any of this. This will, of course, in no way inform your response, which I anticipate will contain snark and sophistry sprinkled with personal invective.

          • The funniest part of a series of funny comments from you is this:

            “This will, of course, in no way inform your response, which I anticipate will contain snark and sophistry sprinkled with personal invective.”

            There is probably a mirror in your house. Try looking in it.

  7. Justin Trudeau – the shiny pony – a high school drama teacher (a failed one at that) – never had to work a day in his life – never successfully completed any projects other than accepting the leadership of a party that GAVE it to him as a gift – his trust fund keeps him in the lap of luxury – never once flew to A’stan to visit the troops. Disgusting little limp wristed flapper.

    Steven Harper – had it all and essentially blew it. Treats people coldly. Treats veterans like schitte. Does not seem to have a handle on much these days.

    Mulcair – a citizen of France for Christ’s sake! No person should be a political and Canadian leader if he carries a passport from another country. That law needs to be made soonest. He is a bearded loser.

    Liz May – elected and about as annoying as a hemorrhoid – and about as effective as a mosquito that has just been slapped.

    Not one of them is worth much and not one of them will be a decent leader.

    Of all of them Harper is the most effective and even he gets a failing grade.

    Time to find some new leaders for this country because it is starting to fall apart. And anyone who blames just one leader – rather than ALL political parties truly shows how little they understand what is happening to Canada.

    • “Disgusting little limp wristed flapper.”

      The first reason why we should all ignore your post.

  8. Given that the NDP wants the BOIE to investigate the one Liberal member of that committee, Dominic Leblanc, for his election expenses and absence from the House (on an unspecified date) because he was helping the NB Liberal Party, I would have thought that at least one NDP MP would have taken the opportunity to question Trudeau about it.

    But then, maybe the NDP was ‘otherwise engaged’ with the BOIE decision about their campaign/constituency office arrangements.

  9. His office sent the email invite the day before the briefing? Uuh, they must have been busy preparing the typical narrative about CPC not showing up to send the invite earlier. When did reporters get the invite? Regardless of when reporters got the invite – it is being disingenuous.

  10. Justin wants to “change everything”?! That’s ominous. We in Canada are doing very well compared to the rest of the world,the only place we are not is in the fantasy world of some fanatics.

    Canada may need to be tweaked, but overall change isn’t necessary or desirable. Anyone who expects Trudeau to be much different than Harper is dreaming, they both answer to the same masters.

  11. So is this the way he expects democracy to function in the future? We must rely on government by squeaky wheels and activists. Turning Canada over to the Liberals with no backbone or rudder, only reacting to whichever wind of change is blowing would be like handing your car keys to your kids. Let’s wait until he has demonstrated he is really a global statesman. Hmm…

  12. Why ask if you will get no response or lies?

    I even wrote Justin via email, offering $1000 political donations and no response.

    Make no mistake, all our politicians are self serving liars. There is no honour, just lobby money and lies, more tax’em sheeples some more and less in return.

    Reason so many don’;t vote is they realize its a statism rigged ballot and no one really listens to the people.

  13. This entire event seems odd to me. I am not sure of the point. Expect, perhaps, that Trudeau knows the only party that is going to benefit from the politics of fear is the Conservatives, and right now fear is winning so he is trying to change the subject?

    I like his ideas on politics and governing, but I am really questioning the tactic behind this event.

  14. Aaron…you call yourself a reporter…after reading this i would describe your style more as cheerleader or lackey. Hence why MacLean’s sells so well.

  15. An article about a meeting no one attended for a piece of legislation that ultimately failed during a period of falling Liberal fortunes. It must have been difficult making a silk purse out of this. I realize mainstream media are pushing us towards Justin. It is a shame you don’t have more to work with. Our bright future indeed.

  16. Hey Justin, Well Done. Don’t let anyone stamp you out your style bro! LOL. Keep fighting with the eye of the tiger. Well Done. We may not be able to reinvent the wheel, but there is always wheel experts who know there stuff.