The problem with Justin Trudeau's New Year's Eve video -

The problem with Justin Trudeau’s New Year’s Eve video

Justin Trudeau should remember that what’s good for the party isn’t always best for the country

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives to deliver a statement before the start of a Liberal caucus meeting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, June 1, 2016. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

“King and country are one and the same,” Otto von Bismarck, the 19th-century German statesman, once remarked—whatever’s good for the leader must be good for the country, too. As political sentiments go, it’s not particularly convincing in a modern democracy.

Nonetheless, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seemed to be channelling the Iron Chancellor with his New Year’s Eve video message on Parliament Hill by conflating the interests of Canadians with those of his own party. “Before we leave 2016 behind, I want to thank you,” he said. “Over the last year, we have accomplished a great deal together . . . We cut taxes on middle-class Canadians, and put more money in the pockets of nine out of 10 families . . . we also signed one of the most progressive free trade deals in history.”

Who are “we” in Trudeau’s New Year’s missive? The laundry list of political achievements leaves little doubt Trudeau is referring to the Liberal party, rather than all Canadians collectively. It’s a disappointingly partisan note at a time suited to more generous statements. It’s also reminiscent of Trudeau’s post-election claim that “Canada is back” when he really meant his party was back in power: Canada and the Liberals being one and the same.

Confusing the best interests of the country with their own self-interest is nothing new for politicians. And who really pays attention to what anyone says on New Year’s Eve? Yet Trudeau’s inability to keep state and party separate sets a worrisome tone for a new year that offers numerous opportunities to mistake government advantage for that of the nation as a whole.

The Liberals are now rolling out the first phase of their massive 10-year, $60-billion infrastructure plan. And Canada’s sesquicentennial celebrations also come with substantial discretionary budgets. The unprecedented size and importance of these programs will provide countless opportunities to allocate money for partisan reasons—urges the government must resist.

Related: Canada’s five biggest challenges in 2017

Trudeau’s government also needs to resist growing temptations to revive per-vote political subsidies, another example of politicians confusing personal gain for national benefit.

Recall that in response to public outcry over the Adscam sponsorship scandal involving kickbacks and secret contributions to the federal Liberal party, former prime minister Jean Chrétien banned corporate and union donations and put in their place a $1.75-per-vote annual payment to federal parties based on previous election results.

There’s much to dislike about putting politicians on the dole. It entrenches the status quo by inhibiting new political movements and makes existing parties lazy. It also forces all taxpayers to become political donors. Between 2004 and 2014, when then-prime minister Stephen Harper cancelled them, taxpayer-funded political subsidies rose from an average $8 million per year to $51 million per year while freely given contributions fell from $68 million to $61 million. Why bother with the hard work of signing up new members when you can get a fatter cheque based on past performance?

Yet this discreditable concept has proven surprisingly popular with scandal-plagued politicians. Ontario Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne recently unveiled her own $2.71-per-vote subsidy program following a fundraising imbroglio of her own. Now, with the federal Liberals under fire for Trudeau’s attendance at $1,500-a-head functions with wealthy individuals seeking favours from Ottawa, many Liberal MPs are openly advocating the return of federal subsidies. “[It] is perhaps the fairest and most legitimate way of supporting political parties,” Quebec MP Alexandra Mendès told The Hill Times recently. As the favoured solution to Liberal fundraising scandals, such payouts may be set for an unhappy return in the new year.

What’s good for the country is often different from what might be good for the Liberals, or any other political party. In this year of remarkable anniversaries, Canada’s leaders need to keep this in mind.


The problem with Justin Trudeau’s New Year’s Eve video

  1. You can’t even get this site to operate properly for more than two minutes, but you can always find something to whine about with our govt.

    We are doing extremely well in difficult times, but still you push your ‘culture of complaint’

    PS….and for gawds sake fix this comment board…’s a complete mess.

    • If they banned you from commenting, I am sure it would be an improvement. The Liberals have given us much to complain about and thank you MacLeans for writing about it now and then.

      • Typical Con response…..ban anyone who disagrees with you.

        And the Libs have given you nothing to complain about…..Harp sure did though

        Check the polls…..the media are going the wrong way.

        • I’m a left-winger and NDP’er, and that’s my response too. Sounds like you want to ban opposition.

          • It’s not ME that’s trying to ban opposition hon

            Cons and Dips are fanatics……and like to ban all other opinions

          • I wish people would realise that the Liberal Party of Canada is not a left-wing party. Never was, never will be. Heck, even the NDP is not particularly left wing.

        • Harp hasn’t been leader for well over a year and he retired from politics. Let him go for our own tenuous grip on sanity.

      • Culture of complaint!!! Nothing makes me more irritated when people try to shame us into silence.

        • Nothing makes ME more irritated than whiney-ass Canadians

          • Well you certain are Whiney-ass but now we find it your aren’t even Canadian. Should saw that coming.
            Nothing makes ME more irritated that a PM that invites us all to an opening parting to Canada’s year long 150 year celebration on New Year eve and then doesn’t show up himself but rather goes off on a private plane to a private island in the Carribean on a vacation with more per capita emissions than any other Canadian in the country is apt to be making. Meanwhile he is spending the time with a guy who has his own private yacht and jet plane. What kind of message of cutting back on emmisions is Justin role modelling to Canadians. Newsflash: Canada is a winter country, Justin and you are the leader. If the global warming is an imminent threat, quite taking self-serving vay-cays on a regular basis to escape the reality you signed up for and lower your personal emission output. We will follow your lead but only if you walk the talk.

        • Way to go Eddy. Trudeau tried to stop debate in he HOC. Don’t let one of his well known trolls stop you expressing your opinion on this cite. Amazing how everyone but her is a “fanatic.” Em is just a person in grave denial.

          • What a ridiculous statement about where the PM goes for vacations.
            There are legitimate things that one can criticize the government for- but vacations are not one. Who remembers (or cares) where Harper, Chretien, Mulroney, etc etc took their holidays?

    • Hey Em, it is the job of the free press to hold the government’s feet to the fire. Our GDP contracted last quarter. We had a good job growth of mostly part-jobs in December. They have every right and it is their job in fact to keep on the government and demand they do better. You were always slobbering over Aaron Wherry whenever he did the same to Harp so payback is truely a b*tch when your man is at the helm. Suck it up and take it like a man or woman or whatever you are pretending to be. But stop whining when the journalists are just doing what they a supposed to. This isn’t China or Russia.

      • It’s the media’s job to report the news, not act as the Opposition

        It’s your job to be a sober commenter on here…..something you missed entirely today

  2. Re: Election funding. There should be no voter subsidy and contribution limit should be no more than $250. If anything it would force the candidates to do more local meet and greets. It would definitely reduce the boring relentless media advertising campaigns. The big plus maybe that they actually have to learn how to budget their spending.

  3. Hello all;

    I tend to agree with the tone, if not the specific details of this article.

    What is it about otherwise very ordinary people that once they get a sense of power and control over others, it just seems to drive them mad. They lose sight of the ideals they were elected for and either become “full of it” (like the country owes them something . . . gold plated pensions notwithstanding); or they become full of themselves, as if once they are elected, what they said and did to get elected just does not matter.

    Winning is all that counts. That may be so in sports, but politics is about leadership and the “greater good” of the country; not a shiny, fancy trophy .

    Even in sports the game has rules and a presumably impartial referee enforces them consistently. In politics, there is no referee and politicians can either bend, ignore or simply change the rules – being our Constitution – to suit their whim and fancy, to take care of their own, or punish the other side for doing exactly what they would do under the same circumstances: being to suppress opposition and to exploit the situation for partisan gain or political power.

    The establishment always seems to be able to take care of itself and altogether too often “personalities” and parties or groups with their fawning members, sycophants, supporters, and fans are much more important than principles and the desire to be liked and “popular”, or be seen as likable and “popular”; as a political “brand” becomes more important than policies or even the “rule of law”.

    In closing, best wishes and best regards to all,

    Mr. Brian Leslie Engler

  4. Another great article by the editors at MacLean’s, whose impartial political analysis stands head and shoulders above any other media outlet (particularly the CBC. Sorry couldn’t help it!!)

  5. Quit whining Macleans. The Fourth Estate is not Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. The Liberals have formed a government and of course they are going to blow their own trumpet. Name me one PM in the last 150 years who has not taken credit for themselves and their party, for things going well.