Canada, Just Watch Me
The federal election is heading into its final days with the three major parties involved a game of Twister, contorting themselves in an effort to gain a minority. Majorities are the talk of fantasists.
The latest spasm has the Tories clearly establishing a buffer between themselves and the… what? Oh. The Tory surge is, like, so last week. The current bump shows the Libs shoving past the NDP and hovering next to Stephen Harper’s Tories. We may see a three-way dead heat at this point.
What led to this latest Liberal jump? No one is quite sure. It may be Justin Trudeau’s finger wagging about the prime minster stoking “fear” with his social policies and justice reforms. If so, Trudeau admonishing Harper for stoking fears would be one of the more risible jests of our time.
Has he forgotten his sainted father, St. Pierre of the War Measure Act? As a refresher, here’s Justin’s Pa on the steps of Parliament shortly after invoking the War Measures Act in 1970.
There were soldiers in driveways and civil liberties suspended over the political kidnappings of Pierre Laporte and James Cross.
Trudeau pere had just used the police and army to haul a whole lot of Quebec nationalists from their beds and into custody (thereby ensuring the success of the Parti Quebecois that decade). “There’s a lot of bleeding hearts around who don’t like to see people with helmets and guns,” Trudeau remarked jauntily. “All I can say is, go on and bleed…”
The operative words in the discussion Trudeau had with CBC report Tim Ralfe comes when asked how far he’ll go to protect civil society. “Just watch me” said Trudeau with his Cheshire grin. For a vast portion of the population, Trudeau became a national hero for taking a firm stand against political anarchy. The fact that the suspected insurrection turned out to be less than 10 ragged quasi-revolutionaries who high-tailed it to Cuba was not enough to diminish Trudeau’s lustre.
Justin has talked glowingly of his father’s resolve. But now, after gunmen have roamed the halls of Parliament and plotters discovered planning to behead the prime minister, Trudeau’s eldest son is suddenly a big fan of protecting civil liberties. This extremism of ISIS is apparently different than apprehending the FLQ for Trudeau Jr.
Harper’s action in protecting the institutions of Canada is an appeal to base instincts and vaguely sinister, the Liberal leader says. Maybe even racist.
Some might see a certain inconsistency in the positions of a man who seeks to be chevalier of Canada. But being a progressive means you never have to say you’re sorry.
That’s because, in the urban silos of Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, progressivism is not a political stance. It’s a lifestyle, a set of assumptions about modern life that allow one to blissfully go to parties of like-minded folk who echo similar positions, never encountering a contrary word. “Did you see Rick Mercer rip the Conservative security plan last night? It was awesome.”
There is us and there is them. And we are defined by our styles, not our achievements. Trudeau is impeccably dressed, engaging, empathetic, a patron of the arts. Harper writes hockey books. Game over. On a range of issues from guns to abortion to cultural diversity, progressive thought has gone largely unchallenged in the mainstream media and the salons of society for a generation. And they will fight dirty to keep it that way.
The assumed wonderfulness of it all allows the model progressive, in the immortal phrase, to write a big cheque with your mouth that you never have to back up with your action. Advocate for unlimited immigration when you see a heartbreaking photo of a drowned Syrian child. But offer the cottage or the spare bedroom to this same Syrians? Whoa, Nelly, simmer down there.
Or when it proves that only a small fraction of the immigrants are families or that many of the human wave are not Syrian at all? For the fellow travellers, sullying the romantic notion of the innocents that would be racist. Like the ni’qab ban.
Unfortunately for the NDP’s version of this urban vanity, reality has imposed itself. Buttressed by enthusiastic reporting from CBC and other progressive voices, the NDP had embraced their Yann Martel, “if it feels good, wear it” (or if your imam orders you to wear it) philosophy.
Living in the Ottawa beltway, this take may have sounded like the bright internationalist future calling. Except that it ignored that a vast percentage of Canadians see the ni’qab as a symbol of female oppression. The NDP instantly lost 10 points in the polls. Progressives, meet reality.
Trudeau may yet triumph. This is, after all, an era of surface over substance. What will be intriguing is his plan as prime minister when CSIS tells him that it’s his handsome neck that a cell of ISIS fans wishes to separate from his head. “Just watch me” might get a second hearing.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy @NPBroadcaster