I Can't Hear You: Trudeau's Empathy Onslaught Is Goin Nowhere
It was inevitable. The prime minister who wanted to make everyone happy is suddenly finding out that the math of nice is hard. Very hard.
As he travels to the U.S. to boost Canada in the NAFTA re-negotiations, people are beginning to ask if Trudeau is the “people person” he says he is or just the silver-spoon pajama boy of his critics’ estimation. Certainly the record of the past few months has left many claiming the PM and his government are tin-eared.
Worse, some feel they might have put the country on the road to another constitutional crisis. Just like Dad.
Having spent many of his goodies for the public too early in his mandate, Trudeau now is encountering the nasty business of finding money for his ambitious social programs.
The just-ended summer of disconnect started with armies of refugees trooping across the Canada/ USA border at the invitation of Mr. Trudeau. Hoping to score with SJWs angry at Donald Trump’s immigration legislation, the PM had issued a “Come On Up” welcome to those afraid of the Trump administration’s plans to deport illegals.
The pictures of the bedraggled wandering across the undefended border looking for Canada’s social services, however, proved not to be the optic Trudeau needed for his Diversity Doctrine— especially in culturally conservative Quebec, which was taking in many of the newcomers. The estimated cost to process the parade of pitifuls made headlines, and the U.S. media began doing pieces that encouraged more refugees to try their luck.
In response to the public irritation, the RCMP began staffing the illegal crossing points and extra staff was brought in to process the claims. But Trudeau’s off-hand altruism impressed few outside his base.
That was followed by the vaunted new taxation schemes rolled out by his Finance minister Bill Morneau, another member of the silver-spoon brigade. In the cause of portraying the Liberals as a friend of the middle class, the government took aim at the tax breaks enjoyed by small business who “sprinkle” income through family businesses.
The Libs hoped to bury this cash grab in the sultry summer months when Parliament headed to the beaches and lakes. They were sorely chastened to find that, instead of a dead calm, their plans to treatsmall business as grifters produced a typhoon of negative response.
Such was the pushback to Liberal MPs in their ridings, Morneau was forced to reassure the MPs that when the public understood what was in the legislation the greedy doctors and farmers would be seen as ingrates by the public. Nice try. The Libs are currently watering down their class-warfare legislation, and Trudeau is trying to convince Canadians that he does loves small business people after all. Honest.
All this tax raising happened at the same time as the Americans were getting set to lower their corporate and individual taxation. A move that is getting Canadian businesses to flee south. In short, Trudeau sent a message to the world that Canada is not competitive on businesses.
Then, just as Trudeau headed to Washington and Mexico City, came the news that the “friends of the middle class” in the government were now going to tax the employee discounts enjoyed by many Canadians in the lower ends if the economy. Employers would be told to track these savings and tax payers would be asked to pay up to Revenue Canada.
If these were moves to boost the middle class, one shudders to ask what tough medicine will look like.
But this all paled next to perhaps the biggest political backfire: the cancellation of the Energy East pipeline project from Alberta to New Brunswick by Trans Canada Pipeline. The multi-billion works project was going to be a jobs godsend to hard-hit Alberta, communities along the way and the New Brunswick refineries.
But Montreal mayor Denis Coderre whined about environmental impacts of the pipeline as it passed by his city. Even though Montreal still pumps raw sewage into rivers, nervous Libs who fear separatism larded the pipeline project with an extra set of environmental studies.
Coming after years of negotiations, this add-on convinced Trans Canada to shelve the project, which had attracted enormous foreign as well as Canadian investment. While former Liberal cabinet member Coderre rejoiced at his handiwork, the message sent by the cancellation was another sign that Trudeau’s government was unfriendly to foreign investment— even as it propped up Quebec firm Bombardier like a favored son with billions in aid.
The reaction from the West was bitter. Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall lamented the West’s “Stockholm Syndrome” of cutting cheques to the East only to be taken for rubes when they needed help. As one conservative said in the days after Trudeau’s Coderre Cave, “If you were trying to revive Alberta or Western separatist sentiment you couldn’t have done a better job.”
You’d think Trudeau would have gotten the hang of this. Distracted by sycophantic American press, perhaps he doesn’t see that the honeymoon is over? He is currently deadlocked in polls with Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives. His Ontario Liberal cousins— who’ve exhibited the same wooden touch in rolling out their ambitious agenda— are headed for an epic walloping in the next provincial election.
The prospect of the same is very real for Trudeau. So why does he keep getting the math so wrong to avoid disaster?
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy.is the host of the podcast The Full Count with Bruce Dowbiggin on anticanetwork.com. He’s also a regular contributor three-times-a-week to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. His website is Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com)