Canadian conservatives like to argue that the mainstream media does its darnedest to protect Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s public image at all costs.
By and large, this statement is valid. Yet there are moments when even the media can’t protect his backside – or doesn’t want to.
Case in point: the PM’s interview with Rosemary Barton on CBC’s The National last weekend. She didn’t throw many softballs at Trudeau. If anything, she asked some penetrating questions and pushed back when he tried to spin his way out of potential pitfalls.
Let’s go through several instances.
First, Barton brought up the potential loss of leverage with U.S. President Donald Trump by signing on to the impending United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) without ensuring the removal of steel and aluminum tariffs.
“I mean investors and businesses are extremely happy that we have settled the question of NAFTA,” Trudeau responded. “The question of leverage is one to reflect on … we obviously want to get rid of those steel and aluminum tariffs, we need to, we’re going to continue to stand up for our workers, but we also see the path towards ratification as a place where there are continued conversations from members of Congress, from business or associations in the United States, from governors who also want to see these tariffs gone, and we’re going to keep working on that.”
Ah, but you can’t regain leverage by circling the political wagons around the perimeter of the White House.
Barton asked Trudeau a second time how Canada can remove these tariffs. His response?
“To continue to engage with the broad range of partners across the United States, for members of Congress, to business leaders, to workers groups who know that these tariffs, like any tariffs, hurt consumers and workers on both sides of the border.”
The same answer with no real solution. That’s the story of Trudeau as prime minister.
Second, Barton pressed the PM about the first ministers meeting and the carbon tax.
After initially dodging the question, he said, “I think the fact that there are a bunch of conservatives out there who have decided that pollution should be free is not that difficult to counter. … We’re putting a price on pollution, cause we want less pollution and the fact that conservatives in this country don’t want to move forward, on either fighting climate change or helping people ensure that we can get the good jobs in the future, is a conversation I’m willing to have anytime.”
Ignoring the fact that some Liberals oppose a carbon tax, including P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, Trudeau went into an ‘us versus them’ argument about the environment. He claimed Canada would meet Paris target numbers on pollution, even though the CBC host pointed out the United Nations said this won’t happen.
He also wouldn’t acknowledge Barton’s valid statement that it was a “tax,” claiming it was a “price on pollution” that won’t be going into “federal coffers.”
This isn’t slightly believable, based on what’s happened with B.C.’s carbon tax, but that’s another issue.
Third, Barton asked Trudeau about his decision to call Tories “ambulance-chasing politicians” based on their handling of the revelation involving convicted murderer Terri-Lynne McClintic being transferred to a native healing clinic.
The PM doubled down on this offensive statement, saying: “I think it’s extremely important to point out when people are playing the basest kinds of politics. And the fact that I am calling out Conservatives on the way they play politics with horrific tragedies to do fundraising, and to try and score cheap points.”
When Barton asked if his scrappy demeanour contradicts his supposed belief in sunny ways, the PM believed both go hand-in-hand. “I think I can and I think I do. I mean, I always look for ways to bring people together. I look for ways to solve solutions … I look for ways to listen to people and make sure we are consulting and engaging in thoughtful ways.”
Yeah, sure. Unless it involves people taking a different point of view, which Trudeau has no patience for. During the course of his political career, it’s led to episodes of name calling, swearing at a Conservative minister and a ‘smartest guy in the room’ mentality.
If this is your idea of a positive thinking, political bridge-builder, think again.
Barton and the CBC exposed Trudeau’s weaknesses with respect to his political acumen. His answers were consistently weak.
He never seems genuine in interviews, but rather genuinely lost when it comes to maintaining the narrative. His inability to deflect and recalibrate is among the worst of any prime minister in history, Conservative or Liberal.
Was this CBC’s intention?
You be the judge.
Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.
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