The federal Liberals have always been able to overcome their lack of ability to formulate consistent policy by use of tightly-controlled marketing. I can still remember Pierre Trudeau, who was not particularly well liked in the polls at the time, running a whole election on the vapid phrase “the land is strong.” It was probably one of the most boring election campaigns in Canadian history, because Mr. Trudeau never said much of anything other than variations of the limp theme. Any time he went off script, and he liked to do this occasionally, he seemed to make some sort of a terrible mess, which resulted in a further round of tightly-controlled marketing.
Now we have Trudeau the Junior, whose grasp of policy gives a whole new meaning to the term vacuous. However, this Trudeau, just like his father, has always been on some sort of a script. If you watch the town halls, events that the Liberals really seem to like, you cannot help but get the feeling that the whole event is scripted. One recent town hall had a particularly scripted feel about it. Immediately at the opening, an irate woman presented a well-articulated speech about how she is morally offended that the Canadian government would give $10.5 million to Omar Khadr. At the time, this was a particularly contentious move on the part of the government. The crowd appeared to agree with this woman, and the atmosphere immediately got somewhat restless. Mr. Trudeau was clearly ready for this question, and gave a well-acted speech about how he actually agreed with this woman. Mr. Trudeau’s acting skills were on full display. He used a lot words, but the only thing he actually said was that he agreed, and he too was outraged by this policy. This settled the crowd down, and after this town hall, the issue seemed to die away.
In my opinion, the woman must have been planted with her question, and Mr. Trudeau was clearly supplied with a smoothing, if mostly vacuous, reply. What is particularly unsettling about this episode is that it actually appeared to work. No one raised the obvious question: if the prime minister was appalled by this payment, why did the government do it? Tightly-controlled marketing wins the day once again.
In a very recent town hall meeting, a woman said that maternal love was the key to changing the future of mankind. This is the kind of mushy feel-good sentiments the Liberals like to say every once in a while. However, Mr. Trudeau interjected, “We like to say peoplekind, not necessarily mankind. It is more inclusive.” This is also the type of mushy pseudo policy Mr. Trudeau seems to like. CP news reported, “The remark was warmly received by both the woman and many others in the audience.” This left me wondering whether this was an example of Mr. Trudeau going off script or whether this was all staged.
The reaction of the general populace was something less than “warmly received.” The mocking of Mr. Trudeau abounded, culminating with a suggestion that Manitoba should be renamed Personitoba. Mr. Trudeau later apologized for what he called his bad joke. I would like to think it was all scripted and is just silly pseudo policy.
Frank Atkins is a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.