Trudeau short on leadership again
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a town hall meeting at Western University Alumni Hall recently. (MORRIS LAMONT/THE LONDON FREE PRESS file photo)
There are things as a political leader you just do not say, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau found that out last week.
In perhaps the biggest example, not just the most recent, of the PM being pushed into power before he was really ready for the responsibility, he blamed the poverty of those who risked everything on the orders of the highest office in Canada on the veterans themselves.
By now you have likely heard or seen Trudeau's comments last Thursday at a town hall meeting at MacEwan University in Edmonton. He was asked by a veteran about promises Trudeau and his party made in the last election regarding pension and supports for disabled soldiers.
"Why are we still fighting certain veterans groups in court? Because they're asking for more than we are able to give right now," said Trudeau.
The veteran he was answering had reportedly lost a leg to an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. In that war alone, there were 158 Canadians who lost their lives while more than 2,000 were also wounded in battle. That does not even take into consideration the scores who have struggled to reintegrate into society since then or suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. For them the sacrifices are even more difficult to calculate. One window into that is the widely reported number of homeless veterans in Canada hovering at about 770 this past Remembrance Day.
We have to remember, our disabled veterans go beyond Afghanistan. There have been many peace keeping missions and other major conflicts like the Korean War and the Second World War with veterans who fought in those still alive.
As far as public speaking blunders by a Canadian politician, it has to rank up there with former Parti Quebequois leader Jacques Parizeau blaming the lost 1995 Quebec referendum on money and the ethnic vote. That speech all but killed Parizeau's political career.
To me, this feels worse, especially coming from someone who has led such a privileged and entitled life as Trudeau while he buries the country in debt, and has spent without caution on pet projects, like $200,000 to design the cover for the budget document or $8 million on a temporary outdoor arena on Parliament Hill.
The Tories are no angels on this subject matter either, although they were never quite so publicly belligerent about their view of veterans. There is a reason veterans widely pooled their support behind the Liberals in the 2015 election. There was the promise that they would reinstate lifetime pensions for disabled veterans. What they did reinstitute was a shallow shell of the former program scrapped in 2006 by the Conservatives in favour of a lump-sum payout with career training and other supports.
That level of betrayal is a big reason a group of Canadian veterans took their lawsuit against the Canadian government to the Supreme Court of Canada at the end of January.
Trudeau's lack of leadership should have stopped being a surprise a long time ago. I will not pick the low hanging fruit of his umming and ahing through any spoken moment where he does not have a prepared statement in front of him. Or his penchant for selfies, as I have never met a mayor, MP or MLA that wouldn't do a handstand in a photo-op if asked. Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer is also doing his best to catch up his social media profile with Trudeau's.
But what continues to erode any hope of actual leadership from the PM's office are things like his ethics violations scandal, the fact some of his best friends are dictators of nations with shameful human rights records, and he has shown little to no ability to actually relate to anyone over 25 years old. He has flip-flopped repeatedly on pipelines – it all seemingly depends on which part of the country he is speaking in – and has reneged completely on major platform promises like the ones he made to the veterans, to actively investigate the missing and murdered Indigenous women file, and to keep annual deficits to $10 billion a year before eventually balancing the budget.
Remember all of his talk about electoral reform? This past week he also said he would now only pursue it if pushed by other parties and that proportional representation in fact "would be harmful to Canada."
He is pushing through the legalization of cannabis, but then he is also putting much of the responsibility of enforcement and implementation on the provinces and municipalities.
A leader is someone who takes responsibility for their decisions and actions, they do not cower, make excuses and toss those left in their wake on the burning pile.
The question for Trudeau is when will he actually learn from these lessons he is seemingly given on a weekly basis?