Liberals campaigning without mention of PM Justin Trudeau

Liberal MP Connie Denesiuk with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Denesiuk has already published media spots without Trudeau.

The Niagara Independent, August 30, 2019 — In 2015 the Liberals successful election campaign was energized with the images of Justin Trudeau. Indeed, many unknown Liberal candidates rode the Leaders’ popularity to victory and to their seat in Ottawa. But this is 2019 and today the image of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prompts more grimaces and frowns than it does smiles.

A slew of national opinion polls report that the Canadian electorate is divided between the Liberal and Conservative parties. However, the same polling suggests there is a growing consensus of distrust in and dislike for Trudeau.

A new poll this month from Angus Reid found that PM Trudeau’s support has sank significantly and that two of every three Canadians (65 percent) disapprove of Trudeau’s performance in office. Nearly one in two Canadians (47 percent) “strongly disapprove” of Justin Trudeau. Parsing the data, we learn Trudeau remains most popular with millennials (39 percent approval). But among those aged 55 and older, his 2015 approval rating of 63 percent has dropped like a stone to 30 percent.

Liberal-friendly Abacus Data recently found similar polling results: there are twice as many Canadians saying they disapprove of the PM as those who say they approve of him. Only 32 percent of Canadians have a positive impression of Trudeau, down 12 points in the last four months.

Yet it is the American polling firm Zogby Analytics that perhaps illustrates best just how bad things are for the Canadian PM. The firm notes that there are more Canadians who disapprove than approve of Trudeau’s time in office. Zogby analysts underline the fact that now Trudeau is less popular than US President Donald Trump (who has a current approval rating of 51 percent.)

All the pollsters suggest that at the core of the sudden, sharp drop in Justin Trudeau’s approval ratings is the PM being found guilty of breaking conflict of interest laws in the SNC Lavalin scandal. To this point, the Liberals are doing everything they can to turn the page on the Ethics Commissioner’s damning conclusions that Trudeau and his senior PMO staff inappropriately pressured then-justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould. The Liberals hope they may have buried the story for good. Last week in Ottawa a Liberal-majority voted to block any further parliamentary committee review of the Ethics Commissioner and his findings. With that, the PM can move forward from this mess and ask Canadian voters to “Choose Forward.”

Still the PM’s remarkable unpopularity has some Liberal MPs disassociating themselves from Justin Trudeau. Ottawa-based paper The Hill Times recently ran a feature story in which sitting Liberal MPs (who wished to remain anonymous) are quoted as saying, “Some [candidates] are not going to use Trudeau’s name or picture in their campaign material.” The paper mentions B.C. Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk, who is running in South Okanagan-West Kootenay. Denesiuk has removed the image of Mr. Trudeau from a painting on her 2019 campaign car that has previously featured her alongside the Liberal leader.

Another example can be found with Ottawa-area MP Karen McCrimmon. She represents Kanata-Carleton and is one of those sitting MPs who has already published media spots without PM Justin Trudeau. In fact, McCrimmon’s newspaper ads have no reference to the PM, no Liberal Party emblem, and do not mention that she sits as a Government MP. And unlike her 2015 election campaign materials where the PM adorned everything from her canvass literature to her campaign office windows, McCrimmon has, with the exception of her website, stripped all images of Justin Trudeau from her re-election materials.

Yet there is an ironic twist to this Liberal backbencher’s story. MP McCrimmon sits on the parliamentary committee that last week discussed the Ethics Commissioner report respecting the obstruction of justice activities surrounding the PM, the PMO and SNC Lavalin. She is one of those Liberal-majority committee members who voted to shut down any further inquiry into the PM’s role with the scandal. So, on one hand McCrimmon is disassociating herself from her Leader; and on the other hand she is complicit in attempting to protect the PM’s bruised reputation.

With Justin Trudeau’s approval numbers as they are today, Liberals recognize that to win this election it cannot become a referendum on the Prime Minister and his character. It is why Liberal candidates want voters to think of anything but, “A vote for the Liberals is a vote for Justin Trudeau.” It is why some of those candidates have dropped mention of PM Trudeau altogether.

MP Karen McCrimmon’s newspaper ads have no reference

to the PM, no Liberal Party emblem, and do not mention

that she sits as a Government MP.

 

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK:  https://niagaraindependent.ca/liberals-campaigning-without-mention-of-pm-justin-trudeau/

There’s Much to be Concerned About with Canadian Media

Unifor president Jerry Dias with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Unifor represents thousands of reporters from mainstream media.

The union has vowed to be Andrew Scheer’s worst nightmare.

The Niagara Independent, August 23, 2019 — Can Canadians trust their media regarding its coverage of national politics? Based on a string of events over the past few months this is a legitimate and worrying question.

Consider the latest federal budget where the government set forth a fund of $600 million to be paid to selected Canadian newsrooms. At the same time, the government selected “an independent panel” to dole out its largesse, which includes the journalists’ union Unifor. Conservative MP and former newsman Peter Kent was very troubled that the governing Liberals would potentially undermine the freedom of the press: “getting involved in this sort of direct subsidy to what is supposed to be an independent estate. From top to bottom it smells. It’s simply unacceptable.” National Post columnist Andrew Coyne perhaps put it best stating the government cheques will “irrevocably politicize the press.”

This month outspoken Unifor union president Jerry Dias announced that the journalists’ outfit will run an aggressive anti-Conservative campaign. Dias signaled that the union will run television ads during the election writ period asking Canadians to “think twice about supporting the Scheer agenda.” Recall that Dias’ union executive has described itself as “Andrew Scheer’s worst nightmare.”

Concurrently, the Unifor union has been unabashed in its praise of Justin Trudeau, providing standing ovations for the Prime Minister’s appearance at their annual meetings. And the PM often refers to Jerry Dias as “his friend.” (Again, this is the same Unifor that is handing out government cheques to newsrooms.)

Point of fact, Unifor members include a total of 12,000 Canadian journalists — columnists, editors and news anchors at the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, and Global TV and CTV stations and employees at the Winnipeg Free Press, London Free Press and the Hamilton Spectator.

There is also recent news about the Toronto Star, the news source that declares it is “leading progressive journalism” in our country. The news agency Blacklock’s Reporter has learned that the Star publishers “estimated its take of federal media bailout money is worth the equivalent of $115,385 a week.” (So, doing the math, this equates to a payout of more than half-a-million dollars that will be paid for the election writ period.)

But, apart from the issue of newsroom payouts, there is recent findings bringing into direct question the accuracy and integrity of what is being reported by Canadian newsrooms. Research from the Public Policy Forum found that mainstream media outlets like the CBC, CTV and Huffington Post, are in fact one of “the causes of misinformation” for Canadians.  In the Forum’s study it was found that many Canadians exposed to traditional or mainstream media are more likely to give incorrect answers to questions about basic government policy issues. The summary states: “Survey respondents who read or watched more traditional news media were less likely to express uncertainty about policy questions than those with low consumption, but more likely to give an incorrect response.”

There is also a disturbing pattern of anti-Conservative sentiment that has unfolded within the Canadian journalists’ echo-chamber on Twitter. This bias has resulted in unbalanced reporting and, in some cases, the promotion of fake news to embarrass Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Here are a few recent examples:

  • Liberal partisans spread a falsehood via Twitter that, in one of his policy announcements, the Conservative Leader was employing an actress who pretended she was a cancer survivor. Media jumped on Andrew Scheer to explain. When it was found that the woman was indeed a cancer survivor, there was no apology from media. Instead, CBC ran a story about a professional actress, mistakenly identified in this mix-up, who was subjected to online cruelty and bullying.
  • Media followed the story of a (obviously phony) woman protestor standing outside an event where the Conservative Leader was speaking. This protestor was holding a sign reading, “Vote Andrew Scheer” and seen spitting on a person and making racist statements. Reporters at the event dogged Andrew Scheer to explain and the news story became his denouncing the fake Conservative supporter. The Leader’s speech was ignored; the protestor’s story made headlines.
  • Liberal MP Adam Vaughan made headlines with graphic photos and tweets that falsely accused conservatives of mistreating and caging refugee children. Using photos of children in U.S. border detention centres, the Toronto MP was attempting to smear the federal Conservatives, stating in one tweet “We all know where right-wing scapegoating leads us. Our Government won’t cage children.” MP Vaughan’s tweets and photos were sprayed across the newswires and social media platforms while his eventual apology for this fake news made little press.

Connecting all these dots, are we not left to wonder what news sources can be trusted when it comes to national politics? From the recent comments of Jerry Dias, Canadians can see how union activists are in bed with the Trudeau Liberals in their re-election bid. And there is the fact that the Liberal Government is rewarding certain newsrooms with generous cheques. Andrew Coyne observes: “It is a disaster that is now unfolding. If there were ever the slightest chance the process would not be politicized, that has already vanished.” So, in all seriousness, how can Canadians trust their media?

 

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/theres-much-to-be-concerned-about-with-canadian-media/

Prime Minister Attempting to Defuse Ethic Commissioner’s Findings

The Niagara Independent, August 16, 2019 — It was an explosive spectacle this week when Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion made public his findings on the conduct of the Prime Minister and his Office respecting their obstruction of justice in the SNC Lavalin scandal. It was as if all of Ottawa was caught up in some WWE SmackDown extravaganza. Though the core issue may be a question of ethical leadership and a non-partisan judiciary, it was raw politics that overshadowed every public statement on the Commissioner’s work.

The Ethics Commissioner report found the Prime Minister violated Canadian law by attempting to influence the former Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould. The PM and his Office exerted continuous pressure on the former minister to advance a deferred prosecution agreement for Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin. The Commissioner concluded: “The evidence showed there were many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, either directly or through the actions of those under his direction, sought to influence the attorney general.”

Commissioner Dion stated: “The authority of the Prime Minister and his Office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer.”

The report cited strong-armed tactics by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office – Canada’s most senior public office-holders. The inappropriate pressure by the likes of the PM’s former principal secretary Gerald Butts and former Privy Council Office clerk Michael Wernick was for “partisan political interests” all to give SNC Lavalin (headquarters in the PM’s riding) a deal that would avoid prosecution on bribery and corruption charges.

Within Commissioner Dion’s report there are many facts that are now being made public, such as: SNC Lavalin lobbyists began their discussions with PM Trudeau in 2016 shortly after the Liberal Government was elected; and, the PMO pressure campaign continued long after Jody Wilson-Raybould told the PM and his officials that their actions were improper, and should cease.

Canadians now know “LavScam” has been an orchestrated and sustained political power-play by PM Justin Trudeau and his PMO operative Gerald Butts that spans years. Though the detailed report named many conspirators in the sordid activity, Commissioner Dion concluded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bears the blame.

The PM’s response to the Ethic Commissioner’s conclusion was swift and the news headlines in the Toronto Star and with CBC heralded his key message: “I take responsibility.” Indeed, PM Trudeau stated he accepts full responsibility for what transpired. However, in his media conference, this assertion was nuanced and PM Trudeau remained unapologetic to his former minister and to Canadians for what he now acknowledges was his obstruction of justice.

Justin Trudeau said, “We recognize the way that this happened shouldn’t have happened… My job as prime minister is to stand up for Canadians and defend their interests. Yes, it is essential that we do that in a way that defends our institutions and upholds prosecutorial independence, but we need to talk about the impacts on Canadians right across the country of decisions being made. I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs.”

The following day the Prime Minister repeated the rationale that his sense of “what is in the public interest” will trump any notion of an unencumbered Canadian judiciary. “I’m not going to apologize for standing up for Canadians’ jobs because that’s my job — to make sure that Canadians, communities and families across the country are supported, and that’s what I will always do.”

Many found this response incredulously inappropriate. As political columnist Brian Lilley puts it: “Apparently to Trudeau, helping a company that has a long history of bribery and corruption avoid criminal charges is in the best interests of the country. In Trudeau’s world, having politicians decide which individuals or corporations get prosecuted criminally, based on electoral considerations, is in the interests of the country.”

For her part, Jody Wilson-Raybould responded in a written statement that the Ethic Commissioner’s report was a vindication as it “ confirms critical facts, consistent with what I shared with Canadians, and affirms the position I have taken from the outset.” Wilson-Raybould observed: “In a country as great as Canada, essential values and principles that are the foundation for our freedoms and system of government should be actively upheld by all, especially those in positions of public trust. We should not struggle to do this; and we should not struggle to acknowledge when we have acted in ways that do not meet these standards.” 

The fall-out from the initial news of the Ethic Commissioner’s report has been a score of opinion pieces that reassess the circumstances surrounding the SNC Lavalin scandal. Opposition Leaders are calling for a RCMP investigation and claiming Justin Trudeau has lost his moral authority to govern. In response, the Liberal campaign machine has launched a social media campaign “IStandWithTrudeau” to defend the PM, and deflect and devalue the facts within the report.

It is a SmackDown. Ottawa’s political spin-masters know that in the arena of public opinion, whoever wins this round will have the momentum going into the election campaign. The fact that the Prime Minister is guilty of obstruction of justice is secondary to the political match playing itself out. In one corner, PM Trudeau and his BFF Gerald Butts; and, in the other corner Madame Justice (not Jody Wilson-Raybould, but the fundamental principles that should underpin our Canadian justice system). It would be remarkable entertainment if it was not so very important.

 

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/prime-minister-attempting-to-defuse-ethic-commissioners-findings/

Will the Increased Tax Burden Become A Ballot Box Question?

The Niagara Independent, August 9, 2019 — The Fraser Institute published its annual tax study recently and it shows the tax burden on Canadians has risen again through the past year.

It is a fact in our country that an average family will spend more on their taxes than any other single expense. Given that the rise in taxes has outpaced income increases through the last decade, it is possible that the cost of living and rising taxes will become a topic of debate, if not the ballot box issue in the 2019 federal election.

The Fraser Institute’s study reports the average Canadian family earned $88,865 and paid $39,299 in total taxes—that’s 44.2 per cent of our income going to taxes. Taxes consumed more of the average family’s income than housing, food and clothing combined. An average family spent $32,215 (or 36.3 per cent) of its income on these three basic necessities last year, significantly less than what it paid in taxes.

The study also revealed that the tax bill for an average family continues to grow at a significant rate, year over year. In 2015, when the Trudeau Government was elected, taxes for the average Canadian family totaled 43.1 per cent of its annual income, compare to 44.2 per cent today. That is more than a full percentage point increase since the last election – equivalent to a tax increase of approximately $900.

Currently, Canadians pay nearly $1 out of every $4 they earn to the federal government and combine this with the rising cost of living over the last four years. Postmedia News recently penned a lead editorial that called for a frank debate on the financial squeeze Canadians are now experiencing. In an editorial entitled, “Let’s hear about cost of living this election”, Postmedia notes: “Whether it’s the rising price of food, the rents some residents are facing in Canadian cities, or just the general day-to-day challenges of getting ahead in life, cost of living is something most Canadians are grappling with on a regular basis…. Canadians should be working to support their families, not the government. Politicians need to tell Canadians during this campaign season what they’re going to do to alleviate the stress.”

On this point, Toronto Sun columnist Lorrie Goldstein suggests taxes should be a key election issue. He comments, “…remind politicians at all levels of government that federal, provincial and municipal tax increases are cumulative and there’s only one taxpayer. Even a small increase in one tax doesn’t happen in isolation from all other taxes, it adds to the total tax burden that Canadians pay.”

Here are tax facts related to the Fraser Institute’s Canadian Consumer Tax Index.

  • Taxes have grown much more rapidly than any other single expenditure for the average Canadian family since 1961: tax bill increased by 2,246 per cent; expenditures on shelter increased by 1,593 per cent; clothing by 769 per cent; and food by 639 per cent.
  • The increase in the tax bill has also greatly outpaced the increase in the Consumer Price Index at 750 per cent, which measures the average price that consumers pay for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, health and personal care, education, and other items.
  • In 2018, the average Canadian family earned an income of $88,865 and paid total taxes equaling $39,299 (44.2 per cent). In 1961, the average family had an income of $5,000 and paid a total tax bill of $1,675 (33.5 per cent).

In responding to the publication of the Fraser Institute’s stark tax facts, the Trudeau Liberals cited OECD data that compared income tax rates. Canadian media sources like CBC and Huffington Post presented misleading headlines such as “Canadians Now Paying Lower Income Taxes Than Americans, OECD Data Shows.” In fact, the Huffington Post repeated Liberal key messages in reporting to Canadians, “The difference is much more extreme when it comes to households with children, thanks to the Liberals’ expanded child benefit.” It concludes in its front page article, “But we can certainly take pride in our personal tax rates. Canada’s high-tax monster has been slain.”

To properly compare American taxes with Canadian taxes, one should compare apples to apples. The OECD study “Taxing Wages 2018” reports the employee net average tax rate for a single person in Canada with no children in 2017 was 22.8 per cent and in the U.S. it was 26.1 per cent. However, the OECD did not consider the other multiple sources of tax on the Canadian family such as the HST, (rising) carbon taxes, municipal government property taxes, alcohol taxes, import taxes… in other words it was not an apples to apples comparison because they failed to consider Canadians’ total tax bill (which is 44.2 per cent).

Let the election campaign debates on our tax burden and the rising cost of living begin.

 

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/will-the-increased-tax-burden-become-a-ballot-box-question/

The Return of Gerald Butts and the Question for Canadian Voters

The Niagara Independent, August 2, 2019 — As surmised in the February 22, 2019 Niagara Independent column, “There’s much more to this Gerald Butts story.” And it now appears, perhaps, the puppet master never truly left the Liberal Party’s backrooms.

Liberal Party “insiders” recently leaked that the former PMO Principal Secretary and Justin Trudeau’s best friend Gerald Butts is back and ensconced on the PM’s campaign team to guide the Liberals to victory in the October federal election. Butts has returned as a senior political strategist and it is learned has been advising the Liberal campaign for several weeks.

For Butts, the insiders’ whispers of his return were inauspicious given his flash and dash exit of mid-February; recall his dramatic resignation at the height of the SNC-Lavalin scandal to effectively take the spotlight off the PM. The insiders shared with the press corps that Butts is not leading the team and there is no certainty of whether his is a paid position (that is, beyond his generous severance pay that he is receiving after resigning from his PMO post). Apart from the vagueness of the news, the expressed takeaway for Canadians is that Gerald Butts is back in service within the Liberal fold.

This begs an important question. Is this acceptable and how Canadian politics is today, or is Gerald Butts’ return an affront to a common decency in our country? The answer to that question depends on whether Canadians believe backroom political operatives should be held to account for their actions.

Gerald Butts resigned as a result of the testimony from former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould that he was pressuring her and her staff to assist the Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin. When he was confronted by the Justice Minister’s Chief of Staff that his actions were a travesty of justice, Butts is said to have stated: “There is no solution here that does not involve some interference.” From his own statements before the parliamentary committee, we understand that Butts believes that he, the PM, and PMO did nothing wrong in advancing the interests of SNC-Lavalin.

Yet, at the time, Canadians were feeling queasy about the unfolding LavScam scandal and, so, Butts staged an exit. The links between the PMO and LavScam were removed from media headlines and there is still the hope this sordid scandal is forgotten. However, as Sun Media observes in a lead editorial entitled “The return of Butts speaks volumes”: “The legal repercussions never surfaced. But that doesn’t mean the players were formally cleared of wrongdoing. It just meant there was no investigation. The stench lingers to this day.”

LavScam aside, for Liberals, Butts’ return is reassuring. He is credited with defining the Trudeau Liberal message and its 2015 campaign narrative. Hope springs eternal that this “modern-day rainmaker” will be able to manage the PM’s triumphant reelection bid. Gerald Butts himself said of his resurfacing, “It’s no secret that I have a lot of friends who are still actively involved, whom I care about very deeply, and I care about my country very deeply… we’re at a really important moment, in particular on the issues that I care most about, like climate change. We’re at a turning point and it’s important for people who care about those issues to get involved and try and make positive change happen.”

(Some background context on this statement: Butts is an unapologetic globalist. He is formerly CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada. As chief to Premier Dalton McGuinty he was responsible for creating Ontario’s Green Energy Act and implementing its renewable energy contracts. Since 2015, he is the architect of the federal carbon tax, as well as the Trudeau Government’s approach to resource development and pipeline projects.)

The condemnation from the Liberals’ political opponents was as expected. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer tweeted: “And just like that, the Trudeau team that brought Canadians the SNC Lavalin scandal is right back together.” Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre stated, “This week’s news tells us a lot about Justin Trudeau. The LavScam bully is in and the principled women who spoke truth to power are out. That’s everything you need to know about Justin Trudeau’s ethics.” Poilievre went on to say about Butts’ resignation, “Now we know that that was just a big phony act to cover for the boss.”

Ottawa’s political pundits seem to agree that announcing Butts’ return mid-summer will make it a non-story in the minds of Canadian voters during the Fall race. Liberal strategist Jonathan Scott was on the news circuit spinning the opinion that Canadians will not be “particularly animated one way or the other about who is staffing the Liberal campaign.” Then there are pundits like Warren Kinsella who excuses Butts’ reemergence as politics as usual for “Canada’s Natural Governing Party”: “Liberal arrogance has felled many a Liberal government. It is the greatest Grit weakness. And the return of Gerald Butts signals its unfortunate return, in marquee lights.”

So, the question remains whether Gerald Butts will be viewed in the annals of Canadian political history as some shadowy Svengali figure or the reincarnation of rainmaker Allan J. MacEachen. And this Fall, Canadian voters will have a say on whether this man and his best friend are to be held to account.

 

Chris George is an Ottawa-based government affairs advisor and wordsmith, president of CG&A COMMUNICATIONS. Contact: ChrisG.George@gmail.com

LINK: https://niagaraindependent.ca/the-return-of-gerald-butts-and-the-question-for-canadian-voters/