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The Reminder Revealed By David McGuinty And Justin Trudeau This Past Week

French President Charles deGaulle delivering speech in Montreal in 1967

On July 24, 1967, during an official visit to Canada under the pretext of attending Expo 67 in Quebec, President Charles de Gaulle of France spoke these words while giving an address to a large crowd from a balcony at Montreal City Hall;

“Vive le Québec libre !”  (long live free Quebec).

Those four words caught everyone’s attention rather quickly.

The French separatist movement of Quebec loved it. The phrase played right to the core of their sense of being the victims of linguistic colonialism. The Canadian Government of Lester Pearson was not very impressed and the Prime Minister was quite blunt in his criticism of de Gaulle’s comment as were, surprisingly, many back home in France.

Many look back on de Gaulle’s remarks as simply being an emotional outburst during a speech that was being enthusiastically received and I think there is some truth to that. Politicians tend to be tightly scripted and cautious, almost to the point of avoiding any actual meaning in what they say but when they let their guard down and speak without filters, it often reveals what they truly believe.

We saw some evidence of that this past week in Canada.

It started with Liberal David McGuinty who suggested that Members of Parliament from Alberta were too parochial in their views on energy policy and shouldn’t be sitting in Canada’s national parliament. He told reporters that Alberta Members of Parliament

“should go back to Alberta and run either for municipal council in a city that’s deeply affected by the oilsands business or go run for the Alberta legislature.”

Many, of course, were outraged and called it an attack on the west and very quickly, Mr. McGuinty was forced to resign from his position as Liberal Natural Resources Critic and to issue an apology.

Almost within 24 hours, a taped interview by Liberal Leadership candidate Justin Trudeau surfaced in which he made much the same kind of statement about the west.

“Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn’t work.”

The interview was conducted in 2010 but Mr. Trudeau was a sitting Liberal MP at the time and his statements were even more pointed. He suggested that Canada belonged to Quebec rather than to Canadians and that basically, the rest of Canada was better governed when left in the hands of politicians and leaders from Quebec.

So much for the Liberal Party of Canada’s vision for national unity.

There is no question that both men took a very parochial view of the nation in their statements which made what they said all the more absurd because it the parochial positions of others that they were criticizing. For me, however, their statements revealed something more.

Liberal David McGuinty

Mr. McGuinty criticized the regional focus of his colleagues from Alberta while completely overlooking his support of the auto industry bailout in Ontario. He also ignored a recent study by the Conference Board of Canada which indicated that the resource sector of Canada’s economy, particular the energy sector, was going to drive Canadian prosperity for the foreseeable future and would create upwards of 900,000 jobs over the next decade, most of which would actually be in Ontario. In other words, in his rush to condemn others, Mr. McGuinty was not only wrong on his accusation, he was wrong on the facts and completely forgiving of his own parochial interests when it came to his part of the country.

That report went on to state that the single biggest impediment to achieving that success was ‘energy illiteracy’ but I think it is something else. I think it is political illiteracy.

With the possible exception of the entertainment industry, I doubt that there is any group of people more self-absorbed or vacuous than politicians. Most of them have distilled their profession down to winning and losing power rather than serving the national interest.

They will disagree with that assessment, of course, as will many who support them but consider this reality. Only politicians would oppose, when they are reduced to being in opposition, what they supported or initiated when they were in government. Only politicians will campaign on one thing and then do the opposite once they are elected and they will do that without even a twinge of conscience or an apology to those whose votes they rendered meaningless by that careless hypocrisy.

Justin Trudeau referring to Canada belonging to Quebec Liberals

In his comments from 2010, Mr. Trudeau waxed eloquently about the former Quebec-based Prime Ministers who he considers to have made the greatest contribution to the country.

He mentioned Paul Martin; a former Liberal Prime Minister who slashed health care transfers to the provinces when he was Health Minister under Jean Chretien and who even the Liberal-friendly media called ‘Mr. Dithers’ for his inability to make a decision. Mr. Martin served one two-year term in office and then was sent into political obscurity by the emergence of Stephen Harper’s new and united Conservative Party of Canada.

Mr. Trudeau also mentioned Jean Chretien as another example of those great prime ministers.

It was Jean Chretien who campaigned on eliminating the Goods and Services Tax but who did not keep that promise once he was elected. His government signed the Kyoto Accord but failed to honour or implement it, and of course, it was Mr. Chretien’s government that presided over AdScam. This was a nasty bit of corruption that saw the Liberal Party divert taxpayer money to bagmen who then handed it out in diners and bars to supporters, in return for political favours, literally in brown paper bags full of cash. In the ensuing Crown Inquiry, Chief Justice Gomery referred to the entire affair as ‘small town cheap’ and it was an accurate definition of the Chretien government.

Mr. Trudeau’s own father Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the prime minister who repatriated the Canadian Constitution from Britain. He is also the prime minister who imposed martial law on Canada during the Quebec crisis which put troops in the streets of our cities, saw hundreds of Canadians taken from their homes and arrested without charge or access to a lawyer and who imposed wage and price controls on the nation a mere six months after having won an election based on his opposition to wage and price controls that had been proposed by the Conservatives.

Justin Trudeau’s view of history, like many politicians, is both distorted by his political bias and his narrow and parochial view of history.

Canada is federation in which most politicians spend as much, if not more time, fussing over regional concerns than they do coming together to resolve national issues for the benefit of all Canadians.

Much is made of Canada’s health care system but it is not universal and has been seriously undermined by regional disparity and incredibly poor planning by the various provincial governments. In more than half a century, provincial politicians have failed to work together to take advantage of their potential united buying power to reduce costs from suppliers. They have failed to harmonize the list of services provided and Canada is a country where some provinces offer some drugs and services not available in others as a result. For its part, the federal government had, until the current Harper government, failed to provide a guarantee of health care transfer amounts to the provinces to facilitate long-term planning.

Politicians squabble over pipelines; blame each other for the failure of their economies rather than accepting responsibility for their own failed policies and governance; and consistently put regional concerns ahead of the national interest.

Quebec continues to demand more from the federal government while increasing its oppression of the linguistic rights and opportunities of it English-speaking minority. It continues to flirt with and threaten separation from Canada while wallowing in the billions it receives from the country to pay for social programs other parts of Canada can’t afford.

No politician is prepared to defend the language rights of Canadians living in Quebec who are oppressed by the provincial government and no federal politician is prepared to stand up and stop the financial drain into a province that refuses to be a cooperative part of the fabric of the nation.

For years, federal politicians have refused to defend the discrimination against English in the province of Quebec while supporting the expenditure of billions on the imposition of bilingualism on the rest of the country. They did this, not because it was the right thing to do, but because they were trying to buy political support in Quebec. They have continued with this policy even though it has failed them and Canadians repeatedly.

Mr. Trudeau, who criticized the west for its economic clout due to its oil resources, ignores the suppression of the rights of English Quebec because it is politically expedient to do so.

In Canada, political expediency trumps morality and justice.

Mr. Trudeau is running to be the next leader of his party and he will win. He will not win because he is the best candidate for the job. He will not win because he has the maturity, the experience or the vision to be leader of the Liberal Party and perhaps Prime Minister; he will win because the party thinks he can lead them into winning an election and that is the only thing that is important to the party. Mr. Trudeau should consider the fact that if the party thought a dead pig could guarantee that electoral victory, they’d drop him in a heartbeat.

Politics, in this country, is not about vision, service or even integrity. It is about winning. Nothing else matters and the actions of many politicians and the unguarded comments of people like David McGuinty and Justin Trudeau simply underscore that basic reality.

Canada is a great country with talented, hard-working people, significant natural resources and a consistent set of values across the nation. Canadians, by and large, are a decent people. It is our politicians that are our weakest link.

Our politicians do not serve the nation, they serve themselves. They put political self-interest ahead of doing what is right. They speak in obscure, meaningless and bombastic speeches and media interviews that say nothing and they undermine our parliament and our democracy with gamesmanship and outright hypocrisy.

It would have been refreshing if Mr. Trudeau had brought something new to the table even if his comments were a tad outrageous but he didn’t. His recent comments merely underscored that once again, we will see the triumph of style over substance and the really sad part of it all, for me, is that many will once again be fooled by it and vote for it.

It is not how great nations are built.

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