Did Canada's truckers end the Trudeau era?
By Steven Martinovich
As of this writing the trucker protest in Canada's national capital of Ottawa continues, with its ultimate success in achieving the organizer's demands -- essentially the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions -- still unknown. While no one can answer that question, there is another one that most are either ignoring or haven't considered yet.
Regardless of whether they achieve their primary goal -- have they achieved another, perhaps greater, one: Have they ended the viability of the Trudeau era?
A casual glance at some metrics would seemingly argue the negative. Although pollsters have shown that Trudeau's disapproval ratings remain higher than his approval ratings, those numbers haven't really changed over the past few months. When it comes to political parties, the Conservatives sat at 31% support versus the 34% of the Liberals in a January Leger poll. While the numbers overall are hardly a stirring endorsement of Trudeau, neither are they particularly bad.
Instead, it's not polls or policies that may have doomed Trudeau going forward, but one simple decision made during the early days of the trucker protest in Ottawa: The decision to flee.
It was no surprise that the Jagmeet Singh, leader of the socialist New Democrats and ostensible friend of the working class, didn't meet with the truckers, and no surprise that the now former leader of the Conservatives, Erin O’Toole, did. What was surprising was that Justin Trudeau chose neither option. Instead, the prime minister and his family was packed up and moved to an "undisclosed location" -- which turned out to be his lake cottage in Quebec -- over laughable concern over their safety.
Despite the fact that no threats were made to the prime minister, at least none that the RCMP shared with Canadians, Trudeau, his wife and their brood fled under armed guard to the same cottage he once blatantly ignored COVID restrictions to spend a weekend at.
That decision to bail out of Ottawa came after several days of calls by the organizers of the protest to meet with the prime minister, one that was ignored by Trudeau in favour of his telling journalists that the protesters were racists who were committing violent acts during their stay.
"There is no place in our country for threats, violence, or hatred. So to those responsible for this behaviour, it needs to stop. To anyone who joined the convoy but is rightly uncomfortable with the symbols of hatred and division on display, join your fellow Canadians. Be courageous and speak out," he stated in part.
"I have attended protests and rallies in the past. When I agreed with the goals, when I supported the people expressing their concerns and their issues, Black Lives Matter is an excellent example of that."
It was the fleeing, however, that may ultimately resonate with Canadians even if his heated rhetoric does not.
The key attribute of a leader is, perhaps not surprisingly, leadership. They must be seen to be leading. That means taking personal risk -- not necessarily physical risk -- but a risk of one's reputation to face what they view as a threat.
Trudeau probably would have guaranteed himself another term in office had he came down from his official residence, jacket off, sleeves rolled up and confronted the truckers head-on. Imagine the rapturous praise from the media his government all but bought a few years ago with his government's "media stabilization fund" had he listened to them and then calmly, forcefully and eloquently defended his government's decisions during the pandemic. He didn't need to change any minds at the protest, he only needed to plant his flag like an iron peg into the frozen ground.
He needed to lead.
Alas, he didn't do that. He ran. And by running he looked weak to many Canadians. Instead of standing eye to eye with working class truckers, the prime minister instead chose to issue drive-by slanders during press conferences concerning the growing nationwide protests -- when he wasn't fleeing the House of Commons twice within a week after questions from the opposition got too pointed.
Whomever the next leader of the Conservative Party is, they must make it a point to remind Canadians of this exercise in weakness. While the prime minister excels at apologizing for every sin, real or imagined, committed by Canada in the past, or blaming Canadians for his own sins, he committed the ultimate sin for a leader: He failed to show personal leadership.
Polls have suggested that a growing number of Canadians believe that Trudeau should step down before the next election -- partly perhaps out of fatigue, partly perhaps out of a desire for a new face -- and if his political enemies use this failure of leadership properly, it may not matter whether he actually does.
Winston Churchill once stated that "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."
Trudeau had not the bravery to do either.
Steven Martinovich is the founder and editor of Enter Stage Right.