We were talking about the national political scene recently and a friend expressed frustration at national mainstream media, including CBC, which seem to spend an inordinate amount of time criticizing the spanking new Trudeau government, and giving Conservatives a platform to share their dismay and distrust. It’s like they won’t even acknowledge that Mr. Trudeau was elected by a majority of Canadians to do what he is doing now, she protested.
Why would you be surprised, I asked. The mainstream media were nearly unanimous in their support of the Harper government; they are all owned by large corporations, CBC the exception, which benefited tremendously as the former prime minister worked to dismantle federal power and turn it over to the private sector.
It is sad, though, that Canadians have to look outside their borders to see more enthusiasm for the Liberal government’s actions in its short time in office. The New York Times wrote an editorial saluting the Canadian commitment to bring in refugees, citing us as setting an example for the world. And comments about Canada “being back” routinely make their way back from observers and participants for the Liberal commitment to deal with climate change, instead of dismissing it as an inconvenience.
And while Conservative supporters seem to think the sky is falling in because we are no longer using six fighter planes to drop bombs in Syria, our allies seem to be pretty sanguine about it, accepting that Canada can play a different role than it is has been. An invitation to the White House, something that Harper never received, seems to indicate that President Obama isn’t too upset with Trudeau’s commitment to fulfill an election promise.
My friend’s concern seemed especially reasonable when a radio quiz show challenged its panel to respond to the question “Canada is committed to bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees by early in 2016. How many refugees have Syria’s neighbouring countries accepted?” The panel members, sensing a set up, guessed absurdly low numbers. None? One? No, the moderator said. Three million. Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey lead the way in accepting refugees who have fled their war-torn country, in part to avoid the danger of bombing by NATO planes. None are the economic powerhouses that the Harper government believed Canada to be.
There have been moments of amusement from Conservatives, though. Interim leader Rona Ambrose has made a dramatic flip-flop, now supporting the Liberal commitment to conduct a national inquiry into the horrific missing and murdered aboriginal women situation, something that Harper had little to say about. She promises to work to see that Trudeau keeps that election promise. Another former cabinet minister did an unexpected mea culpa when he acknowledged the Harper government’s refusal to provide health care benefits to foreign nationals claiming asylum in Canada. It was a poorly thought-out policy, he said, one that ended up costing Canadians even more money in the end.
It has been refreshing to hear from Elizabeth May, who might just be the single brightest mind in Canadian politics, praising Trudeau for his approach in putting Canada back on the international environment stage, and for giving provincial premiers a voice while doing so. May can be counted on to state her criticism and concern when she doesn’t agree with the Liberal government, but it is heartening that she is also willing to give credit where it’s due, something she rarely, if ever, felt was justified for Harper.
Conservative supporters have not gone gently into that good night. They can be found making posts in media and social media sites, claiming that the sky is falling, happily predicting that Canada is on the path to self-destruction now that the hated name of Trudeau holds the reins of government. They have even come to the defense of the indefensible last act by Harper of poisoning the political well by extending the appointments of Conservative flaks in agencies including the CBC and Canada Post.
Personally, I can’t get too wound up by the mainstream media’s continued conservative leaning. It is what it is. But I can, and do, feel a sense of relief that my own version of this country has not been lost, that we can once again be a voice of reason and co-operation. The smug, self-satisfied arrogance and the passion for dismantling our democratic institutions is, for the time being, gone. I have no use for party politics and I am not so naive to think that there won’t come a time when I don’t like what the Trudeau government is doing. Today, though, I feel a deep sense of relief. And that’s good enough for now.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.