L’chaim! This is the 18th in a series of opinion columns on the 2021 Canadian federal election (and its aftermath) written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.
Before we get to Justin Trudeau’s speech at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, and the online backlash that followed, here’s a pop quiz:
Where is the Canadian prime minister’s official residence? Is it at the perpetually crumbling 24 Sussex Dr.? Is it Rideau Cottage? His summer home in the Laurentians?
He may get his mail delivered to any one of the above—but in the heads of his haters, he’ll always live rent-free. And, as we’ll see, those haters wouldn’t have it any other way.
Political hacks speak reverentially of “the playbook”: a set of rigidly stereotyped sequences that are employed over and over again. As far as I can determine, the purpose of these rituals is to force your political opponents into similarly predictable routines.
Letting an issue fester in the grey zones between federal and provincial responsibilities is as old as Canada itself. So is using byelections to “send a message” to the governing party. So is panicking about how some new idea will undermine Canada’s reputation on the world stage, or national unity.
Canadian politicians also fall into comfortable playbook grooves, where they remain for decades on end. And as opposition to that politician calcifies, so too do the people pushing that opposition, repeating the same tired mantras until they crumble into dust.
So what sort of pas de deux has developed between Trudeau and those who’d see harm befall him?
First, our beloved PM parades about the country, looking fashion-forward, affecting theatrical mannerisms and occasionally putting on his serious face to talk about how Canada will always stand with [insert helpless group here] or to lecture about how [insert threat to public order here] has no place in our society.
The message Trudeau delivers is always equal parts affected empathy, platitudinous centrism, condescension… and appeal for re-election. This is why he announced that the office of special envoy (whatever that is) to combat antisemitism will be made permanent and delivered some sweeping generalizations about how only he and his elected Liberals can protect us, the put-upon Jewish community, from the insensate evil lurking outside the bounds of acceptable and polite discourse.
Trudeau’s enemies on the left predictably went bananas, crying aloud about how the PM was equating proponents of white supremacy with the targets, if not victims.
They demanded a prompt apology—leaving the question of who exactly he’s supposed to apologize to unanswered. I can only speculate that since Trudeau was in an apologizing mood coming off the Tofino debacle, supporters of the unspecified “far-left” thought they could wring another one out as a trophy for their followers:
The far-left seem to want credit for not being as violent as the far-right—which is a fairly low bar to clear since Canada’s far-right lunatics want the PM dangling from a noose.
But if you’ve spent any time listening to the far-left talk about launching people like Jason Kenney directly into the sun and downplaying China’s human-rights abuses (while being super-loud against Israel, weirdly enough!), you know that the intent to commit violence exists on the far-left. They’re just not as willing to back up their revolutionary talk with action.
And by getting triggered by Trudeau’s bare-minimum attempt to call out antisemitism on the left—which will doubtlessly be undermined by something that happens a few weeks or months later—sympathizers of the “far-left” somehow forgot that nothing this prime minister says is to be taken really seriously, and thus kind of validated his attack on non-centrists for being a bunch of unhinged angry-pants.
But that’s OK. The Trudeau haters have to unconsciously validate the object of their hatred. So he’ll stick around and give them something to be mad about.
Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.