Trudeau flees Labour Day parade march after path blocked by indigenous protestors
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Trudeau was marching alongside the Liuna Local 837 union section of the march.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says “we are going to see more of the same from this Prime Minister” after his discussion with Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, after Conservative leader Andrew Scheer also met with the PM.
Both men expressed “disappointment” in their individual conversations with Trudeau.
“Today I did not hear a commitment to moving forward with those items” of importance to the people of Saskatchewan,” Moe told reporters afterwards, namely to “put the carbon tax on pause to see if the province can achieve those kind of results, and replicate them if other provinces so choose.”
Scheer went into his meeting declaring that the country “Is more divided than it’s ever been”, then coming out noted “a little disappointed” that he’ll have to wait more than three weeks to face-off against Trudeau in the Commons.
Parliament will reconvene on Dec. 5 for selection of Speaker of the House to be followed by a Throne speech given by the Governor General, in which Trudeau will present his plan for the country that will hold the Commons’ confidence, or not.
After MPs are sworn in, the first order of business is electing a speaker which is open to any member who is not part of cabinet or a party leader. The last time a speaker was elected and a Throne speech given on the same day was in 1984, after Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservatives won the most seats in history.
Following the Oct. 2019 general election, Trudeau’s Liberal Party came up 13 seats shy of a majority with 157, and could be propped up by either the New Democrats’ (24 seats) support, or the Bloc Quebecois (32 seats). Scheer and the Conservatives occupy 121 seats, an overall gain from the previous parliament.
But before a Speaker is elected, Canadians will have a fortnight and a day to ruminate over Trudeau’s cabinet choices for this 43rd Parliament.
With Liberal stalwart Ralph Goodale and Amerjeet Sohi among party casualties in #elxn43, there are important Public Safety and Industry portfolios to fill for Trudeau’s Nov. 20 announcement next Wednesday.
During his brief remarks made after greeting Scheer this morning, Trudeau promised “affordability for Canadians, growth for the middle class and the fight against climate change.” – or as Moe described it, “more of the same”.
Trudeau’s words came off glib compared to Moe’s straightforward ask that Trudeau put “policy in place to get our goods to market…beyond the Trans Mountain pipeline”.
“That is how we create wealth in our province and that is how we ultimately share it with the rest of the nation,” Moe told reporters.
Scheer also said he wants Trudeau to revisit a “national energy corridor” and “demonstrate a roadmap for Trans Mountain to be completed to show western Canadians that there’s going to be progress on that.”
On Nov. 8, Trudeau had individual meetings with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King.
Disclosure: Garnett Genuis is the Conservative MP representing Sherwood Park–Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta.
One of the most important and formative experiences for me on the road to getting into politics was competitive debate—in both high school and university. I would strongly recommend this activity as optimal preparation for anyone considering the same path.
Competitive debaters compete to defend a point of view. They very often will defend a point of view that is not their own.
Every competitive debater is taught early that an essential characteristic of good debate is something called “clash”. Clash is when arguments are made to directly counter the arguments made by the other side—to show that, even on their own terms, the other side’s arguments fail. The alternative to a good debate characterized by clash is a bad debate which resembles two ships passing in the night—essentially, debaters doing their own monologue without much reference to what others are saying.
Debate in the Canadian Parliament has come to be characterized by the near complete absence of meaningful clash. MPs deliver prepared speeches one after the other that cast arguments on their own terms and play to their own social media following. It is extremely rare that an MP would use his or her speech to deconstruct the arguments of a previous speaker.
Clash is essential in good political conversations, though, because a neutral listener has a hard time weighing out who is right and who is wrong if meaningful refutation and deconstruction of arguments does not take place. If we are to be what Edmund Burke thought Parliament should be—the “deliberative assembly of one nation”, then we must talk to one another and about one another’s arguments.
In the same speech, Burke told voters in 1774: “Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament.”
It is very important for all members of the newly constituted 43rd parliament to reflect on the importance of clash and on Burke’s advice. If we are going to work together, then we must first be able to talk together, and disagree substantively, while seeking to persuade each other to change our perspectives. People who cannot argue together well will generally struggle to work together well. We must also denominate our conversations in terms of the common good, not the narrow particular interests of one group over another.
There are a few reasons why this will be particularly difficult in the 43rd parliament. The third largest political party exists explicitly to advance the interests of one region of the country over the interests of the rest of the country. The Bloc cannot be expected to seek to advance the national interest of a nation that they seek to break apart. Though less explicitly, the governing party has and will likely continue to pursue a strategy of ignoring the development needs of western Canada. When parties run regional instead of national campaigns, they are talking past some parts of the country they think they can ignore, and only talking to parts of the country that they think they need.
It has always been interesting to me that Justin Trudeau briefly did competitive debating as a student as well. However, he stopped competing early on, noting: “I discovered I had a serious limitation for either a debater or a lawyer. I wasn’t able to argue for something I didn’t passionately believe in.” Unfortunately, an inability to dig into, understand and defend views that are not yours is not just a limitation for a debater or a lawyer—it is also a limitation for a parliamentarian and for a leader. In the privacy of one’s own mind or as an intellectual exercise, one should be able to defend things that one does not believe in order to understand and argue against those same things later. A nation as diverse as Canada particularly needs leaders who are capable of understanding and responding to different modes of thought than their own.
I hope that we will be able to raise the quality of clash in upcoming parliamentary debates, but I worry that there are a variety of cultural factors, as well as institutional ones, that are working against us. We live in an age of social media filtering, where people easily get only the information that confirms their pre-existing biases. But more broadly, our culture has for a long time lacked a common understanding of what constitutes the common good—and so we generally treat political opinions as if they were expressions of individual emotive preferences as opposed to substantive deductions about facts. There are no short-term solutions to these problems but treating opinions as opinions instead of as feelings would be a good start.
For Conservatives, we can take some pride in the fact that our support grew across the country, and that we tried to speak in terms of national ideals and projects. Inevitably those ideals and projects were more popular in some places than in others. In this new Parliament, Conservatives must maintain a truly national orientation. I will defend the interests of my own riding, but I will seek to do so in terms that are persuasive to people in other regions and in other parties. Pursuing an idea of separatism in the west, which will never come to fruition, is not a good way to be persuasive to people in other regions. It is especially dangerous in an environment where our primary complaint is the land-locking of our resources.
I am not particularly optimistic about the amount of meaningful clash that will be on display in the next Parliament, but I hope to be pleasantly surprised.
Social media users expressed outrage this past weekend as Instagram posts surfaced showing what appeared to be a young white student celebrating her scholarship intended for Indigenous youth. The girl’s family says they have a legitimate claim to Indigenous ancestry based on genealogical records, but Indigenous leaders are still skeptical.
Ainsley Whynacht, an 18-year-old still in high school, was announced as the winner of the 2019 Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) scholarship. The scholarship required applicants to submit an essay. NSGEU states in a Facebook post that Whynacht’s looked at “how the lack of access to public services has negatively affected the lives of Indigenous people.”
On her private Instagram, Whynacht makes light about the scholarship, calling it a “random essay on treatment of indigenous kids in school” and jokes about how the scholarship selection committee didn’t notice she was the “whitest person ever.”
In another post, Whynacht is seen holding up a bottle of tanning lotion, posting “its time for ya girl to fake tan or else that’s gonna be embarrassing.”
As backlash began to pour in after her private Instagram posts were screenshotted and distributed widely on the wider social media world, Whynacht was confronted with angry responses and demands to NSGEU to rescind the scholarship she had been offered. Whynacht responded by posting that she had “said I’m sorry already” and “all I did was write an essay.”
Later, in a conversation posted to Facebook, Whynacht attempted to demonstrate her Indigenous heritage by presenting a status card from the Woodland Metis nation, a highly controversial Metis nation that has been at the center of a debate about whether their claims to Indigenous identity are legitimate.
The Woodland Metis have been contested by various Indigenous scholars and groups, having no official Government recognition or recognition by the Métis National Council. The Nova Scotia-based Eastern Woodland Metis, of which Whynacht presented status from, no longer has an active website. The Grand Chief, Mary Lou Parker, passed away in summer 2019 and there appears to be no attempt to maintain the group.
After a Supreme Court decision in 2006 expanded the scope of who could claim to be Metis, the number of people self-identifying as Metis surged by over 125 percent by 2016, with new self-described Metis groups springing up in eastern Canada.
Cheryl Maloney, a Mi’kmaq activist and Professor of Political Science at Cape Breton University, notes the Eastern Woodland Metis have no connection to the cultural heritage or history of the recognized Metis of Canada. “The Metis in Nova Scotia are not actually tied to the constitutionally protected Metis. And if they are, they would be people who come to Nova Scotia and bring their status with them.”
Maloney says the creeping “raceshifting” of non-Indigenous people self-identifying as Indigenous is reflective of an “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. Maloney says Wynacht’s story is rooted in racism, fraud, and entitlement.
“Nobody wanted to be Indigenous when there was so much racism, and [the Government] was stealing your kids, and the odds were against you—no one was aspiring to live that reality,” Maloney says.
Maloney said she doesn’t know about whether the scholarship can legally be rescinded from Wynacht, but hopes NSGEU learns from this mistake and consults the local Indigenous community in creating future criteria for the scholarship.
“They need to include Indigenous people in these deliberations,” she says. “If they did, they’re likely to get a young person from the community who everyone is looking up to as a future leader. We know who they are. We see them. We have young people who are destined for great things if given the opportunity.”
The Post Millennial reached out to Ainsley Wynacht, and received comment from her mother who called the outrage a “non-story”.
“Ainsley is Indigenous and has provided proof,” she said. She claims the family has documentation from the Universite de Ste. Anne demonstrating their Indigenous heritage.
Ainsley’s mother says the document, a genealogical family tree, demonstrates Indigenous heritage from the Mi’kmaq nation on her mother’s and grandmother’s side.
“It confirmed that we are indigenous. We had to provide baptismal certificates for the three latest generations. We went through the church, sent the baptismal information to the university and they did the rest of the research.”
When asked to see the documentaion, Ainsley’s mother said they would provide the document to NSGEU and The Post Millennial upon the family’s return to their home from their cottage.
Jarvis Googoo, a non-practising lawyer in Halifax and a Mi’kmaq from We’koqma’q First Nation, says connection to the Mi’kmaq community is more important than simply having an ancestor or two.
“I know I am distantly Irish, but this does not make me Irish.” he says, “I know I am Mi’kmaq because that is all I know, it is all my family has been.” adding that the Whynachts, or anyone else who believed themselves to hold claim to Indigenous ancestry, needed to approach the Indigenous community—not the government.
“Some claimants say they have one ancestor from the 1800s [so that] makes them Mi’kmaq or Metis. For me, what makes me Mi’kmaq is my mother was Mi’kmaq, and my grandmother was Mi’kmaq.”
Googoo says he hopes NSGEU rescinds the scholarship, “That is scholarship money that should and could have went to an actual Mi’kmaq Indigenous person instead. And if it can’t be recinded, then going forward the NSGEU, or any other organization wants to try and ‘help,’ they need to engage with us and we can teach them how to do it right.”
The NSGEU Facebook page issued a response Friday to the online outrage in a now-deleted post.
“We are aware of the social media posts circulating about the recipient of the NUPGE Scholarship for Indigenous Students, this information has been passed on to the National Union, NUPGE, who administers this award, so they may investigate this matter further,” read part of the statement.
“It’s unfortunate that people say offensive things on social media that they end up regretting,” read the rest of the NSGEU statement.
Prior to the interview with The Post Millennial, Ainsley’s mother said she was unaware of the controversies surrounding the Woodland Metis and had enrolled her daughter and herself with them in an effort to participate more actively with what she thought was a legitimate local Indigenous group.
On her daughter’s comments, she says she knows they were “in incredibly poor judgement,” stating that she had been very upset when she saw them. On her daughter’s reasoning, Tanya says that “she was being bullied for looking ‘too white to be Indigenous’ so she posted that she’d use fake tan to not look so white.”
Ainsley wrote an apology to NSGEU late last week.
“I would like to sincerely apologize that these pictures and their captions were so grossly misinterpreted and I assure you that I meant no disrespect towards the union nor Indigenous people,” said Ainsley in her apology letter.
“The colour of my skin does not erase my heritage, or my anger towards their treatment that I wrote very passionately about in the essay that won me this scholarship,” the apology continues. “Even the suggestion that I would fake my ethnic background is truly insulting for me and is just another example of people not taking my ancestry seriously just because I do not exactly ‘look the role’, as I have been told.”
The $1,500 scholarship goes to the winner of an essay competition who is entering their first year of post-secondary education.
Ainsley’s mother also sent The Post Millennial a sample of some of the death threats Ainsley received as a result of her comments, which ranged from wishes her “family dies in a house fire” to Instagram users messaging her to “eat sh*t you useless wh*re.”
Jarvis Googoo says the threats made against the Whynachts are “plain horrible,” adding, “there is a great and peaceful way to discuss this… Our treaties were based upon peaceful friendship and that is how I like to discuss this and educate.”
The Post Millennial reached out to NSGEU and NUGPE but did not receive comment from them by the time of publication.
The Conservatives took only 10 seats in Quebec in the 2019 election, one less than in 2015. Some of these were safe seats. The Conservatives beat a second-place Bloc Quebecois by over 17,000 votes in one riding and by over 10,000 votes in 4 more ridings. In two others, they beat the second-place Bloc by 6,306 and 4,813. The only really close CPC win was in Chicoutimi-Le Fjord, by 614 votes. The CPC also beat Maxime Bernier, People’s Party of Canada leader, by over 6000 votes. The CPC’s average victory was over 10,000 votes in the 10 Quebec ridings they won.
Elsewhere in Quebec, the Conservatives did terribly. They rarely placed second and, even where they did, were still, in most cases, way behind the winner. Meanwhile, in Ontario, the Liberals swept all 25 of Toronto’s seats, and 24 out of 29 seats in the surrounding suburbs. That’s 49 Liberals to 5 Conservatives in the GTA. In 2011, by comparison, the Liberals and NDP each won only 7 Toronto seats and the Conservatives swept the GTA. How many Quebec seats in that 2011 Conservative majority? Five.
Scheer’s team obviously hoped to pick up seats in Quebec. They apparently didn’t ask “Is that realistic?” and “At what cost?”
Why it is so important to the CPC to pander to Quebec, to the point of being weak on the nation’s economic interest, religious freedom, and life issues, when Harper won his only majority with only 5 seats in Quebec? How many seats were they hoping for? Fifteen max? Here is their track record: 0 (2004), 10 (2006), 10 (2008), 5 (2011), 11 (2015) and now 10 seats in 2019. They have nothing to show for their pandering, but they lost of 90% of GTA seats.
Scheer needed Ontario. He seemed to believe that saying very little of substance and taking no bold or innovative position on anything would do the trick, and that the Prime Minister’s own antics and scandals would bring him down. Evidently, voters needed more.
By “more” I don’t just mean in terms of policy difference, although Scheer’s party could have offered far more of that. I think voters needed to see more in terms of character difference. They know Trudeau is entitled, hypocritical, and untrustworthy. But what about Andrew Scheer, the career politician? Is he much different? On the campaign trail, it didn’t seem like it.
He needed to do more than attack a politically wounded Trudeau. He needed to present himself as a leader. Responding to brownface/blackface, Singh at least seemed sincere and concerned for Canadians. Scheer’s initial outrage seemed feigned. And in the debate, he seemed to relish attacking Trudeau too much–like he was happy blackface happened. Glee at another person’s failings isn’t a good look. But on substantive policy issues, he had little to offer. He was unclear on how to get pipelines built or how to balance the budget.
Honestly, I can’t think of anything Scheer said that made him stand out, except maybe that Quebec should be allowed to collect federal tax and to have more control over immigration. Scheer obviously hoped to pick up seats in Quebec and did plenty of pandering to that end. He even refused to say that he would legally fight Quebec’s efforts to block needed national infrastructure projects like pipelines.
Scheer was also unclear in his responses to questions about abortion (will you control your caucus on the issue? do you support funding abortions in other countries?). I’ve heard commentators say the CPC blew this election because Scheer is (personally, anyway) pro-life and socially conservative, while Quebec is very socially liberal. They fail to see that their obsession with gaining seats in the most liberal province is hurting them beyond it.
There are plenty of socially conservative voters in the GTA, and the Greater Vancouver Area, for that matter. For example, the prominent, pro-choice Conservative Lisa Raitt lost her GTA seat badly (by over 9,000 votes), whereas the openly pro-life Conservative Tamara Jansen took a GVA riding that the Liberals had won in 2015 by almost 6,000 votes.
Certainly, many potential CPC voters are pro-choice, but that doesn’t mean they can’t respect and support pro-life politicians. The evidence from swing ridings is that they can. But it’s easier to respect a politician who makes their position clear. Scheer did not.
Scheer gave his socially conservative base no reason to vote for him. He reneged on the promise of a tax credit for private school, which many southern Ontarians choose for religious reasons (even if they are not rich). He was ambiguous (or worse) regarding the freedom of caucus members to introduce bills to protect pre-born children, saying he would fight efforts to reopen the debate, but also that his party allowed different opinions and free votes(?). Unlike Harper, he was unwilling to state that his government would not fund abortion overseas.
That was not the only chance for principled leadership that Scheer flubbed. Quebec’s Bill 21 may have offered Scheer the clearest opportunity to distinguish himself as a principled leader and to give swing voters in the GTA and GVA a reason to vote CPC.
Like Trudeau and Singh, Scheer offered no plan to push back against Quebec’s Bill 21. Unlike Trudeau and Singh, Scheer did not even criticize the bill, but merely affirmed his own commitment to religious freedom and diversity.
Fairly or unfairly, many people remain suspicious of the Conservatives’ commitment to religious freedom for minority faiths. The barbaric practices “tip line” gimmick in the 2015 election certainly didn’t help.
Those whose resting assumption is that the Conservatives do not like diversity would have had a solid reason to question that assumption had Scheer been the only one defending Quebec’s minorities. Religious voters who often vote Liberal based on their perception that the Liberals are the party that defends minority faiths might have changed their vote. And religious people who typically vote CPC would have had more motivation to go vote.
Scheer should have combined opposition to Bill 21 with opposition to the Liberals’ Summer Jobs attestation requirement, linking the two together in voters’ minds. The message: of course Trudeau doesn’t support religious people in Quebec–he’s discriminating against them across Canada. Canada Summer Jobs was Trudeau’s secularism law. In Quebec, it’s no public sector jobs for people who visibly express their faith. In Trudeau’s Canada, it’s exclusion from public benefits if you don’t profess Trudeau’s ideology. Which is worse?
Scheer’s office was maddeningly slow and cautious in its response to Canada Summer Jobs. The CPC seems so irrationally terrified of being painted “anti-choice” that they fail to show leadership on such fundamental issues as freedom of religion and expression.
One defence of Scheer’s silence on Bill 21 is that Conservatives respect the division of powers between federal and provincial government. Frankly, this supposedly principled reason hardly seems like the real reason for the Scheer campaign’s pandering. But if it was, it was mistaken. First, Scheer could have criticized the bill and called on Quebec to repeal it without violating the legal division of powers–that would simply be showing leadership.
However, Scheer could also have made the case that Bill 21 is constitutionally unacceptable, not only as a violation of the Charter (for which Quebec can invoke the notwithstanding clause), but also as a violation of our 1867 Constitution. Before the Charter was enacted in 1982, Canada’s courts protected religious minorities (particularly in Quebec) by holding that religion and political speech were matters beyond provincial legislative competence, meaning a province could not make these the direct target of any law, though they could be regulated incidentally. This protects minorities against regional biases.
Scheer professes to take religious freedom seriously. He has criticized the Liberals for closing the Office of Ambassador for Religious Freedom–which had a mandate to promote religious freedom abroad through diplomacy–and said he would reopen it. This would be much more convincing if he were willing to vigorously defend religious freedom at home, first. In this campaign, perhaps caving to liberal pundits and political consultants, Scheer failed to do so.
Scheer has done his best to present himself and his party as officially pro-choice. He said next to nothing about the issue of medically assisted suicide, even as the Liberals promised to expand it. Avoiding “life issues” seems par for the course among CPC’s leadership. Will weakness on freedom of speech and religion follow?
Principled leadership won’t always be rewarded politically, of course. Voters are flawed, too. But the irony is that Scheer’s political pragmatism gained him nothing. Rather, it cost his party in terms of credibility, image, supporter turnout, religious swing voters, and seats in Parliament.