All hat, no cattle ~ All promise, no policy

justin_trudeau.jpg.size-custom-crop.1086x0Variations of the expression “all hat, no cattle” have been used since, at least, the middle of the 19th century. ”’fur coat and no knickers’ in early 20th century Britain and “all talk and no cider” in mid 19th century America, for example). It is a perfect description for prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his closest advisors, except that they are “all promise and no useful policy.”

A handful of articles caught my eye, including:

  • Susan Delacourt in iPolitics who says that “After nearly a decade of a Conservative government that was decidedly cool to public consultation, inquiries and so forth (but not to talking points), Canadians seemed ready for a government that would talk to them more often. In turn, Trudeau and his new team of Liberals vowed to be far more chatty — with reporters, with citizens, with interest groups, with anyone, really …[but] … Two years later, it’s looking like this government is getting more experience with ducking tough conversations than with talking turkey;”
  • Paul Wells in MacLean’s who says that “It’s striking how consistently the Liberals absent themselves from national conversations they started. Most of Morneau’s tour on the tax changes was held at venues from which reporters were barred; when they were allowed in, they saw a minister who simply refused to address many of the specific questions that were put to him. This was familiar to anyone who saw Chagger pursue her doomed reform, which was familiar to anyone who saw Monsef pursue her doomed reform. It’s almost like there’s a design flaw … [because] … This isn’t how conversations go. In a conversation, you say something, and then I respond with something that acknowledges what you just said, tries to incorporate part of it, takes issue with another part. In a Trudeau Liberal conversation, a minister spends months saying the same thing, and then a large machine behind the curtain spits up a new project that has very little to do with the project the minister just spent months defending. The good news is that the economy’s going well, because in most other ways this is a strange way to run a parliamentary democracy;” and
  • A report by Andy Blatchford of the Canadian Press on CTV News that discussed the “messaging” challenges that Finance Canada and its minister, Bill Morneau, face in trying to sell sketchy, ill conceived projects, like the ($35 Billion) Canada Infrastructure Bank, changes to small business tax structures and (although it is the Revenue Minister not the Finance Minister) proposals to tax the “employee discount” that part time, minimum wage workers might get on the fast food meals they serve.

It’s all part of a pattern upon which I have commented before: it’s easy to make promises and Team Trudeau has made lots of ’em, but delivering is hard. Despite hearing, first hand, from the (British) “deliverology” guru and putting a “results and delivery” man in the Privy Council Office (that function, if it is necessary, at all, ought to be in the Prime ignorance2Minister’s Office, not in the supposedly non-partisan PCO), the Liberals are still stumbling over ill-conceived, poorly developed promises upon which, in many cases, they quite simply cannot deliver. It is, yet again, the problem of the definitions of ignorance and apathy; Team Trudeau is stuck with a narrative that says that Justin Trudeau is (and was during the 2015 election campaign) always right about everything … he’s flawless, so if anything goes wrong it’s all the fault of either Conservative lies or us Canadians who are failing to understand. But, in fact, the Liberal team ~ PMO and cabinet and caucus and party faithful ~ are a heady mix of abysmal ignorance and appalling apathy about many, many policy issues, like taxation, national defence, entrepreneurship, immigration and free(er) trade.

The ongoing CF-18 replacement fiasco, about which I commented, yesterday, and the attempt to block the project to provide the Navy with a much needed supply ship (because one competing shipyard, in a Liberal riding, complained) both illustrate that the Liberals know nothing about defence policy and simply don’t care even one tiny bit about military operational 0253902e02f1e802c9c0aff64aa8ca2c--flexibility-control-freaksrequirements. Equally, the small business tax changes indicate that the Liberals put promises ahead of sound policy analysis and that they have great difficulty in the “art” of two way communications. Justin Trudeau seems to be, very much, a “my way or the highway” kind of guy … and if you don’t agree with him your are a social policy Neanderthal, a bigot, a racist or simply a naif who falls for Conservative lies. But, in fairness, nearly 40% of our fellow citizens (40% of the 70% who bothered to vote at all, which means, in the end less than 30%) were tired of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cautious pragmatism or wanted more than the left wing policies with balanced budgets that the NDP promised, so maybe the “ignorance / apathy” problem is our own.

What I hope is happening, now, at the mid point of the Trudeau mandate, is that Canadians are waking up to the fact (and I assert it is a fact) that Justin Trudeau is neither qualified nor suited to be the leader of an important, middle power, nation state. He was a vital part of an absolutely brilliant election sell-sizzle-not-the-steakcampaign which, to his everlasting credit, reversed the decline in voter turnout and brought, quite literally millions of “new” voters to the polls. But they were misled. The Liberals sold the sizzle, but there was, never, any steak. It was all promises and there was never a coherent, underlying policy framework, all hat, no cattle ~ the Liberals just wanted to be in power because … well, because they’re Liberals and they, according to the Laurentian Consensus, are entitled to govern Canada, and we plebeians should be grateful that they are here to guide us on to the right path, no matter how much our taxes may rise and our status in the world may fall.

giphyBut now the some of mainstream media seems to be increasingly willing to look past the sizzle and ask, “Where’s the beef?”

And the answer, of course, is that there never was any substance … the entire Liberal programme was based on style: Justin Trudeau’s style. He remains eminently likeable and is head and shoulders more popular than Andrew Scheer, but that thin veneer of popular appeal can no longer cover the fact that he and his government are, quite simply, second, even third rate. Canada deserves better.

 

 

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