To celebrate a new year, let’s stop letting politicians lie in press releases

John Robson

John Robson

Does anyone, including Trudeau, think we rid our oceans of plastic last year or gave vulnerable women and girls the education they need in 12 short months?

My goodness. That year sure went by fast. And I don’t mean 2018. I just got a press release declaring 2019 “THE YEAR OF THE CARBON TAX” before it even started, exactly the sort of political dishonesty I complained about generically last week.

Like another press release I got New Year’s Eve that I could have done without except as grist for my surly mill. It started “Canada concludes successful…” and now I invite readers to fill in the blank. You can’t, because it’s not related to reality.

Connoisseurs of government blather may guess that it is related to foreign policy. The Department Formerly Known as External Affairs keeps stacks of blank “concludes successful” forms in the basement for when a minister nobody heard of returns from somewhere nobody knew they’d gone to do something nobody cares about. (Equally under Harper and Trudeau; do not mistake a change of ministry for a change of government.)

In fact this one came from the PMO. But it is about foreign policy. And continues insincerely “G7 presidency” followed by bilingual bwa bwa bwa about things nobody can remember that wouldn’t matter if they could. Like “Members of the Gender Equality Advisory Council participated in the G7 Summit and in each of the G7 ministerial meetings.” Woot. Name a Council member.

World leaders stand for a family photograph during the Group of Seven (G7) Leaders Summit in La Malbaie, Quebec, Canada, on Friday, June 8, 2018. Cole Burston/Bloomberg

So, is one single Liberal prepared to object to “As the 2018 G7 President, Canada brought countries together to create good, middle class jobs, invest in economic growth that benefits everyone, advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, uphold peace and security, fight climate change, protect our oceans, and promote clean energy”?

That torrent of clichés should make even partisans wince. But more fundamentally, do any of them sincerely believe Canada brought anyone together to make any significant progress on these topics that otherwise would not have happened? If so, I challenge them to recall who even chaired the G7 in 2017 (Paolo Gentiloni) let alone what empty phrases his lackeys spewed.

Words, words everywhere and not a brain cell in sight

The “concludes successful” press release also spoon-fed we hapless journalists a pre-chewed Prime Ministerial “quote,” less to save us the tiresome effort of phoning Trudeau than for fear of what, unscripted, he might babble. But could he spontaneously do worse than “From ridding our oceans of plastic, to giving vulnerable women and girls the education they need, G7 leaders and partners have shown once again what happens when we work together, and take ambitious action for people and our planet”?

Words, words everywhere and not a brain cell in sight. Does anyone, including Trudeau, think we rid our oceans of plastic last year or gave vulnerable women and girls the education they need in 12 short months, because he chaired the G7 or for any other reason? Then why allow him to claim we did, except because we no longer expect political verbiage to be plausible let alone true?

I’m not being partisan here. The other press release I did not burn only because it was digital was from the Tories and said “SCHEER TO MARK THE BEGINNING OF 2019 — THE YEAR OF THE CARBON TAX.”

Leader of the Opposition Andrew Scheer rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec.12, 2018. Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

I don’t know what will happen in 2019 and neither does Andrew Scheer. As the Post pointed out on New Year’s Eve, when 2018 started Doug Ford was a has-been or never-was, Jamal Khashoggi was alive and unknown, yellow vests weren’t a thing and Justin Trudeau was popular. Prediction is hard, especially about the future, and we fixate too much on trivia. (I don’t just mean the story headlined “What’s next for ex-N.B. premier” that said nobody knows.) But whatever we end up glaring back at a year hence, it won’t be a rebated $20/tonne carbon tax that only raised gas prices 4.4 cents a litre.

Such a sum isn’t going to change anyone’s habits and left and right alike know it. Including Scheer. He doesn’t think the carbon tax will matter, he doesn’t think it will dominate 2019, and he’s just as committed to Paris Accord targets with even less of a plan. He sent a press release that packs three lies into an opening one-sentence headline he probably never even read. Boo!

As for the Liberal release, it’s not just that it’s mass-produced baloney. It’s that Canada had a terrible year internationally and everyone knows it. We can’t buy planes, ships or handguns for our troops, China is harassing our citizens, we’re not getting along with the United States, nobody thinks Trudeau has a clue about anything any more and his cute socks got old.

So here’s the deal. Canada’s G7 presidency wasn’t successful or important, the carbon tax is too small to matter and both of them are lying without shame or reflection.

If we stand for such guff, 2019 will be the year of mendacious blather … again. That was fast.

National Post

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