In this day and age we tend to closely examine what our political leaders say, and for good reason. The words that most politicians speak during prepared moments are very deliberately chosen, either what is said or what is not said. That choice of words and the audience that they are aimed at matters and send signals all of their own.
No more is this truer than in big moments, like the ones that we saw this morning when everyone launched their campaigns. This was the moment that each of the party leaders had a chance to set themselves off on the right foot and to try to set the tone of days discussions. It’s a moment that any campaign wants to get right because if they don’t, it can dog them going forward. I still remember in 2015 when Tom Mulcair launched his campaign in Gatineau, QC and for some reason didn’t take any questions from the press. Not only did that surprise a lot of people, it became the headline that came away from the announcement and dogged the campaign for the first few days of that marathon.
The big point here is that small mistakes or oversights can turn into bigger problems, doing a fair bit of damage to a party’s campaign start and the narrative around it. So it was with that in mind that I noticed some reporting from APTN that raised a very interesting omission from Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s kick off speech, one that spoke very loudly:
Yes, somehow in Mr. Trudeau’s 10 minute speech he didn’t mention Indigenous peoples at all. Remember, we just spent four years hearing the consistent hum of “No relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous Peoples” at every opportunity from this Liberal government. Even at the worst moments for this government regarding the rights of Indigenous peoples, that line would come from his lips, word for word, bringing many eye rolls from many exasperated Indigenous people out there. So to see this Liberal leader make such an important speech without making any reference at all to Indigenous peoples, well that silence screamed loudly that somethings changed.
I personally would love to hear the explanation for this omission because over the past year, this government has sent some pretty rough signals towards Indigenous peoples. The treatment of Jody Wilson-Raybould and Mr. Trudeau’s flippant treatment of Grassy Narrows protestors rise to the top of that list, one that you can now add this snub.
And here is the kicker folks; the Liberals are clearly going after NDP seats across the country, many in which there are large Indigenous voter populations. These are people whose support they are going to need if they have a chance to maintain their majority and demolish the NDP, so you’d think that you would be extra careful to not leave that out. Yet to refute that, we have today’s speech. If you take the Liberals at their words when it comes to Indigenous peoples, it really doesn’t make any sense at all. But if you were on the fence about the Liberals, this is the kind of snub, if it takes on a life of its own, could send all the wrong messages to Indigenous voters out there.
We’ll see if this is a one-day story or if this on to be something more, but regardless of that it was a very noteworthy omission by a leader and party who has shown themselves to be extremely conscious of the words that they use. Was it deliberate or what it a mistake? We don’t know yet but the fact that we are even in a position to openly question it shows that this is bad for the Liberals. Sometimes we send the strongest messages by saying nothing at all and that can have consequences all its own, ones that the people who sent the message normally can’t control. So intentional or unintentional, this is noteworthy and an interesting undercurrent to the launch of this campaign.