2020 has been a crazy year so far, and maybe the continual piling of crap coming from it is wearing on me. Or maybe it’s because I’m getting older and my tolerance from rhetorical trash is quickly reducing. Whatever the reason, I’m finding my patience with some people petty garbage to be quickly disappearing.
What’s driving home that feeling for me? What’s bringing this about as a piece to write about today? Well, like many things lately, it’s coming from words uttered by Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. His performance as Leader of the Official Opposition might go down as one of the worst in Canadian history and in the past couple of months if I wrote about every gaff and screw-up on his part, I’d have little time to write about anything else. But today we have more from him, as he continues to flog the dead horse that was his credibility. He held a press conference this morning and just showed how out to lunch he truly is:
Where to start with this “performance”? First off, let’s start with the very premise of his calls to “re-open” Parliament. He says that the House of Commons should return on Monday, have all committees operating as usual and to have regular in person sittings, saying that things are re-opening. But in the same breath, he says that he doesn’t want all 338 MPs back in the chamber though because that just wouldn’t be safe. How many bodies should be in the chamber? It’s safe enough to re-open but too dangerous to fill the chamber? Not exactly consistent but furthermore he doesn’t tell us how many bodies should be in that chamber which tells you how unserious he is.
If that was all that he said, it would be sad enough. But he’s throwing around massive accusations about trying to “undermine democracy” and “avoid scrutiny”, making over the top insinuations that Prime Minister Trudeau was trying to “permanently replace Parliament with a press conference”. In case you thought that was a one-off comment, Scheer continued to make similar comments all throughout his presser, accusing Trudeau of acting like a wannabe tinpot dictator. And just in case you thought he was being overly partisan and crude, he told us time and time again in his most reassuring partisan tone that this wasn’t a partisan issue, all while using his next breaths to attack the Liberals, Bloc and NDP MPs who might disagree with him that they were just pawns being used by the malevolent Dauphin of Rideau Cottage.
And to make it all the more hilarious, ignorant, or depressing (depending on your perspective I guess) Scheer makes it clear to all that he and his party view any kind of virtual sitting or method to be illegitimate. He goes on and on about how the House must meet in person, crying that it is impossible to hold any government to account if they aren’t in person. But in the very next breath (you might be noticing a pattern here), he lists all of the “accomplishments” that the Opposition has created by using those virtual sessions & other means to hold the government to account. He’s been doing this for over a month but he did it again today, basically saying “Ohh, government isn’t being held to account because the house is sitting, but here are all of the things they’ve been held accountable for since we haven’t been sitting.” It’s incoherent, thoughtless stuff that makes him look less like a serious Opposition leader and more like a hardcore partisan who can’t get over that, even in the most difficult times.
As I said at the start of this piece, this is grating on me because it’s so nakedly partisan and petty on his part. Trying to suggest that this Prime Minister has been trying to subvert democracy and sideline Parliament is beyond the pale. Only one government leader has actually done that; Andrew Scheer’s former caucus colleague and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney did, when he used his majority government to pass Bill 10, which allowed cabinet ministers to simply proclaim new law or new offences without having to go through any Parliament process at all. Yes the Trudeau government did overreach in their first emergency legislation, but all Opposition parties smacked that down, showing that our Parliamentary democracy is working. But in the case of Alberta, Andrew Scheer hasn’t uttered any repudiations, any cries of overreach, any peeps about anti-democratic behaviours. Nothing at all. It’s almost as if Andrew Scheer has partisan blinders permanently attached to his head. Funny that.
Anyway today’s Scheer presser is just further proof that he needs to go and go fast. He is acting more and more like a disconnected partisan hack and less like a serious politician. If Scheer wanted to learn anything about how to lead a Conservative party in this moment, he should be following Doug Ford’s lead, not continuing to blaze his own path of insane futility.
There are certain facts that all Canadians, including our political leaders, need to accept right now. One of those is that things are going to have to change and that we can’t do things exactly as they were before. That’s especially true for the next couple of years as we try to get through this. That means that our democratic institutions must operate differently, including in virtual means, to ensure they continue to operate. To suggest that anything short of “butts in seats” is illegitimate is just ignorant, unrealistic & shows that you’re not capable of governing in these times. Also such suggestions are an affront to our democratic institutions themselves because they function, flourish, and grow everywhere. They aren’t solely contained within the four walls of the chamber of the House of Commons and democracy isn’t killed when it has to operate outside of it.
The idea that democracy dies if Andrew Scheer doesn’t get to scream at Justin Trudeau from six feet away is preposterous. Yet that is what Scheer keeps suggesting, with less and less effect, all while pointing out how the Opposition continues to hold the government to account outside the chamber, undercutting his arguments all the while. Yep, that’s the Conservative Party in 2020 folks, which might explain why my patience is growing so thin.