The last time a Canadian prime minister asked for national airtime was possibly in 2008 when Conservative Stephen Harper’s five-minute, pre-taped message, in English and French, spoke to how a coalition government backed by “separatists” would not help Canada in the face of a global economic crisis.
Soon after, he prorogued Parliament.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 15-minute usurping of national airtime, his own prorogation of Parliament now over, had agreed-upon ground rules that his speech not be political.
He ignored them.
The consensus among national pundits and panelists, including former NDP leader Tom Mulcair, was that Trudeau’s speech was very political, and even had the whiff of an election campaign address.
In fact, the entire night was political.
The PM’s rare evening address was supposed to include a summary of the government’s plans in the throne speech to fight the coronavirus and economically recover.
“The Prime Minister will address Canadians directly on the urgency of fighting COVID-19 as we face down the prospect of a second wave of the virus,” said Ann-Clara Vaillancourt, Trudeau’s spokesperson.
There are those who said Trudeau’s request for free national airtime was to erase any wandering thoughts in the public’s mind that Governor General Julie Payette, who hours before had just read an hour-long throne speech, was somehow the face of the Liberal Party of Canada,
She is damaged goods, after all, with the Privy Council Office investigating allegations that she has created a toxic workplace, and that Trudeau’s choosing of her as the Queen’s representative had turned into an embarrassment of royal proportions.
In his most dramatic voice, Trudeau warned Canadians to forget about Thanksgiving because of the coronavirus. But, fingers crossed, Christmas still has a glimmer of hope if Canadians wear masks, download the government COVID-19 tracking app and get a flu shot.
It hardly qualifies as worthy of the rare and urgent request for national airtime when reporters had a hard time trying to craft a news story out of basically old and recycled material already put out by various health authorities.
So he duped us all.
But it was when Trudeau whipped out the partisan list of government accomplishments, and accomplishments to come if the throne speech passes muster, well, that’s when the political bravado truly hit a high crescendo.
And that was a no-no.
So, when his speech ended, Opposition MPs and leaders jumped in with their overtly partisan views, taking advantage of their own free airtime on the national stage thanks to Trudeau’s non-bulletin coup over the country’s national broadcasters.
CTV even hauled out its anchor, Lisa Laflamme, to cover off Trudeau’s supposedly urgent speech, only to be left handling the boring dénouement of nothingness.
All in all, everyone covering the non-eventful event likely ended their evening with an immense stress headache.
There is also, in retrospect, the fact that Trudeau prorogued Parliament for six weeks, and for what? This?
A 17-page throne speech read by a pariah, and a 15-minute “emergency” speech from the Prime Minister that was mostly chewed food?
If so, democracy in Canada was ripped off, and Alberta MP Candice Bergen was right on the money when she accused Trudeau of using prorogation to effectively shut down the committee investigating the Liberals’ $900-million WE Charity scandal.
Anyhow, keep masked up, steer clear and wash your hands.
The pandemic is in for the long haul, or so warned the Prime Minister as if this were new “news” worthy of overtaking the airwaves.