I watched Liberal MP Joël Lightbound’s entire 56-minute press conference yesterday in stunned silence. His speech was the bravest political act I’ve witnessed in decades.
He was measured, thoughtful and sincere – the polar opposite of his party’s leader.
He called out Justin Trudeau for his abusive name-calling and crass political opportunism, then demanded it must stop; that a true leader’s job is to unite all Canadians, not tear them down and belittle them for disagreeing with government policies that make no sense and nobody even tries to explain.
In other words, Joël Lightbound said on national television everything you and I are thinking. It was beautiful and, if it wasn’t a direct rebuke of the Prime Minister himself, then such a thing does not exist.
As many others have done already, I applaud Joël Lightbound’s courageous stand on behalf of all Canadians. I hope the Prime Minister is man enough to hear his words, although I’ll not hold my breath on that front.
On the substance of the argument, I think he’s right that the government would have a hard time defending each of its policy decisions in turn, which is one reason the government never comes anywhere close to bothering to try. (Another reason is that this government is simply incompetent at making any coherent argument. I mean, it’s breathtaking. This comes from the top.)
What impressed me about Joël Lightbound is he is clearly sick of all the namecalling coming from the Prime Minister.
When it comes to the broader demonstrations we’ve seen in Ottawa, and Quebec City and all across the country, I will abstain from the kind of generalizations that we’ve heard these last few days.
Seen on Radio Canada, an interview with what seemed to be a very kind grandmother who demonstrated for her grandkids, she looked and sounded nothing like a white supremacist. Nor did the black, Sikh and Indigenous Canadians I saw demonstrating on my way to Parliament these last two weeks or in Quebec City this last Saturday.
I have enough respect for my fellow Canadians, not to engage in these easy and absurd labels.
If only that were true across political and ideological lines.
Justin Trudeau so despises Canadians that he contemptuously calls them all manner of names because they disagree with him and, because they disagree with him, they’re unworthy of the basic considerations of human decency.
There is no discussion. There is no debate. There is only derision, hatred and contempt from the man who holds the highest political office in the land. Even if you support Justin Trudeau, you must be dead between the ears if you can’t comprehend how evil this approach is.
As more and more nations around the globe drop all COVID restrictions, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government insists on doubling down on measures that are proven failures.
Joël Lightbound, speaking of Canadians’ confusion over this government’s response to COVID, nailed it with these words:
They’re confused when they see the undeniable trend around the world whereby, for instance, the World Health Organization recently recommended dropping or alleviating many border measures, including vaccine requirements, as they’ve proven to be ineffective in fighting the propagation of the Omicron variant. That’s the World Health Organization.
They’re confused when they see countries around the world like Ireland, Sweden, Norway, (inaudible), the Czech Republic, Brazil, Denmark, Spain and the U.K., who have either dropped almost all restrictions or fast moving in that direction. All countries, I note, with lower vaccination rates than us.
Now while folks are hearing and seeing all of this, they’re left rightfully wondering, ‘where the hell are we heading here in Canada?’
I think therein lies the frustration. They feel there is no appetite from our government to adapt so as to reflect the changing data and the changing reality of the pandemic of the world.
They’re worried that measures which ought to be exceptional and limited in time are being normalized with no end in sight, like vaccine passports, mandates and requirements for travellers.
They’re worried because they feel they feel it is becoming harder and harder to know where public health stops and where politics begins.
Now, I firmly believe governments would do well not to dismiss these legitimate concerns, not to demonize those who voice them.
To the contrary, I believe these concerns need to be addressed head on. And here are some ways I humbly submit we could go about it.
First, I believe the government should provide quickly a roadmap with clear and measurable targets (to) lift all restrictions within its purview. To be clear, I do not necessarily believe that all measures should be lifted immediately. But I do believe that we must have a clear and measurable benchmark for when measures will be lifted. For instance, at what point can we lift restrictions while respecting the capacity of the provinces’ health-care systems?
Second, I believe that if more and more Canadians find it hard to comply with the restrictions, it’s not because they lack solidarity. It’s because increasingly Canadians don’t understand the measures. And they don’t understand them because governments no longer care to explain them. It’s a lot easier to comply when you understand, particularly when these restrictions impact your day-to-day life.
The vaccine requirement for truckers to me is a good example. And if we forget about the demonstrations, and we forget about the convoy for just a second, and look at that policy for what it is. This is a policy that now goes against the World Health Organization’s recommendation and for which no epidemiological studies and projections have been provided.
While the industry is clear, when this measure took effect, the price of transport for fresh products from the United States went up by 15 to 20 per cent on average. Now I understand there are many factors contributing to inflation, but inflation happens over time, not overnight. This is not a small consequence, given that Canadians are already facing the highest inflation in 30 years. And unfortunately, it affects more of the most vulnerable amongst us.
Last, I think it’s time to stop dividing Canadians, to stop pitting one part of the population against another. I can’t help but notice with regret that both tone and the policies of my government changed drastically on the eve and during the last election campaign.
From a positive and unifying approach, a decision was made to wedge to divide and to stigmatize. I fear that this politicization (of) the pandemic risks undermining the public’s trust in public-health institutions. This is not a risk we ought to be taking lightly.
The calls for Joël Lightbound’s removal from the Liberal caucus began before his press conference was over. (Dillon McGuire’s cowardice aspires to Trudeaupian levels, as he refuses to allow you to view his tweets unless he approves you first.) Neither McGuire’s cowardice nor his now-private calls for his colleague’s removal from caucus are surprising given the Liberals’ penchant for blind obedience to their lord and master – the party leader.
What is surprising is Joël Lightbound’s apparent immunity from being kicked off the island in the wake of his blatant calls for Trudeau to stop calling Canadians names to divide them.
Liberal Party Whip Steven MacKinnon issued a statement late on February 8th, saying,
“I spoke this afternoon with MP Joël Lightbound. He has expressed disagreements with government policy. Subsequently, Mr. Lightbound has resigned as chair of the Quebec Liberal Caucus. He has expressed clear confidence in the government, and remains a member of the Liberal caucus.”
I’ll give the final word to Althia Raj, who eloquently stated what so many of us feel about our political climate.
“I wish the media and political parties made less of a fuss about internal dissent so that more MPs could find the courage to share their thoughts publicly. It is not normal for a broad-based party to have absolute unity of thought.”