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RUSSELL WANGERSKY: Baa humbug — too many sheep in politicians’ clothes

Too many politicians are bleating the same messages these days, writes Russell Wangersky. —
Too many politicians are bleating the same messages these days, writes Russell Wangersky. — 123RF Stock Photo

It’s a lovely day out.

It’s a lovely day out.

It’s a lovely day out.

See? Repetition can get annoying.

But, more and more, it seems like the political operatives behind the scenes in federal and provincial governments aren’t aware of how blatantly obvious their stagecraft is becoming.

The problem is that no one who is doing the stage-managing ever seems to recognize that there’s any overlap.

Last week, as a new federal carbon tax rolled out in four Canadian provinces, Conservative federal and provincial politicians started tweeting pictures of themselves gassing up their cars before the new tax was put in place. The tweets all carried similar messages. Here’s Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer’s: “Remember to fill it up tonight! Justin Trudeau’s Carbon Tax kicks in tomorrow, which will make everything from driving your kids to school, to heating your home, to your groceries more expensive.” He somehow failed to mention the rebate that those same voters will be getting on the tax, but, oh well.

(Some on Twitter have already pointed out the irony of Conservatives gassing up at Shell stations, even as Shell was pulling out of a petroleum industry group because of the group’s failure to recognize the consumption of petroleum products as a key driver of climate change. Others pointed out that many of the Tories were driving big gas-guzzlers. Social media is rarely kind.)

Then, there’s the spontaneity at the Queen’s Park legislature in Ontario. Last November, reporters started counting the number of standing ovations that Ontario Tory politicians were giving to their own party faithful during question period. During one question period, there were 29 standing ovations. The Speaker of the House had to eventually intervene, saying, “I would therefore respectfully ask members to keep their ovations to a minimum to enhance the decorum.”

It’s not the only rapturous performance that’s been dialed up as required. Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Tories have also used “spontaneous” applause to drown out journalists’ questions at government announcements.

And, of course, the Tories aren’t the only ones who are marshalling elected politicians into a message-delivering herd.

Here’s just one example: it is, on its own, somewhat trivial, but it accidentally displayed the process all too well.

Scores of Liberals sent out nearly identical Facebook messages last year on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Are you hearing what an MP really thinks, or are you just hearing a dutiful and obedient echo of their master’s voice?

But one, Davenport MP Julie Dzerowicz, was a little bit too on-script. Her message read “I am proud to be part of a community that celebrates diversity and inclusion. Today on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, we are reminded that we must continue to work hard to make sure that everyone in [riding name] feels safe and free to be themselves.”

Newmarket-Aurora Liberal MP Kyle Peterson made the same mistake, apparently cutting and pasting the same recommended message without adding his riding’s name inside the brackets.

But when everyone is so clearly doing what they are told, they look less like intelligent, thoughtful individuals elected to represent the concerns of their particular region, and more like sheep kept in line by yapping unelected political border collies.

And being a sheep really isn’t a good look.

The extent to which senior politicians ask “How high?” when they are told to jump is worth thinking about, especially as Liberal MP after Liberal MP lines up to repeat and repeat and repeat the talking point that former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould behaved unethically when she taped a conversation with Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick.

Because you have to ask — are you hearing what an MP really thinks, or are you just hearing a dutiful and obedient echo of their master’s voice?

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 36 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at russell.wangersky@thetelegram.com — Twitter: @wangersky.


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