Plenty of rhetoric from the Liberals, but where’s the beef?

by Angelo Persichilli                                                                                                                           The Hill Times  (Nov. 20, 2017)

A good marketing plan combined with creative promotion have always been the essential ingredients for success. Whether in business or politics, if you can’t promote your product you are doomed to fail. If put your plan behind the face of an articulate and good-looking individual, success is guaranteed. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his team are the epitome of this powerful combination. In fact, if you are a good communicator, you don’t even need a product to sell.

I was in New York City last month and when the taxi driver realized that I was from Canada, he told me how lucky I was to have a prime minister like Justin Trudeau, but when I asked him why he thought that, his answer was pretty super- fi cial: “because he’s nice,” he said. So I asked him what specifically he liked about Trudeau, and he said: “He is so nice and good looking, and look at who we have here in the States!” The cab driver only became articulate when he started talking about U.S. President Donald Trump.

Yes, after our previous communications averse Conservative government, this new experience of an open, cheerful, always available-to-the-media government was initially a breath of fresh air. Full disclosure: I worked for a spell as prime minister Stephen Harper’s director of communications.

However, after a few years of fresh air and sunshine, where is the beef?

It’s now time to stop playing tough with the weak and weak with the strong, and put something on the table.

Ottawa talked tough when it dealt with free trade with Europe (and signed CETA anyway), but we still don’t know where our government stands when dealing with the U.S. on NAFTA. The trade between Canada and the EU is only one-tenth of the trade with the United States, and I support prudence when a lot is at the stake, but the question is the same: where is the plan?

Another example is human rights. Trudeau is careful when talking to the Chinese authorities about human rights, and he does it only after trashing Canada and our record with the Indigenous people. It’s like saying, we both have a problem, let’s work together to solve it. Nice grandstanding argument, but then what? What’s the plan?

When he was in the Philippines last week, he acknowledged Canada’s shortcomings on Indigenous peoples in Canada, but then lectured the president of the Philippines on his war on drugs.

So, he has a headline on economic trade when dealing with China, and raises his profile as a human rights defender in the Philippines.

It’s very clever, but, what’s left after a few headlines in the Canadian media? Besides, why do we go abroad preaching human rights when we tell them that we don’t know how to deal with our own problems? Where is the substance? What did this government do differently from its Liberal and Conservative predecessors?

It’s the same when dealing with immigration (selling a plan that was already sold 25 years ago); a tax reform (to eliminate loopholes abused by his own ministers); foreign policy for the Middle East (where we have friends and enemies even if we don’t know who they are); or preaching respect for human rights abroad.

I understand that politics is like a TV show, but an hour consists of 12 minutes of commercials and 48 minutes of substance, and not the other way around.

Angelo Persichilli is a former Stephen Harper Director of Communications, a former GTA-area citizenship judge, a former columnist for Toronto Sun and Toronto Star and a former political editor at Corriere Canadese, Canada’s Italian-language newspaper based in Toronto.

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