In the last few days, I’ve seen a number of my friends, especially those Canadians who live outside Ottawa, express a certain amount of confusion, dismay or even anger over the current honeymoon that Justin Trudeau is experiencing. They seem almost eager for his government to fail or certainly are highly attuned to any perceived weakness or error they may have made.
It may be simple partisanship or it may be an integral part of the Canadian psyche. I recall a fake “Heritage Minute” which examined the lives of various successful Canadians but always ended with a couple of old people saying: “He’s not as good as he thinks he is.” Canadians are sometimes ridiculously uncomfortable, not just with success, but with the celebration of success.
Of course, the government will make mistakes. Trudeau said as much in his first (one of many I am sure) open letter to Canadians. He, indeed, asked for people to speak up when they thought the government was headed in the wrong direction. Governing a country, in case you haven’t noticed, is a complex business; it requires not only brilliance (and luck) at the top and a capable and engaged team of Ministers and bureaucrats but a vigilant populace and press.
Don’t worry. You’ll have plenty of time to complain.
I found it interesting that the first thing that was attacked was the decision to make gender equality in the Cabinet a priority. The initial criticism was based on the fake criteria of ‘merit’ as if part of merit wasn’t the experiences and worldview one brought to the job. Trudeau rightly ignored such foolishness and appointed equal numbers, but it only took a moment for the press – and then social media – to point out that some of the women Ministers were only Ministers of State and therefore paid less and had fewer perks.
The number mentioned was five (although in fact, it was only four) but in any case it wasn’t actually true. Trudeau pointed out that the rules of appointment are set by Order in Council and, until the Cabinet was formed, it had to abide by the rules already in place. Rest assured, he said, everyone is a full minister and will be treated as such; the rules will be changed and made retroactive to last Wednesday. I think we can give him that. For those that think he should have changed the rules before he made the appointments – you need to think a little about the direction of time’s arrow and the rules of causality.
Others have complained about the easy ride that the media – especially the CBC – is giving the new government. I feel your pain. You cannot believe how often I swore at the radio in the first years of the Harper administration when reporters – especially the CBC – refused to ask the tough questions. Of course, that was when they were actually allowed to ask any questions.
Maybe the media is out of practice. Or maybe, they are so overjoyed to be able to do their job that they get a little light-headed. Don’t worry, it will pass.
I think the current euphoria can only really be understood if you live in Ottawa. I can’t tell you how often I heard civil servants in the last five years complain about the Harper administration. Their biggest grievance: why won’t they let me do my job?
Quite literally people felt oppressed – not just scientists but all public servants who, despite the ugly rumours spread by the previous administration, just want to do the work for Canadians that they were hired to do.
Maybe it’s not surprising that, feeling freed from the weight of a suspicious and angry administration, they might do a little dancing in the streets. But don’t worry, that will pass, too.
And that’s a little more than ten minutes.