Kim Campbell was right

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By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on September 30, 2019.

Just last week, the Liberals and the New Democrats both launched their environmental platforms. But analysis of those platforms did not even manage to make the front page of most newspapers.

OTTAWA—Former prime minister Kim Campbell once said an election is no time to discuss policy.

Her party went on to face a historic defeat, saving only two seats in the House of Commons.

In this election, Campbell’s viewpoint seems to be shared by some journalists on the campaign trail.

Just last week, the Liberals and the New Democrats both launched their environmental platforms. But analysis of those platforms did not even manage to make the front page of most newspapers.

Instead, The Globe and Mail chose to print a front-page story allegedly exposing insider details of why a former Liberal Member of Parliament was not re-offering.

The piece, by the same journalist who broke Jody Wilson-Raybould’s story, reflected a similar message. Strong woman, who would not defend the PM, are allegedly shown the door.

Delving deeper into the details, the MP claimed that all three colleagues in ridings neighbouring her own had been bullying her. She claimed intimidation and harassment starting in 2016.

She also showed The Globe the screenshot of a text conversation with Montreal Minister Mélanie Joly. She said the minister called to ask why she wasn’t supporting the prime minister when his feminist credentials were under attack by media during the SNC-Lavalin case.

Presumably The Globe published the piece on the front page because editors believe this “Liberal woman as victim of Trudeau” narrative was relevant.

But voters are smart enough to make decisions based on current issues, not on fake personality politics.

That explains why Justin Trudeau’s Liberals did not lose ground following the revelations that he costumed himself in blackface and brownface on more than one occasion 20 years ago.

Media blackface coverage dominated the airwaves in Canada and around the world for a week. Trudeau tackled the issue head on, with a town hall meeting in Saskatchewan on the evening after the revelations. He also apologized immediately and appeared to genuinely understand the gravity of his childish actions.

It was a shocking news story. But the notion that somehow Trudeau is a racist did not ring true.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi put it best in an op-ed he wrote for The Washington Post. “He should be judged on the totality of his record and whether Canadians believe in his ability to do good in the future.”

When Trudeau demoted Wilson-Raybould, he was accused of being a fake feminist. Nothing could be further from the truth.

He was the first prime minister in the history of the country to deliver a gender equal cabinet. Andrew Scheer has refused to commit to doing the same, if he forms government while NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has committed to a gender equal cabinet in the unlikely event of a New Democratic Party victory.

Journalists attacking Trudeau’s feminist credentials in the Wilson-Raybould case included so many misogynists that the claim was obviously fake news. When the sexist Sun chain decried misogyny, women laughed.

Differing viewpoints on the use of the deferred prosecution agreement has nothing to do with sexism.

So attacks on Trudeau required caucus and cabinet women to come forward and set the record straight. That is how politics works.

There are many strong women in Trudeau’s caucus and cabinet.

The decision of Wilson-Raybould to quit the cabinet had nothing to do with feminism or sexism.

Although the minister was upset to lose her “dream job” as attorney general, she accepted another ministerial post in veterans affairs. She even tried to remain in caucus, all the while secretly taping conversations and breaching the trust of all those who served with her on the team.

When you are part of caucus, you don’t screenshot internal texts and you don’t secretly tape conversations. You trust each other and work as a team.

As a minister, you do not write copious notes about cabinet conversations because they are supposed to be confidential discussions between trusted colleagues. This is the normal functioning of a healthy political team.

In an election campaign, the public is not focused on the internal machinations of a caucus. They are interested in what policies differentiate the political parties.

On Sept. 27, thousands of young people gathered in a huge strike in Montreal with Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

Young Canadians want to know what the parties are doing to confront the climate crisis that, if unchecked, will destroy their futures.

Trudeau, who has actually submitted a substantive climate plan, joined the young people in this march.

Scheer took a pass. That is real news.

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.