On March 21, the federal opposition chewed out prime minister Justin Trudeau for eating a chocolate bar during an overnight voting session.
As per the House’s Rules of Decorum, members of parliament are only permitted water during session. Trudeau, among other MPs, broke this rule and were called out by Scott Reid, a Conservative party member, who stated “the prime minister has already stained this place with corruption, he does not need to stain it with mustard as well.” While hilarious, this action speaks to how Canadian politics often misses the forest for the trees.
Since Trudeau was elected, parliament has increasingly become an exercise in setting up Trudeau and knocking him down. Trudeau hasn’t been a difficult target; performative gender parity in cabinet, failing to follow through on electoral reform, and most recently the SNC-Lavalin scandal have all been massive bullseyes on Trudeau’s head. It doesn’t help that the SNC-Lavalin scandal flies directly in the face of Trudeau’s promises to increase government transparency and restore Canadians’ trust in government. But while these points are legitimate reasons to be dissatisfied with Trudeau’s performance, the chocolate bar just isn’t.
There more important things to be worried about; the prime minister of Canada is in the midst of what will likely be the biggest scandal in Canadian politics this year. Opposition party members should be dissecting the case and getting to the bottom of things instead of lambasting Trudeau for breaking off a piece of that KitKat bar.
This is especially important if the Conservatives want to succeed this election season. At the end of 2018, it still seemed like Trudeau was positioned well enough to pull through in the 2019 election. However, following SNC-Lavalin, polls suggest the Conservatives have gained considerably, putting them on par with the Liberals. Assuming the Conservatives want to secure at least a minority government, they need to make it less obvious they’re occasionally grasping at straws. This is the opportune moment the Conservative party has been waiting for, but they’re not going to be able to take full advantage of it by making petty remarks.
Canadian politics has been filled with petty attempts to discredit opponents. About a year ago, Conservative MPs delayed parliament with questions regarding the Jaspal Atwal affair, despite being offered the opportunity to be briefed in private before session. More recently, Trudeau was accused of petty politics by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh when the Liberal government failed to call a byelection in the riding Singh planned to run in. This was seen as an attempt to neutralize the NDP in the upcoming election by denying Singh a chance to gain notoriety through experience. This isn’t the first time MPs have tried to get opponents dragged down in details, and it likely won’t be the last.
This really speaks to how antagonistic Canadian politics have become. MPs fight for the chance to drag their opponents down while extending the time it takes to come to any formal conclusions and ultimately obscuring the point altogether. Governmental structure and abuse seem to have allowed for the SNC-Lavalin scandal to occur; however, Canadians may be too distracted from these issues are if the opposition is more interested in discrediting Trudeau wholesale instead of focusing on the scandal.