The Return of Stuff Happens, week 36: Trudeau vs. Trump

Donald Trump, the increasingly, dangerously irrational U.S. president, addressed the UN General Assembly this week. So, too, did Justin Trudeau, the poster boy for all that is liberal in the world. Their addresses could not be more different, which is to be expected. And thank God for that.

Trump was terrible, as expected. He gave the kind of speech that would, delivered by any other president or any other sane person, would have caused a billion jaws to drop. But for Trump, it was business as unusual. This week, he tore strips off the floundering former democracy Venezuela (“The Venezuelan people are starving and their country is collapsing. Their democratic institutions are being destroyed. This situation is completely unacceptable and we cannot stand by and watch, he said.), resulting in the Venezuelan president calling Trump “the new Hitler”. He had charming things to say about Iran (“It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction.”), resulting in the Iranian president calling his comments “ignorant and absurd”. He saved his best shots for North Korea. “No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles,” Trump said, referring to the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom he has decided to call Rocket Man, which is actually pretty cool. (Wouldn’t Rocket Boy have been better?) “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” A North Korea spokesman likened Trump to a “barking dog”, which, as insults go, is pretty toothless. Bile, hatred and threats. Yep, pretty much par for the course.

Justin Trudeau, too, had a lot of bad things to say in his speech on Thursday. The difference was that all the bad stuff was about Canada.

Trudeau didn’t mention any of Trump’s whipping boys, concentrating his remarks on what a shitty country Canada has been in relation to its Indigenous people.

“For First Nations, Metis Nation and Inuit peoples in Canada, those early colonial relationships were not about strength through diversity, or a celebration of differences. For Indigenous peoples in Canada, the experience was mostly one of humiliation, neglect, and abuse.”

Trudeau spoke about the lack of safe drinking and bathing water in Indigenous communities across Canada, and about the youth suicide epidemics on some reserves.

“There are Indigenous parents in Canada who say goodnight to their children, and have to cross their fingers in the hopes that their kids won’t run away, or take their own lives in the night.”

Canada, he said, is a work in progress.

I don’t know about you, but this Canada place sounds like a hell hole. Good thing that nobody outside of Canada was listening.

Thanks, Kim

How bad is Donald Trump in the insult department? This week, he was burned  by a country that doesn’t speak English, and apparently only has access to dictionaries from the 1800s. This week, the Korean government issued a statement, calling Trump “a mentally deranged US dotard”.


Yep, it’s a word. It refers to an old person who has become weak and senile. It is not often used, to put it mildly. The New York Times reported that ‘dotard’ had only been used 10 times in its pages since 1980. (It’s apparently pronounced DO-terd, by the way.) I don’t know if anyone will remember dotard by this time next week, but for now, score one for North Korea.

On Sunday, the Dotard in Chief fired off a new salvo in America’s never-ending race war. Speaking to a rabid rally in Alabama, Trump called out NFL owners who refuse to discipline players who take a knee during the national anthem as a protest against the treatments of blacks in America.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

And he spouted off with a few opinions about the state of the league.

“The NFL ratings are down massively,” Trump said. “Now the No. 1 reason happens to be they like watching what’s happening … with yours truly. They like what’s happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard: 15 yards! Throw him out of the game!

“They’re ruining the game! That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.”

Amazing how nobody even bats an eye anymore at vulgar language from the U.S. President, isn’t it? This set off an angry response from NFL players and the league itself. You never know with Trump whether he says something deliberately, or if it’s just an idiot spouting off like a drunk at a cocktail party.

Toys R In Trouble

Toys ‘Backwards R’ Us filed for creditor protection in the U.S. this week, usually the first foot in the fiscal grave. It seems the company has piled up debt like an Alberta government, upwards of $5 billion US. But before you rub your hands together at the prospect of picking up toys and games at close-out prices, hold the phone.

It seems while the U.S. parent company is floundering, the 84 Canadian outlets are doing very well, thank you, posting improved sales and actual honest-to-goodness profits. And the store is preparing to do its annual Christmas season hiring spree in October. But if the parent company shuts down, the Canadian arm will likely whither and die as well.

Conservatives are so-o-o-o stupid

Gerry Ritz, a Saskatchewan MP and registered idiot, issued a tweet this week, calling Environment Minister Catherine McKenna a “climate Barbie”, which is apparently a term coined by the creepy right wing website The Rebel. The outrage was swift and predictable, allowing the government to turn the tables on the Conservatives for a change. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Even dumber, however, was a Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak who issued a letter this month calling for First Nations people to give up their status cards in exchange for a one-time cash payment, and said they could then practice their culture “on their own dime”. She somehow keeps her job as a senator (there is no firing senators for some reason) but she has been expelled from all committees. As someone who had to attend committee meetings in my past life, I can tell you this is not a punishment.


Jake LaMotta, 95, former boxer immortalized by Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull … Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, 72, former WWE wrestler, manager and commentator … Lilian Bettencourt, 94, French cosmetics businesswoman (L’Oreal), and the world’s richest woman.

Stuff Still Happens, week 52: Let’s recap 2016 … sorry, it’s the law.

Yeah, yeah,  I know. It was a terrible year. One of the worst in recent memory. But the rule for anyone who writes a weekly blog or column is that you must write some sort of year-end recap. So, with apologies, here we go.

Newsmaker of the Year

Is there any doubt about this? Donald Trump, a pumpkin-tinted compulsive liar and frequent bankrupt, won the presidency of the United States, riding a deep seated hatred and distrust for government. Nobody saw this coming, even Trump, who looked on election night like a guy whose enormous practical joke backfired on him. Never in American history  – and rarely in world history – has anyone so spectacularly wrong for the job been elected. With control of the House and the Senate, the only thing that can stop Trump is the emergence of Republicans with steel in their spines who stand up the this thug. Since such a person does not exist, we’re in for a wild couple of years. (I say couple of years because I believe Trump will be impeached, or quit, well before his term is up.) By this time next year, Americans will be pining for the days of Barack Obama … or even George W. Bush. Anybody but this terrifying clown.

Canadian Newsmaker of the Year

The Canadian Press has named ailing Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie as its newsmaker of the year. No disrespect to Gord, but there’s no question in my mind that the real Canadian newsmaker of the year is Justin Trudeau. The PM elbowed his way (Get it? Remember ‘Elbowgate’? No?) into the headlines by leading the most activist government in generations. His government introduced an assisted dying law, began the process of legalizing pot, approved two pipelines and was photographed shirtless more of than Vladamir Putin. His government also botched, in spectacular fashion, the changes to our electoral system, and refused to apologize for his party’s shameless fundraising technique of promising access to cabinet ministers in return for donations to the party. That’s old-school politics for a new age, feel good politician.

Canadian news story of the year

The Fort McMurray wildfire was one of the most shocking, gripping and ultimately inspiring stories in recent Canadian history. Thousands of buildings gone, billions of dollars up in flames, lives turned upside down … and yet, somehow, and almost good news story. The evacuation was orderly in an almost cliched Canadian way, with only one fatality. Herculean efforts went into putting the fire out, and Canadians donated millions of dollars and tons of goods to help out. Disaster, yes. But also an example of Canadian humanity at its best.

It was a good year for the Grim Reaper

The Grim Reaper had one of his busiest years ever, swinging his scythe through the celebrity world with the vigour of a much younger man. I don’t know if there has ever been a year with such an impressive roll call of the dead. This year, we lost Muhammad Ali, Prince, David Bowie, Arnold Palmer, Gordie Howe, Garry Shandling, Merle Haggard, Fidel Castro, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Nancy Reagan, Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, Florence Henderson, Doris Roberts, Alan Thicke, Harper Lee, John Glenn, Patty Duke, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Glen Frey, Morley Safer, George Martin, Leonard Cohen, Garry Marshall, Abe Vigoda, Ron Glass, Robert Vaughn, W.P. Kinsella, and, just this week, George Michael, followed by Carrie Fisher and then her mother, film legend Debbie Reynolds. OK, death … take 2017 off. You need some rest.

And finally,  let’s end this year with something absurd

The city of Quebec produced a guide for immigrants to their historic town. Nice gesture, right? Well, read on.

More than 550 Syrian refugees have settled into Quebec City, and the town produced a guide to help them in the transition. In the guide – and I am NOT making this up – they told the newcomers the following …

With a drawing of a dark-haired, bearded man, the guide advises people to brush their teeth twice a day, “with a toothbrush and toothpaste”; hand washing is a must, “especially after going to the bathroom”; socks and underwear should be washed after each use, and when washing your body “pay particular attention to underarms, feet and intimate parts”; use a kitchen vent to reduce household cooking odors, or, in the event of “bad odors”, open a window. And finally – and this is my favourite – the document helpfully told the newcomers that incest is a crime. Here’s how they did it: “For example: Brother + sister=illegal, Parents + child= illegal”.

Again, I am not making this up.


Richard Adams, 96, author of the once hugely popular novel Watership Down … and finally to end the year of death, goodbye to actor William Christopher, 84, who played Father Mulcahy on M*A*S*H. Goodbye, and amen.


The Pain Campaign: Election 2015, week 1

Welcome, reader(s), to the Pain Campaign, your weekly recap of the longest and certainly ugliest election campaign in modern Canadian history.

First, a probably unnecessary warning. Don’t come here if you’re looking for reasoned, balanced analysis. I just can’t do that, because I loathe Stephen Harper, more than any other Canadian politician, ever. I think Harper is the worst thing to happen to Canada since the Spanish flu. He has done tremendous damage to Canada, and if we don’t get rid of him in October, the damage may be irreversible.

Now that you know where I stand, let’s look at the first week of the campaign.

For those of you keeping track (or with very, very long memories) there hasn’t been a campaign this long in Canada since 1872. Back then it was somewhat more difficult to campaign, in that there were no airplanes, phones, radios, TV, or internet. Back then, it might take days for a campaign promise or gaffe to travel the country. So, why are we having an 11-week campaign in the 21st century?

In explaining why we need an additional six weeks of electioneering, Harper came up with the complete fantasy that the longer campaign will ensure that the parties use their own money to campaign, and “not from the government resources, parliamentary resources or taxpayer resources.” In fact, the only party abusing public money is the Conservatives, with their hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars used to promote government giveways to “hard-working Canadian families”, and his ministers travelling the country giving away millions. In another fact, the parties get money from the taxpayers for the campaign, and one party stands to benefit hugely from the longer campaign. Can you guess which one? If the Conservatives spend the new maximum allowed, they will be reimbursed $26-million in public money. No other party has the resources to spend the new maximum, so the long campaign benefits only the Conservatives. It’s like the Eskimos deciding that they can have double the number of players on their roster, and playing 90 minute games. Harper made his laughable claim with a straight face, pretty much the only facial expression he has.

When the election was announced, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair gave his statement with the Parliament building as a backdrop. Remarkably, Mulcair — who is very quick on his feet — took no media questions, which raised some eyebrows.  Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was flying to Vancouver when the election was called, so he missed the opportunity for invaluable free airtime on the TV networks. He was on his way to Vancouver for a gay pride parade, which no doubt played right into the prejudices of starch conservatives who see him as a light-in-the-loafers friendly dilettante. Bad move, but when he finally made a statement, he answered all question from the media, until they finally collectively said “Can we go home now?”

Thursday was the first — and possibly last — all parties debate, shown on CITY TV, which gave the show the production values usually associated with cable access. Thanks to Harper’s refusal to participate in the traditional debate run by the networks, this may be the only debate featuring all leaders.

After the Conservatives attempted to set the stage by saying Trudeau only had to do well if he remembered to wear pants, Trudeau proceeded to not only remember to wear pants, but an entire suit. And he looked good in it, too.

Debates are usually judged on a winner/loser basis, but in this debate, there was only one clear winner — the voter. The leaders staked out their positions clearly. Harper was Harper, and aside from telling some half-truths (which is the most you can expect from him), he was his usual rock-like self. Mulcair was solid, although he has a weird speaking style that is just a little creepy when his eyes bug out of his head. And Trudeau performed well, too, although he always sounded like somebody who has so much to say that everythingjustgetsjumbledtogether. His closing statement was a real performance, painfully corny and rehearsed, but he didn’t stumble over it and require notes, the way Mulcair did. It’s too bad Elizabeth May is the leader of a fringe party; she’s a good speaker and a good debater.

Overall, no clear winner, and no clear loser. Trudeau probably gained the most by being aggressive and solid and remembering to wear pants, and Mulcair may have lost the most with a few weak spots. Overall, not a game changer this far from election day, but generally a plus for Trudeau. We can only hope that we have a few more debates.

imgres-1BLUNDER OF THE WEEK: Surprisingly for a guy who is so buttoned-down his hair combs itself, Harper made the first blunder of the campaign. In an online promo, Harper, trying his best to look human (and failing), spoke with that painful looking smile and talked about how much he liked movies and TV. Behind him was the Netflix logo. Based on no facts whatsoever, Harper pledged never to tax Netflix. Nobody has ever discussed taxing Netflix. It was amateurish and baffling and Harper became an online laughing stock. Harper also inexplicably decided to take a shot at the Rachel Notley NDP government, calling it a “disaster”. Really? I’m no fan of the NDP, but to call a three-month old government a disaster is pure partisan BS from Harper that won’t endear him to anyone in Alberta except rabid conservatives.

RECOMMENDED READING: A scathing column by John Robson from the Conservative-supporting National Post.

Everything you need to know about 2015 right here.

As a dues paying member of the blogosphere, I feel compelled to do at least one of the annual blogs: the year in review, or the predictions column. Since the year in review blog takes lots of work, guess which way I’m going? Besides, it’s really easy to write a predictions blog, because you can predict only what you want to talk about, and by the end of the year, nobody remembers any of what you’ve said.

Prediction no. 1: RIP Keystone XL

The Keystone XL pipeline was first proposed in 1922 to transport kerosene from Alberta’s vast kerosene fields, or something like that. It has taken this long to get to a decision, and I can say without a doubt that it will not be approved. President Barack Obama, freed from worrying about how his decisions will impact the mid-term elections (he lost), will certainly say no to the plan, regardless of what congress and the senate says. He has repeatedly signalled his disdain for the project, saying that it will only benefit Canada (not true). With the price of oil falling through the floor, and America awash in the stuff, there is no chance Keystone will get the presidential seal of approval. If I ran TransCanada, the pipeline proponents, I would withdraw the bid now. Then, in 10 years when the U.S. is begging for Canadian oil, no matter how ‘dirty’, I’d build a three-storey-high extended middle finger and put it right at the border.

Prediction no. 2: The federal election will be decided by the TV debates

Justin working on his thoughtful pose.
Justin working on his thoughtful pose.

It’s an election year here in Canada, and the situation is fluid (the only thing that is fluid in his frozen landscape). While support for Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party remains high, nothing has shaken Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s bedrock of support. Poor Thomas Mulcair of the NDP has found that being an excellent leader of the opposition gets you grudging admiration and a third-place standing in the polls. I think the election will hinge on the campaign, specifically the debate(s). We all know Harper will remain as unflappable as unyielding as a sphinx; in 10 years as prime minister, the guy has made maybe one verbal pratfall

Mulcair looking at the latest poll numbers.
Mulcair looking at the latest poll numbers.

(he called the Keystone pipeline “a no-brainer”). Mulcair is very quick on his feet and smart as hell. All eyes will be on Trudeau and whether he can play ball with the big boys. Canadians worried about Trudeau’s intellectual capacity — and that would be pretty much everyone — will be judging Trudeau on this performance. It could decide the election.

Prediction no. 3: Harper will win a minority

I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Prediction no. 4: Jim Prentice will win a majority for the PCs.

This is like predicting the sun will rise tomorrow, or that the PCs will win the Alberta election.

Prediction no. 5: Danielle Smith’s political career will end

Floor crossers sometimes win and sometimes lose. But there has never been a floor-crossing LEADER, and I’m certain the good people of Danielle Smith’s riding will let her know, loudly and clearly, what they thought of her actions. Most of the ex-Wildrose weasels will face the same fate.

Prediction no. 6: Winter will be cold, and sometimes not so cold.

Sorry, but I had to end on a sure bet.

(Finally, WordPress, the program I use for this blog, reports 18,300,771 new blogs were produced in 2014. Thank you for choosing this blog to read with all that competition.)

Here comes the pain train: previewing Justin Trudeau negative ads.

The news that Marc Garneau is quitting the federal Liberal leadership race is bad news for the Grits, and good news for the Conservatives.

How’s that, you say?

Well, the bad news part is easy. Justin Trudeau’s way to an easy, resounding, first ballot coronation has been cleared with his only remotely possible challenger now stepping down. The party should just save itself a bundle, cancel the convention, and hand Justin what’s left of the Liberal crown (tin foil wrapped around a coat hanger with a Canadian flag and a fleur de lis on either side). This is bad because a party in such bad shape as the federal Liberals needs a robust, idea-filled debate. But alas, the party is opting for a Hail Mary pass, instead of grinding it out for slow and steady yardage.

Why is this good news for the Conservatives? After all, some polls have suggested that a Trudeau-led Liberal party could win an election. You’d think that the dauphin Justin would be the Tory’s greatest fear. But no! With Garneau gone and Trudeau a forgone conclusion, the Harper election machine — the only election machine in Canadian history that runs 24/7, 365 days a year, election or no election — can begin the destruction of Justin Trudeau in earnest.

Remember Stephane Dion? The Tories devised attack ads designed to destroy his image before Canadians even got to know him. Remember Michael Ignatief? Same deal: he was “just visiting”, not interested in Canada, etc. No party in Canadian history has run attack ads in a non-election year, but it worked. Dion and Ignatief were dead in the water before they even started to swim.

For the Tories, Marc Garneau as leader would have been a real challenge. The guy’s record was impeccable: educated, former military, an engineer … he was an ASTRONAUT, for God’s sake. How do you attack that?

“Marc Garneau has spent hours in space … Canada not good enough for him? “

“Marc Garneau: we need a leader with his feet on the ground, not his head in the clouds.”

See? You can’t touch that guy. At any other time, Garneau would have been an ideal Liberal candidate, immune to the slings and arrows of a Tory negative ad campaign.

But Justin? I can guarantee that within hours of Justin Trudeau taking the Liberal leadership — probably even during commercial breaks of the convention TV coverage — the Tories will begin to define Justin Trudeau. And it’s almost too easy.


Ominous music plays. Begin with an extreme close-up, black-and-white photo of Pierre Trudeau, emphasizing the pockmarks, looking at his most intellectually condescending.

Narration: Remember this guy? How could we forget? He nearly drove the economy into the ground. He told westerners “why should I sell your wheat?” He brought us a Charter of Rights and Freedoms that have paralyzed our courts. Yeah, that guy.

Image of Pierre Trudeau slowly morphs into a black-and-white picture of Justin Trudeau (note: may be difficult to find an unflattering photo).

Narration: Well, he’s back. Canada can’t afford more Trudeau government. Justin Trudeau … like father, like son.


Happy music plays. The opening graphic is a colourful scene of cartoon children playing in a classroom. It’s noisy and not very orderly. Enter cartoon figure of Justin Trudeau, bobble-head style.

Narration: Justin Trudeau was a school teacher before he entered politics. Now he thinks he can lead Canada.

Switch to cartoon of angry men and women in business suits screaming at each other. Phones are ringing, papers are flying, clearly decisions have to be made.

Narration: Is teaching school kids enough preparation for leading a country, where real world decisions, with real world consequences, have to be made? We think not. Justin Trudeau: it’s elementary… he’s not ready.


Ominous music. In black-and-white and in slow motion, a clip of Justin Trudeau, speaking in French, is shown. The translation on the screen translates Justin as saying: “Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn’t work.”

Narration: Justin Trudeau says only Quebecers should be allowed to run the country.

Switch to black-and-white, close up photos of Jean Chretien and Pierre Trudeau.

Narration: Really, Justin? How did that work out for us? Justin Trudeau: new hair, old school thinking.

Poor Justin. This branding is going to be painful.



The year in political bloopers.

Ah, politics. It has the potential to inspire, and an even greater potential to inspire derisive laughter or fits of rage. Here, for your reading and enraging enjoyment, are my choices for the top 10 political blunders of 2012, local edition.

1. Allan Hunsperger and the ‘lake of fire’

In the April provincial election, the upstart (they were always called ‘upstart’) Wildrose party appeared to be on the verge of doing the impossible — toppling the PC dynasty. The public seemed ready to put aside its concerns about the far-right bent of the party to finally turf the exhausted 41-year Tory dynasty. But just before the election, a year-old blog posting by a Wildrose candidate in Edmonton, preacher Allan Hunsperger, resurfaced. In it, playing on the Lady Gaga song ‘Born this Way’, Hunsperger wrote in reference to gays: “You can live the way you were born, and if you die the way you were born, then you will suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire, hell, a place of eternal suffering.”

The comments caused uproar, affirming for many that the Wildrose was harboring lunatics in the fold, and trying to keep them hidden until after the election. In keeping with her libertarian views, leader Danielle Smith rebuked Hunsperger for his remarks, but only mildly, saying he was entitled to his opinions. She let his nomination stand, but certainly the ‘lake of fire’ remark caused many soft Wildrose voters to revert back to form and vote en masse for the PCs. (I spoke to one young person, who had no intention of even voting, but the ‘lake of fire’ line encouraged her and her friends to vote — and they voted PC.) Which brings us to the no. 2 political blooper of the year …

2. Provincial election polls

With a week to go before the April 23 vote, all polls put the Wildrose within range of not just winning the election, but winning with a majority. One vote-projection model, with took all released polls and crunched the numbers, put support for the Wildrose at 41.9 per cent, in range of a majority government. The polls gave the New Democrats hope for a possible balance of power role in a potential minority government, and also predicted the Liberals would be wiped out. Come election day, however, panicked voters — including many who usually voted Liberal or New Democrat — took the lesser of two evils route and voted Conservative. In the end, Alison Redford’s Tories took 44 per cent of the vote and 61 seats, the Wildrose 34 per cent and 17 seats, the Liberals 9.89 per cent and 5 seats, and the NDs 9.82 per cent and 4 seats. How did the polls get it so wrong? See blooper no. 1.

3. Justin Trudeau opens his mouth

Justin Trudeau, one of Pierre’s two Christmas Day birthday sons (the Second and Third comings?) entered the federal Liberal leadership race, and immediately became the frontrunner, and remained that way even after others entered the race.  But Trudeau, who posses some of this father’s charisma and none of his father’s intellectual heft, unwillingly himself in the middle of a federal byelection in Calgary in November that polls showed the Liberals had a chance of winning. A two-year-old interview emerged where Trudeau, speaking to a French reporter, said: ““Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn’t work.” Trudeau, and all Liberals by extension, was immediately labeled as being anti-Alberta. Trudeau was forced to apologize for his remarks, saying he was actually thinking of Stephen Harper when he said “Albertans”. Too late; the damage was done. What little chance of the Liberals winning a seat in Calgary evaporated, no doubt helped along by blooper no. 4 ….

4. David McGuinty opens his mouth

David McGuinty, the little known Ontario Liberal MP who was the party’s natural resources critic, unleashed a broadside at Alberta Conservative MPs, when he told the House of Commons that Harper’s Alberta sheep are “very, very small-p provincial individuals who are jealously guarding one industrial sector, picking the fossil fuel business and the oilsands business specifically, as one that they’re going to fight to the death for.” That could have gone without notice, but he went on to say that the Alberta MPs should “go back to Alberta and run either for municipal council in a city that’s deeply affected by the oilsands business or go run for the Alberta legislature.”

Not surprisingly, his comments were reduced to “go back to Alberta”, leading to howls of outrage and giving the Conservatives an opportunity to dredge up the National Energy Program. Combined with Justin Trudeau’s remarks, McGuinty’s broadside sunk the Liberal candidate in Calgary.

5. “I was not the justice minister at the time the government made that decision”

Premier Alison Redford’s government came under fierce attack when it was revealed (by the Wildrose and its research arm, CBC News) that a potentially lucrative contract to sue Big Tobacco to recoup health care dollars was awarded to a firm that included Redford’s ex-husband. Redford denied any wrongdoing, saying “I was not the justice minister at the time the government made that decision.” Well, that was sort of true, and sort of not true. When Redford was justice minister, she recommended her ex-husband’s firm, but the actual awarding of the contract was done when Verlyn Olson took over as justice minister while Redford ran for the PC party leadership. Redford was using oily legalese to try to defuse the situation, but only made the matter worse. The opposition howled for weeks, trying very hard to get the public to call the “scandal” Tobacco-gate. ND leader Brian Mason piously called for her resignation, getting the front-page Journal coverage he so craves. Turns out there are no conflict of interest rules against dealings with ex-spouses, and the whole thing just kind of fizzled out. But Redford took a hit to her credibility by trying to dodge the issue, rather than facing it head on.

6,7,8. Daryl Katz’s blooper hat-trick

Oilers owner and resident Montgomery Burns impersonator Daryl Katz singlehandedly scuttled the sweetheart deal he made with city council to build a new area for his wretched Oilers. His first mistake was to give $300,000 to the PCs during the provincial election (a donation that may, or may not, be ruled illegal) on behalf of himself, members of the Katz group, and his family dog for all we know. News of the donation ensured that the provincial government would not give the arena a dime, because it would like they were in his velvet-lined back pocket. Katz made a pair of other colossal miscues in 2012. When the arena deal was going sour, he made a trip to Seattle, clearly an attempt to panic the public into thinking he was shopping the team around. The tactic backfired horribly, nobody bought it, and he was forced to run an apology in the daily papers. His final, and worst, mistake, was to snub city council when they request Katz or someone from his organization appear before council to explain why he wanted more money than agreed upon in a deal reached earlier. Katz lost all support he had on council, and the arena deal went into deep hibernation. At year’s end, Katz tried to make amends, and the arena appears to have some life again. That is, until Katz’s next blooper.

9. Vic Toews and Peter McKay

Here’s why Stephen Harper’s ministers are not allowed to speak very often. First, Vic Toews, Harper’s Neanderthal public safety minister, said that anyone opposed to his bill that allows police easier access to snoop into personal Internet information is on the side of pedophiles. Then there’s Peter McKay, the increasingly clownish defence minister. McKay was caught using search-and-rescue helicopters for his personal use (under the guise of a “training mission”). When he was caught red-handed, he simply lied about it, while having the armed forces look into trips opposition MPs might have taken. Since both are stars in Stephen Harper’s eyes, neither was reprimanded.

10. Danielle Smith’s boob wagon

The funniest blooper of 2012 was a sight gag. When the Wildrose rolled out Danielle Smith’s election bus, the media immediately started to titter. Apparently nobody noticed that the juxtaposition of Smith’s face and the wheels of the bus made Smith look like Pamela Anderson. The gaffe even made Jay Leno’s Headlines segment.

And that wraps up the year in bloopers. Join us again next year in this space, where I’m confident we will have a whole new batch of idiocy to look back upon.

Justin Trudeau: hopeless, or only hope?

The Justin Trudeau bandwagon is getting pretty crowded, and it hasn’t even left the bandwagon station yet.

OK, I have no idea if bandwagons had stations, or really what a bandwagon is, or why anyone would get on it. So put another way, there appears to be some momentum building (at least in the media) for Justin Trudeau to enter the Liberal leadership race. And if he enters, he will win.

Trudeau is, in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years (another very odd expression), the oldest son of Pierre Trudeau, the most electrifying and polarizing figure in Canadian politics in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s (he was elected in 1968, was defeated in 1979, came back in 1980 and quit in 1984.) When Trudeau was running the Liberals, the party was not unlike the cool Mercedes sports car Trudeau was seen driving after he quit politics for the first time in 1979. Today, the Liberal party is still like that cool Mercedes sports car — but who the hell drives a Mercedes sports car? Can you even buy parts?

The Liberal party, once so dominant in this country that non-Liberal governments were aberrations, is now a shambles. The party has a feeble 35 seats in the House of Commons (worst numbers in its history), is currently leaderless after discarding two disastrous “leaders” in six years, and trails in the polls to even the New Democrats.

Now attention turns to Justin Trudeau. With its current roster of sitting MPs a collection of benchwarmers with little or no national profile, Trudeau is pretty much the only Liberal known outside of the cloistered circles of Liberal party believers. He’s been on the cover of Macleans magazine and has been the subject of multiple pro and con columns in the newspapers. To summarize both sides:

PRO: Young, handsome, charismatic, scion of the most famous name in Canadian political history, Quebecer.

CONS: Too young, too handsome, scion of the most despised name in Canadian political history, Quebecer.

The anti-Trudeau side believes that all he really has going for him is his looks and his name. He has accomplished nothing of any real substance other than being elected as a Liberal in a strongly separatist riding, and there are still plenty of Canadians who can’t say Trudeau without spitting, like the people of Dog River do when mentioning Woolerton.

I admit to being on the anti-Trudeau side for some time, buying into all the too young, too shallow, too Trudeau arguments. But the more I think about it, the more I think all of those negatives don’t really matter.

Sure, many Canadians still hate the Trudeau name. But many millions more — especially the young voters who would be Trudeau’s most ardent followers, and millions of new Canadians  — know Trudeau only as a historical figure. Pierre Trudeau left politics in 1984, the same year my oldest son was born. Millions of voters don’t remember Trudeau any more than they know Sir Wilfred Laurier, which is to say, not at all.

As to the complaint that he hasn’t accomplished much in his life, ask yourself this: what did Stephen Harper ever do outside of politics? The answer is nothing.

Some say that he doesn’t have the gravitas, the brainpower to be the leader of a party. To that complaint, I have a two-word answer: George Bush.  If the most powerful country in the world can elect a demonstrable dumb ass — twice! — than there’s no reason why a smart young man like Trudeau cannot run the third place party of a fairly inconsequential country.

And finally, to be blunt, Trudeau is all they’ve got. The Liberals are moribund, teetering on the brink of irrelevancy. With Jack Layton gone, replaced by whoever it is who replaced him (I want to say Muldoon), millions of soft New Democrat voters would return to the natural governing party.

Maybe Trudeau is lacking in substance, maybe he is more flash than form — but it hardly matters. Justin Trudeau is the Liberals best hope. Hell, he’s their only hope.