Monday, April 24, 2017

Zelig, Anyone?

I don't know how many of you remember the 1983 Wood Allen film, Zelig, in which Allen plays an individual with the uncanny ability to take on the characteristics of those around him. The only problem, as I recall, was that there was no real individual at Leonard Zelig's core, just a skilled chameleon whose power was imitative and derivative, not original.

I'm beginning to think of Justin Trudeau as our version of Zelig. You may recall, for example, that he certainly supported Finance Minister Bill Morneau's comments last year that precarious work and job churn are here to stay, and that young Canadians will just have to get with the program. A short time later, however, when Trudeau was addressing politicians and elites in Germany, he had this to say:
“No more brushing aside the concerns of our workers and our citizens,” the prime minister said in prepared remarks. “We have to address the root cause of their worries, and get real about how the changing economy is impacting peoples’ lives.”

He even adopted some of the language of anti-trade movements. [Emphasis added.]

“When companies post record profits on the backs of workers consistently refused full-time work — and the job security that comes with it — people get defeated,” he said.
Trudeau said the anxiety of working people is turning into anger, and politicians and business leaders must take heed and take “long-term responsibility” for workers, their families, and the communities in which they operate.

“For business leaders, it’s about thinking beyond your short-term responsibility to your shareholders,” Trudeau said.

“It’s time to pay a living wage, to pay your taxes. And give your workers the benefits — and peace of mind — that come with stable, full-time contracts.” [Emphasis added]
Note the last sentence's jarring contrast with what Morneau/Trudeau told young people in the fall.

Why the change of tone? Perhaps it was due to the fact that Canada had just finished signing the CETA deal, and the neoliberal prime minister fears there will be few others unless the illusion of progress for workers is perpetrated. As well, his audience was really a world one, and we know how the man likes to bask in the reflected glow of his 'sunny ways' and international press adulation.

Which brings us to his latest Zelig move, which mirrors that of the Orange Ogre to the south:
Canada is going to put off for three years its plan to regulate cuts to methane emissions in the oil and gas sector.

The move comes less than a month after U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order that hits the pause button on matching American commitments to methane cuts -- and the timing is no coincidence.
Using lines only too familiar to us from the Harper era, we are told that the delay is so as not to put our businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

Rebukes from the environmental sector have been swift:
Dale Marshall, national program manager with Environmental Defence, told the Star that curbing methane gas is one of the easiest ways to reduce emissions that cause climate change. The fact that the government is putting off action on this low-hanging fruit in the climate fight demonstrates a “total” lack of leadership, Marshall said.
He accused Ottawa of showing “no backbone” on the issue.
Despite the government's protestations that they will still remove the same amount of methane over time, those who study such matters dismiss such self-serving rhetoric:
Andrew Read, a senior analyst with the Pembina Institute, called the new methane timeline a “real blow” that could hinder Canada’s goal to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Read said that, even if the government still cuts methane emissions by 45 per cent, the delayed timeline translates to an estimated extra 55 megatonnes of the gas that will get released into the atmosphere. He added that methane is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
So there you have it - a prime minister as elusive a character as was Zelig, and sharing with him, apparently, one other 'quality': a complete absence of a moral and ethical core.


  1. .. we are in the era of politics (aka 'governance) driven by situational ethics. More and more I am calling for the destruction or ignoring of current political parties. They have zero interest at the riding & constituent level of hearing, reflecting or representing the needs dreams and wishes of those who elected them. They just re-enact the election ritual & lip service

    How we got to this stage baffles me.. and why 99% of mainstream media rolls over and sucks eggs for these deeply corrupted entities is a scandal. But then, Paul Godfrey signs many of their paycheques.. and thus holds them hostage. Its not just government and political parties that have been captured, its media as well. The end result is that we have media that is selling Canadians out.

    We have a media that still refers to our main political parties as Grits & Tories.. which must be the twin circus tents of the so called Liberals and Conservatives.. Deary me, they must think those terms or monikers have meaning to my son's generation.. The monikers had zero meaning to my boom generation, and any shreds of relevance or accountability left the room long ago

    That's right - media selling out Canadians.. so called journalists, forced to obey, but their jobs are in peril regardless

    1. There is little excuse for journalistic negligence, Salamander, but the same can be said about the electorate at large that places any trust in our current politics. If they could rouse themselves to do even a modicum of research, they would understand what peril the world is in, and the total betrayal Trudeau and his ilk are engaging in with each compromise on climate change mitigation.

    2. That's the touchstone, Sal. It's our corporate media influence and the unwillingness of the current regime and its predecessors to restore a free press in Canada, without which we can never have an honestly informed electorate. That is the sine qua non of liberal democracy. These media conglomerates know that their concentration of corporate ownership is no mere financial matter. With it comes political power and the ability to manipulate pols as weak and feckless as the current prime minister.

  2. When has this government shown backbone? The Saudi death wagon deal? Electoral reform? Pipelines and supertankers? Ramping up bitumen extraction and export? The surveillance state? Democratic restoration? Fighting inequality? Restoring balance between labour and capital? Climate change, really? This is the guy who shamelessly proclaims that the key to Canada's green future lies in expanding bitumen production to levels that will absolutely negate his Paris climate summit commitments. When, on challenging issues, has he not buckled at the knees? When, on these issues, has he deviated from Harper's course? Oh, well, of course - he's got a gender balanced cabinet.

    1. Your trenchant observations sum up Trudeau perfectly, Mound. He reminds me of a quote when Claudius is speaking to Laertes about Hamlet:

      "He’s loved of the distracted multitude,
      Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes.
      And where ’tis so, th' offender’s scourge is weighed,
      But never the offense."

      Until the distracted multitude start to apply some critical thinking to young Justin, nothing will change.

  3. Political sovereignty is now being replaced by economic sovereignty as corporate power is now in charge of governance.

    Welcome to Trudeau's world.

    Spurred on by an unquestioning media Trudeau spins double speak about how the concerns and anger of the citizens about neoliberal economics must be listened to by big business and governments. This he says as he constantly promotes his own neoliberal policies as being of great benefit to Canadians.

    "We have to address the root cause of their worries and get real about how the changing economy is impacting peoples live."

    He may have been addressing the elites in Germany, but his remarks were for the Canadian publics consumptions. I'm sure the elite German's knew that, because they do the same double speak themselves. I'm sure they marveled though at how quickly Trudeau has caught on and how good a liar he has become.

    There was also something very condescending about his remarks.

    I think your describing Trudeau as a skilled chameleon is very apt.I guess that's what they mean when they say he has charm.

    The only people around him, though, whose characteristics he can't take on are those politically intelligent and aware Canadians.Those are the ones he actually wants to avoid.

    A PM who has no core to his identity, including morally and ethically, can be manipulated to create policies and decisions dictated by those who "advise" him.This leaves the Canadian people very vulnerable.

    There is no way Trudeau can support the elites, as he is doing, domestically and globally, without having complete contempt for Canadian people at large.

    1. Well said, Pamela. I think it is clear that people have to learn to look past the surface and media spin, and see for themselves the direction we are being increasingly taken in.