Last weekend Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took time off to go cross-country skiing in Quebec.
Also last weekend, Ontario Premier Doug Ford took time off to go snowmobiling in Muskoka.
The only thing significant about any of this is that to learn about Trudeau’s skiing excursion you had to look very hard to find it. Whereas Ford’s interlude on Muskoka’s fabulous snowmobile trails was splashed all over the media and social commentary, much of it embedded in sarcasm. Great publicity for Muskoka I suppose but think about that for a minute. I’ll get back to it.
Anyone with the slightest understanding of crisis management knows that respite and down-time for the leaders involved is critical to focused and strategic action and to avoiding knee-jerk responses that make things worse rather than better. You cannot make effective decisions when you are over-tired or stressed out. In fact, that is when you make the poor ones. Bottom line, neither Ford nor Trudeau should be criticized for taking needed and necessary time out.
What is disturbing, however, is that to much of the left-leaning media, and to people like the Opposition leaders in Ontario, this appeared to be more important to exploit, primarily in relation to Doug Ford, than the real crisis Canada is currently facing, particularly at its borders. Talk about fiddling while Rome burns!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Doug Ford did pay attention to what is going on in this country right now, particularly in Ontario where blockades are doing real damage to the economy and to hard-working individuals whose lives, and in many cases their ability to work, have been disrupted and a place where, embarrassingly, at least one other country, India, has issued a no-travel advisory for Canada.
Ford has done what the federal government has failed to do, declared a state of emergency, called the insurrection, as it now is, a siege, and put in place tough measures to end it. He did this knowing that a portion of his base supporters would be unhappy, but also knowing that it was the right thing to do. Many people of all political stripes applauded this action.
Shortly after Ford’s press conference on Friday, political pundit and former Liberal strategist, Warren Kinsella, tweeted this: “@fordnation just made the @JustinTrudeau government look useless, and the @CandiceBergenMP @PierrePoilievre Tories look clueless. And it ain’t even noon yet.”
A dear friend of mine, an ardent NDP supporter, said to me, “Finally, finally, a leader who spoke up and did the right thing.”
Another friend, currently a strong supporter of Trudeau, wrote to say, “Doug Ford just earned my vote.”
Even Gerald Butts, a close friend of the prime minister and at one point a senior member of the PMO, tweeted, “I’m often critical of him but that was very strong stuff from Doug Ford.”
Clearly there has been a great deal of bipartisan support for the action that Doug Ford took on Friday. That is good and the way it should be in Canada. We need more of that on all sides.
But what did much of the mainstream media do? A number of them moved quickly in an attempt to discredit Ford as people were praising him for taking a strong stand on opening up the borders. Clearly, they would have no truck with that. (Pun intended.)
That same day, one well known commentator gave credit to the Trudeau Government, saying they had asked the Ford Government to declare a state of emergency a week or so previously but had been rebuffed. That was strongly denied by the Ford Government and, in any event, when it comes to protecting Canada’s borders the federal government has ample jurisdiction under our constitution to take action. To date, they have not done that. It was the Ontario Government that earlier in the week successfully sought a court injunction in relation to the border blockades.
Then there was an opinion piece in the Toronto Star yesterday that just eviscerated Doug Ford for his statement and actions on Friday. He (Ford) didn’t get anything right. Everything was too late and self-serving or not good enough. No mention that he was the only leader that took any action at all. And just a buried, last paragraph comment that the prime minister could have shown more leadership.
Reading some of these stories and comments over the weekend made me wonder if there wasn’t some kind of unspoken resolve among some left-of-centre media folks that a good performance by Doug Ford needed to have the bottom torn out of it, especially so close to a provincial election, and that it was their job to do just that.
The day is gone I suppose, when we can expect a balanced approach to media reporting. It has become seriously polarized on both the left and the right, and I find that disturbing. In Canada at least, the left seems to be more dominant, but it causes me to wonder if this polarization, from both perspectives, contributes to the state our country is in today where anger, frustration, and distrust have become a toxic combination. It is easy to blame politicians for this, but many of those in the mainstream media must be held responsible as well.
Canadian journalist Alan Fryer put it this way: “Before media decided it was okay for their newsrooms to pick sides, most journalists were rightly seen as being on the public’s side. Picking political sides – it doesn’t matter which side – seriously erodes public trust in journalism and ultimately in our democracy.”
There will be people today who are content with bias to the left in the mainstream media. But we all should be calling for balance. Just look at the United States, where the pendulum is swinging too far to the alt-right. Surely we don’t want that here any more than we want the extreme left. Canada has always been about balance and not about extremism. We need to keep it that way.
Because inexorably, what goes around comes around.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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