Tongues were set wagging in the Nation’s Capital yesterday when The New Yorker claimed that Justin Trudeau’s principle secretary, Gerald Butts, had struck up a friendship with Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, of Breitbart fame. Apparently, Bannon sees Butts as the left-wing version of himself, or something, and Butts allegedly told him that there’s nothing more populist than a rich guy raising taxes on the wealthy. And while everyone clamoured for some kind of confirmation out of PMO, getting non-denials from official sources, and “it’s just business” from the less official sources, none of the Canadian stories that I read stopped at the part where the New Yorker piece claimed that Trudeau reversed a polling slump by pushing through these tax measures. While I will readily admit that most polling stories give me hives, especially two years out from an election, I can’t for the life of me recall this having happened – Trudeau’s poll numbers have remained stubbornly high, and only really dipped a little when Andrew Scheer won the Conservative leadership, because at that point there was an actual face that people could put to the poll questions (never mind that questions related to which leader one would vote for are illegitimate given our system of government). Trudeau putting forward these tax changes were the first piece of legislation that they tabled, and while it took a while to actually pass (during which time a budget had also been tabled and passed), it had no actual effect on his polling numbers. Where the New Yorker got this particular tidbit is mystifying to me, and why Canadian outlets didn’t call bullshit on this – and subsequently look side-eye at the other claims in the piece – is similarly baffling.
Did they talk to Butts? If not, how do you know they are friends? This story is almost certainly utter crap. https://t.co/DI359Wuxji
— Steve Saideman (@smsaideman) August 16, 2017
connections between Trudeau's operatives and Trump's have always been a tricky thing, as the latter are super icky but necessary…
— Steve Saideman (@smsaideman) August 16, 2017
GOOD LORD. 1) No intelligent person thinks it's an actual "friendship" 2) And OF COURSE he's doing his job. https://t.co/UPCPltKOyF
— Emmett Macfarlane (@EmmMacfarlane) August 17, 2017
Of course, the story would not be complete without Thomas Mulcair coming out to theatrically demand that Butts disavow this “friendship” given all of the drama around racism and white nationalism in the States over the past few days. The problem of course is that a) Butts is not an elected official, and b) there are NAFTA talks underway, and it would be really bad form for our government to so blatantly thumb our noses at the Americans in this way. Keeping a working relationship going would seem to be the most prudent course of action – but that never seem to be the course that Mulcair advocates.
Second, it is not the job of political staffers to 'disavow' political staffers in other countries. Full stop. https://t.co/EppMlgBmbR
— Rob Silver (@RobSilver) August 17, 2017
Today in NAFTA:
- The lead US negotiator came out swinging, saying this wouldn’t be about tweaks but major changes to the agreement. The first target appears to be autos.
- Here’s a look at the chapters on dispute resolution in the current agreement.
- Here’s some fact-checking on the claimed number of job losses in the States attributable to NAFTA. (Hint: It’s not what Trump’s people claim).
- Kevin Carmichael sets the stage for what looks to be drawn out and messy negotiations thanks to the protectionist mood in the States.
— CBC Politics (@CBCPolitics) August 16, 2017
- The government signed a record self-governing agreement with several Ontario First Nations regarding control over education.
- Here’s a look at what is and isn’t being done in Canada about far-right extremism.
- The Canadian Forces say they have reviewed the case of the “Proud Boys” at that Halifax incident, and are now making a determination about their fates.
- Some of the asylum seekers crossing the border in Quebec have been found in possession of child pornography. Commence the moral panic!
- Here’s a look at some court challenges related to the ability to search a laptop or smartphone at the border.
- The federal Victims of Crime Ombudsman wants the criteria overhauled for the barely-used fund for parents of murdered and missing children.
- Critics say that the Senate’s plan to pull out of the Phoenix pay system for its staff could add pressure to the government to fix it. (Note: Pressure isn’t the problem)
- There is a sense that queer/trans/two-spirit people are being excluded from the MMIW Inquiry.
- Here’s a good look at the current downward spiral of Rebel Media and how they got there.
- Some Conservative party members are looking to organize to drag the party to the centre, and a number of MPs and Harper-era staffers are losing their minds.
- When faced with questions about whether Andrew Scheer’s campus free speech policy covers white supremacists, his office says no.
- Scheer’s office has apparently had meetings about what response they plan to have around Rebel Media, but no statement has yet been made.
- Charlie Angus is taking another break from his leadership campaign to deal with the death of his sister.
Odds and ends:
Here’s a look at the debate in the world of sport about whether to keep marijuana as a banned substance once it’s legal in Canada.