Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Prime Minister Jason Kenney attended a memorial service at the University of Alberta on January 12 for victims of the crash of the Ukrainian passenger plane in Iran. So far, Trudeau has kept politics out.
CANDACE ELLIOTT / REUTERS
If the candidates for conservative leadership are in the mood for a small homework assignment, they can study Justin Trudeau and his reaction to the atrocity that claimed 57 Canadian lives in Iran. It would certainly be worth the time, and boy, do they need the lesson.
If the future leaders study well, they will observe a leader who is in contact with public sentiment and an absolute master of the retailing of their company. They will also catch a glimpse of the gap in empathy that holds them firmly in second place. Trudeau has suffered from the victims and their families and has kept up a good pace (and quality) of public communication. More importantly, Trudeau has largely succeeded in keeping politics out of it, which – partisans may be shocked to find out – is not what people are interested in at the moment after atrocities.
And if the conservatives look for extra credit, they can study the communication of their own party as an example of what they should not do. It has been a terrible sermon of everything that is absolutely wrong with the current state of affairs of the party.
Believe it or not, the day of an emotional vigil in Edmonton – home of many friends and relatives of the victims – was not the day to retweet a month-old article about China and use it to keep Trudeau’s ears to cut. And following up with the party’s 1,300,301 attack on the CO2 tax was no better. Is there no one at party headquarters who checks the planned tweets anymore?
Trudeau has largely succeeded in keeping politics out, which – partisans may be shocked to find out – is not what people are interested in at the moment after atrocities.
The party’s response to Iran itself was also not much better.
Let’s assume that many Canadians are angry at what happened, but I would bet none of them blame Trudeau, so trying to make Trudeau a problem is a fool. Moreover, no Canadian expects a Canadian prime minister to be able to bend the mullahs to his will. Sorry guys, we don’t have that appeal. It is a mystery how to view the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization (a frequently repeated conservative question from Trudeau this week) to find out what happened. Does anyone really think that an Iranian regime in crisis mode will suddenly start to erode because Canada has a bad idea of the fight crew that keeps the regime in power?
Look, I get it. Counting to the right of history counts. And the IRGC are scum. But if the conservatives really want to scare the Iranian regime, they must enter into a common cause with Trudeau and support him, because the government seeks answers through a transparent and thorough international investigation. They should support the brave Iranians on the street who risk their lives to put two fingers in the Ayatollah way in the aftermath of the regime’s confession on flight 752.
It may be that doing these things is not enough. There is a chance that the Iranians will come up with a few bumps that have activated the anti-aircraft batteries in the night in question and are ready with that. And that would be a shame.
But it would be the shame of Iran. And, like it or not, little Canada could do about it. The world could indeed do little about it. These are the benefits of a fraudulent regime. Applying so-called “Magnitsky” style sanctions (another conservative question from Trudeau) would be the equivalent of a light blow (at best) after years of “maximum pressure” on Donald Trump’s regime. The Iranians would not even notice.
Back to homework. Opposition is at best a difficult (and blinking) game, and it is almost impossible in the face of a tragedy for which the government is not to blame. If the goal is to win back the government, the conservatives must ask themselves if Trudeau is being defeated on the IRGC and Magnitsky sanctions.
Or could it perhaps be to praise the Iranians who are already contributing to our universities and communities in Canada, and to speak out on behalf of those Iranians who are detained in Iran without those liberties?
Andrew MacDougall is a London-based communications consultant and former communications director of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.