Friday, January 12, 2024

Chrystia Freeland's turn for an embarrassing gaffe

The Liberal Party of Canada are prodigiously good at shooting themselves in the foot. Justin Trudeau is the shooter-in-chief, but he is ably abetted by several cabinet ministers. Even when things are going reasonably well (which is rare of late) they seem to be able to conjure a faux pas or a gaffe or an indiscretion, seemingly out of nowhere, handing the political opposition some timely ammunition.

The latest such debacle comes courtesy of Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was once thought of as a natural successor to Trudeau, should he ever actually deign to stand down. She usually comes across as a thoughtful, methodical politician (albeit with a particularly annoying diction that makes you feel like an errant five-year old), and has managed to keep her bloopers and scandals to a minimum.

You may have already seen it - the video has been quite viral for a few days now - but the incident occurred when Rebel News personality (let's not call him a journalist) David Menzies accosted Freeland in the street, asking why Iran's IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps) is not officially designated a terrorist group. 

Ms. Freeland seemed to be accompanied only by her aide but, after meeting with a stony-faced silence, Menzies was manoeuvred into a group of plainclothes RCMP officers, one of whom bumped him on the shoulder and then arrested him for "assault of a police officer", slamming him into a walll and handcuffing him. 

Overkill? Slightly. It was maybe not the face of Justin Trudeau's repressive police state, as opposition leader Pierre Poilievre would have it, but it was certainly the most unconvincing, bare-faced and poorly-executed set-up, and quite clearly fabricated to remove the (admittedly annoying) Menzies from Freeland's ambit. The wheedling, protesting Menzies, video recording throughout, was released about twenty minutes later, on the grounds that "no credible security threat existed". Duh.

It's hard to know how directly complicit Ms. Freeland was in all this, or whether it was purely the work of an over-zealous RCMP protection detail (she regularly travels with a security detail after several previous run-ins with the likes of Menzies and his hard-right buddies). But Jeez, talk about badly-handled! 

Menzies has been arrested many times for his political "work", and the guy is an unpleasant thorn in the side of many politicians, both Liberal and Conservative. But dealing with questions from idiots is part of a politician's remit and goes with the territory. Freeland could, at the very least, have said "no comment". Being annoying is not illegal, however much you might like it to be. Arresting the guy in the street on trumped-up charges is the kind of thing that happens in Russia, Iran or China. It should not be happening here in Canada.

The whole incident was captured on video, and now has pride of place on Rebel News' website, under the screaming banner "SHOCK FOOTAGE", and the headline "Chrystia Freeland's bodyguards assault and arrest David Menzies when he asks her a question". Would it really not have been better to have politely said "No comment"?

I wouldn't care that much, and the Trudeau government deserves everything it gets after this and several other bad publicity events in recent months, were it not for the fact that I can see a certain Pierre Poilievre sitting back and laughing at it all, adding it to his stock of evidence of Liberal incompetence and overreach. The Liberals clearly do not deserve another term in office, but the thought of the smug Poilievre and his merry band replacing them is scary indeed.

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