Skip to main content
opinion

The best intentions often go awry. Bad things happen to good people. Sometimes you're the windshield, and sometimes you're the bug.

These days, Justin Trudeau must be feeling like the bug. Someone in his government even screwed up the Holocaust memorial. For some inexplicable reason the plaque for the new memorial in Ottawa, which opened last week, failed to include any mention of anti-Semitism or the Jewish people. The headlines were embarrassing, and the Heritage Minister, Mélanie Joly, had to reassure the public that a new plaque would be ordered up tout de suite.

Ms. Joly is a big star. Or was. Now she has been eviscerated over the Netflix deal, which she attempted to sell as the government's long-awaited new cultural policy. People were having none of it. There's no assurance that Netflix, a giant U.S. corporation, is going to spend any more money in Canada than it would have spent anyway. The deal comes with no strings attached – no requirement for Canadian or francophone content, no tax, no regulation, and no reason why Canadian cable companies should not be furious at the preferential treatment Netflix is getting.

Regardless of the merits of the deal, anyone remotely tuned into the explosive politics of Cancon could have predicted that Ms. Joly would be roadkill. In Quebec, the entire cultural establishment turned on her like a pack of ravenous beasts.

There seems to be a pattern building here. The Liberals are looking pitifully out of touch. Bill Morneau, the Finance Minister, was shocked to discover that his small-business tax reforms – meant to rein in the overly entitled, income-sprinkling, dividend-hoarding fat cats – had thrown vast numbers of constituents into a towering rage. The victims weren't all fat cats, either. Some were farm families or female doctors with large debts and young children.

"Our girls are fifth-generation farmers," said Megz Reynolds, a farmer whose tweets and interviews from rural Saskatchewan helped drive Mr. Morneau to his knees. She pointed out that the government's proposed changes would make it easier to sell a farm to outsiders than to keep it in the family. "Justin Trudeau u have proved yourself to be nothing more than a bully," she tweeted.

Mr. Morneau's people circulated photos of the Minister talking on the phone to angry farmers, but to no avail. His tax reform proposals have gone back to the policy shop for a major do-over. The issues are so complex that only a handful of brainiacs can understand them. What's clear is that another one of Mr. Trudeau's stars is badly bruised.

The art of politics consists of figuring out how to get worthwhile things done in the real world, where things are messy. Maybe the Liberals simply underestimated people's ferocious desire to pass along their own money to their own kids. Whatever the case, their surefire crowd-pleaser turned into an enormous Thanksgiving gobbler.

Marijuana law reform was supposed to be another easy win. But it too could be more trouble than it's worth. That's what the provinces seem to think. Legalizing pot is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out who should sell it, how it should be sold, priced, and regulated, and who's going to pay for enforcing all the rules. No wonder they're miffed. Mr. Trudeau has passed the hard part to them. Now Mr. Trudeau says he's going to slap a tax on pot and split the proceeds. The provinces don't like that either. A federal tax leaves less tax room – and less money – for them.

It's also dawning on the public that legalization has problems of its own. A sizable black market will still exist. The number of young users, including heavy-duty users intent on frying their brain cells, will likely go up. So will the number of stoned drivers. All of this may well be preferable to the way things were. But legalization is neither easy nor cost-free, and it certainly won't be the jolly fun that many folks had expected.

Oh, well. Things could be worse. What if the U.S. slaps a punitive tariff on Bombardier and gives our major industries a heart attack? What if some crazy president threatens to rip up NAFTA? Things like that would really ruin a prime minister's long weekend. Fortunately, they'll never happen.