A pox on both your houses.
That’s the houses of Justin Trudeau and Andrew Scheer, for bringing down the tone of this campaign with outright falsehoods.
The latest was Mr. Scheer, the Conservative Leader, who has spent a lot of the past year and much of this campaign attacking his Liberal opponent as unfit (after the SNC-Lavalin affair), lacking in credibility and, yes, a liar.
And hey, Mr. Trudeau had just told a whopper in Monday night’s leaders’ debate, when he once again declared that the initial story in The Globe and Mail that unearthed the SNC-Lavalin affair – the story that reported Mr. Trudeau’s PMO had pressed then-attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to intervene to set aside the bribery trial of the Montreal-based company – was “false.”
Then Mr. Scheer was asked to defend a false claim made up and circulated by his party, that the Liberals plan to slap a tax on your house. And he did defend it.
Mr. Scheer’s explanation was that even though Mr. Trudeau and his Liberals say they will do no such thing, they have repeatedly failed to tell the truth and therefore they can’t be trusted not to tax your house.
Because our opponents have lied, the reasoning goes, we can make up any lie about their plans and no one can be sure it is not true because they have lied.
Why on earth would Mr. Scheer, running hard on an argument that Mr. Trudeau is untrustworthy, choose to twist himself into a pretzel to try to justify this falsehood?
The Conservative false claim about the house tax isn’t a new thing. Party operatives and MPs have been spreading it for several weeks, although before Tuesday, Mr. Scheer himself hadn’t got involved.
The Conservative Party has been misrepresenting a Liberal document that summarized ideas for cooling overheated housing markets. It said one idea that “emerged from housing town halls” was discouraging house-flipping by applying capital-gains taxes to home sales, so people would pay capital-gains tax on 50 per cent of the profit if they sold the house within a year of buying it, and on 5 per cent if they sold it within five years. But it was a consultation summary, not the Liberal Party’s proposal. Yet Conservatives kept calling it a “secret plan.” The Liberals said they won’t do it. So the Conservatives launched a website to spread the claim.
Sure, electoral politics has never been an exercise in intellectual honesty. There is a lot of misdirection and misinformation.
The Liberals spent the early days highlighting the anti-abortion views of Tory candidates, though Mr. Scheer had promised not to change abortion laws – but the Liberals argued that is relevant because the Conservative Leader will not bar his MPs from proposing such legislation. The voters will judge.
There is the customary truth-stretching about opponents’ plans. Mr. Trudeau suggests Conservative tax breaks will go mainly to the rich when they are mostly weighted to the middle class; Mr. Scheer claims the Liberal carbon tax makes life more expensive for all but ignores the tax rebates that will make most individuals (in those provinces where the federal tax applies) better off.
And there were other uninspiring moments when Mr. Trudeau couldn’t remember how many times he had worn blackface and Mr. Scheer couldn’t remember he was never an insurance agent.
But it is a lot more arresting when Mr. Trudeau goes on a debate stage in October and repeats his nothing-to-see-here denial from February about the SNC-Lavalin affair. It’s one thing for Mr. Trudeau to argue about his good intentions, but untruthful to claim the report was false. On Tuesday, he said he was “actually saying that Mr. Scheer was mischaracterizing the situation,” but that is not at all what he said.
It is also dispiriting to see Mr. Scheer argue that his opponents are not trustworthy, and therefore his Conservatives have licence to make up any false claim about what Liberals might do. The question isn’t whether it is fair to the Liberals, but whether it is honest with the voters. It is not.
But there is no sign either side feels a smidge of shame. If you ask them, they will tell you the other guy is worse.