Don Martin: Opposition shadows cloud PM Trudeau's question period
Published Thursday, May 11, 2017 5:55PM EDT
Justin Trudeau hates Question Period.
Stephen Harper, no fan of the inquisition either, at least seemed to relish the odd battle of wits and would uncharacteristically grin at his backbench when he gave back better than he got across the aisle.
But because this prime minister is fixated on a message track from which no spontaneity can escape, there’s no victory to be had. His only mission is to emerge unscathed. So he loathes it.
Starting now, Trudeau is going to hate it even more.
Having watched this government deliver 175 of these answer-avoidance rituals, the opposition has given up on the purpose of question period and decided to make it a tactic.
Information-seeking has given way to a new mission – getting under the prime minister’s thin skin.
By declaring that henceforth he’ll personally take all questions at the Wednesday question period, Trudeau has inadvertently given the opposition party leaders a gift.
They know the precise moment when their target will be singularly exposed, they know Trudeau can’t throw difficult questions to a cabinet sidekick without appearing spooked and they know he is incapable of thinking on his feet.
It’s the perfect storm and that’s why this week’s designated day of Trudeau misery was so interesting.
Both major parties took aim with high-calibre MPs to carpetbomb Trudeau with the same question asked a dozen different ways. It was simple enough to answer: Has Trudeau met with the Ethics Commissioner to discuss his questionable vacation to the Aga Khan’s island paradise?
As usual, Trudeau waffled. And waffled. And waffled ten more times. He meekly pledged to work with the commissioner. His “answers” could be interpreted that he’s done it or will do it. He refused to be precise.
The result was mission accomplished for the opposition parties. They made Trudeau look ridiculously evasive as he gulped like a carp on a sundeck.
So this is the way Wednesdays will roll from now on. The Conservatives and NDP will unite behind an issue Trudeau should and could address but won’t and they’ll force him into awkward and unbecoming talking point repetition.
It might not swing many votes, but it will paint Trudeau as more shadowy than sunny.
Now that the opposition has given up on getting legitimate responses from Trudeau, antagonism has become their best answer to question period.
And that’s the Last Word