Don Martin: Canada's real plastics problem is the politicians
OTTAWA -- Watching the age of personality be eclipsed by the plastic politician has been the most distressing phenomenon to observe as I leave after 40 years in the daily news business.
We are in an era where the proliferation of media relations staffing is only exceeded by the decimation of journalism ranks. Ironically, many of those advising politicians on media manipulation are themselves displaced reporters.
More than ever before, communications flacks see their role as cocooning cabinet ministers, premiers and even mayors from actually facing a reporter scrum or returning their phone calls.
It is much safer to issue a bland statement, which prevents journalists from obtaining clarification or explanation from incomplete responses.
Of course, the best reporters and columnists can still meet politicians or staff in a dark bar to find out what is going on. But from a television host's chair, it's a daily struggle to get leaders or cabinet ministers, assuming they actually agree to an interview, to even attempt to appear unscripted.
This is not to single out Justin Trudeau's government as particularly egregious. Message tracking and script reading were similarly intense under Stephen Harper.
And once greater thought control over a caucus is successfully exercised, it is never relinquished by the next leader in line.
So, as I sign off, let me quickly run through the hall of fame and shame of those who excelled at being a personality versus those who meekly performed the role of potted palms in the background.
First off, there are promising premier entries into the field of leaders capable of talking like they have a pulse to call their own – take a bow Alberta's Jason Kenney, Quebec's Francois Legault, New Brunswick's Blaine Higgs and B.C.'s John Horgan.
And there were encouraging signs in the last election that voters are fed up with focus-grouped leader lines. The only two who exceeded electoral expectations were NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and the Bloc's Yves-Francois Blanchet, both delivering personality-enhancing performances.
But the finger of shame should wag at the gag on every Trudeau cabinet minister except, on some days, deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland.
And then there's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself.
Before becoming prime minister, Trudeau used to talk like a human. Now his mouth gushes out a jumble of staff-approved nouns, verbs and adjectives which defy assembly into coherent and insightful sentences.
So if I have a farewell wish for my viewers and colleagues, it's that more politicians reject central thought control to act and talk openly like the voters they're elected to represent.
And may today's plastic politicians be quickly recycled by voters of the future into someone more useful.
That's the last Last Word.