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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Don Martin: Trudeau government finally performs well in a freedom protest

It’s a bit like a flea attacking a pit bull, but the Trudeau government deserves a thumbs-up for trying to inflict a painful Canadian bite on Russia for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

This was a government which, until this crisis came along, was lost in botched affairs on every foreign file.

It was led by a prime minister who seemed incapacitated by hostage-taking China and still vacillates on allowing Huawei technology into 5G networks.

It’s a prime minister who infuriated India with excessive dress-ups and his meddling in a farmers’ protest.

And after being repeatedly ignored or ruled-against by the Biden administration, Justin Trudeau has become former US president Donald Trump’s favorite punching bag for his bungled handling of the Freedom Convoy although, in my view, being called a “far-left lunatic” by an all-round lunatic is a badge of honor.

Now comes along Putin’s Folly — and suddenly all isnt completely hopeless for a third-term Liberal government which recently seemed in need of leadership change.

A government which took weeks to clear the street in front of its Parliament buildings is doing everything right in trying to stop a bully sending in tank convoys to force a Soviet Union reincarnation.

It’s almost as if adult supervision or someone with a spine has taken hold of a government which often seemed stymied by difficult (and sometimes easy) decision-making.

The government stars are finally starting to shine. And unfortunately for Trudeau, he’s not among them. Rather, they’re standing right beside him.

There comes a moment where you study an Opposition leader or a cabinet minister and you just know they’re ready to become prime minister one day.

In Trudeau’s case, while he was delivering his usual breathless dramatizations of the situation at Monday’s news conference, the heir apparents framed him on the television screen.

To his right, deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland, fidgeting with a thick stack of documents. To his left, looking calm and cool, Defense Minister Anita Anand.

Either one looks ready to step into Trudeau’s shoes and deliver far superior leadership.

The bonus is that both are women in a country that still needs to make the progressive step forward by electing a woman as prime minister.

Both are whip-smart, delivering scandal-free service so far in the portfolios they’ve been assigned.

And, as their Ukrainian-invasion-handling has shown, both have risen to this character-testing crisis by orchestrating a furious political retaliation for Russia’s inexcusable invasion.

Freeland, in particular, has been preparing for this showdown most of her adult life.

Fluent in Ukrainian and a published author on Russia’s post-communism transition and the rise of its oligarchs, she was such a journalistic pest while living in Moscow that the KGB tapped her phones and ultimately denied her re-entry to the former Soviet Union.

She delivered extremely poignant remarks Monday, invoking Martin Luther King, Gettysburg and the Battle of Britain as analogous to this as a historic democratic showdown against the bloodthirsty tyrant who has turned Russia into a pariah.

If that sounds like hyperbole, well perhaps, but there’s no doubting Canada is turning its words into every avenue of possible action against Putin.

It’s frankly difficult to see what more Canada could do short of putting actual soldier boots on Ukrainian soil, but that likely means we’re marching into World War 3 and Russian nukes are warming up in their silos.

Consider the retaliation list, which saw Canada leading the global charge to shut down international transactions technology to freeze Russian banks out of global markets.

Lethal weapons, including anti-tank systems, are on their way; Canadian sanctions against Putin and his billionaire buddies have been imposed; a blockade against most exports to Russia announced; matching donations for humanitarian charities offered; a crude oil import ban imposed (although we don’t currently import any); a demand to take all Russian television off Canada’s airwaves delivered (which Bell and Rogers have already done); and fast-tracked immigration for Ukrainian refugees offered.

It’s a unified reflection of Russian revulsion; a diplomatic shunning unlike anything experienced in recent memory. How we still have an ambassador in Moscow is beyond me.

But this crisis has also uncovered Liberal leaders-in-waiting for the prime minister’s job, at least until the Conservatives figure out how their next leader can reclaim the government-in-waiting position.

Thanks to the best and brightest in Trudeau’s cabinet, the tiny Canadian flea is preparing to deliver a bite greater than its size.

While sadly unlikely to happen, the world can only hope enough bites will drive a fleabag like Putin from irritation to capitulation.

That’s the bottom line…

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