The upside to President Donald Trump's decree of imposing a 25% tariff on steel is that the normally cocky politicians, union and business leaders, and journalists in Ontario finally have their perpetually cocky smirks wiped off their smug faces. Journalists in Canada really are that clueless because they think there is some sort of safety net if they screw things up. They do not have to think, work, or put actual effort into what they do because somehow, it all works out in the end. Why? Because the mysterious and benevolent organization known as They will rescue them. I keep hearing a lot about the They patrons, and have yet to meet them, or be a recipient of their altruistic largess and doting. "They" are apparently big enablers who reward the arrogant and lazy so that they never have to be made accountable or suffer the consequences of their stupidity.
Now that "They" did not stop Donald Trump from delivering what he promised during his election campaign to do, it is Reality Time, not quite Truth Time because Canadians still think they can charm their way into getting an exception, even though Trump has made several subtle, but solid preemptive strikes that culminated into calling this entire nation "smooth."
This is absolute serious business, but Canada, per usual, is unprepared. Charm offensive only goes so far. Narrative manipulation only works if your audience is unaware of your ruse, and with both Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling the Canadian regime untrustworthy in different ways in the same week, that gambit can no longer be counted on to work. It is one thing for Trump to be disliked -- his power comes from the chaos of antagonism, but Justin Trudeau is an intellectual lightweight who has too many handlers and not enough instinct. He comes off as the nerdy little boy who was made fun of as a kid, and now is too blinded by trying to pretend to be cool so that the entire world will love him. He will be lucky if he isn't the most reviled prime minister this country ever had.
Canada has some hard truths to face, but, as usual, the news media here never seems to be able to deal with bad news: there always has to be a positive spin and an assurance that hey, everything is just peachy keen, we have it all under control, and They will fix things even if we stay inert and never learn to face reality. We can quibble over using words such as "master" and "chief" while having a federal government spend more than we have, watch a housing market begin to collapse, and keep quiet about our country's precarious employment situation.
Until Trump seemed to have sucker punched everyone with tariffs.
How anyone could have construed what happened as a sucker punch is beyond me: I knew it was coming. He said as much during his campaign. He set the scene with the "smooth" commentary the same week as Trudeau's disastrous Indian trip where he tried to pin the most notorious turn of it on another country who would have none of it. It was a perfect storm and Trump, true to form, made the most of it.
I used to box, and I could see the boxing match. Trudeau once pretended to box, but it was not a real match: it was one where two people who didn't know what to do made crude guesses, and wildly missed the mark.
But Trump boxes in his affairs for real. It was the same boxing match where Trump knocked out Hillary Clinton -- everyone thought Clinton would win, and I, who knew the rhythms and methods of one-on-one fighting, saw the moves and the hits, and could easily call it for Trump.
The same thing is happening again, this time, with Canada getting pummelled like nobody's business.
And the pummelling has only begun.
But the Canadian news media did not get the memo.
The Toronto Star is too busy getting offended by the "smooth" remark with Jim Coyle's uppity tit-for-tat column babbling about how a "smooth" Brian Mulroney outfoxed the Liberals and the U.S. with Free Trade.
No, he served Canada up to the US on a silver platter, and Canada's manufacturing sector got decimated. Canada never recovered; we just made do and covered it up. Free Trade was never in Canada's interests. We got played then; we're just getting screwed now.
Canada has always behaved liked the battered wife who thinks she stood her ground by spitting in her husband's beer, and thinks everything is good enough because she isn't completely destitute, making her cunning for it, and believes the neighbours don't know of her tortured existence. So used to abuse this nation has become that we don't even see the extent of our wounds. Pat us on our heads with an Olympic medal or a Grammy award, and we'll eat whatever dirt anyone throws us. It is a nation terrified of any criticism because perhaps it means not everything is swell, and we're getting abused for no good reason -- and that things will never get better.
So long as we have tattoos. Timmie's coffee, some weed, beer, and a smartphone to watch Netflix and hockey, we think it's all going to work out. We can crow about the Raptors and get cocky and lippy at whoever we wish because They is looking out for us; so we're free to shut down our critics and smirk at how they keep pointing at all the rot around us, having the nerve to demand that we acknowledge that rot and help them do something about it.
That is, until someone who is more cunning than we are decides to decimate the little we have with tariffs. Deep down, we know we can't take many more hits because we are that close to the edge.
Which brings us to how badly the Canadian newspaper industry got played by its own government.
Just like Trump's war cry with tariffs, Canadian governments are not as generous with money as the myth goes. They certainly love to tax their citizens.
But should any of those citizens try to retrieve some of those funds, they hit a million roadblocks, regardless of what level of government they make their pleas.
Some local and provincial programs, such as Ontario Renovates, do not give grants for desperately needed housing repairs, for instance. You borrow the money by means of a second mortgage, and many insurance companies won't insure you if you have a second mortgage. You have to submit to a city inspection, and chances are, you will not qualify, and if you do, you cannot sell your home for years after.
There are countless other examples of special programs where people who should qualify never do, and of those who reach that ridiculously high standards, find out there are strings, far less money than is promised, and there are so many obstacles and conditions that you are better off doing without. It is not as if the government doesn't give generous funds, but those will be to their friends in exchange for other things. Big corporations get them. Companies that do not actually need them get them.
The methods of which the government oversees these penny tosses is cumbersome and deliberately so. For all the money earmarked to First Nations, you'd think a direct one-time deposit of a decent sum to every First Nations person would set them for life, but it is doled out in such a way that those who need it the most never see a penny, and there is no end of the bureaucracy with well-paid wonks who reap the benefits.
It is, to be blunt, a sham.
Had Canadian journalists been bothered to cover those stories by researching and not reading whatever the government press release said, they would have already known this fact. I know this fact because I have done my homework over the years. I have paid visits and asked questions. To me, this is no surprise.
But when the going got tough, media owners naively went to the federal government begging to get $350 million dollars directly deposited to their bank accounts so they could do what they always did: nothing but strut around with a smirk and produce nothing of value.
What happened next was no surprise; it gave the government ideas: throw a few pennies, set up yet another layer of government, set up a grant system where no one can actually benefit from save the government because there will be too many strings attached, and the knots will prevent anyone from benefitting.
The government looks like it is doing something, and those who need the funds are shut out, but cannot gripe because they made a deal with the devil, getting what they asked, but not in the way they asked for it.
And now the Canadian media has been sucker punched by the inevitable outcome, whining aloud.
Suckers, you can keep whining. It is not going to save your hides.
Even Andrew Coyne, who gets it more than the rest of that clueless cabal called Canadian journalism, doesn't see the whole. The "good news, bad news" spin of his column does suggest a wry understanding of the issue. And he gets that the government played his industry.
But even Coyne doesn't see how badly the industry got burned: they had been enslaved by a federal government that is about to get the humbling of its life by a bigger shark.
The Liberal Party has always been uncontrollably arrogant: the "Government Party" makes them Marvel Comics to the Conservatives DC Comics. They know how to pander and set narratives, reassuring people they will take care of everything, and it will all work out in the end.
Except the fresh young face they used has no substance inside of him. Trudeau is not his father; he is his mother's son: all about optics, not about legacy or survival. He knows how to generate attention: he does not think of the consequences of getting the world's attention just as someone more cunning and powerful uses that moment to strike from the shadows so everyone see just how weak he is. Trump owned the media spotlight for decades; Trudeau got a free pass because of his daddy.
Pierre Trudeau was a cunning magician as was Jean Chretien who was the scrappier version of it. Stephen Harper was low key, but he was a survivor and a strategist; smart enough to know how to operate under the radar as he had an uncanny sense for policy as he actually worked his way up. Mulroney was as narcissistic as Trudeau Junior, but he had the cunning to pull himself out of any scrape of his own making, all while having a fall guy or gal take the hits while he comes out a little richer and more powerful than he was before. No one can fail upwards better than the Silver Fox.
Justin Trudeau is none of those things. He is transparent.
The newspaper industry thought they could read him, and found the right prime minister to make their outrageous request for money. That they were outmaneuvered by the current government shows you just how clueless the news media in this country was all along.
Had they done their jobs, they would have known Canada was going to be in the eye of a perfect storm: you have an anarchistic master of chaos in the White House who turns over every rule to break them, and one of the big rules had been to let Canada feel as if it is seen as the nice guys. They would have known how their own government operated when it came to doling out cash.
It would have also known how the world was changing, and how to keep up with those chaotic times.
It didn't. It was too busy voguing and smirking to see the dark clouds floating over them.
Now they have to deal with it just as the chaos is has taken root and is growing.
And They are helpless to stop it.
Canadian journalism was hoodwinked by their own government who was just hoodwinked by Trump.
There are ways of dealing with both, but the first step is not looking to They with a smirk on your face, all while being the most gullible entity in the equation.