Ottawa Citizen

Poilievre’s bad week


As comedians, dancers and hockey goalies know, timing is everything. But for a truly graphic lesson in the consequenc­es of bad timing, consider what happened to Conservati­ve MP Pierre Poilievre this week.

On Wednesday, shortly before his boss, the Prime Minister, was set to make a historic apology to Canada’s aboriginal peoples, Mr. Poilievre went on the radio and dumped all over aboriginal peoples. In official Ottawa, underminin­g one’s boss is a serious offence. When the boss happens to be Stephen Harper, a man with authoritar­ian tendencies, it’s practicall­y a capital offence.

Mr. Poilievre, who represents Nepean-Carleton, is a controvers­ial figure at the best of times, whose schtick — a pseudo populism — rubs some people the wrong way. Recently in these columns we described as juvenile his attempt to pick a fight with transgende­red Ontarians. In any event, the day after his musings about aboriginal people, he rose in Parliament and offered a contrite apology.

The irony here is that while Mr. Poilievre apologized for his remarks, this was one case where he was actually on to something. His main point in the radio interview was that the dysfunctio­n plaguing aboriginal communitie­s can’t be fixed by government alone. On this he is absolutely correct. All the compensati­on money in the world — for colonialis­m, for residentia­l schools, for whatever — won’t solve the problems.

Mr. Poilievre, unfortunat­ely, was clumsy in his formulatio­n. His suggestion that the aboriginal problem could be fixed if only aboriginal­s learn the value of “hard work” is as simplistic as the idea that money is the answer. Mr. Poilievre has unwittingl­y made it more difficult to question government handouts, because no one will want to risk being lumped in with him.

This is a shame, and no wonder the Prime Minister did not look happy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada