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.