Last year was a year of lows. We went from having little confidence in our leaders and experts to having even less. We don’t trust them and our leaders and experts have themselves to blame.
I present to you one of my favourite examples of cynicism to emphasize my point. It is a short exchange during Question Period just over one year ago in the House of Commons. In a civil world this exchange would have been front page news and a talking point for a week. But it was hardly noticed.
Pierre Poilievre (Conservative-Carleton): “What is the average cost for a home in the city of Ottawa?”
Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance Randy Boissonnault (Liberal-Edmonton Centre): “Let me say Mr. Speaker, 156,000 jobs.”
Poilievre: “Perhaps the Minister of the Treasury Board can help by telling us the average cost of a house in the nation’s capital.”
Boissonnault: “Mr. Speaker, I want to say that 106 per cent of jobs have been recovered since the lowest point of the pandemic.”
Poilievre: “What is the average increase in house prices since this government took office in 2015?”
Boissonnault: “Mr. Speaker, Canada’s economy contracted by 17 per cent between February and April 2020, the largest and most sudden contraction in real GDP since the great depression and we’re already back.”
Poilievre: “Just the average house price.”
Boissonnault: “5.5 million Canadians lost their jobs and they are all back.”
Poilievre: “And what would they pay for the average house?”
Boissonnault: “Mr. Speaker, in May 2020 unemployment rate more than doubled from a pre-pandemic level of 5.7 per cent to a bracket of 13.7 per cent, 6 per cent now.”
Poilievre: “I think there is a problem with the audio in the chamber. The question is what is the average cost of a house in Canada today?”
Boissonnault: “Mr. Speaker, our government has made historic investments in housing affordability and we will continue to do so.”
Poilievre: “And how affordable are such houses?”
Boissonnault: “Mr. Speaker, our government has made historic investments in housing. We will continue to do so, so that housing is affordable for all Canadians.”
Poilievre: “If so, how much have house prices increased since this government took office?”
Boissonnault: “Mr. Speaker, let’s talk about how it is possible for people to afford their houses with good employment. And that’s why employment income fell by an unprecedented $28 billion during the pandemic.”
Poilievre: “One last time, in dollars how much have house prices risen since this government took office?”
Boissonnault: “Mr. Speaker, consumer confidence is back. People are back to work. 106 per cent of jobs have been recovered since the lowest point in the pandemic.”
Poilievre: “How much?”
Boissonnault: “From a steep decline in profits, we’re back 66 per cent since the bottom of the pandemic.”
Poilievre: “How much?”
Boissonnault: “Mr. Speaker, the economy is recovering.”
Poilievre: “Does the minister have any idea what it costs for the average person to buy a house in Canada. Does he have any idea or does he even care?”
Boissonnault: “Mr. Speaker, the rent subsidy helped more than 213,000 businesses stay afloat.”
Poilievre: “I think the average Canadian can see how much this government knows and cares about the cost of buying a home in this country which is — their level of care is zero. I am going to give him one last chance. Can he tell us what it costs the average Canadian to buy the average house in Canada today? How much?
Boissonnault: “Mr. Speaker, the CERB helped nearly 9 million Canadians who lost their jobs when COVID hit, making housing affordable for them. We will continue to do so.”
This exchange went on for another 47 questions during which Poilievre asked rhetorically if Boissonnault could be replaced by a robot.
The Machiavellians among us might analyze this by characterizing the answers as clever politics to dodge simple questions and avoid exposing oneself to a vulnerable soundbite that might reveal weakness on the evening news. One could certainly form that opinion if politics is a game or all about power. But it isn’t and Machiavelli’s ideas are monstrous.
The hard truth is that politicians often decide winners and losers. They respect freedoms or take them away. They lead by serving the people or cynically serving themselves. After another year of being mislead on so many major files, it isn’t hard to see which way our leaders and experts are going.
Patrick Meagher is editor of Farmers Forum and can be reached at email@example.com