PM, Trudeau both off-key in messages

Gary MacDougall
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In keeping with this weekend’s musical theme in Charlottetown, the instrument I would give Prime Minister Stephen Harper to play with these days is a fiddle, one resembling the fiddle Nero once played in Rome.

For some time, now opposition has been growing to the federal government’s so-called Fair Elections Act or Bill C-23. Lots of it has been partisan and aimed at scoring political points against the governing Tories, but increasingly non-political folks have been raising their voices in concern.

On Thursday, former Canadian auditor general Sheila Fraser, a person Prime Minister Harper once called “the mother of all accountants” for her dogged pursuit of the Chretien government and the sponsorship program scandal, came out with both guns blazing against Bill C-23. She said significant amendments are needed.

To quote a Canadian Press story, Fraser feels the proposed legislation would disenfranchise thousands of voters, undercut the independence of the chief electoral watchdog, impede investigations into wrongdoing, give a financial advantage to rich, established parties and undermine Canadians’ faith in the electoral system.

When Fraser speaks, Canadians listen, something the prime minister and his lead person on the election legislation, Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre, better understand. Poilievre, with never a dint in his smugness, says the bill is “terrific” just the way it is.

So it seems Mr. Harper has yet another festering issue on his hands. When you add this one to others, such as the Senate scandal and questions surrounding the PM’s competency in appointing people like Nigel Wright and Dimitri Soudas, perhaps the smell from Ottawa isn’t spring barbecues firing up, but rather the smell of political flesh on the hot seat.

We all know Mr. Harper likes to play keyboard and sing Beatle songs, but right now he’d best brush up on some fiddle lessons in case he needs to use it.

Speaking of learning to play musical instruments, I would suggest Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau begin taking organ classes. It’s a difficult instrument to master in that it requires a great deal of attention and self-control, but more self-control is something Trudeau could use.

The Liberal leader unnecessarily dropped the F-bomb last weekend while speaking at an annual cancer charity boxing match. In firing up the crowd at the event, he remarked: “Your name, your fortune, your intelligence, your beauty, none of that (expletive) matters” when you enter the ring.

Trudeau later admitted he had gotten a bit carried away but it was all in fun. The father of three young children also divulged he had gotten an earful from his wife when he got home.

His political opponents seized on Trudeau’s misspeak, saying it’s yet another example of someone who has poor judgment and lacks the maturity to be prime minister. I’m not sure that is fair as there are plenty of examples of people with potty-mouths having successful political careers.

Ironically, Justin Trudeau’s famous father and a former prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, was the centre of an F-bomb controversy in the early 1970s. Facetiously, he said he uttered the words “fuddle duddle.”

To his credit, Justin didn’t deny what he said, but that’s no excuse for someone in his position saying it, especially when it wasn’t done in the heat of battle but rather as a means to evoke a laugh.

Harper and Trudeau will be on my mind this weekend. Charlottetown is hosting the ECMAs, a time of great music and merrymaking. Lots of musicians of a different feather can be found collaborating and jamming with each other. I plan to be on the watch for a band featuring a stiff fiddle player and an organ player with great hair.

Gary MacDougall is managing editor of The Guardian. He can be reached by telephone at (902) 629-6039; by email at; or on

Organizations: Canadian Press, The Guardian

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Rome, Ottawa

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