Why covering Justin Trudeau with the rest of the media pack can be a real downer
This afternoon, I headed to the Pink Pearl Chinese Restaurant hoping to ask questions of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
I was curious to know his positions on a range of issues, including:
• Would a Liberal government allow more supervised-injection sites across the country?
• Would a Liberal government reverse the trend toward importing more temporary foreign workers? Would it permit more family reunifications under Canada's immigration system?
• Would a Trudeau government raise taxes on high-income earners, as has been recommended by serious thinkers like former U.S. labour secretary Robert Reich?
• Would a government led by Trudeau stop the Northern Gateway pipeline from ever being built?
• In light of his support for legalizing marijuana, how does Trudeau feel about publicly traded marijuana-producing companies being listed on Canadian stock exchanges?
The mob surrounding him inside the restaurant made it impossible to ask any of these questions.
I also couldn't get a word in during his 12-minute scrum with reporters in the parking lot outside.
Quite simply, the other reporters were quicker and more eager to bark out questions on the Senate, even though it has little impact on Canadians most of the time.
On this day, I wasn't belligerent enough or aggressive enough to break through the pack and get Trudeau's attention. (I suspect that this might come as a surprise to some local politicians reading this article.)
During the scrum, I counted 14 questions on Trudeau's recent decision to kick Liberal senators out of his parliamentary caucus.
Virtually everything he said had already been reported over the past two days.
There was one question on the Keystone XL pipeline. This was fresh, and you can read what Trudeau said here.
One question from a CKNW reporter was about negative ads targeted at Trudeau. They've become a staple on her station.
"I will continue to allow my opponents to stay focused on me and to attack me," Trudeau responded. "I will remain focused on Canadians and on the concerns that people are facing. And those are economic concerns. That's concerns about growth of the middle class, getting better jobs, really improving access to training."
Moments later, he drifted into a discussion about marijuana, noting that Canada had the highest rate of teen pot use, according to a recent United Nations study of 29 countries.
"The current approach that Mr. Harper is defending is endangering our kids," Trudeau thundered. "Secondly, it is also funnelling millions of dollars into organized crime and criminal gangs. We need to stop that."
He added that his proposal to regulate marijuana use is "a big step towards fixing the broken status quo". It would allow "families to be more secure that they're not funding gangs and that their kids are not finding it easier to buy marijuana than they find it to buy beer".
It was hardly a headline grabber, but it set him apart from Harper and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.
Another question concerned the death of a Mexican woman in the custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency.
Trudeau responded that he didn't know all the details about this case. He then offered up the bromide of every opposition politician—he supports more transparency and accountability in government.
"The challenge that we have right now is to rebuild the broken bond of trust between citizens and their government," he declared.
Then there was a question about the Year of the Horse, considering that this is Lunar New Year.
It seemed an appropriate topic to close on, given the substance of most of the other questions directed his way.
If Trudeau wants to let Georgia Straight readers know his positions on supervised-injection sites, the tax system, the Northern Gateway pipeline, immigration policies, Communications Security Establishment Canada, and the existence of publicly traded companies selling marijuana, he has an open invitation to visit our office on his next trip to Vancouver.
I'm guessing that for most readers, these topics are of far greater concern than whether an ex-Mountie by the name of Larry Campbell is sitting inside or outside the Liberal parliamentary caucus.
And if Trudeau can't find the time, I'll just have to try a little harder to be the alpha male at his next media scrum in Vancouver.