Subscribe for only $49.99!

Act now. Only a few days left.
Goal:
2 days left

All political reporting in Canada should read like Martin Lukacs’ new book, The Trudeau Formula, published by Black Rose Books. It should be critical and rich with detail. It should take nothing the prime minister says for truth. The role of the press should be to examine Liberal truth from every side and help Canadians decide where the truth really lies.

Mainstream political reporting isn’t like The Trudeau Formula, though. It too often reprints talking points or refuses to challenge comments that are not exactly true. It has let the Liberals mostly off the hook, which makes Lukacs’ book stand out — way out — as a must-read analysis on the rise of Justin Trudeau.

Lukacs combines information gathered from sources with what he’s seen and heard directly, creating a compelling narrative of events that have unfolded over the past four years. He relies on several unnamed political operatives to gather information from spaces few people have access to and takes readers behind the scenes. What do the Liberals say when the room is friendly? A lot of times, we read, it sounds like what the Conservatives would say.

Except, as Lukacs points out, it’s sometimes worse. The Liberals’ near-decimation in 2011 led the party to search internally for a way to win back the favour of the masses. Trudeau was the candidate who could do that, and his openness and Sunny Ways was exactly what Canadians and the corporate world wanted. After years of a chilly and closed Stephen Harper, Lukacs shows, corporate Canada — in particular, the Business Council of Canada — saw that a popular and progressive prime minister could put a shine on policies that the corporate world might otherwise struggle to sell to Canadians.

Lukacs walks through each of Trudeau’s key issues and pulls back the curtain on the real story. He writes that electoral reform sank just as the Liberals realized the consensus was moving away from their preferred method — ranked ballots. Their reconciliation agenda looked more like complex re-colonization. Their pro-immigration rhetoric was barely met by their actions and they moved to make it even harder for people to seek asylum in Canada. Their environmental policies remained very pro-business.

One part of the book that stood out for me was just how complicit Canada is in international war. Since Pierre Trudeau relaxed the rules on arms exports, Canada has exported $50 billion in Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) to countries around the world.

The highest-profile buyer is Saudi Arabia, which has used weapons on its own people and is engaged in a war in Yemen. Drawing on research by Anthony Fenton, Lukacs writes that there is strong evidence to show Canadian weapons are being used in Yemen: “In one photo posted on Instagram, a Saudi soldier sat cross-legged on a carpet next to a miniature mosque constructed out of ammunition boxes. A few metres from his makeshift shrine is parked a giant, dusty, weaponized Canadian combat vehicle. In a separate video, a long convoy of the same military vehicles cruised over sand dunes in Hajjah province, Yemen, as the heavy beats of electronic Arabic music pulsated from open tank hatches.” More than 50,000 civilians have been killed.

Then-foreign affairs minister Stéphane Dion had the chance to stop the deal with General Dynamics for LAVs in January 2016, but decided to allow it to continue, Lukacs writes.

Lukacs breaks up the text with quips that show his sense of humour, although I found myself needing a dictionary to look up several adjectives he chose.

The Trudeau Formula explains how Trudeau has cynically broken every one of his main promises and how the Liberal brand is slippery enough to avoid taking accountability for disappointing Canadians. I had hoped to see this connected with the rise in movements of discontented Canadians, especially in how the far right has demonized progressive politics and Trudeau. Linking peoples’ anger over these failed promises to what is happening outside of partisan politics is the next important step for this analysis; it would help explain to Canadians why we have been plagued by disappointment for having voted Liberal for years, despite their veneer of progressive politics.

Instead, the book ends with an analysis of the NDP and Leap Manifesto, of which Lukacs is a co-writer. The juxtaposition of this with the rest of the book suggests Lukacs believes the way to hold the Liberals accountable for their actions is through an NDP that adopts a Canadian version of the American Green New Deal (which Lukacs says has its roots in the Leap). The problem is the NDP has its own, different issues that are getting in the way of it playing a strong, oppositional role to the Liberals. The issues about the Leap and the NDP’s own slide to the right could be a subject for a separate book, and I was not convinced something born from the Leap would be the way to both save the NDP and confront the Liberals.

Even still, with a few weeks left on the political trail, every reporter should read this book and use it to form their questions. How will the opposition parties do things differently? And is it even possible for the Liberal brand to change?

Polishing a pro-NDP piece at the end of a lambast of the Liberals while relying on anonymous sources doesn't sound like critical journalism to me.

Thank you Nora Loreto for a thoughtful assessment of the recent Martin Lukacs book “The Trudeau Formula”. NO readers might be interested to know that Mr Lukacs has just published a piece in the New York Review of Books (NYRB) adapted from his book. It is available at:

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/10/07/justin-trudeau-liberal-let-down/

I have been reading the book and agree wholeheartedly with the National Observer editors' article title: "The Trudeau Formula should be required campaign-trail reading". But given its 12 days before the election, pundits and voters might first try the NYRB article -- it covers a lot of ground effectively.

In particular, the article demonstrates the myriad ways 40 years of neoliberalism under the Conservatives and Liberals have harmed the fabric of Canada, put Canada up against the wall on the climate emergency, and left so many Canadians scrambling economically.

I agree with Ms. Loreto when she writes: "He relies on several unnamed political operatives to gather information from spaces few people have access to and takes readers behind the scenes."

I should add the book, ”The Trudeau Formula" includes 34 pages of endnotes and links to about 370 references. That's exactly the way critical journalism should be done.

Highly disappointed in this piece. The press needs to look at and examine all political parties evenly and ask the difficult questions to all of the leaders and report without bias. More and more this is not happening. This piece is purely editorial in nature and should be labelled as such.

Hi Jennifer,
Thank you so much for commenting. I just wanted to highlight that the story by Nora Loreto is labeled as "opinion."

Not a mention of the Green Party or Elizabeth May, what’s going on with the NO

The article is about a book about the Liberal party.

Can't say if any of this is true or otherwise but since it's absolutely without context - does it matter?

The LAV issue didn't originate with PE Trudeau, it was with the Harper Govt who signed the biggest arms deal in Canadian history with the Saudis. Lots could be said about that and I wish J Trudeau had cancelled it but he was absolutely up front last election on his reasons for not doing so.

And the NDP's LEAP is going to solve our hypocrisy problems in Canada?
Hmmm, no.

Hi Nora,

With respect, wrt Liberal policy it doesn't sound like there's anything new or under-reported here.

An article or interview with Naomi Klein about her new book might have been more interesting.

--Andrew

Martin Lukacs, the author of the Trudeau Formula, has just published a piece in the New York Review of Books (NYRB) adapted from his book. It is available at:

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2019/10/07/justin-trudeau-liberal-let-down/

I have been reading the book and agree wholeheartedly with the National Observer editors' article title: "The Trudeau Formula should be required campaign-trail reading". But given its 12 days before the election, try the NYRB article first -- it covers a lot of ground effectively.

In particular, the article demonstrates the myriad ways 40 years of neoliberalism under the Conservatives and Liberals have harmed the fabric of Canada, put Canada up against the wall on the climate emergency, and left so many Canadians scrambling economically.

The back cover sets the tone for the book:

"After a decade of Stephen Harper, the arrival of Justin Trudeau felt like a relief.

But as Canadians reckon with the gulf between the dazzling promise of Trudeau's election and the grim reality of his government, Lukacs makes the case that "real change" was never part of the agenda.”

“…behind the latest wave of Trudeaumania was a slick status-quo machine, backed by a cast of corporate elites and lobbyists who expected a pay-off from Liberal rule in Ottawa.”

Every Canadian voter should read the NYRB article before casting a ballot.

Both this article and the New York Review of Books excerpt read like hit pieces. There's plenty of dark muttering about "corporate elites and lobbyists" but no actual information. The accusation that the Trudeau government's actions led to "an uptick in anti-immigrant sentiment" is an affront to decency. Accepting large numbers of refugees, which Canada has done, was a moral imperative which, not surprisingly given the times, generated some backlash, but not nearly as much has occurred in the EU.
If the idea is to "examine Liberal truth from every side [to] help Canadians decide where the truth really lies," then these articles and the associated book represent a only a tiny speck at one end of the spectrum of what would be required to make an intelligent decision.

Thanks for your comment. You said "There's plenty of dark muttering about "corporate elites and lobbyists" but no actual information."

Here's some actual information on lobbying and corporate elites in the case of the Trans Mountain Pipeline:

https://www.policynote.ca/826-reasons-kinder-morgan-got-a-green-light-fo...

The article delineates the 368 Kinder Morgan lobbying meeting with Federal officials between February 2011 and October 2016, the 458 lobbying meetings with the BC government in the same period and the 1.87 billion invested in Kinder Morgan Inc primarily by Canadain banks and investment houses including 437 million invested by CIBC.

"The Trudeau Formula" actually includes 34 pages of Endnotes and links to about 370 references.

Kenneth Johnson - The article exhibits implicit biases that lobbying is somehow bad and that corporations are evil. However lobbying, which is simply direct communication between companies and other interest groups and government is essential in a system where industry is regulated by government. The fact that lobbying is reported simply makes the process more transparent. In Canada, unlike the US, political donations by corporations are illegal, and even individual, personal donations are limited to amounts which, although they might seem large to median wage earners, are too small to significantly influence politicians.
Finally I would say that, like them or not, corporations are basic to our economy. Like people (which they are not), there are good and bad corporations. Most are dedicated to producing and selling their products at a profit, and by doing that contribute to employment and wealth in Canada. Although the balance has been tipped in recent decades by an excessive devotion to shareholder value and the use of financial engineering, resulting in extreme wealth inequality, even when these excesses have been tamed, corporations will remain the foundation of our economic system.

Canada's history and its present existence are tainted by the perversion of "capitalism" known as colonialism - wherein those with money, with access to the ear of governments, benefit disproportionately to the amount of "risk" they deploy. Capitalism originated in the recognition that entrepreneurial risk was an essential component of mercantile prosperity and growth. "Risk" was innovatively spread among a venture's investors ad the custom of the limited liability corporate body emerged. Despite the aristocratic disdain for money grubbing business men - most of the old guard became converts to the new structure of money and power. All of this enabled, fueled and propsered from the predacious colonizing corporations that operated in and expanded the European Empires.

As democracy struggled to achieve dominence in the "western/civilised" world it accommodated itself to some of the more nefarious forms of colonial exploitation; like slavery, routine rapacious economic exploitation of the lesser peasants/serfs/savages of the colonized territories and the stripping of assets from those same territories without regard for anything but profit. This is the background to "modern" corporate malfeasance. It is also the background to the entitlement felt by the ruling classes (and those ambitious to join them). This almost uncounscious "entitlement" is just another perversion of the "risk/reward equation pioneered by the system of capitalism. One cannot, however, blame capitalism for all the ills as other equally damaging political/economic systems of governance seem, inevitably, to morph into the exploitative mindset of "leaders and rulers" everywhere.

It is abundantly clear that both political promises and corporate assurances are worthless once the leadership solidifies its grip on power. Hoi Polloi have no means of redress except to deny support to the oppressor. The ballot box and divestment/refusal to pay for products are the only, and the most effective, means of toppling the un-trustworthy.

If Trudeau's broken promises, and reckless wastage of tax payer money offends one. Don't vote for the Liberals. Too bad if you like your MP - the first past the post doctrine prevents one from exercising any nuance in one's voting behaviour. If purchasing the TM pipeline strikes one as financial fraud, defeat the shysters. If the Petrochemical complex is poised to bring life on earth to naught, divest, reduce/eliminate their products from your life - starve them to death.