The great Canadian political double standard

Why conservatives like Scheer are held to a different standard than liberals like Trudeau

By Michael Taube

Michael Taube

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer have both had to deal with some controversial matters during this fall’s federal election.

It was revealed that Trudeau appeared in either blackface or brownface on three occasions, the last one at age 29 when he was a teacher at a private school.

He and his party have also used two jets in the 2015 and 2019 campaigns – which was apparently known by a few media figures, although they never bothered to mention it.

It was revealed that Scheer previously called himself an insurance broker without holding a licence, although the rules were different in Saskatchewan.

Scheer also holds dual citizenship in Canada and the U.S., which isn’t a big deal, but he never discussed it publicly and once critiqued former governor-general Michaëlle Jean for holding dual citizenship.

Both politicians took hits in popularity after these controversies came to light. But which one do you think has had a more difficult time escaping negative media coverage?

You would think Trudeau would be the worse for wear. And you would be wrong.

Why?

Some analysts have suggested the government’s record is saving him. Or that people believe some of these old episodes don’t mean much today. Or that Canadians are more tolerant of a politician’s failings. Or that the alternative choices for prime minister aren’t inspiring.

Those positions play a role, but there’s a much bigger reason behind it: Conservatives like Scheer are typically held to a higher standard than Liberals like Trudeau.

Academic studies have attempted to shine some light on the perceived differences between liberals and conservatives. Some of the findings include:

  • liberals are more intelligent than conservatives;
  • right-leaning individuals react differently to physical threat and/safety;
  • conservatives have a more rigid, authoritarian nature;
  • the more educated a liberal becomes, the less he/she understands conservatism;
  • liberals aren’t as tolerant as they think are.

And so on.

The average person, however, tends to believe most liberals are more open, tolerant, intelligent and thoughtful than most conservatives.

Few pay close attention to the fact these assessments are often written by left-leaning academics and researchers. The results of these studies will, therefore, often be determined before a single word has been written on the page.

Here’s an example: University of Pennsylvania’s Jonathan Baron and New York University’s John T. Jost wrote a piece this year for the academic journal Perspectives on Psychological Science examining whether liberals and conservatives are equally biased.

“If the application of these standards leads to the conclusion that conservatives in the United States and perhaps elsewhere are more rigid, dogmatic, and epistemically fallible than liberals (on average),” they determined, “this is not bias. It may very well be as close to the truth as we can come.”

Baron and Jost also wrote this little gem: “If academics are disproportionately liberal – in comparison with society at large – it just might be due to the fact that being liberal in the early 21st century is more compatible with the epistemic standards, values, and practices of academia than is being conservative.”

That just makes your heart go pitter-pat and gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling for the future of higher education and humanity. If you’re a liberal, that is.

Let’s face facts.

The blackface/brownface controversy alone would have been enough to obliterate the careers of most former and current Tory politicians in Canada. Polite society would have declared this individual to be racist, bigoted and intolerant – and the party would have tossed him or her out.

When the politician involved is Trudeau, a self-styled modern liberal, progressive and feminist, polite society is simply disappointed in his actions. He let them down and should have known better. But that was years ago, they argue, and his policies show he’s learned the error of his ways.

Instead of calling for his head on a silver platter, they’ll give him a pass – and the PM can say we’re all experiencing a teachable moment.

Are you bothered by this double standard?

If so, great. Stop holding conservatives to a different standard than liberals and criticize them equally moving forward.

-Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.

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