What did Justin Trudeau say about toques?

Election advertising is starting to reach what will be its long sustained crescendo through to the vote in October.  I don’t know about you, but for me pretty much all election advertising is bullshit.  Refined, focus group tested, Kobe beef grade bullshit.

Every party is disingenuous in the messaging it puts out when trying to get elected, usually through sins of omission.  They count on the fact that normal people simply won’t do any fact checking, and because the feature pieces by reporters on the national news which actually fact check the bullshit are buried five or six items in from the start of the newscast (leaving the weary viewer the decision of flipping to The Big Bang Theory instead), they know they can get away with feeding people bullshit without really getting caught.

One piece of bullshit which has been sticking in my craw lately is the various versions of this which have been making their way around TV and the Internet.

Photo 2015-08-25, 9 57 16 AMIt’s no secret that the Conservative Party has made a point of trying to underline Justin Trudeau’s relative inexperience in their attack ads not only throughout the campaign, but really since Trudeau came in to the national consciousness as leader of the Liberals.

When I saw the ad, I had to think, “wow – did he really say that we should ‘send toques’ to ‘defeat ISIS?'”  I mean – this is not exactly the type of commentary I’d expect someone who wants the job of Prime Minister of Canada.

But, dear reader, rather than swallow the bullshit whole and wash it down with a big gleeful gulp of gullible juice (now available sugar free), I decided to open Google and bang around a bit to find more context.  So, I thought I’d start where anyone worth their salt would begin – with the sourcing in the ad.

Photo 2015-08-25, 9 57 10 AMThe quote (which, if you notice, doesn’t say anything about toques), is sourced to a broadcast on November 6, 2014 on the now defunct Sun News Network (which – incidentally – was programmed and run by current Conservative Party of Canada mouthpiece Kory Teneycke.)

Now, I won’t make it any secret – sourcing Sun News Network as the origin of a quote doesn’t hold much weight for me.  Despite claims otherwise, the network never transcended the threshold of right-of-center infotainment needed to really be called a “news network.”  Also, as a typography geek, it’s striking how the visual style of Sun News and the visual style of the current Conservative Party campaign advertising seem… similar.  (But I digress.)

Always having been a fan of seeking multiple sources to see if someone really said something, with a sense of curiosity I banged away at Google trying to find “Trudeau toque.”  You’d think for a comment so egregious, surely it’d come up first.  Not so – however the London North Center Federal Liberal Association does have a knitted hat on offer for only C$12.

In fact, none of the first five results took me to a story about Justin Trudeau saying something about toques and ISIS.  So maybe he didn’t use the word “toque” in his comments.  I mean, it’s not in quotes – despite being the headline of the attack ad.  Hmm… let’s try “Trudeau cold winter.”


The first three results gave hope.   Strangely enough, all three were attributed to the Toronto Sun newspaper – which, at the time of publication, was co-owned by the same company which owned Sun News Network.

The first piece was seemingly a news article by the Sun – “Trudeau: Drop parkas, not bombs.

Never mind airstrikes. Victims of ISIS just need warm cocoa and woolen touques, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau suggested to a crowd in Edmonton on Thursday.

Trudeau, who opposes Canada’s part in airstrikes on Islamic States targets in Iraq, says we’d be more helpful offering “cold winter” advice for victims of the militants.

Whoa.  WHOA.  We are getting in to serious money territory if we’re not only dealing with touques, but parkas and warm cocoa now.  (As an aside in fact checking the accuracy in all of this, Trudeau made his comments in Hinton, Alberta – not Edmonton.  I mean, I’m sure it’s easy to get Hinton and Ed-min-ton confused.  But… accuracy, right?)

It wouldn’t be until re-entering my original search for Trudeau toques in to YouTube that I’d find the result I was looking for.

What’s most interesting is that no where in the short clip of Trudeau does he actually say the words “ISIS,” “toque,” “parka,” or “hot cocoa.”  In fact, in the announcer’s own words, the comment about a toque is attributed to someone else completely.

… a little earlier here on ‘Straight Talk,’ (Toronto Sun editor) Adrienne Batra said something to the effect of ‘how much does it help if we give them a toque and their head’s being cut off…

Surprisingly, in my research, the only news organizations I can find which actually put together any stories on Trudeau and his knitted hat affection for ISIS refugees was in the then Sun-aligned properties.  “Jasper’s Independent Newspaper,” – The Fitzhugh – wrote about Trudeau’s visit from a perspective of cuts to Jasper National Park and failings of the Temporary Foreign Worker program.  The Hinton Voice – “Hinton’s locally owned weekly newspaper” – said Trudeau talked about income splitting, TFWs, and regulations for pipelines.

The Hinton Voice article also said Liberal leader’s visit, “brought a throng of media attention to Hinton, including a live feed on CBC of a media scrum with Trudeau afterward.”  Why I find this important to the conversation about fact checking the ISIS quote is for this reason : having worked in small town media – and knowing people who write for small town papers – there are inches to fill.  If it’s noteworthy that a live television feed was broadcast from Hinton, you’d think the local newspaper might make note of something as absurd as a comment about dropping balaclavas from bomber jets.

So to recap… yes, Trudeau did say the things that are in quotes in the CPC attack ad.  Out of context, and framed as the Conservatives (and at the time Sun News) have done, they do make him look like someone “not ready to lead.”

But if Trudeau didn’t say the words toque, parka, hot cocoa, a good night snuggle from your mom… is it being disingenuous about the original message?  Yes, Virginia, that is the case.  Which makes this ad some premium, grade A, blue ribbon bullshit – just like all the other ads (from all the other parties) you’ll see over the next several weeks.

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