I used to say that the only thing that could ever make me consider a career in politics was if Nathan Cullen became leader of the federal NDP. Cullen’s announcement not to re-seek a seat in the upcoming federal election doesn’t just signal the impending annihilation of the NDP. Cullen was the last Canadian in Ottawa to believe that lying to get elected should not be allowed. Lying, in public, not once, but nearly 2,000 times!--on the same topic, using the same rehearsed wording—to persuade people that you are definitely and immediately going to do something that, in reality, you are definitely not going to do ever, is wrong: you should go to prison for it. It is corrosive to democracy.
The worst Trudeau ever got for his lying was sustained and poetic haranguing from Cullen. If the only punishment our system allows is the occasional Question Period hour of public shaming, Cullen was happy to provide it. No one did it quite like him. It was fun to watch—at first. Then the futility of it all just sinks in. Scolding isn’t really a punishment. People with the pathology to rehearse a lie and repeat it hundreds of time are immune to shame. Cullen tears Trudeau a new one. Trudeau tunes him out. In this country, the mechanisms don’t exist to hold the most powerful people in the country accountable for the words they say. Honesty no longer exists as a virtue: in Ottawa, it’s become a sucker’s weakness. When Nathan Cullen goes, all hope for meaningful change goes with him.