“Never make a defence or apology before you be accused,” King Charles I wrote to Lord Thomas Wentworth on Sept. 3, 1636.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has certainly followed this principle in his two previous ethics violations. It took him nearly a year to apologize for breaking provisions in the Conflict of Interest Act when he visited the Aga Khan on his private island in late 2016. He never apologized for contravening Section 9 of the same Act during last year’s SNC-Lavalin scandal, but took the defence of assuming “full responsibility” for the findings.
Yet in the midst of the We Charity brouhaha, which will surely lead to a third visit to the Ethics Commissioner, Trudeau has taken a somewhat different tact.
The PM has faced an onslaught of media coverage for the past two weeks. Questions about the federal government’s decision to award We Charity a $19.5 million contract to administer the $900 million Canada Student Service Grant program. Additional questions about his family’s ties with the charitable organization, including personal appearances and speaking fees. Even more questions about other Liberals being directly or indirectly tied to this charity, including Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s daughter.
Trudeau, in a move that was completely out of character, suddenly threw himself on the mercy of the court of public opinion. “I Made A Mistake,” screamed Tuesday’s headline in the National Post. He agreed that he should have recused himself from the Liberal cabinet’s decision-making process. He apologized profusely and begged for forgiveness.
Will it be enough to help Trudeau find a way back to his beloved sunny ways and fanciful progressive vision?
The days of comparing Trudeau to political teflon are long since over. They crumbled during SNC-Lavalin, were demolished during blackface/brownface, and are set to be buried six feet under when We Charity concludes at some point.
Yes, there are some Canadians who are forgiving. Far too forgiving of our country’s national leader and his constant refusal to use common decency, ethical standards and a moral code when making decisions that could affect his political career – and others.
“Oh, oh!,” his supporters will shout. “But Stephen Harper became the first Canadian prime minister to be found in contempt of Parliament in 2011. What about that, hmm?”
Fascinating how my old friend and boss’s name gets dragged back into just about every conversation when Trudeau steps into a heap of trouble. It’s almost as if they’re trying to use political spin and change the channel. Funny, that.
Regardless, that’s true about Harper. It’s a moment in history he likely could have lived without. Then again, he never had to go to the Ethics Commissioner, which was created in 2007, whereas Trudeau is about to be investigated for the third time in five years.
A free piece of advice to my Liberal friends. This comparison doesn’t hold a drop of water, so it’s maybe it’s best to permanently drop this juxtaposition.
It’s also worth noting Trudeau’s caucus hasn’t been covered in political glory, either.
Here’s an example. The Globe and Mail’s Marieke Walsh and Janice Dickson asked the 33 Liberal cabinet ministers in a July 10 piece whether they knew the Trudeau family had been paid for making appearances at We Charity before the contract was awarded to them. Spokespeople for Labour Minister Filomena Tassi and Middle Class Prosperity Minister Mona Fortier hid behind the wall of cabinet confidentiality – a popular little trick during SNC-Lavalin. Almost all the other ministers stayed silent.
The one exception was Transport Minister Marc Garneau. According to Walsh’s July 11 tweet, his office said “he was not made aware of the payments to the PM’s family for WE events.”
The fact that Garneau was the only one to break from the pack makes you wonder if the cabinet was told – or instructed – to fermez la bouche. I have no idea. Whatever the reason, he deserves credit for saying something.
What’s it going to take to realize something is truly rotten in the State of Ottawa – and needs to be dealt with immediately?
Tory leader Andrew Scheer has asked the RCMP to start a criminal probe with respect to the Trudeau family-We Charity controversy. Nothing has happened on that front to date. Meanwhile, Bloc Quebecois leader Yves-François Blanchet has said Trudeau should step down and give the reins of power to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland in the interim. This certainly makes sense, but the chances of it happening are next to nil.
As for the Liberals, they’ll spend their time focused on Trudeau’s lofty popularity during COVID-19 (in spite of the looming $343.2 billion federal deficit), and hope that Canadians forget about We Charity.
So, it’s really up to Canadians to decide. Are you going to accept the PM’s apology, or are you going to start accepting the harsh reality that his apologies mean absolutely nothing?
Photo Credit: CBC News
Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.