Tell the truth about any situation & you are delivered from lack of progress, but become hypocritical or lying, and you may be in bondage for life. – Auliq-Ice
All other swindlers upon earth are nothing compared to self-swindlers. – Charles Dickens
There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy. – Joseph Pulitzer
If Trudeau’s image has taken a bit of a battering lately, the sheen slightly worn, the glow very slightly diminished, it is largely of his making.
Swept into power largely on the tsunami of hope fed by many grandiose promises and the force of his youthful personality, he has, for some time, convincingly demonstrated his status as a star: it’s difficult to shake the faith of true believers who want only to believe.
Yet, from the very first, all that talk of making Human Rights a priority, of offering Canadians a real change, a new era of openness, transparency and honesty – all that hope – has proven to be mostly chimera. Words. And empty ones at that.
Oh, yes, he has followed through with his promise to bring Syrian refugees to Canada and he has kept to his promise to consult with Canadians, oh, Lord, how he has consulted, name it…he’s got some committee talking to someone. And that is good. However, many of the promises he has kept have been the easy things, the things most Canadians can rally around and support and end up feeling good about themselves for doing so. That, too, is fine.
Yet, one could sense it almost from the first that what we got, all those young, new faces, the gender-balanced cabinet, all, all offering promise and hope, wasn’t quite true, there was something off, one of Trudeau’s own prize members almost ruining it, that high, heady euphoria not just of victory but of actually doing it, forming a cabinet that was not apparently but truly, truly, representative: women, new young political up-and-comers, visible minorities playing truly significant roles. He was promising a lot and demonstrated he meant business by making public the mandate letters for each ministry. But there was Jody Wilson-Raybould, a First Nations member, a first for the post, appointed a key position as minister of justice almost spoiling it by attending a $500 a plate fundraising event put on by lawyers from a prestigious firm and saying, with a straight face, that she attended not as the Minister of Justice but as a mere MP! As if such distinctions were really probable let alone likely. And there was Trudeau defending her, the clear conflict of interest violation blithely dismissed. If Trudeau saw nothing wrong, how could his supporters and gooey-eyed star struck fans.
But surely not all could ignore the clangour of distant alarm bells, however dimly rung. One began to immediately get a sense of what kind of man he was and it certainly was not as simple as the earnest, honest image he wanted us to embrace and love, love, love. It became clearer, of course, when the bells rang a second time for the justice minister. This was a result of her husband registering immediately after the election as a lobbyist for a First Nations band in Kelowna and for the not-for-profit First Nations Finance Authority that offers financial assistance to First Nations members. Again, apparently, neither Trudeau nor the justice minister saw reason to worry even though the justice department, which Jody Wilson-Raybould heads, and First Nations peoples are engaged in several lawsuits. We are to accept that the minister’s husband will recuse himself from any dealings with her department or that, as partners, they will not be talking to each other on these matters. That stretches credulity and is simply not enough of a safeguard particularly in light of the kind of judgement displayed by a minister and her boss who refuse to acknowledge clear conflict of interest and who resorts to weasel legalese to soft soap it: I attended as an MP not as minister of justice.
But these were just early harbingers of things to come. That it happened so quickly, easily and shamelessly is what makes it extremely surprising and so deeply troubling.
If it were simply a matter of Jody Wilson-Raybould, that would be it. Troublesome, yes, but nothing that could not be quietly dealt with and forgotten. Unfortunately, and very quickly, it was clear that the return of Liberal entitlement was back and here to stay. Jane Philpott, minister of health, early in her mandate, volunteered to repay questionable expense claims on three separate occasions after they came to light. There was Catherine McKenna, minister of environment and climate change who hired, at taxpayer expense and when press photographers were aplenty, a private photographer to record her adventures in Paris during the Climate Change summit. And then there was Chrystia Freeland, minister of international trade, who makes these two look like amateurs when it comes to picking the public wallet; while returning home from a business trip to the Philippines, she took a side trip to LA to appear on Bill Maher’s TV talk show. That cost the taxpayers nearly $20K for the added plane fare and the government plane that returned without her. Unlike Philpott, neither McKenna nor Freeland seem troubled by these expenditures. This is less an issue about nickel and diming Canadians than about how easily it is to slip into a mindset of entitlement and easy spending when the money is not yours. These are small things, true, but significant and not to be easily dismissed.
Unfortunately, Canadians appear to be indifferent to these things even when the conflict becomes glaringly obvious and worrisome.
It is bad enough that finance minister, Bill Morneau, and others, have hired staff from lobbying firms including TransCanada the beneficiary of recent government pipeline decisions. It is that this senior member of Trudeau’s cabinet and others, as well as Trudeau himself, has engaged in countless secretive fundraising events at $1500 a plate with developers, with those from the energy sector, with drug manufacturers, and with billionaire foreign nationals. When these were finally brought to light, we were assured that no discussions of business with government lobbyists ever took place. Trudeau himself made that clear adding he could not be influenced, regardless. Right. His staffers assured us that whenever having business with government attempted to broach business they were firmly instructed to go through the proper channels. Later, stretching credulity once again, staffers and Trudeau claimed that Trudeau often just happened (on a sudden whim?) to drop in at these private events and had no way of knowing who was in attendance! Well, suckers, you can see what they really think of us. Again and again Trudeau and his staff told us that no business was ever discussed. Some took them at their word while others were sceptical. As for the public? Well, the public was largely uninterested; this was small stuff, what really mattered, after all, was that young Trudeau was voted best-dressed leader of the western world.
The thing is, Trudeau and his staffers and the Liberal party lied to all of us.
At one highly secretive meeting at a private home, Trudeau met with about 30 Chinese millionaires (and billionaires), a couple of whom later had donated $50K to fund a stature of Justin’s father, $200K towards the Pierre Eliot Trudeau Foundation and $750K towards scholarships for the University of Montreal law faculty. A month later, one of the attendees who had been lobbying the government won approval from federal regulators to open and operate Wealth One Bank of Canada. Coincidence? Perhaps. But, interestingly, after months and months of denials, stonewalling, and plain lying, Trudeau did own up this little tidbit: people did approach him and did talk business at these fundraisers. Still, he averred, everything was on the up and up.
Can Trudeau be trusted? I’ve heard time and time again, from supporters and media pundits, that Trudeau, in fact, no politician would risk his reputation or career for a mere $1500. But it’s not just $1500 times the number of people paying, is it?
Now there was a bit of a kerfuffle with Trudeau quietly spending the Christmas and New Year holidays in the Bahamas with the Aga Khan, a close family friend and lobbyist of the Canadian government. There is no issue with whom Trudeau and family spend their free time. But there is an issue with his attempt to keep his whereabouts secret and that he had neglected to mention he had spent time with the Aga Khan two years before. There is also the matter of his acceptance of a helicopter ride, paid for by the Aga Khan, from the Bahamian mainland to the Aga Khan’s private island and that he did not inform the ethics commissioner, Mary Dawson. That is a breach of regulations regarding the acceptance of gifts. The secrecy of the affair is particularly troublesome since Canadians are picking up the tab of $60K for RCMP accommodations and $48K for the Challenger jet on standby for the nine days. It must also be noted that Canada has, since 2004, given $310 million to the Aga Khan Foundation with Trudeau pledging another $55 million over the next five years. This is not about Trudeau holidaying with a friend as the Liberals would have us believe, but about secrecy, accepting gifts, and clear possibility of conflict of interests with a lobbying charity and the prime minister’s government. This is serious and no longer small stuff.
But it is not just in the area of cash-for-access that Trudeau and the Liberals suffer when it comes to integrity. He also harmed himself when he turned his back on his pledge to make Human Rights a priority by signing off on the Saudi Arabia light-armoured vehicle trade deal begun by Stephen Harper. By following through with a deal to one of the most repressive regimes in the world, Trudeau breached UN sanctions and Canada’s own regulations regarding international trade. He justified the deal by saying he could not risk Canada’s reputation as a nation unwilling to honour business contracts. Absolute nonsense. Canadian governments have done so in the past and for less honourable reasons. It was the $15 billion deal and 3000 Canadian jobs that concerned him. Had he cancelled the deal, Canada’s reputation as a nation supportive of Human Rights would have almost certainly been enhanced and with little, if any, negative effect in trade. Instead, when it comes to jobs and money, and they are important, Trudeau and Harper are brothers under the skin but, of the two, Trudeau proves himself a slipperier sort; one always knew where Harper was going.
To loud fanfare, Trudeau promised that, if elected, the October 19, 2015 would be the last first past the post election. He had Maryam Monsef, minister of democratic reform, form an all-party committee to make recommendations after consulting with Canadians across the country. When the report was finally submitted, Monsef roundly condemned it and the committee for not doing the job expected of them. It was a move almost anyone could see coming, for by that time, Trudeau and his Liberals had made it plain they were no longer interested in democratic electoral reform. Monsef’s response created a backlash; electoral reform was back in the news and she was severely damaged. She was demoted and replaced; even so, it is clear the Liberals would wish to see the promise die. If Trudeau feels compelled to keep it, he will not go with the committee recommendation of adopting a form or proportional representation but adopt, instead to go with the Liberal preferred choice of ranked ballot. This issue, as much as his declaration of making Human Rights a priority was and remains a charade, announced with attention getting bravado and arrogance, only to be left twisting in the wind to simply fade away because, as Trudeau pointed out, they are items not on top of the list for Canadians.
Trudeau is fond of declaring himself a feminist and he can justifiably be proud when he points to his cabinet. But declaring oneself a feminist doesn’t necessarily make it so. Perhaps I don’t understand what it means to believe something or to say that one believes in something. I always took it as a given that, if faced with the opportunity to back up what one says, one takes it.
During the past American election campaign, shortly after the recording of Trump bragging about groping women and being able to do anything he wanted with them because he was rich and famous, Trudeau was asked to comment. He did not. Instead, his was a calculated, self-serving, and cowardly evasion of the politician saying, “This relationship goes far deeper than any two personalities at their countries’ respective heads. I think, however, I’ve been very clear in my approach as a feminist, as someone who has stood clearly and strongly through all my life around issues of sexual harassment, standing against violence against women, that I don’t need to make any further comment” (Kathleen Harris, CBC News, Oct. 13, 2016). This is a leader of a sovereign nation but he allowed himself to be cowed by the possibility of a bullying misogynist becoming president of the United States. Instead of roundly condemning Trump’s remarks and thus joining the chorus of outrage, he cravenly ducked his head and stood mute except for uttering a platitude he was not willing to prove or support.
On Jan 24 of this year, he was asked by a reporter, “Do you think Trump is a misogynist?” That’s a perfectly clear and reasonable question. But Trudeau the feminist again failed to take the opportunity to prove himself a man of conviction preferring instead to say he was “pleased to have a constructive working relationship with the new administration…and I have made it very clear over the past year, it is not the job of a Canadian prime minister to opine on the American electoral process.” He went on to say, “It is the job of the Canadian prime minister to have a constructive working relationship with the president of the United States and that is exactly what I intend to do.” He was not asked to offer to opine on the US electoral process but on Trump’s attitude towards women. Trudeau refused, preferring to curry the favour of a vile, misogynistic bully by remaining silent. That is not leadership but a caricature; Trudeau as Babbitt. Some have said that was the right, smart move. Was it? To me, this is akin to witnessing from the sanctuary of one’s home another getting mug and doing nothing, not even calling 911.
And is it the right move for Trudeau to remain silent when Trump has signed a bill to build that wall at the Mexican border or to perhaps abandoning a NAFTA signatory to pander to the bully? And is it the right move for Trudeau to remain silent when, with a stroke of a pen, Trump bars entry to refugees from largely Muslim countries? As a leader, he diminishes himself and Canadians by proving he is too cowardly to do what is right, moral and just at risk of offending and enraging that lunatic to the south of us. That is cowardice, plain and simple. Remaining silent on racism, intolerance, and brutality is a sure path to self-destruction. Who will be Trump’s next target? Unions? Unionists. Jews? Where does Trudeau draw the line on what he will defend and condemn? I have no clue. I just know I cannot trust him be on my side.
When Trudeau returned from his foray with the Aga Khan, clearly troubled by the storm around the access-for-cash debacle, and clearly wishing to clean up his image and to show himself as one of the people, he engaged in a series of coffee shop tours across the country and took questions from the public, mostly friendly crowds. This was clearly an astute move, and it seems to have served him well. The questions were open and free. As a result, he did not always get a free ride; some of the questions were extremely hard. To his credit, he took them all. Now some have said that he was brave for exposing himself that way. Nonsense. Bravery is standing up for what you say you believe. He was simply fighting to regain that glorified image of himself, the golden prince working the crowd; his background as a teacher served him well and effectively. He is glib and sure-footed at such gatherings though, occasionally he did go off message and managed to enrage some as when, in Quebec, clearly pandering to his audience, he responded in French to a question posed in English about English language services. That was ignorance on his part and insulting to the questioner. Still, he escaped relatively unscathed the coffee shop tours are all win for Trudeau. Not once, not once, did anyone raise the matter of those access-for-pay fundraisers. What the hell is wrong with us?
Do I trust him? Can I trust him? I do not. I cannot.
Oh, yes, he is a prince, the golden prince, but he oozes, oozes charm and sincerity too easily and too readily for my liking. In a crunch he will, as easily and as readily, fail you smiling, smiling, a tear or two, perhaps, trickling down his cheek.
A man should never be judged by what he says but by what he does. We saw how Trudeau behaved during the past year regarding questions regarding access-for-pay and those elite, private, secretive fundraisers. After a year of denial, he promises to mend the rules around fundraising. I don’t expect much. The devil will be in the details. And we heard how he responded to direct questions regard the vile Donald Trump. Some have said his response was right, was smart. Was it?
To fear to act against a bully who may retaliate is neither smart nor prudent. Bullies thrive on picking on those perceived as weak and afraid.
Trudeau is both. But, what the hell, he is golden.
But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.
They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin