Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you join the dance. — Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland
The obligation to endure gives us the right to know. – Jean Rostand
Frank A. Pelaschuk
Even now, over two years after the last dance, we Canadians remain a narcotized bunch still enamoured with the Handsome Prince who charmed his way to our hearts with brash, loud, grandiose promises. We fell hard, dazzled by the Wizard, and we made it obvious throwing ourselves at his feet and swooning in paroxysms of ecstasy at mere mention of his name. Promise me anything, I’m all yours. And he did promise anything stroking the buzzwords: taxes, taxing the rich, legalization of marijuana, gender equality, child benefits, electoral reform, the middle class, openness, honesty, transparency. Never mind that he spent little time on poverty, homelessness, the single parent holding several jobs, health care, the elderly, and education. In that respect, he is no different from any other cheap politico performing before an audience of vacuous goo-goo-eyed monkeys who allow him to break rules and walk away from promises unscathed without either apology or regret indicating the extent of the self-induced coma afflicting those still supporting him.
BUT WHAT HE DELIVERED WAS NOT ALL THAT HE PROMISED
Oh, he followed through in some but his promises of openness, transparency and honesty quickly fell by the wayside revealing the true nature of his character as savvy, pragmatic, calculating, hypocritical, unethical smoothie able to bolster his image with shrewdly choreographed photo-ops and overacted displays of empathy that should alert anyone half awake wooing with dazzling smiles, accommodating selfie hungry fans and demonstrating in a trice the ability to establish the deepest of concerns and utmost affection simply by furrowing his brow and pursing his lips thoughtfully. If the occasion is particularly important, a commemorative event or a death of a dignitary or some other sombre happening, he is particularly adept at publicly displaying the depth of his emotional warmth and will, on cue and at any opportunity, empathetically tap his breast with his fingers and wring the exact number of tears required to match the magnitude of the event always making certain the cameras have caught him discreetly dabbing the corner of his eye. We like it and we buy it for we are a superficial, ignorant, and indifferent group attentive primarily on the silly in our lives as if they were profound: an opportunity to get a selfie with him or breathe the same air or exclaiming over his courage in facing the public at town hall meetings to respond to unvetted questions from the public. It is at such events that the Prince is at his best proudly showcasing his ability to work the crowd of mostly friendly faces while he explains in response to a question from an audience member who clearly believes that some things are really important, how he came to unapologetically undermine and then turn his back on electoral reform a major element of his campaign platform, particularly proportional representation as recommended by the committee formed to look into such reform: 1) the public has lost interest; 2) proportional representation would lead to fragmentation; 3) PR could lead to the election of terrorist; 4) PR “would be harmful to Canada”; 5) the ranked ballot system (Trudeau’s preferred voting system) would not necessarily benefit his party [He’s right. Historically, Canadians have only elected Liberals and Conservatives as federal governments; barring some seismic shift in voter attitudes, the Ranked Ballot would most likely continue if not cement the trend of shutting out the NDP and Greens]; 6) nothing convinces him that PR is a better system though it is the preferred system of Germany and 80 other democracies (and this guy was a teacher; a closed mind is worse than a closed book); 7) and, if re-elected and revisited, electoral reform would not include PR as an option. On this issue, his responses are disingenuous and diversionary; at no time during his campaign, did the Prince indicate that PR was not on the table or that he had reservations regarding PR. Yet, in his conversation with Chris Hall on CBC’s The House, (Feb. 3, 2018, http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/the-house/segment/15518052) he makes clear what he had not while campaigning on electoral reform: PR was not and never had been in the running while the ranked or preferential ballot system was. This was Trudeau’s preference which only became clear when Trudeau set out to undermine the committee when it became clear the ranked ballot was not in the running. And it quickly became clear that reform was dead when the committee made its recommendation for some form of PR and the minister of democratic institutions, Maryam Monsef, slammed the committee for not doing it’s job. Shortly after, her replacement Karina Gould drove the stake through the heart of the idea of reform. Trudeau, the rodomontade who had boldly declared 2015 the last first-past-the-post election, couldn’t even kill off an idea no one had sought but he knew many wanted. He also knew when he made that promise he would kill it if he did not get what he wanted. But he said nothing of that so people went through the process with high hopes and belief that all options were on the table; they trusted Trudeau and believed him to be fair, a man of his word. He was neither. When the committee denied him the option of the ranked ballot electoral reform was a dead as Marley’s ghost.
Still, while the town hall meetings did highlight the Prince’s skill before a crowd, it also revealed an unpleasant darker side. When a few publicly challenged Trudeau at the town hall meetings regarding this and other issues he and his supporters may have found irksome, the questioners were loudly shouted down by the Prince’s supporters while he played the pacifier thus confirming and entrenching his image of tolerant conciliator unfairly targeted by troublemakers. Unfortunately, there were episodes in which persistent questioners (hecklers to the Prince’s fans) were forcibly removed with Trudeau orchestrating it in such a way in one instance to emphasize his egalitarianism simply by asking the audience if a persistent heckler should be allowed to ask a questions. Unsurprisingly, the loyal if bloodthirsty fans shouted a resounding, “No” with the end result of having the heckler forcibly removed. It was the fallen gladiator and the Emperor looking to the mob for guidance with the thumb up or down, live or die? That move by Trudeau, whether the heckler deserved it or not, was the act of a bully performing before a witless and friendly mob more in thrall with defending the Wizard than with the valid concerns raised by the questioners and, yes, even hecklers. How much courage does it take to respond to difficult questions when the audience is largely made of adoring fans absolutely pissing their pants to do the Wizard’s bidding and when most of his questioners, unlike the Prince, is likely unaccustomed and even terrified of speaking before an crowd that might be unhappy with the question posed? His cavalier treatment of those who sincerely wanted nothing more than an honest response to questions regarding his support of pipelines and abandonment of electoral reform, possible reasons they may have voted for him, should offend everyone. It was clever, but the act of a bully nonetheless.
WHAT IS THERE TO ADMIRE IN TRUDEAU?
He is an opportunist, about image, pandering to the easy and the popular only as long as they do not conflict with his own agenda; when they do, he discards them without a backward glance and certainly no public apology. He has betrayed almost everything that he would have had us believe mattered when he campaigned for the most important job in Canada. He turned his back on human rights to lock a lucrative arms deal with one of the worlds worst abusers contravening UN sanctions and Canada’s own guidelines regarding arms trade with human rights abusers. And when critics spoke up against the sale of Canadian-made Light Armoured Vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a very lucrative deal, he lied about why he did so. The LAV deal was a done deal under Harper, he said. Not so. It was his government that signed off on the deal. He then said breaking a contract would harm Canada’s reputation. Really? On something as important as human rights? Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien had no difficulty breaking a contract for Cormorant helicopters simply because it was brokered by Brian Mulroney in 1993; that cost Canadians $478 million in penalties but seems not to have negatively impacted Canada’s reputation as a country with which to deal. With Trudeau, human rights takes a back seat when it comes to trade. That’s why he is willing to do a helicopter trade deal with the murderous Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has engaged in an extrajudicial war on drugs with the slaughter of 12,000 suspects many of whom were completely innocent but dead for simply being in the wrong place or friends and family members of suspects. But supporters of the Prince are only concerned with obtaining a selfie with him and he, as we all know, will never shy away from a camera.
Thus far, nothing sticks to Trudeau. Within months of winning his mandate, it became evident how seriously he observed his own directives to his cabinet ministers with mandate letters. He wrote: As Minister, you must ensure that you are aware of and fully compliant with the Conflict of Interest Act and Treasury Board policies and guidelines. You will be provided with a copy of Open and Accountable Government to assist you as you undertake your responsibilities. I ask that you carefully read it and ensure that your staff does so as well. I draw your attention in particular to the Ethical Guidelines set out in Annex A of that document, which apply to you and your staff. As noted in the Guidelines, you must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny. This is an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law. Please also review the areas of Open and Accountable Government that we have expanded or strengthened, including the guidance on non-partisan use of departmental communications resources and the new code of conduct for exempt staff.
But evidently that was a lark, for public consumption only and not to be taken seriously. He didn’t. Nor did Jody Wilson-Raybould, newly appointed justice minister, who, within months of the election, attended a fundraising event sponsored by a law firm in a clear violation of conflict of interest; Trudeau stoutly defended her while the minister made this ludicrous disclaimer: She had attended the event as a party member not as a cabinet minister! You see, they believe everyone either doesn’t care or is a simpleton.
Since then, of course, we have been witness to many such conflicts of interest with many ministers and the Prince himself attending many lucrative, highly secretive fundraising events sponsored and attended by those standing to benefit by the decisions of those government worthies. What makes it most offensive is that Prince Trudeau and members of the PMO lied for weeks about many of the events he attended claiming he often made unplanned stops at fundraisers without knowing who would be in attendance (very unlikely for security reasons), that he never talked with attendees about business matters before the government (later changing his story that some sought to raise business but were directed to go through the proper channels). At one of these meetings attended by Chinese millionaires and billionaires, two attendees would donate $50K towards a statue of the Prince’s father, $200K towards the Pierre Eliot Trudeau Foundation and $750K towards scholarships for the University of Montreal law faculty. As I noted in previous posts, a month later, one of those attendees lobbying the government had won approval to open and operate Wealth One Bank of Canada. Eventually, after months of questioning by the opposition, Trudeau agreed to end the cash-for-access fundraisers making it easier for members of the public to attend and to open them for the media. Shortly after that announcement, when the media sought to attend an event, they were barred. So much for openness and transparency.
Trudeau is an honest man, yes he is, but he was found in breach of conflict guidelines by Mary Dawson, Ethics Commissioner at the time, for accepting a free ride over the Christmas season to the private island of the Aga Khan whose foundation has received $330 million from Canada since 1981 with a promise by Trudeau for another $55 million over the next five years. His explanation? The Aga Khan was a family friend. Of his father, perhaps, but not so much the Prince according to Dawson. Small stuff, Trudeau’s fans may sniff, but not so small a breach when he dismisses the episode with a shrug saying he has apologized and complied with all the rules. That is the fallback explanation of weasels, resorting to legalese whether rightly or not of following the letter of the law, the bare minimum at that, while ignoring the ethical. This is the man who demands of his ministers what he does not of himself. When his ministers made unwarranted expense claims, he made them reimburse the public purse; one had to do so three times. Yet, when Conservatives questioned him about repaying some of the cost of that vacation ride, a government plane on stand-by, staff, friends, and security who also took the ride, he stuck to script repeating, almost word for word the legalese that provided no answers. Apparently, the script was handed over to Government House leader, Bardish Chagger, for she responded to the same questions with identical words in Trudeau’s absence adding, in response to protests from the opposition: “I respond the same way because the opposition keeps asking the same questions.” Amusing.
SO ELECTORAL REFORM, ETHICS, HUMAN RIGHTS WENT BY THE WAYSIDE
As promised, Trudeau did open most of the Veterans offices closed by the Conservatives under Harper. But what of his promise to reinstate the lifelong disability pension plan for vets? No luck there. For a clear summary of the Harper cuts, go to the Tyee website https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2015/08/19/Conservative-Attacks-Canadian-Veterans/. It was Harper who got rid of the plan replacing it with a one-time lump sum payment. After two years, there has been movement by the liberals towards reinstatement of some parts of the life-long disability pension plan to start in 2019 but clearly it is not enough and offers even less than when it was razed by Harper in 2006. Veterans, confounded and feeling betrayed, have gone to court. When vet Brock Blaszczk, who had lost a leg while serving in Afghanistan, asked at a town hall why the Prince was fighting the vets on this, Trudeau responded, “they are asking more than we can afford”! This of men and women who have willingly put everything, including their lives and limbs, on the line for this country.
Vets ask too much! This from a man who turned his back on the veterans as easily as he did electoral reform.
So, how does he stack up as a feminist?
On the plus side, he can, rightly, point with pride to his gender balanced cabinet with women heading several key departments. That is the good.
What is not so good is the extent of the silliness to which he will resort in his effort to pander to any group or cause that seems likely to engender wide support. In other words, he is a politically correct gadfly jerk. At a recent town hall meeting, he interrupted a female questioner’s long-winded preamble to a question by suggesting her usage of the word “mankind” be replaced by “peoplekind” as more appropriate eliciting applause from the crowd and the questioner. While this was clearly meant as a joke, a dumb one at that, it is indicative of his character and of those to whom he panders; they will gladly twist themselves into unmanageable knots to forgive him everything and prove themselves in step with the “new” orthodoxy of gender neutral bubble-headed PC imbecility. It was a stupid joke and does not merit the attention and ridicule it garnered except for the fact that Trudeau’s lifelong friend and top advisor in the PMO, Gerald Butts, exacerbated matters by labelling those critical of his boss’s oozing, simply oozing feel-good efforts as Nazis. This kind of disrespect for critics of Trudeau is different from that of the Harper gang in what way? That is an odd response from a government seeking to pass itself as enlightened with its relentless campaign to have us embrace the image reminiscent of the sixties and seventies “flower power” movement with its “all you need is love” sappiness.
So is Trudeau a feminist? I question that. Saying so doesn’t make it so. When offered opportunity by members of the press on two occasions at least to demonstrate the strength of his commitment to feminism, Trudeau kept mum during the American presidential campaign rather than calling out misogynist Donald Trump boasting about groping women. What he said instead was this: “Everyone knows I’m a feminist.” For some, the failure by Trudeau to condemn Trump’s admission of sexual harassment merited commendation rather than censure his silence demonstrating remarkable leadership skills; Trudeau was not only tactful, he could not be lured into riling a bully with NAFTA negotiations on the horizon. Evidently, principles and integrity, as are campaign promises, are utilitarian, devices to be deployed with flash and noise only when helpful but otherwise quietly tossed aside for more congenial occasions.
He has made a great deal of his support of women, women’s rights, and the #MeToo movement; he brings his “feminist” side to the fore at every opportunity to demonstrate that he cares, really, really, really, cares. Yet, according to CTV News (Feb. 6, 2018), his government is quietly working to quash the class action lawsuit by female military personnel against the Canadian forces for sexual harassment, gender discrimination and racism leading some to charges of hypocrisy on the party of Trudeau and his government. Following the release of that report, Trudeau’s response was swift. The government action did not “align with his core beliefs”; Harjit Sajjan, the minister of defence would have the justice minister take another look at the issue. On Feb. 23, CTV News reported that the Liberal government was seeking to settle with the complainants out of court. Whatever the outcome, the Prince is one feminist of “iffy” steadfastness.
His is the political correctness of the opportunist. He will don any PC mask for any occasion. It can get him in trouble as with his trip to India this week with apparently a confused agenda — business or political — other than to offer ample opportunity for photo-ops and a moment to declare that there was a trade agreement worth $1 billion though others have put the real value at about $200 million. Apart from the exaggerated claims, the trip was a disaster, he and his family mocked for their traditional attire as with the following comments: “Is it just me or is this choreographed cuteness all just a bit much now? Also FYI we Indians don’t dress like this every day sir, not even in Bollywood.” —Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) Feb. 21, 2018 and “How did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the world’s favorite liberal mascot — a feminist man, with movie-star good looks, a 50 percent female cabinet and a political lexicon that has replaced “mankind” with “peoplekind” (making millions swoon) — end up looking silly, diminished and desperate on his trip to India this week” (Barkha Dutt, WashingtonPost, Feb. 22, 2018). Well, the answer is clear: Trudeau is a panderer and self-promoting PC lodestar for those who need such and it appears many do.
Then, of course, it got worse. Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau as well as other MPs of Trudeau’s cabinet, was photographed with a man once a member of the Sikh Youth Federation banned as a terrorist group in Canada, the U.K., the U.S. and India. Jaspal Atwal spent 20 years in prison for attempting to assassinate a Punjab politician vacationing on Vancouver Island in 1985 and was charged but not convicted of the near fatal attack on Ujjal Dosangh, a one time liberal member of parliament in 1986. To compound the disaster, that same would-be assassin was invited by Liberal MP Randeep Sarai to attend a dinner in Delhi hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner. The invitation was later rescinded but, for some critics, this affair lent credence to the belief that Canada was sympathetic to the Sikh separatist movement.
This is not a first with the Prince. Trudeau’s relentless determination to seize every seemingly positive PC opportunity for a photo-op has got him in trouble in the past as when, Dec. 19, he posed with rescued hostages Joshua Boyle, his wife and three children held by the Taliban in Afghanistan and returned home October of last year. From Oct. 14 to Dec. 30, apparently Trudeau and security unaware, Boyle was under investigation for assault, sexual assault and forcible confinement. On New Years day, 2018, he appeared in court facing 15 charges.
This is not just about security lapses. It’s about lapses of ethics and judgement by a man more interested in being all things to all people and seizing every opportunity to enhance his image with a photo-op. Sometimes it doesn’t work and the position itself is an impossibility that can only lead to contradiction and conflict. When he was elected, Trudeau spoke of “deliverology”, a buzzword indicating movement from idea to implementation. It may be appealing but has proved meaningless under his governance. It was showy in the same way his promises of electoral reform and reinstating lifelong disability pensions for vets. His appeal is that of the superficial for the superficial, the monkeys who still applaud his every utterance and drool over his every move, those who expect little and demand even less from their leaders because it is not leadership or genuine nation-building accomplishments that move them.
What does is theatrics, the great show and empty calories of eye candy, the Prince Charming and the Beautiful Princess and their beautiful family and the fact that they make appearances in Vogue, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair. A few trinkets tossed our way is often sufficient and if promises fall by the wayside, that’s fine as well: we have a quick forgettery, endless patience and seemingly bottomless faith that the two partners we have always danced with will treat us right until they don’t.
We may notice that attractive third party on the sidelines seeking to join the dance whispering promises equally mellifluous but will not accept his offer because we fear to appear friendly to him warned by the two partners we have danced with for over 150 years that he is dangerous with dangerous ideas. They should know, we tell ourselves.
No, we will not make room to include the third party, the liberals and conservatives will just do fine. And if they ignore us during the dance, that is fine, as well. We will have danced and been fed sweet words and if we feel slighted by either, we will gently tease them about that third party waiting patiently in the wings for his turn. But the liberals and conservatives needn’t worry. We don’t mean it even if the bruising is beginning to hurt.
Where does the Prince stand? Who knows? Who can trust him? It’s a question we should not have to ask of one seeking to convince us he loves us, he really loves us. Yet I suspect he is a man of such great courage that he would abandon his loves, principles and soul for his ambitions.
NOTE: While I had left the door open with my last post, I had hoped it would indeed be my last. Unfortunately, while what I say may not be particularly new or noteworthy, there is just something about those politicians that get to me. It was Harper that started this post and Trudeau who continues it. Sorry.
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