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JUSTIN TRUDEAU’S ACHILLES HEEL: THE ‘RULE OF LAW’ TAKES A BEATING

I once said cynically of a politician, “He’ll double cross that bridge when he comes to it.” –Oscar Levant

There is no such thing as a cheap politician. –Laurence J. Peter

Frank A. Pelaschuk

All parties campaign on them, offering promises of honest, transparent, fair, equitable governance. For Trudeau, there would be more: not only would his be a gender-balanced cabinet, a promise he kept, 2015 would also be the last ever first-past-the-post election and an end to the massively unwieldy omnibus bills which the Stephen Harper regime had turned into an art form in hopes of slipping legislation without anyone noticing and the opposition liberals and NDP unremittingly fought against for that very reason. He broke the last two promises and many others since, but electoral reform must surely have been the most brutal betrayal for those who voted for him on this issue alone while his turning his back on his omnibus stance may be the costliest because of recent allegations made against the Trudeau regime in the Globe and Mail of political interference in the 2015 criminal charges laid against the Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin company regarding bribery payouts to Libyan public officials.  

In the 2018 liberal budget, there was inserted a little noted provision having nothing to do with the budget. Few people noticed; those that did made noise, were ignored by the governing party and the public paid little attention perhaps still in love with Trudeau or believing this was esoteric stuff or just mere noise by sore losers or unsurprising worthy only of resigned shrugs: What’s new, this is how it works, business and politicians working together gaming the system. The provision buried deep in the budget tome refers to the “Differed Prosecution Agreement” (DPA) or the “Remediation Agreement”. It is a plea-bargaining tool commonplace in Britain and America much favoured by those into protecting the health and welfare of Big Business rather than that of citizens from whose purse those corporate interests often pillage upon winning government contracts; evidently, it’s a tool Trudeau and the PMO find attractive and, if it works as a lure for corporate donations, all the better. With DPAs, corporate beneficiaries bargain with prosecutors to avoid costly public trials: they admit to guilt, pay big fines, give back accrued benefits and make changes within the corporate structure perhaps with a few sacrificial bad apples (never mind if the barrel is rotten). But here’s the real value of avoiding trial with a plea deal: corporations also avoid the ten-year penalty of not being allowed to bid on lucrative government contracts. Free enterprisers lose nothing while granted licence to capitalize on the free pass to do business as usual, perhaps even repeating the very acts that got them into trouble in the first place: buying politicians and winning government contracts while all parties laugh their way to the bank. Why not? Since we became a nation, we’ve given the conservatives and liberals a similar pass to lie, break promises, help their friends as they always have because too frightened, too lazy, too stupid to try something new. Change scares us, leaves us frozen and makes us accomplices.

With Scott Brison’s departure, the cabinet shuffle that followed raised some eyebrows particularly with the demotion of Jody Wilson-Raybould as justice minister. Not only was she the first First Nations member to achieve such a high position in cabinet, she was, notwithstanding several breaches of conflicts of interest issues, in some circles considered a moderately effective minister. However, within hours of her demotion, she issued a statement on her website which included this excerpt: “It is a pillar of our democracy that our system of justice be free from even the perception of political interference and uphold the highest levels of public confidence. As such, it has always been my view that the Attorney General of Canada must be non-partisan, more transparent in the principles that are the basis of decisions, and, in this respect, always willing to speak truth to power” (for the full statement,http://www.netnewsledger.com/2019/01/15/statement-from-minister-jody-wilson-raybould-mp/). This piece alone is a remarkable statement seeming to suggest all was not well between the justice minister and the PMO and, with the Globe and Mail piece, takes on added significance that cannot and must not be ignored. SNC-Lavalin, with a dubious history and in preliminary hearings with no trial date yet since last October, stands to lose billions. The allegation is that the PMO sought to assist the construction company avoid trial and thus enable it to continue to have the opportunity to bid on government contracts by leaning on the justice department. Apparently, the tactic failed; the justice department pushed back thereby assuring the demotion of Jody Wilson-Raybould. The above excerpt seems to suggest there was some kind of political interference but, if so, what kind? Cynics have suggested that the Globe and Mail story was leaked by Wilson-Raybould herself and that the statement of January 15 was the groundwork for what followed. Was she fired because she attempted to intervene in the corruption case? If that was true, and none of it has been proven, the statement by the then minister could read as a pre-emptive strike against the PMO as a means of exacting revenge for her demotion. Whatever happened, the story is out there and only Jody Wilson-Raybould and the PMO know the truth of the matter. When asked about the Globe and Mail story, February 7, the following exchange took place: 

Question:“Did you or anyone in your office pressure the former attorney general to abandon the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin?” 

Answer:“Neither the current nor the previous attorney general was ever directed by me or by anyone in my office to take a decision in this matter.” Question:“But the question is whether there was any sort of influence. Are you saying categorically there was absolutely no influence or any pushing whatsoever?” 

Answer:“At no time did I or my office direct t the current or previous attorney general to make any decision in this matter.” 

Question:“But not necessarily direct…. Was there any sort of influence whatsoever?” 

Answer:“As I’ve said, at no time did we direct the attorney general current or previous to take any decision in this matter” (National Post in the Ottawa Citizen, Friday, February 8, 2019)

Not only were Trudeau’s responses circular, evasive and legal, Jody Wilson-Raybould chose not to clear the air or to support Trudeau when, shortly after the Trudeau interview, she was asked questions of a similar nature. Had the PMO sought to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin matter? “No comment” was the succinct and telling response. Devastating for Trudeau and leaving open room for many more questions. One thing was clear: the one-time justice minister, now veterans affairs minister, had no interest in helping the PMO. The following day, February 8, she stated she could not answer more fully because she was “bound by solicitor-client privilege” an argument some legal experts claim could be waived by the prime minister. That did not happen. It likely will not happen. 

NOW WHAT?

We all know how easy it is to make promises. It is much more difficult to follow through on one that would alter if not destroy the very thing that allowed you your greatest success. Such promises usually go by the wayside; it takes a person of great moral character to follow through on such a promise. Trudeau is not that man. He never was. It was not because of a change of heart by Trudeau that electoral reform failed; reform failed when it became clear that his preferred choice of ranked ballot, something he kept from the public, was not to be. Trudeau set about to undermine and then kill the effort; it would be ranked ballot or nothing as far as Trudeau was concerned though it was clear that those supporting electoral reform preferred some form of proportional representation as recommended by the committee struck up to look into the matter. It was never about what the public wanted or about a fair and open system. It was all about maintaining the status quo, maintaining what worked for the liberals and conservatives since 1867.

From the start, honesty and transparency bit the dust and recent events have shown the extent of Trudeau’s deceit with his slipping of the DPA provision into the 2018 budget. He was and is and likely always will be just another politico out for the main chance. His loyalty is not with you and me but, rather, with those with the big bucks. Evidently Trudeau really does believe and support the sentiments of General Bullmoose, the rapacious capitalist Al Capp creation made infamous in Li’l Abnerfor saying, “What’s good for General Bullmoose is good for America”. Bullmoose is fiction but not so the real-life capitalist and former head of General Motors, Charles E. Wilson, who, in appearing before a senate committee in 1952 opined, “What is good for the country is good for General Motors and vice versa.” Sixty-seven years later, the rapacity of General Bullmoose continues unbridled often under the protection and with the assist of governments more interested in the good health of Big Business than the health of those who elect them. We saw some of that with the Temporary Foreign Workers Program when Stephen Harper was in power and Jason Kenney, employment minister, only after public exposure made changes to a low allowing companies to pay foreign workers less than Canadians. We see some of that now with the DPAs sneaked into law by Trudeau. 

Trudeau is very good at grandstanding and shamelessly touching all the politically correct hot buttons except the ones that count, including integrity, honesty, the ability to experience shame. I cannot help but think of the Yiddish proverb which, with apologies, I will paraphrase: Trudeau loves everybody but he helps himself and his friends.

***

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

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About Frank A. Pelaschuk

I am the author of two works of fiction reviewed by Brian Porter, author of Lonely Together and The Atlas Proxies. He called the novel, Serpent in the Garden, "A convincing, seductive tale of coming home to the enemy". Of Ambiguities of Love in Six Stories, he wrote, “Moving, intelligent, and thoughtful storytelling." Both works are available on Amazon as soft cover or e-book where the full reviews also appear.

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