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THE PEACOCK PRINCE AND THE HOPE THAT NEVER WAS: JUST ANOTHER SLIMY POLITICO

Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise. – G.K. Chesterton

Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. – Eric Hoffer

Frank Pelaschuk

For diehard Liberal supporters, Justin Trudeau was the swaggering handsome young prince who would sweep the party back into office where they belonged with his charm and many loud grand promises of real change, of newer, better and brighter in the way of honesty, consultation, openness and transparency. The diehard Liberals likely didn’t believe that part, they know the party and its people too well but they did believe in Trudeau, he was a winner and that’s what matters in the end. For the young voters, they saw in Trudeau not only the son of a one-time political star but also a star in his own right; he was young, confident, he had the words and god he was handsome, graceful, with a beautiful wife and kids and there was no doubt, no doubt at all, he was a winner and that’s all that matters in the end.

THE PEACOCK STRIKES

Oh the promises were many and grand. In all, there were over 200 promises (according to the non-partisan TrudeauMetre.ca website); among them he would: make 2015 the last first-past-the-post election (dead); make Human Rights a priority (only when convenient and when it doesn’t conflict with trade deals); amend the Access of Information Act so that all government date was made “open by default” (pending, likely will not happen); unmuzzle government scientists (done); gender parity in cabinet (done); restore the long-form census (done); ban partisan ads (pending, likely will not happen); provide resources for Elections Canada to investigate electoral fraud and other abuses (pending, likely will not happen); eliminate omnibus bills (doubtful, some claim recent Budget is an omnibus bill); restore the right of the Commissioner of Elections Canada to report and be accountable to Parliament and not to the government (removed by the Harper Conservatives, may happen but doubtful); review spending limits of political parties during and between elections (will not happen); restore home mail delivery (dead); introduce pay equity (will happen just in time for next election); restore life long disability pensions for veterans (did not happen though he did increase one-time lump sum payment); reopen nine Veterans Affairs offices closed by Liberals (done and/or pending); bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees in timely fashion (done if delayed by a few months); run deficit of $10 billion (done, but tripled to $30 billion); legalize marijuana (done); restore age of OAS eligibility to 65 (done); amend Harper’s anti-terrorism bill C-51 (dead, powers to spy on Canadians and share information with foreign security agencies increased); reduce taxes for those earning between $45K and $90K (done, cut by 1.5 percent; Trudeau was all about the middle class but never heard him talk much, if at all, about homelessness, education, the plight of the young and elderly).

To voters hearing them for the first time, many of the promises were appealing particularly pot for the young, pay equity for women, and electoral reform for those who believe democracy is less about outcomes of votes than the fairness of the outcomes; in this, our present system fails. On the surface, just with the few examples above, Trudeau seems to have done not too badly. Unfortunately, those promises kept were relatively easy because largely supported by the public as with the Syrian refugees, reopened Veterans Affairs Offices and legalization of pot. It’s where he fails that is significant. If anything, Trudeau is mostly surface, candy for the eyes and ears that appeal to the easily distracted and those who want only to hear what appeals and conforms to their worldview; challenges, a different point of view, hearing the other out rather than shouting them down, embracing new contrary ideas, and stepping out of one’s comfort zone are too difficult requiring the ability to empathize and exert the energy of actually having to think. Beneath the surface, under all that Trudeau charm, that dazzling, smirking smile, and that cloying, oozing, simply oozing sincerity, lies something much darker, a calculator, a schemer willing to demonstrate, when it suits his purpose and promises gain, a ruthless edge with the occasional bloody gesture meant to burnish his image as one not shy of revealing his mettle. He did that when, in January 2016, as one of his first acts, he publicly, and loudly, expelled Liberal senators from the Liberal caucus. As far as he was concerned, the Liberal senators would now sit as independents. As if declaring a thing makes it so. It was a clever exhibition, a bold, unexpected, and public show that stunned senators and observers alike and informed the world that Trudeau was more than a pretty face with hair. It was a gesture that played well but didn’t mean much except to his fans who became legion following his 2012 whupping of Senator Patrick Brazeau in a charity boxing match and the photo-op of him performing the yoga Peacock Pose. The expulsion of the senators provided further affirmation of Trudeau as an action figure super hero.

If he was capable of surprising with ruthless efficiency, he was also, that January, able to surprise again with his appointment of neophyte MP Maryam Monsef, as minister of democratic institutions and placing in her hands the matter of electoral reform which he had affirmed would go ahead. But, it was in May of 2016, there occurred two troubling events that may have alerted some to the darker side of Trudeau as a sneak and plotter less interested in the power of democracy than of the power of victory. What happened then did not and does not bode well for Canadians or for Canadian democracy.

Motion 6, introduced by then Liberal House leader Dominic LeBlanc without fanfare and limited, if any, real consultation was a Liberal attempt to seize control of the House, as if his majority wasn’t enough, by weakening the tools of opposition members to debate, filibuster or force a surprise vote to catch governments flatfooted as the NDP had days before when they put forward an amendment to another bill which left the Liberals scrambling to find enough members to defeat the amendment. Motion 6 was eventually dropped but not after a raucous fracas on the floor of the House which led Trudeau to swagger across the floor and inadvertently elbow a female NDP member in the chest as he manhandled opposition whip Gord Brown by grabbing him by the arm to drag him to his seat in hopes, Trudeau said, of speeding up the vote on Bill-14, the physician-assisted dying legislation being delayed by MPs milling about the House floor. For that incident, Trudeau rightly apologized…twice…but the apologies had less, I suspect, to do with the bill or the manhandling of the two MPs than with seeking to restore the public’s perception of him as a fine, extremely likeable young man rather than the impatient, strutting, bullying peacock to which the world was treated. He may have lost that power grab but it gave Canadians, if they were paying attention or even interested, the first real hint of what governance and democracy meant to Trudeau and his gang and it was not all that dissimilar from Stephen Harper’s and the Conservatives: control, fulfilling the agenda, power, and the keeping of that power.

Rigging the game has nothing to do with democracy. Trudeau was just getting started.

The second occurrence that May was the announcement by Monsef regarding the formation of the Electoral Reform Committee. It began simply enough but not so innocently with disclosure of the committee makeup: 6 Liberals, 3 Conservatives, 1 NDP member and 1 each from the Green and Bloc parties with non-voting rights. The opposition and public outcry was instant and loud for it appeared to confirm what the sceptics had been saying for some time: electoral reform would not happen or happen only if the outcome supported Trudeau’s preferred choice: the formation of a Liberal dominated committee was his effort to make that outcome happen.

Unfortunately for the Liberals, public fury proved too much, they retreated rejigging the committee in June 2016 to more closely reflect the popular vote granting the Green and Bloc parties a vote each, increasing the NDP vote by 1, keeping the Conservative votes at three and reducing the Liberal vote from 6 to 5. As the committee travelled the country hearing from citizens, Trudeau began to show a restive and distant attitude towards reform admitting to his preferred choice of ranked or preferential balloting. During an interview with Le Devoir, he mused that Canadians had no appetite for electoral reform. You could see where this was heading. With the release of the committee’s report December 1, 2016 recommending some form of proportional representation, Monsef mocked and lectured the members derisive of their efforts for failing “to complete the hard work we expected them to”. On Dec. 5, the Liberals announced the creation of an online survey that would accept Canadian input for six weeks. The survey was widely derided because designed to achieve a desired outcome.

Monsef had faltered from the first with the formation of the committee and, with plenty of help from Trudeau, had bungled the portfolio throughout. In January of this year, Karina Gould, another neophyte MP, who replaced Monsef as democratic institutions minister during a cabinet shuffle, would make the official announcement February 1, 2017 that electoral reform was dead as Dickens’s Marley. It had been a test by fire for Monsef who failed and Gould who passed admirably but left some wondering why Trudeau, who had made electoral reform a key element of his platform, had left the dirty task of killing it to a relatively inexperienced and untested member of his caucus. It was the little sister fighting the battle that was her big brother’s. If there were to be a public backlash, she would bear the brunt. There was no backlash for this; Trudeau and the public had other things to fret about and it had everything to do with Trudeau’s Christmas vacation and another rap to his image.

As for electoral reform? It had been shot dead and stomped into the earth. The party that had garnered 54% of the seats with just 39% of the popular vote, the same percentage that gave Harper his majority, had opted for the status quo. Disappointing yes, but no surprise unless you were among those that really, really, really believed Trudeau said what he meant and meant what he said. Poor innocents.

THE PEACOCK RUFFLED

Even as electoral reform played out, not dead yet, but soon to utter its last gasp, Trudeau and his family, with friends Tom Pitfield, of Data Sciences Ltd., and his wife, Anna Gainey, were spending Christmas with long time family friend, the Aga Khan, generously paying for the helicopter ride from the Bahamian mainland to his private island. Now no one, no one begrudges the Trudeaus taking time off for the holiday season. But there are several issues here. Firstly, while rules regarding gifts can and should be tightened, members of parliament, including the prime minister, are not allowed to accept gifts above $200 without publicly declaring them “unless they are routine expressions of hospitality or protocol” (The Canadian Press, June 11, 2015) while those above $1000 must be forfeited to the Crown. By way of explanation, Trudeau had claimed the helicopter ride was the only method possible of accessing the island. Not true. The Privy Council Office technician who usually accompanies the PM for audio and visual technical services had hired a chartered seaplane for $6,695 (National Post in Ottawa Citizen, April 12, 2017). When challenged as to why he accepted the helicopter ride, Trudeau then claimed that the RCMP made decisions regarding the safest way for the PM to travel. Not content with breaking conflict of interest rules and his own mandate regarding openness, transparency and conflict of interest, Trudeau fudged, again. Know a person who lies on the small things, don’t trust him with the big. Canadians picked up the tab for security and the Challenger jet on standby and for “per diems” for the tour technician. Including the cost of the chartered plane, the trip cost $133,882 mostly for security, lodging and overtime and the Challenger jet on standby. That’s fine, part of the package necessary when one is prime minister. Still, one wonders why, apart from the questionable helicopter ride, there were reimbursements of funds to the Aga Khan as reported by CBC news for the cost of meals for “at least one government employee” (Elizabeth Thompson, CBC News, April 4, 2017) to the tune of $1602 USD for the 12 days especially if the technician was doing government business. Was the government trying to hide something? Accepting gifts, even in the way of food and accommodation from a personal friend and head of a foundation that has, since 2004, received government grants of $310 million with another $55 million pledged by Trudeau for the next five years, and failing to report them, is a clear conflict and is presently under investigation by the Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson.

It was this that likely precipitated Trudeau’s cross country tour, called by some the cowbell tour, doubtless to draw attention away from this serious ethical lapse along with numerous other distractions including Trudeau’s cash-for-access grabs. There was probably no need for these photo-op affairs and that’s what they were, Trudeau talking to Canadians, doing well with some tough questions thrown his way but none raising the holiday debacle and one or two expressing concern over his killing of electoral reform. On that Trudeau, clearly unrepentant, even close to boastful, responded: “It is because I felt it was not in the best interests of our country and our future that I turned my back on that promise.” He then went on to say, “If we were to make a change or risk a change that would augment individual voices, that would augment extremist voices and activist voices…I think we’d be entering an era of instability and uncertainty” (Kristy Kirkup, the Canadian Press, Feb. 10, 2017). The suggestion of course was that proportional representation would lead to extremism and extremist, unstable governments. It was ridiculous and unworthy of someone in that position and that intelligent. It’s a lie, it’s untrue, it’s a gross misrepresentation of proportional representation. Trudeau did not get his way regarding preferential voting so he presents a storyline that is incredibly vile as well as stupid. Most nations in the Western world have a form of PR and most have proven stable and effective. That moronic utterance was just another sign that Trudeau is a schemer, untruthful, and a phony. If Kellie Leitch is the hysteric on the Conservative side with her outrageous racial and religious intolerance, what can one say of these comments by Trudeau? The words were not just nonsense they were revelatory.

The java tour accomplished little for the public really engaged in such issues as electoral reform, in honesty in government and in our politicians but it did allow Trudeau to lard on, and I mean lard on, that smarmy charm and oozing, simply oozing sincerity.

At the time, little attention was paid to the friends who accompanied Trudeau on that Christmas jaunt. And Trudeau wasn’t talking. Tom Pitfield’s company has been awarded contract work for the Liberal party offering digital and support services to enhance its voter contact database capabilities. Trudeau and the Liberal party refuse to discuss how much is being paid for the services. This is important because, the other member in that party of happy holidayers, Pitfield’s wife, Anna Gainey, is president of the Liberal party. Further, two members of Pitfield’s company, one a sister to Trudeau’s press secretary, also sit on the Liberal party’s board of directors. Pitfield’s wife will recuse herself from any party decisions made regarding Data Sciences Ltd. Yeah, right. For the president of the party, that might be difficult.

Does anyone smell cronyism yet? Does anyone recall Adscam or sponsorgate?

Can Trudeau or his cabinet be trusted? Depends who’s trusting it seems.

THE PEACOCK’S CONFLICT

This man came into office promising real change, more openness, transparency, and honesty. Neither he nor many of his MPs have delivered.

Early on we saw minister of health Jane Philpott reimbursing taxpayers for expense claims, minister of environment and climate change claim thousands for a photographer to follow her in Paris during a climate change summit and we had then minister of international trade Chrystia Freeland, cancel a government plane flight home at the conclusion of a business trip to the Philippines to attend a TV talk show with Bill Maher at a cost between $17K and $20K for Canadian taxpayers according to the Conservatives but which her office pegs at close to $14K. The Global Affairs website lists several meetings that day with the L. A. Chamber of Commerce and California’s Office of Business and Economic development which likely explains why she did not feel the need to reimburse the public. What do you think?

In April 2016, MP Kamal Khera, parliamentary secretary to the minister of health, accepted a free trip to Tanzania by lobbyist World Vision that, since 2015, has received $50 million from Canadian taxpayers.

Another Liberal MP, Arif Virani, took a free trip to England paid for by the Pierre Eliot Trudeau Foundation. Not troubled yet?

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould attended a fundraiser sponsored by lawyers. Conflict of interest? You bet. But neither she nor Trudeau see it that way. She claimed that she attended as MP not as justice minister! Go figure. She and Trudeau must have laughed at all us dummies who swallowed that. What a bunch of simps.

No doubt she laughs at this, as well. Her husband registered as a lobbyist immediately after the election victory. He was partner with her in a business, which she left to campaign as a Liberal candidate. He continues on as consultant for two clients, one of which is a wealthy First Nations band in Kelowna and the other the not-for profit First Nations Finance Authority that offers financial and advisory assistance to First Nations members. Her husband, as a lobbyist, could conceivably do business with the justice department on behalf of his clients, which places his wife in a real conflict of interest position. It is not enough she recuses herself. Her husband must quit as lobbyist or the minister resign. Again no movement by the justice minister who continues to hold the confidence of Trudeau and still hasn’t a clue about conflict of interest.

But if the justice minister appeared naïve at best or disingenuous at worse, what can one say of finance minister Bill Morneau’s secretive meeting at a private home with developers in Halifax one of whom had been appointed to the board of the Halifax Port Authority by the Liberals? Again conflict of interest rears its ugly head.

And of course, we mustn’t forget Justin Trudeau’s many, many forays into the fundraising field many at private homes and unadvertised. In one event at a private home attended by about 30 Chinese millionaires and billionaires, there were two who donated $50K towards a stature of Justin’s father, $200K towards the Pierre Eliot Trudeau Foundation and $750K for the University of Montreal law faculty scholarships. About a month later, one of the attendees won government approval from regulators to operate Wealth One Bank of Canada. Coincidence?

With Trudeau, ethics, transparency, and truth are rather a loosey-goosey mishmash. When questioned about these meetings, Trudeau and his gang made clear they could not be influenced, that no business was ever discussed, that whenever any attendee attempted to raise business they were directed to go through the proper government channels. Trudeau and his staff would also claim that Trudeau often just happened to drop by at these events and often did not know who were in attendance. Really? When he has security glued to him 24/7? Later, Trudeau would admit that business was discussed at some of these meetings.

Can Trudeau really be trusted?

Why, even when given the opportunity more than once by reporters to actually demonstrate his oft self-proclaimed feminism, he stood mum, mute, unable to bring himself to condemn Trump’s vicious misogyny, And when Trudeau was presented with the opportunity to demonstrate that his campaign pledge of making Human Rights a priority was more than mere words after Trump laid out his travel ban on Muslims, he again fell short demonstrating that there was no there there.

Motion 6 gave us the first real taste of Trudeau as a plotter and sneak just as capable of slimy politics as the worst of politicos. The cash-for-access manoeuvring, the cronyism, the treatment of the ballyhooed electoral reform and sundry other displays have cemented my opinion of him as surface only. There is little to respect because, of the things he has accomplished that are good, sometimes even very good, there have been a diminishment because they seem more illusory than substantive, meant more to enhance his image and stature than as concrete, meaningful acts to fully commit to the openness, transparency, and integrity he had promised. His lack of candour bespeaks deceit, calculation, and contempt.

Last month, with Bardish Chagger leading the charge for Trudeau and gang, the Liberals resumed their efforts begun with Motion 6. They have released a discussion paper that Liberal Scott Sims proposed be adopted by June 2, 2017 outlining their desire to make wide-ranging change to the rules of Parliament quickly and with real possibility of going against custom by doing so unilaterally. That opposition response was immediate and hostile should surprise no one except for the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Conservatives who, should any need reminding, sought to disenfranchise voters and remove the ability of Elections Canada Commissioner to investigate election fraud with the so-called Fair Elections Act.

The Liberals wish to reduce the number of sitting days to four, leaving Fridays open for members for “Constituency” days. Yeah, right. As it is, most members leave for their ridings on Thursday evenings taking turns to sit on Fridays. They also want to allow one day a week, based on the British model, where only the PM responds to questions during Question Period. He will not be expected to show in the House other days. Too, as with Motion 6, the move is clearly designed to limit debate. Both the NDP and Conservatives believe that changes as extensive as these must require all party agreement. The Conservatives, now official opposition, believe this with absolute sincerity…today. Next time they form a majority they’ll be doing what they have in the past and what the Liberals are doing today. It’s a dirty power grab played in a dirty game.

Those who voted for Harper mostly knew what to expect and what they were getting. Harper was ruthless, petty and vindictive. His was a narrow vision: tax cuts, tiny, shiny baubles in the way of promises, Alberta oil and Keystone, fear and security, the free market, aligning with business to suppress wages, more prisons, more jail time, and treating welfare recipients as fraudsters and bums.

In many ways, Trudeau’s betrayal is more significant than anything pulled by the Harper gang because Trudeau played on the hopes, decency, innocence, and generosity of those he relied upon for votes by making grand, grand promises that at times seemed too good to be true. Well, they were. He offered a vision that was grander than the Liberal party, which promised more than they intended to give, and that was largely stolen from the NDP playbook. He offered the Big Rock Candy Mountain and, in doing so, confirmed our image of ourselves as good people, generous people, welcoming people.

Oh, yes, he delivered some. But he lied with more. Sunny days, sunny ways was all a crock. There is nothing beneath the surface of that oozing, simply oozing sincerity.

Trudeau is not a bad man; he is just not a good enough man. He is like many of us, easily corrupted when offered too much and wanting and expecting more. Apparently, for such as he loved by all and with a majority government, love is not enough; what good is power if not wielded for benefit? For others, it is bitterness that corrupts, the belief we are unrecognized, have been denied, and that the world is unfair. Both camps should give it a rest.

What is so difficult about keeping one’s word and doing one’s best, about owning up to mistakes or admitting failure? What is so important about you that you would throw away your honour, tarnish your name, betray those who place trust in you, you, for the sake of power and glory?

And you, what do you see in that peacock? What is there about him that has numbed your brain and disabled your senses? What is there about you that paralyses you, forces you to sit back, to do nothing, to accept no responsibility?

In the end, we are all dust. In the meantime, we are all accountable and complicit.

***

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

 

PSSST! WANT TO BUY A PARTY? JUSTIN TRUDEAU’S CASH-FOR-ACCESS or HOW TRUDEAU BETRAYED THE PUBLIC TRUST

I expect Canadians to hold us accountable for delivering these commitments, and I expect all ministers to do their part – individually and collectively – to improve economic opportunity and security for Canadians.

We have committed to an open, honest government that is accountable to Canadians, lives up to the highest ethical standards, and applies the utmost care and prudence in the handling of public funds. I expect you to embody these values in your work and observe the highest ethical standards in everything you do. When dealing with our Cabinet colleagues, Parliament, stakeholders, or the public, it is important that your behaviour and decisions meet Canadians’ well-founded expectations of our government. I want Canadians to look on their own government with pride and trust.

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. – Excerpt from Trudeau Government Mandate

General Principles

  • Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must ensure that political fundraising activities or considerations do not affect, or appear to affect, the exercise of their official duties or the access of individuals or organizations to government.
  • There should be no preferential access to government, or appearance of preferential access, accorded to individuals or organizations because they have made financial contributions to politicians and political parties.
  • There should be no singling out, or appearance of singling out, of individuals or organizations as targets of political fundraising because they have official dealings with Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries, or their staff or departments. – Excerpt from Trudeau Open and Accountable Government Guidelines

Frank Pelaschuk

Justin Trudeau is a certain type of individual. The breadth of his appeal is easy to understand: he has youth, looks, charm, supreme confidence, and intelligence. He has won the hearts, if not necessarily the minds, with many and great promises. With swaggering sureness and grating fanfare, he strode on the stage vowing his would be the transformative federal government, bringing new and better to all Canadians. Not only would his government be one of openness, transparency and change, immediately visible in the House during question period not only with a government responding to questions put to it but with the introduction of a new era of civility and accountability. As well, Trudeau promised, there would be more public consultation, more listening and less top down governance, which would, in turn, result in increased public confidence in the government voters had elected. Canadians would not only have a say, they would be heard. It was wonderful, easy, the dazzling, glib Prince Charming taking on the staid, buttoned-down, dour, ungainly bean counter ogre. Canadians lapped it up. What’s not to love?

THE HUCKSTER PRINCE

Of course, we have seen this kind before everywhere, those convincing messianic pitchmen on TV selling religion or the newest miracle cure-all or the everything-in-one kitchen gadget, the one-and-only real-deal gottahaveit answer-to-our prayers solution to all ails, aches and pains. And yes, we may have heard it all before but this time, this time, folks, I’m telling you and ready to guarantee it with my personal smile on the line that, yessiree Bob, this time, this time will really be different. And, we listened, spellbound, mouths open and minds numbed by the slickness and the grandiosity of the claims as we forked over our votes and trust, doing as we always have, believing, sucking it in because we want to, we have to, believe: This time it will be different it will be better.

And, for a time it seemed that it was so.

There was the Prince doing exactly as he said. Not only were his words and message inspirational, unbelievably hopeful and promising, but we were also provided evidence of getting something special. There he was, the day after the votes were in, the new prime minister shaking hands with Montrealers in the subway and thereafter allowing well-wishers and adoring fans and curiosity seekers to drag him aside, not with any difficulty, to have selfies taken with him. Available? He was and is everywhere. And, of course, we also have plenty of evidence of his sincerity. There are countless images of him looking intently into the face of someone as he patiently hears him out, his expressive brow furrowing, his lips trembling and an occasional tear trickling down his cheek while his fingers lightly tap over his heart, his whole bearing one of sympathy and oooozing, oooozing sincerity. This is a man who cares we told ourselves, the real deal. Even some of the sceptical reluctantly came around albeit prepared for an overdose of sugar.

Well, that was the promise and the hope. Oh, yes, over a year later there’s still plenty of sugar, but for some there’s something off, a bitter aftertaste of something not quite right.

The Hero has kept a few of the promises some of them even good if not particularly difficult or likely to upset too many. He has consulted, god how he has consulted and, when it comes to holding media scrums, he is likely among the most accessible leaders in recent Canadian history. Now that would seem good and it is when he’s just talking to Canadians and journalists.

But is Trudeau and those on his team all that different from those they replaced?

In some ways, yes.

But where it really should count, in the promises kept and broken and in the area of ethics, not at all. Trudeau succeeded as prime minister because he was an excellent pitchman, Snake Oil salesman, and pied piper of gloss, glamour and gossamer for his party. Ethically, he is challenged, mostly slight, insubstantial, and empty.

Oh, he was grand at making promises, wasn’t he? Yet, even as he appeared to give in fulfilling some of the promises, he also appeared to take at the same time, an illusionist distracting with one hand while pricking the balloon with the other.

On April 20th, for example, health minister Jane Philpott announced at the UN that her government would legalize marijuana early next year. However, until they did, there would be no steps to decriminalize its use. That’s an odd stance to take and is unduly punitive because it makes criminals of users of a product that will be legal a few months from now. Go figure.

He promised to reopen the nine veterans offices closed by the Harper gang and he also promised to reinstate the life long disability pension that Harper replaced with a one lump sum payment. Trudeau has thus far kept to the first while sticking it to vets by merely increasing the amount of the one lump sum payment. That was a nasty betrayal worthy of Harper and gang.

He promised to make Human Rights a priority as he sought to regain Canada’s seat on the UN Security Council lost by Harper. Instead, against an international embargo and Canada’s own rules regarding international trade, he signed off on a Light Armoured Vehicle deal with Saudi Arabia one of the world’s most repressive regimes. He has kept to his promises to unmuzzle government scientists, to bring back the long form census and to withdraw fighter jets from Syria and Iraq. He had promised to restore home mail delivery. Didn’t happen. Won’t happen. He promised to increase expenditure for infrastructure spending and has done so threefold. He has created an infrastructure bank to lure foreign investors to do work on infrastructure projects. This will not only lead to the privatization of roads, bridges and other construction projects, but also almost certainly lead to tolls and, as it always does when the government is paying, to costly overruns, padded bills, bribery and corruption as every contractor fights to get into the game of greed and greased palms. Contractors will do well, those working for them will do well, the Liberals will do well and Canadians? Well, they just get screwed five ways to Sunday. As NDP interim leader Thomas Mulcair pointed out, Trudeau is a Conservative passing himself off as a Liberal who stole ideas from the NDP during his election campaign.

THE DARK KNIGHT

It is not just the broken promises that are cause for concern. It is also the method by which they are broken that should worry us. There are many, myself included, who believe electoral reform is long overdo but not as practiced by Harper which was, with C-23, the so-called Fair Elections Act, an exercise designed to rig the vote by disenfranchising large segments of society. I was hopeful when Trudeau announced he would go ahead with electoral reform and appointed Maryam Monsef as democratic institutions minister. She set up a committee to look into electoral reform but it quickly became clear by the makeup of the committee that if there were to be reform it would be one favoured by the Liberals and likely to offer little if any real improvement towards making it truly representative. Later, responding to public rage, the committee was rejigged to be more representative by allowing the seating representatives of the Green and Bloc Québécois parties a voting role.

The Liberals prefer the ranked or Alternative Vote (AV) system, which favours parties in the centre. By itself, AV is not proportional and has the same effect as FPTP benefitting the same two parties that have benefitted since confederation. With proportional representation (PR), every vote counts and some systems work well with AV mixed in (for an excellent overview of proportional representation and of the ranked ballot go to Fair Vote Canada http://www.fairvote.ca/. As time passed, Monsef and Trudeau gave every indication of being less eager about reform than they were before the election Trudeau, not long ago, making the observation that electoral reform was not on the minds of many Canadians. You knew where this was going.

Sure enough, when the committee finally tabled its report and recommendation of holding a referendum, a recommendation not supported by Liberal committee members, and that the system be a form of proportional representation, the Minister of Democratic Reform stood up in the House and excoriated the committee members for not coming up with a specific recommendation of PR (that was not their mandate) accusing them of not doing the hard work and of taking “a pass”. Of course it was not true. Even before the report was delivered, the government had already signalled its intent to find ways to quash, crush, and make disappear the promise to rid us forever of first-past-the-post elections. They sent out postcards just days after the report was tabled (which seems to lend credence they had already made a decision) urging Canadians to participate in an online survey which asked questions that appear to demand a certain outcome but fails to even address the issue to which we were to respond: do we support electoral reform and, if so, what kind. The Liberals have rigged the game just as surely as the Harper gang attempted with the so-called Fair Elections Act.

Trudeau wants this behind him and may let it simply die. If not, having outsmarted himself, he may go through with the reform but a reform of his choosing. His was the work of the shyster, appearing to do one thing while at the same time working to undermine it. People and political parties do and can change their minds. People of integrity feel no shame in doing such provided they can offer reasonable justification. For Trudeau, there is almost certainly no risk in doing so because this public appears to still be entranced by him. For them, thus far, the Prince can do no wrong. The Liberal’s unnecessary poking of a stick into the collective eye of the committee who had worked so hard and with real, if mistaken, belief that their effort would bring the promised change of making every vote count is unconscionable and it was dishonestly applied. This is an improvement?

The Liberals, thrashing about on this issue, then received an unexpected but doubtless welcomed gift from the Conservatives who had all along opposed electoral reform or at the very least demanded that reforms only be approved by referendum. Rona Ambrose suggested that Trudeau simply “park” the whole notion.

Well, what a surprise, the Conservative beneficiary of FPTP rescuing the other beneficiary. Ain’t life sweet.

So, yes, another promise likely done away with but Canada’s best-dressed phony still oozes, simply oozes, and the people still don’t seem to notice the little whiff of Liberal rot. Or they just don’t care.

Oh, yes, Trudeau and gang were going to do better, be better.

DECEITFUL PRINCE

He promised to end sole source contracting and yet, given the opportunity, did exactly what he vowed not to with the purchase of 18 Boeing Super Hornets on an “interim basis”. Too, the Liberals announced plans to go ahead with the Harper sole source procurement process of war ships. However, instead of seeking custom design ships and systems, as was the Harper initiative, the Liberals would modify already designed ships in hopes of saving costs and time. This leads, however, to the possibility of shutting out Canadian businesses and security risks. Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax would continue to be the primary contractor and a key player in determining who wins the bids for sub-contracts in the $26 billion effort (other sources say the costs could be as high as $40 billion). But, because Irving, the primary contractor, has partnered with BAE, a British firm bidding for the contract to maintain the new arctic patrol and supply ships, there are real concerns of conflict of interest. To allay fears of such, Irving and BAE will create separate work teams (for the maintenance contract and warship design competitions” (The Canadian Press, Nov. 16, 2016) to avoid appearances of conflict of interest. Yeah, right. Irving wins big, building the ships and getting fees from the sub-contractors. And so will the east coast, which gave Trudeau a sweep last election. And so will the Liberals who have paid back big with jobs for Irving. A nice, cozy circle. Trudeau and his gang are different all right. And we’ll just wear silly grins knowing that it’s all on the up and up. Right?

Of course it is. The Liberals have told us so. They’ve done all the vetting; they’ve taken every precaution. No problem. We have to take them at their word.

But this is not a completely hopeless or hapless government though one has to wonder why they have gone for the Christmas break leaving such an unpleasant feeling behind. They have been active on the climate change front and appear determined to meet their Paris Climate Change Summit agreement. However, for better or worse, they have approved the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion through Vancouver and Enbridge’s proposal to replace the Line 3 pipeline from Alberta to the US which will double the capacity of oil and greatly increase the level of carbon emissions. How that will square with the Liberal commitment to meet its own climate goals by 2030 is difficult to foresee. They have also passed the doctor assisted dying legislation with agreement from all sides and, until Monsef’s damning of the electoral reform committee, demonstrated itself willing and able to work with all parties.

That said, however, this government fails big in the question of ethics and fundraising and real and perceived conflicts of interests.

Trudeau’s finance minister, Bill Morneau, comes from the world of business. His human resources firm has done business with the government. He has created an economic advisory group made up of business managers from various sectors. Friends helping friends. In my April 8 post, I noted that Sharan Kaur, a former TransCanada communications expert works for Morneau as a Senior Special Assistant. Our natural resources minister, Jim Carr, hired a former executive of Shell and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. I wrote then, “The plutocrats are going to do very well with Trudeau at the helm.” In light of recent events one wonders how well and how far the benefits extend. I keep thinking pipeline.

In April, Jody Wilson-Raybould, justice minister, tipped the hand as to how things would be with the Liberal gang when she attended a $500 a plate fundraiser hosted by attorneys. Neither the minster nor her boss could see anything wrong in attending the event she asserting she had attended as an MP not as the minister of justice. Are we missing something here? Were those hosting the events made aware of that distinction? My name’s Tucker, not sucker, thank you, minister.

Jody Wilson-Raybould again piques one’s curiosity not only because she is the first First Nations member appointed justice minister but also because her husband registered as a lobbyist for two First Nations organizations. Again questions of conflict of interest, lapses of judgement and ethics must be raised. What is happening here?

Robert Fife & Steven Chase (The Globe and Mail, Nov. 29, 2016) have reported that Bill Blair, Jody Wilson-Raybould’s parliamentary secretary and former Toronto police chief, had attended a Liberal Party fundraiser last spring at a Toronto law office that advises clients in the cannabis business. Blair is responsible for seeing to the legalization of recreational marijuana. A group of marijuana lobbyists, members of the Cannabis Friendly Business Association, were also in attendance. Although the Liberals claim, as they always do, no breaches of ethics occurred and no laws were broken, the party would refund the money. Now why would they do that if everything was on the up and up? One would think that a justice minister and one-time top cop would be on top of any concerns regarding conflict of interests real or perceived. One would think.

And then we have Bill Morneau again, who, when not hiring members from lobbying groups, frequently attends Liberal Party fundraisers as he did in Halifax at the private home of a land developer in October of this year. According to Robert Fife and Steven Chase (Globe & Mail, Oct. 19, 2016), there were about 15 in attendance at the home of Fred George who is a business partner of Jim Spatz, Chairman and chief executive of SouthWest Properties, a Liberal appointee to the Halifax Port Authority board of directors on the advice of prominent Liberal MP and Treasury Board president, Scott Brison. The cost to attend: $1500 a plate ($22.5K total). When pressed on the issue, the Liberals have again determined no laws were broken (legalese) and, as Trudeau keeps reminding us every time the issue comes up, Canada has one of the strictest limits on fundraising. While it may be true no laws were broken, what about Trudeau’s own rules regarding conflict of interest and appearances of such (see above). But Morneau does not stint in offering himself for Liberal fundraisers. Unfortunately, one executive from Apotex, a manufacturer of generic drugs, had pulled out from one such event evidently frightened off by media attention. Now Apotex was the company that had played a big role in hosting the BC Liberal Party convention. Christy Clark, the Liberal premier of BC, is herself a shameless believer in cash-for-access, charging, in some instances thousands for the privilege of later boasting of having tea with the Great Lady premier and admiring the landscape through the window. Because she raises so much money for the provincial Liberal party, she is rewarded with yearly bonuses ranging from $30K to $50K to top up her salary of $192K. Got to love those Liberals. Charm and smarm, they always seem to have a very good working relationship with those who can pay. It is doubtful that the withdrawal of Apotex from the fundraiser damaged either Morneau or the Liberal Party financially. If everything was on the up and up, why did the Apotex executive pull out? Curious that.

And while I could go over the same ground regarding excessive and egregious expense claims by Liberal ministers Jane Philpott, Catherine McKenna (three efforts at padding the tab) and Chrystia Freeland, I wish to turn to the Prince himself.

THE PRINCE OF THE BALL

Now, while it is true that the Liberals do post fundraising events, Canadians must rely on news sources when it comes to knowing those attending. Of the 100 plus fundraisers, Trudeau attended over 20; well, he is the main attraction.

In May of this year, Trudeau attended an event at the private home of a Chinese-Canadian executive. In attendance were 32 millionaires and billionaires and a few other of the well heeled. The cost per plate was $1500, the maximum allowed under the elections act. In attendance was “one insurance tycoon, Shenglin Xian,…who was seeking final approval from federal bank regulators to operate a domestic bank here” (the Star, Tonda MacCharles, Alex Boutilier, Nov. 22, 2016). Two months after that, the bank received a final approval. Further, just weeks after the event, two of the attendees, Mr. Zang and Niu Gensheng offered to donate $200K to the Pierre Eliot Trudeau Foundation, $50K towards the statue of Pierre Trudeau and $750K to the University of Montreal Faculty of Law for scholarships. They were honouring the legacy of China’s great friends, it appears. But, if such an admirer of Trudeau, why not donate when the Conservatives were in power. Oh, well, not to look a gift horse in the mouth…

When questioned on all these, especially with regards to clear conflict of interest breaches, Trudeau remained steadfast in stating, “We have the strongest rules in the country regarding fundraising.” He further stated that he never talked business. He never, ever touches on the ethical aspects or on his own mandate letters requirements.

When pressed, his staffers made the claim that he never knows before hand who attends these affairs. That seems hardly credible since security would not allow him to go anywhere without first vetting the guests to ensure there was no risk for him. They also state that when approached by someone wishing to do business with the government, Trudeau firmly urges them to go through the proper channels. Well, that was the line for weeks until, suddenly on Dec. 12, Trudeau admitted in the House that he does talk to all Canadians, even those who lobby him at these affairs. But what about those foreign lobbyists? Further, he stated that these discussions never effect his decisions because his only concern is doing what is best for Canada. So now the story had changed slightly. The questions must be asked. Was he lying then when he said he never discussed business at these events? Or was his staff lying?

On December 13, during Question Period in the House, Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose asked Trudeau about his fundraising efforts. This was his response: “Canadians know that wherever I am and whomever I am speaking to I talk about our challenges to bring economic growth to the middle class and about the fact that we increased taxes to the 1% of the wealthiest so that we can lower them for the middle class. I also talk about the fact that we stop child benefits to the wealthiest so that we can give more to the families that really need it. We talk about creating growth for the middle class and that’s what animates us every day.”

Nowhere in that statement does he address the issue directly. When asked by Ambrose and Thomas Mulair, interim NDP leader, the same question in various forms, Trudeau’s response for those nine minutes and forty seconds was the same almost word-for-word.

The next day, Trudeau was absent but the finance minister, Bill Morneau, was there to answer questions in his stead. Both the Conservative and NDP opposition posed the same questions in various as the previous day. Morneau’s response was almost verbatim to Trudeau’s from the day before.

This is the man who promised to clean up the House and question period, who berated the Conservatives for scripted responses now doing exactly what he condemned. Harper was notorious for missing Question Period. Trudeau appears to be competing with the Conservative record. It is clear that, as did Harper, Trudeau has contempt for the House, Question Period, his opposition colleagues and for the public at large. His behaviour in the House regarding questions raised about clear conflict of interest breaches is disgraceful. But it is his attitude towards fundraising that should most shock and dismay those who have placed their trust in him. He has betrayed them. Trudeau is a phony. We must take him and his kind at their word when they say they have broken no laws. That is legalese. Weasel words. It is also an assault on our intelligence. The Liberals have broken their own ethical guidelines. That’s the rub; they are guidelines, not law. Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson wants to talk to Justin Trudeau. She also wishes to speak with Bill Blair. It appears she has already decided that there is insufficient evidence Trudeau has breached any conflict of interest laws. Ethics evidently are of no concern except to those who do care about such things.

Yes, as promised, Trudeau has made himself accessible. But how many of those taking selfies with this charming prince could image that he would sell himself so readily for cash? He reminds me of the girl who gets the nice young man to pay her way to the dance and then ditches the fellow for the charmer buying all the drinks. Well, he’s just another type of whore but also the worst kind.

Harper must be smiling. How about you?

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But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing. – Thomas Paine.

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They that can give up essential liberties to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. Benjamin Franklin

 

 

 

 

 

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