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TRUDEAU: STARSTRUCK, BAD CHOICES AND CHARACTER

Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke. – Will Rogers

What the country needs is more unemployed politicians. – Angela Davis

Frank A. Pelaschuk

Even as opposition member during Stephen Harper’s reign, Trudeau had about him the air of a youngster eager to please alertly mindful to how the elders were responding to anything he did: Had they noticed what a good boy was he. For many, exhausted by the mean-spirited leadership of the conservative regime, Trudeau’s desire to be liked and noticed, seemed refreshingly innocent particularly when accompanied by loud pronouncements of what he would do during his run as prime minister, a few bold and easy to support: electoral reform; reconciliation with indigenous communities; action on climate change; ending omnibus bills in which were slipped questionable, unannounced legislation; reinstatement of disability pension plans for veterans; and ending the practice of prorogation of Parliament as a tactic to reset an agenda, to avoid questions, to prevent scandals from gaining traction, and to trigger an election. Said Trudeau of the last in 2015, “Stephen Harper has used prorogation to avoid difficult political situations. We will not.” With him and his liberals at the helm, governance would be different, better wherein honesty and transparency “by default” would be the hallmark was the promise. Canadians had heard this before, of course, countless times, but there was something about the young prince that made many willing to suspend incredulity for there was much to like and embrace apart from his earnestness. For the sceptical, perhaps spent by too many disappointments, while there was a desire for change, hope was measured; there was about Trudeau something too calculated for either trust or faith; he could earn their liking, receive their best wishes but not their vote. 

During the 2015 campaign and for some time following as prime minister, Trudeau seemed almost a naïf, earning good-humoured ribbing for his willingness, nay, eagerness, to apologize for almost every real past and present grievance experienced by segments of society. But humour soon turned to scorn when the apologies came too easily and as if by rote and for things over which he had no control ringing even more hollow when offered without reflection or followed by remedial measures. For a period, he was likely the sorriest world leader of our time if not all time. Eventually, ever sensitive to the direction of the public wind, perhaps realizing charm had morphed to smarm in the eyes of some, Trudeau’s apologies waned and then all but ceased. Now, when matters for which he should apologize are raised, and there are a lot of them, there has been a noticeable shift in how he reacts to questions he does not like. The warmth vanishes and, with it, the charm, his body becomes rigid and his gaze wanders coldly off into space for extended periods of time. When he does respond, he does so with frosty politeness offering non-answers, equivocations, deflections, side issues, glib dismissals, and/or excuses meant to be accepted as reasons. Still, the public likes him. Why?

Trudeau’s early forays into his first term, gave a clear vision of the man he would be and is…one of fluid ethics and familiar character failings common among cheap politicos. Even as he took steps to initiate the electoral reform promise, it was clear he meant to rig the outcome to his liking and when that didn’t happen, the committee recommending some form of proportional representation practiced by most democratic nations around the world, he preceded to sabotage it saying Canadians had lost interest. His minister of democratic reform, Maryam Monself denounced the committee for taking a pass on making a decision. The public outrage stemming from that prompted Trudeau to contract a firm to do an online survey on electoral reform that was mocked as unscientific and dishonest, allowing individuals to make unlimited entries and denied opportunities to answer direct questions on electoral reform systems because none were offered. Trudeau was determined. He was going to kill electoral reform and, to that end, Trudeau replaced Monsef with Karina Gould who officially drove the stake into the heart of electoral reform while he, having washed his hands of the affair, walked away the two female MPs bearing the brunt of the fallout. That would not be the last time that happened.

In appointing Jody Wilson-Raybould Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the first indigenous and third female to hold the post, Trudeau had made a prize catch in which he could bask. Unfortunately, politics and business got in the way when he sought to have Wilson-Raybould intervene in a charged court case involving SNC-Lavalin, a Quebec-based construction giant facing charges of bribery, corruption and fraud. If found guilty, the company would have been barred from doing government business for ten years. Worse, such a verdict might have a negative impact on Trudeau’s Quebec political fortunes if he was perceived as having not done enough to protect a major Quebec employer. Trudeau wanted the Minister of Justice to lean on the Director of Public Prosecutions to offer the company a Deferred Prosecution Agreement that would have allowed the company to avoid a trial, a guilty verdict and continue to do government business simply by meeting certain remedial conditions that were mostly window dressing in nature. Jody Wilson-Raybould’s refusal to intervene in the case enraged Trudeau and liberals who then embarked on a smear campaign to discredit her eventually forcing her from office of Governor General and Minister of Justice to that of Veterans Affairs until her resignation from cabinet to sit as an independent. Of the remaining liberals, only one other, Jane Philpott, a very capable minister and recently appointed to the senior position of President of the Treasury Board, stood up in defence of Wilson-Raybould, resigning to sit as an independent in solidarity. For that debacle, Trudeau staunchly refused to apologize “for saving Canadian jobs” nor did he apologize for seeking to pervert the rule of law. The gloves were off. No more mister nice guy. For that. too, he remains one of the worlds sorriest world leaders. Two more women took the hit. Trudeau? Not so much. Bruised but not battered enough.

Feminist? He declared himself so often enough. If so, perhaps adopted when he was about 28 or 29 and after attending a Creston Valley music event where he was accused of groping a local female news reporter. When it made the news at the time, he apologized to the woman, claiming not to recall any inappropriate behaviour even saying the same 20 years later, “Who knows where her mind was and I fully respect her ability to experience something differently” (CTVNews, July 6, 2018). Incredible. After all these years, when questioned on the allegations, he appeared fairly untroubled even seeming to suggest the reporter chose to remember whatever encounter that took place in a way that suited her. How far removed from his zero tolerance days when he booted from caucus two liberal members for unrelated allegations by an NDP member of sexual harassment. Though both denied the allegations, they were informed that they would not be allowed to run under the liberal banner as long as the allegations stood, Trudeau, to all intents destroying the careers of two individuals on untested allegations. It made for a good if bloody show; unfortunately, the zero-tolerance edict ostensibly didn’t apply to him. Feminist? When it is safe for him, evidently. Then we have Trudeau’s response to the release of the Trump tapes during Trump’s 2016 election bid with Trump educating a tv host on how the rich and wealthy treat women boasting of “grabbing them by the p____”. When asked on at least two separate occasions to comment, Trudeau refused to take the opportunity to condemn Trump saying he didn’t comment on American politics! Evidently, Trudeau’s views on feminism and harassment (among others) are not so deeply entrenched as to hobble him. Politicians are rarely ensnared by principle. Feminist? We only have his word. 

Free gifts; access-for-cash secret fundraising events with multi-millionaires; turning a blind eye to human rights by signing off on the Harper initiated LAV deal with murderous human rights abusing Saudi Arabia and then offering lie after lie as reasons for doing so. When not pretending to be a progressive, as he sought to slip legislation into omnibus bills, Trudeau prorogued parliament to avoid answering questions regarding his sole-sourced contract (two more broken promises) to the high profile WE Charity having determined that charity the only organization capable of administering the $912 million government funds for the student summer grants program. This was a highly visible and popular charity, something Trudeau could easily latch himself to and further burnish his image. But there was a hitch apart from the sole-sourcing of the contract: Trudeau and the liberals had a few too cozy ties with the charity. Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau had made several appearances at WE Day events before and after he became prime minister. In fact, Trudeau’s wife, mother and brother received from the charity about $427K for appearances and expenses. WE Charity paid Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s expenses to the UK so she could meet British superstar Iris Elba. This was arranged by Bill Morneau, then finance minister, whose daughter worked for the organization. When the decision was made to offer the student grant program to WE Charity, both Trudeau and Morneau were in attendance. They should not have been. Morneau had the grace to at least resign. Trudeau? He offered a puerile apology; his days of oozing, simply oozing sincerity over it seemed. The founders, Marc and Craig Kielburger, and the charity, were left battered and bruised, reputations tainted leading to the closure of the Canadian arm. While much of the Kielburger’s difficulties were largely of their own making in the way of bad business decisions and advertising tie-ins, the decision to sole-source was Trudeau’s. He threw the charity and his dazed friends under the bus just as easily as he sabotaged electoral reform once they were no longer utile and posed a threat to his brand. When around Trudeau, it might be well to recall Jeremy Thorpe’s words: Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his political life. Trudeau smiles, but he is as ruthless and as untrustworthy as any political snake. When the WE Charity scandal broke, prorogation was the tool to which he resorted hoping Canadians had a quick forgettery. Clearly, we do; some still consider him Prince Charming.

In one of the most egregious, odious and disgraceful acts by Trudeau and his liberals, the political meddling in government supply ship contracts favouring Irving Shipbuilding must certainly be topmost. As with Jody Wilson-Raybould, Trudeau’s liberals embarked on a campaign to shred the career of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman who opposed the political interference in the contract made by the previous Harper regime. Even when it became clear that Trudeau and his government had lost the public relations and legal battle, the PMO persisted on a path that was vindictive, cruel and incredibly petty. When the case against Norman for breach of trust collapsed, a motion to issue an apology in the House was made, a motion to which Trudeau agreed. However, before it was adopted, Trudeau left the House for an “appointment” in Hamilton, Ontario. That move was worthy of Stephen Harper. Classy. Oh, yes, Trudeau’s days of apologies are seemingly over while another’s life sits in ruins. That is Trudeau. Gotta love the guy!

And, if anyone thinks this is a man of sound judgement, let’s go back to another time after his groping days of reporters to when he was 29 and appeared in blackface, another thing he neglected to mention from his past. When confronted by this, he admitted to doing some “dumb things”. That’s allowed, we all do dumb things. But, in the age of feminist and racial sensitivity, an individual of 28 and 29, especially one as attuned to the political winds as Trudeau, must surely be aware of what is tolerated and not particularly when contemplating a political life smugly serene of having created an image of the sensitive new age guy appealing to the young, women, grandparents, and those calling themselves progressives. He might have been better served by addressing his own “unconscious” racism long before it became public. As leader of a nation, shouldn’t he be more reflective and receptive to delving into his attitudes then and now? 

Trudeau has manufactured an image of himself that the public was meant to embrace. He could be touchy-feely but was determined to demonstrate he was no soft mark. In 2014, as liberal leader, he informed senators in the Upper Chamber who had always considered themselves liberals that they no longer had ties to the party and were, in fact, no longer liberals, but independents. It was a raw, showy, nervy display of muscle-flexing, arrogance, and cynicism that was and remains meaningless except as an indicator of his hubris and character. In May of 2016, seeking to rush through a bill on assisted dying, Trudeau, now PM, strode on the floor of the House to manhandle the Opposition whip and, in doing so, roughly elbowed a female NDP member telling her to get out of the “f… way”. Mr. Nice Guy…well, seems he’s not so nice after all. Political theatrics. He had a point to make. 

Does it boil down to simply politics, the way of doing business? What does that say about his character? Is it that easy it is to throw away the trust of those who gave you the keys to the House? New. Different. Better.

Some have dismissed many of what I have outlined as just youthful enthusiasm and a sincere if at times over-zealous desire to do good. I am not so sure. Trudeau is too studied in what he does, one always on the lookout for the approving looks, the props he can exploit, and is well aware of the location of the cameras. He is starstruck with his own personae believing, I suspect, Canadians will forgive him almost anything. But he is also starstruck as in celebrity stars, but not in the way of a true fan patiently waiting in line for an autograph or hoping for a photo with the star or sappily mooning when the celebrity speaks to him. For Trudeau, celebrities are only tools to be used in the same fashion they and politicians use citizens. Sure, they all stroke and use each other ensuring they all get their rewards. Even the little people, the grateful seekers and voters, if only often in the way of shiny trinkets and empty promises.  

Yet, even as he reaches for the stars and wins them over, he occasionally misjudges and misfires; the reflected glory that he seeks at times redounds negatively on him as it has recently with the resignation of Julie Payette, his personal choice as Governor General. When it came to replacing the governor general, Trudeau did not trouble himself with using a committee to find and vet candidates. He already had one in mind: female, single mother, famous astronaut, Quebec born, fluently bilingual, a scientist, a professor, a musician. On paper, Julie Payette was an excellent choice, a superstar; Canadians would love her, and he would come out of it a winner. He was golden because she was golden. 

Except, she wasn’t so golden, after all, quickly proving herself a loose cannon racking up massive expenses of close to $400K in renovating Rideau Hall, customary home for GGs, and then refusing to move in preoccupied with privacy and scrutiny. And if she proved a headache for security, often ditching them to do whatever, she also proved lazy in the performance of her duties, failing to visit some provinces, often ignoring many public functions routine to her position. Then came the release of the damning report of how she and her top aide, a personal friend, Assunta Di Lorenzo, had transformed a once “idyllic” workplace, as described by one worker, into a “hellhole” of meetings that involved harassment in the form of screaming, foul language and victimization of individual targets at staff meetings that left workers weeping, bruised and exhausted until some, unable to tolerate the toxic environment created by Payette and her aide, resigned. When the noise became too much, Payette offered her resignation, her annuity of $150K a year and an expense account reputed to range from $150K to $200K a year…for life, still intact. And Trudeau’s response to all this? Pretty tame, platitudes about how everyone is entitled to work in a harassment free environment, but no apology for his role in scrapping the vetting committee and for opting for celebrity and the spectacular rather than the more down-to-earth hardworking, capable talent required of the position. With this debacle, he further entrenched his position as a leader of the sorriest kind. No regrets. Not a hint of shae.

There is very little about Trudeau to admire in my books. He is too willing to resort to legalese rather than what is ethical as whe have seen time and again. One more example.

He has opted to dip into COVAX, a global plan coordinated by the World Health Organization created to pool resources of richer countries to offer funding and equal access to vaccines to poorer nations during this current crisis. Now Canada and any of the G7 nation are entitled to dip into the stock, but most, it appears, have no intention of doing so preferring to let it do what it was created to do. Not so Canada. Because the deals made with Pfizer and Moderna to supply the Covid-19 vaccine will not happen as quickly as believed and hoped, Trudeau has unapologetically (are we surprised?) dipped into the plan saying Canada is entitled to do so. That’s true. That’s also legalese. Because one can doesn’t mean one should. No wonder so many are looking at Canada askance and shaking their heads. Have we no shame.

And yet?

For the public, Trudeau’s handling of the pandemic crisis seems about right. Charm, good looks and oozing sincerity, are apparently sufficient. But there are signs the crown is slipping. 

Oh, yes, he’s a good boy, is he not? 

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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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