Andrew Coyne, writing in the Globe and Mail, asks, just a bit tongue-in-cheek, “In fairness, who knew it was wrong to award a nearly billion-dollar no-bid public contract to the organization that hired your mom?” Really, he says, “This is the kind of finicky, fine-print obligation – like “do not accept personal gifts from people seeking money from your government” or “do not interfere in criminal prosecutions for the benefit of corporations with a history of bribing politicians” – that anyone who had been prime minister for several years might trip over.” OK, OK, it’s more than just a bit tongue-in-cheek; but, as he says, “That, at any rate, is what I … [and we] … gather we are to take away from Justin Trudeau’s latest apology. The Prime Minister’s failure to recuse himself from the decision to award the Canada Student Service Grant contract to WE Charity – with whom not only his mother but his brother, his wife, his chief of staff, sundry cabinet ministers and their families and, of course, Mr. Trudeau himself have had significant dealings over the years – was, he confessed, a “mistake.” And not only a mistake, but one for which he was “sincerely sorry.”“
From where I sit the people who have the greatest reason to be “sincerely sorry” for this latest ethical fiasco are the 6,018,728 Canadians (just short of ⅓ of those who bothered to vote at all) who voted for Liberal Party candidates because they believed, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, that Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland (who has been all but invisible lately), and people like Bill Morneau Maryam Monsef and Ahmed Hussen are, somehow, fit for high office. And, to make their decisions even less explicable, those 6,000,000+ Canadians cast those votes after the highly improper vacation on the Aga Khan’s private island hideaway and after the SNC-Lavalin scandal and after the blackface revelations and, and, and … those six million Canadians owe the rest of us a really sincere apology.
(Parenthetically, the 2,903,722 Canadians who voted NDP and the 1,189,607 who supported Green Party candidates should also be asking themselves how much they contributed to this ethical train wreck.)
The good news is that it appears, for a change, that, at the very least, Prime Minister Trudeau did not tell the rest of us that we had to learn something from his latest ethical failure. Maybe he’s finally figured out that unlike Liberal cabinet ministers, most of the 37+ million Canadians know that the rules apply to all of us, equally, even when they are inconvenient and might prevent us from getting whatever we want whenever we want it. Most Canadians, except for Justin Trudeau’s inner circle, seem to have learned that in kindergarten.
Mr Coyne notes that “Beyond the explicit suggestion that this was all merely a mistake is the implicit suggestion that, having apologized for it, no further consequence should follow. After all, none has in the past. The worst the Prime Minister has suffered has been a $500 fine or two for violations of the Conflict of Interest Act.” There need to be greater consequences this time. Another apology for yet another ethical failure cannot be enough. Canada has forgiven and forgotten too often. It must be clear to almost all thinking Canadians that Justin Trudeau is morally and ethically unfit for elected office, thus:
- First, the Liberal Party, led by some in its parliamentary caucus, led by some of Justin Trudeau’s hand-picked ministers, should rise up in righteous anger (and in fear for the future of their Party) and throw Justin Trudeau and his inner circle on to history’s trash heap where he and they belong; and
- Second, in the next general election, Canadians must, as they did in 1957, in 1984 and in 2006, also rise up and assign the Liberals to a long term on the opposition benches so that they (the LPC) can reform and rebuild themselves and make themselves, yet again, fit for purpose.
Because that’s the Canadian problem: for two generations, since the mid-1960s, we have flirted with progressive conformism, which is, more or less, an offshoot of socialist even communist ideology mixed with a heady dose of revenge for the past sins, some very real, some just imagined, of the liberal, capitalist world. The main vehicle for that flirtation has been the Liberal Party of Canada. Beginning in about 1968 or ’70 it became profoundly illiberal. It lurched sharply to the left in the late 1960s and in the 1970s and effectively rendered the NDP useless as anything except to be the “conscience of parliament.” The Liberals abandoned the political centre which then allowed Brian Mulroney to succeed and to implement an old Liberal policy ~ reciprocity (free(er) trade) with the USA. Jean Chrétien pulled the Party back to the centre but his own serious ethical failings allowed Stephen Harper, who was not, like Mulroney a Blue Liberal, but rather was a rock-ribbed fiscal conservative, to gain power. In essence, I contend that the Liberals have, since 1968, made themselves unfit for purpose.
But Andrew Coyne concludes that there’s no mechanism for the Liberal Party to rid itself (and Canada) of Justin Trudeau, even if they so desired. “Were things to get very bad for the Prime Minister,” he says “the process would instead take the form of an extended shadow campaign, members of caucus taking care not to publicly criticize the man who controls their careers for fear of finding themselves in the minority … [and] … There is a script to this. It begins with anonymous grumblings that “he’s not listening to caucus.” At some point, if nothing changes, someone – a backbench no-hoper, maybe a rogue riding executive – will work up the nerve to say “he’s getting very bad advice,” or even “his advisers have got to go,” accepted code for “he’s got to go” … [but] … Only in the very last stages of his agony is someone called upon to administer the final, ghastly blow: “His record in office is second to none,” perhaps, or worse, “he’s earned the right to make his own decision” – the verbal equivalent of leaving a loaded revolver on his desk … [the famous ‘Mess Webley‘] …
… [but, Mr Coyne says and, very sadly, I agree] … we are far from there. At this point, all we have is a rat’s nest of mutually beneficial relationships between the Liberals, the Trudeau family and WE, an organization which, in its cultish internal management and happy-face external messaging, resembles nothing so much as the Liberal Party. Senior Liberals raise funds for WE. WE hires their kids, and promotes the party leader. The leader, once in power, directs public money back to WE.” The rot has gone too deep. The sense of entitlement which as John Ibbitson explained a few days ago infects the whole Liberal Party, but especially the Trudeau wing, is so deeply ingrained that nothing short of a total rebuild ~ something akin to what 24 Sussex Drive needs ~ will do. That may be the work of a whole generation.
But it’s work that needs to be done. A thriving liberal democracy needs (at least) a two-party system and, in my opinion, they need to be two centrist parties: one leaning slightly left and other leaning slightly right, but both being in the centre. There is room for a robust NDP on the left and for a Libertarian Party …
… and there is still a bit of room on the fringes, but all parties must be fit for purpose and, right now, the Liberal Party of Canada is not.