“When you’re inquiring into a government scandal, it’s important to get straight what’s scandalous, or what might be, and what isn’t,” the Globe‘s editorial board says, and I agree. They add that “You have to focus on what touches on the public interest, and what doesn’t … [and they say, very correctly, that] … It’s not a problem, or at least not one of concern to the Parliament of Canada, that the WE organization paid someone to appear at various events … [but] … It is a problem when the someone in question is Margaret Trudeau, the mother of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau … [because] … She was paid nothing prior to 2015, before Mr. Trudeau’s election. Since 2015, she’s received nearly $500,000 in fees and travel reimbursements.” I commented on that a couple of weeks ago.
The Good Grey Globe reminds us, again, very correctly. that “It’s not against the law for people related to public office holders to earn a living,” but, they say “here’s where things get problematic – the organization paying Ms. Trudeau, and also paying the Prime Minister’s brother, and giving a platform as a spokesperson and podcast host to the PM’s spouse, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, had financial relationships with Mr. Trudeau’s government. WE was also seeking, and earlier this year obtained, a considerably larger financial relationship, running the Canada Student Service Grant.” I said that it seemed to me that the Laurentian Elites ~ and the Kielburgers, Morneaus and Trudeaus, the whole clan including the PM and his wife, Sophie Grégroire Trudeau, his mother, Margaret, and brother Alexandre “Sasha” Trudeau and step-siblings Alice and Kyle Kemper (who is also dogged by questions about government paid speaking fees) and are very much charter members of that group ~ have dropped any pretence of shame and are publicly feeding at the public trough because … well, just because they’re entitled. The image just draws itself, doesn’t it?
“If a charitable organization has a complex org chart, an opaque corporate structure, and internal conflict between its board and its founders, that’s not normally an issue for Parliament,” the Globe‘s editorial board says, and I agree. But, they say, correctly, again, “it becomes an issue if the charitable organization in question was entrusted, under circumstances and for reasons that still need to be fully explained, with the administration of at least half-a-billion dollars of public money.” The Kielburger brothers did not, it seemed to me, do a very good job of answering a lot of legitimate questions.
Also, the editorial writers say, “It’s not a problem if a charitable organization whose fundraising model is based on leveraging celebrity chooses to pay some speakers and not others. “Wow!” former NHLer and mental-health advocate Theo Fleury tweeted earlier this month. “I was asked to speak at a WE Day and they said we don’t pay our speakers.” WE’s founders, Craig and Marc Kielburger, were free to decide which celebrities they believed could deliver the most bang for WE’s bucks.” It makes the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Margaret Trudeau-Kemper seem even more mysterious. Why her? Is the fact that her doting son is the Prime Minister of Canada not a factor? Does anyone believe that? The Globe and Mail asserts, correctly, that “it is problematic that, as WE sought and received benefits from the Trudeau government, it had provided financial benefits to the PM’s mother and brother, by putting them on its short list of paid speakers. That these intersecting relationships developed, and went undisclosed by the PM, is the definition of conflict of interest.” I remain confident that Parliament’s ethics/conflict of interest commissioner will find, yet again, that Justin Trudeau broke the rules and was in a conflict … one about which he should have known. I am also confident that most of the media will let him skate by it … again, just because he’s Justin Trudeau, just because he’s “entitled” based on his name.
“It’s not a problem for a private citizen to travel overseas to visit the operations of a Canadian charity,” the Globe and Mail says, “Nor would it be a problem for a private citizen to accept the organization’s hospitality, such as free transportation or lodging. But it’s a very different story when the person accepting the free trip is the Minister of Finance. Bill Morneau, saying he thought he had paid in full for two trips in 2017, last week wrote a $41,000 cheque to WE … [and] … The actions of both Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Morneau appear to be clear breaches of conflict-of-interest rules. Both have effectively acknowledged as much.“
All other things being equal, the editorial writes content, and I keep on agreeing, “there’s nothing wrong with a charity, or any organization, seeking a government contract, or offering services in return for taxpayer money. There’s nothing illegal about meeting with ministers or bureaucrats, or exchanging e-mails or phone calls, or sending them proposals … [but, and it’s a Huge BUT] … in most instances, when an organization lobbies government for a benefit, it must register as a lobbyist. All must be documented. As the exasperated New Democratic MP Charlie Angus pointed out on Tuesday, the whole reason for a lobbyist registry is transparency – so there’s a public record of who has tried to influence the keepers of the public purse … [but] … the Kielburger brothers and WE, despite having won government money before, and despite extensive communications and meetings leading to the creation of the CSSG, never registered as lobbyists.”
The prime minister appears, with his chief of staff, Katie Telford, in front of the committee today. The Liberal MPs will throw softball questions and the Liberal chair, long-serving PEI MP and former (Chrétien era) cabinet minister Wayne Easter will do his level best to hamper opposition MPs who want to ask tough questions. Despite that, we can expect Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre to lead a spirited and well-focused questioning of the prime minister. Will he dig out the answers Canadians deserve? Justin Trudeau will be well prepared. He, like the drama teacher he was, will have memorized all his lines and sorrowful facial expressions and he will, comme d’habitude, be both condescending and evasive when responding.
We could hope that Prime Minister Trudeau might, suddenly, after all these years, develop some integrity and say to the committee, “Look, I understand that Canadians are, rightfully, upset. I made a royal mess of this. I take full responsibility. I apologize for my errors and I will accept the people’s verdict. As soon as my friends across the aisle in the Conservative Party of Canada have a new leader ~ the third week in August ~ I will go to the Governor-General and ask her to dissolve Parliament and call a general election. The people of Canada can decide if my actions, all my actions, make me unfit to serve or if they will give me a chance to learn from my mistakes.” But, we should prepare for condescension and evasiveness, because: