Why is it that Justin Trudeau must stumble from infraction to infraction?
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
“Once is an accident, twice is coincidence—but a third time is habit.” With this adage in mind, we can examine our honorable Prime Minister’s ethics violations. In just three years Justin Trudeau has succeeded in amassing an equal number of ethics blunders and misdeeds. When we peer into the office of our nation’s parliament and we look to the leader of our country, we expect to see someone of strong character and morale rigor. If they fall short once, they should be forgiven; if they stumble a second time, we should be critical but at least extend them a last chance; but a third infraction leaves us with no choice but to see their credibility as irreversibly tarnished.
Maybe the most troubling question that we as Canadians can ask is how our Prime Minister can have such demonstrably shaky judgment? In 2016 when the Aga Khan took the Trudeau family on an all-expenses paid vacation to his private island, PM Trudeau thought that there would be no conflicts of interest seeing as the Aga Khan had been a family friend longer than he had been (openly) lobbying Trudeau and his government. How could a prime minister not know full well that a lobbyist of any sort offering him a vacation would cause a backlash? How could a politician not see how that was a blatant attempt to curry favor?
Fast forward a single year and PM Trudeau was in hot water again for the SNC-Lavalin bribery case. In no uncertain terms, ethics commissioner Mario Dion wrote, “The evidence showed there were many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, either directly or through the actions of those under his direction, sought to influence the attorney general.” Simply put, our Prime Minister exerted pressures on then-Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to reverse a decision on deferred persecution agreement. Further reporting concluded that while claiming to be protecting Canadian jobs, Trudeau was plotting and laying groundwork for the impending 2019 election. If nothing else, the SNC-Lavalin debacle exposed our PM’s cold, chess-like maneuvers to keep voters on his side. Trudeau has now exposed himself as uncaring or even unwilling to recuse himself with something as naked as promising a $900-million contract to an organization that has his own and his finance minister’s family on the payroll.
Another question that we the voting public must ask ourselves in earnest is whether or not we can afford to give Justin Trudeau the benefit of the doubt once again. His wife hosted a podcast for the WE organization. His mother has been paid an estimated $250,000 by WE in speaking fees. His brother Alexandre has cleared a reported $32,000 from WE as well; two of finance minister Morneau’s daughters have had public ties to WE over the years (one of Morneau’s daughters is currently on contract with WE until the end of August) and PM Trudeau was aware of all of this. I do not see any reasonable way to excuse our esteemed leader for falling into what is clearly an avoidable ethics violation. The fact that he and his wife have been publicly tied to WE through speaking engagements and representation should have stopped him in his tracks with marked abruptness. There is little to no reasonable way that I can find to excuse this third (and hopefully final) ethics violation.
I am cynical enough to believe that Trudeau masks his corruption behind his handsome face and progressive wordplay; our PM knows that in the age of social media news cycles, being “softer” and better behaved than Trump is enough to keep one in good standing on the world leadership index. For all my cynicism there is no doubt that Canadians should demand much more from our Prime Minister than simply being better behaved on Twitter than Trump. Our Prime Minister should demonstrate sound judgment and respect for our ethical code at every turn; he should do more than “press pause” when a potential violation rears its head, and he must certainly not be caught violating our ethics standards three times in as many consecutive years. Our PM should inspire confidence and respect through a track record of good governance and sound decision making—not just an airtight photo op game and sloganeering.
PM Trudeau has been a great face for Canada, on the condition that your inspection is never more than skin deep. It is high time for our country to firmly assert that we value ethical behaviour at every level of society and that we will not stand for this habitual disregard for the integral practices of good governance.